How to get a Legal Apprenticeship - Week 4

Week 4 – Preparing for an Interview

Getting an apprenticeship with a law firm can seem daunting and so we are sharing some useful tips to help you kick start your legal career. So far we have looked at:

  • Week 1: How to identify the right role and register for vacancies.
  • Week 2: CVs and covering letters.
  • Week 3: Work Experience.

This week we are looking at; preparing for interview.

Before we start though, key points to remember:

  • An apprenticeship is not a course; it is a job with training.
  • To be an apprentice you need to get a job.
  • A specialist legal apprenticeship provider can help, but can never guarantee, to get you a suitable job role.
  • Apprenticeships in popular sectors such as law and accountancy are over-subscribed, making competition fierce.
  • There is no apprenticeship funding for graduates and so if you are a graduate an apprenticeship is unlikely to be for you.
  • Almost all law firms are looking for good GCSEs (at least 5 A* to Cs) and many look for good A levels as well.
  • Think about a backup plan if you are not successful. This can make you feel less stressed and actually help you during the application process.

Preparing for an Interview

If you have followed our tips for previous weeks then hopefully you will have been able to secure at least one interview with a law firm. It may be for a clearly defined, advertised job vacancy or a response to your request for some work experience. Either way your preparation will be very similar; treat the following points as a check list and assume that you are not ready until you have covered each of them.

  • Carefully analyse the job description (if one is available/provided). This will provide you with key information about the job and will give you clues as to what you may be asked.
  • Re-read your CV and covering letter. Ensure you know exactly what you have written and that you can back up what you have said if asked during the interview. Whilst re-reading your CV try think about those things which might set you apart from other candidates as well as any possible areas of weakness.
  • Research the firm and, if you know who it is, the interviewer. Ensure you know the basics such as the areas of law that the firm practices, the size and growth of the firm and what the firm sees at its key attributes (this will be on the website). Read any latest news whether on the whether on the website or elsewhere. All of this shows the interviewer that you are committed and well-motivated but also capable of doing thorough research.
  • Once you have thoroughly researched and revised these three areas start considering your answers to possible questions. From the job description and research on the firm you should have been able to identify what the most likely questions will be. Let's look at a few things that that will come up in most interviews:
    • Why you want to work for the firm.
      • A bit of flattery can help: use the research you have done – its reputation, commitment to staff development, the fact that it is growing...
      • You like the areas of work that it specialises in. Be careful with this one: if you say you are interested in, say, commercial litigation, you will be asked why and what you know about it.
      • Be honest – there is nothing wrong with saying that you don't yet know what type of law will interest you in but that you want to work in a legal environment.
      • Link you answer to the job role: if it is for a legal administrator for example you might be interested in it because you are well organised, like systems and processes and enjoy working as part of a team.
    • Your previous experience.
      • “Relevant experience” doesn't mean you have done the job before. Think about what you have done that shows:
        • Teamwork: sports teams, being involved in a group project or club.
        • Determination: examples of where you have had to work hard for a sustained period (eg exams) or have kept a part time job going alongside school/college work.
        • Responsibility: managing an event, project or club. Think about any financial responsibility you may have had.
        • Dealing with customers. Part time or voluntary work is good here. Think especially about customers you have dealt with successfully who were very different in age or background and any difficult situations you have dealt with successfully.
    • Where you hope to progress to
      • It's OK to say you don't yet know but that, in the medium term, you want to build your experience and successfully achieve your apprenticeship. If you have your heart set on becoming a barrister or a corporate lawyer that's fine but for the time being the firm will want to see how you get on in a more junior role.
    • Your reliability and determination
      • For reliability you may be able to point to your absence record at school/college or in previous jobs (provided it is true)
      • For determination see comments above. If you have managed to get yourself the interview mention this – it takes determination to research different employers, write letters to them and follow up.
    • Your weak points
      • Everyone has some and so, if asked, don't say none. If you have got an interview then the employer hasn't spotted any glaring weaknesses on your CV and so you mustn't worry if asked this. Think of some weak points that can also be strengths. For example being “a bit of a perfectionist” means that you may take too long sometimes but it isn't necessarily bad.

By preparing for the interview you are getting ready to put yourself in the best possible light for your future employer. However this doesn't mean that you should stretch the truth or make something up. An employer will usually speak to your referees and finding out (either before you start work or after) that an employee has not been truthful undermines (often fatally) the relationship of trust between employer and employee.

Don't forget, if a firm that you contact has any questions about legal apprenticeships by all means put them in touch with Damar – we would be happy to speak to them or let them have further information.

Good luck!

Next week - Interview technique

Week 6 – Becoming an apprentice if you already have a job in the legal sector.

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