Lawyers from the Big 4 and international firms have come together to produce this helpful guide for law students and impart valuable advice on how to secure a Training Contract in the competitive legal market today.
Getting to the interview
1. The Why
Goal-setting is a key element of achieving any goal. Before you embark on any concrete steps, you need to be sure about your why:
- Why do you want to be a lawyer?
- What are your values and what do you stand for?
- What motivates you in life?
- Where do you want to be in 3, 5 and 10 years?
- What is your idea of a fulfilling career?
Look at firms' mission statements and interviews with their managing partners. Speak to friends, seniors and lawyers in practice about the different areas of practice, variations in firm culture and conversion rates (how many trainees the firm takes in and how many they actually retain).
If you do not have any seniors you can speak to, you can drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will link you up with a lawyer from our network.
2. The Ask
Once you have established your why, you can narrow down the pool of firms that you wish to apply to. This is important. Firms can tell that if you are blindly applying to all firms, and do not look positively towards individuals who do not show genuine interest or have done sufficient research about their firm.
In this regard, your Cover Letter and CV should be tailored to each individual firm. The rule of thumb is to avoid generic statements as far as possible. Make a concerted effort to think about why you want to join this firm and area of practice and what you as in individual, bring uniquely to the table.
Your CV is perhaps the most important document in the application process. It forms the bedrock of the firm’s decision-making process. As a general guide, law firms look for the following:
(i) academic excellence;
(ii) internship experience;
(iii) awards and achievements (moot competitions are particularly valued);
(iv) skills and languages;
(v) leadership potential; and
(vi) pro-bono and other volunteering work.
Your CV should not be more than 2 pages long and there should be NO formatting, grammatical or spelling errors. Attention to detail is a prerequisite of any successful lawyer, and you need to demonstrate that you have such basic skill-sets from the get-go.
Ensure that your CV is tailored to the firm and the department you are applying to. Corporate and Litigation are different and the skill-sets and relevant experience that you wish to highlight for each are different. For instance, mooting experience is important for future litigators but less so for corporate lawyers.
Your cover letter should be concise and tailored to the firm in question. Give a brief introduction about yourself. Introduce your motivations for wanting to be a lawyer and why you want to join the firm and that particular department. Be specific and don't be afraid of getting personal. Maybe you want to join WongP's ECM practice because of your hobby in stock trading, or maybe you want to join R&T's Commercial Litigation team because of the adrenaline you feel in helping a client win their case. Note: whatever you put in your resume and cover letter is fair game for interviewers to ask about and be sure that you can defend your statements confidently.
Write your Cover Letter and CV for the Partner who will be your future boss, and not for the HR department. It is the practitioner who ultimately decides whether to call you up for the interview, and whether to offer you the elusive training contract.
What do you bring to the table? Think about what the firm would want from you, rather than what the firm can do for you. A very common mistake from undergraduates is to wax lyrical about how the firm can bring you opportunities, broaden your horizons, help you specialize in an area of expertise etc. Remember that they are hiring you. So you need to convince them why you are worth hiring.
If you would like an insider perspective on how to improve your CV and cover letter, you can submit your documents here. An appropriate practitioner from our network will review your Cover Letter/CV and make sure your documents contain the substance to succeed. Submit here.
3. The Result
Law firms take anywhere between 3 days to 3 months to get back to you. Once you've done your best and sent off your application, try to be patient and let it go.
If you are extremely eager for a response, you may call HR to politely enquire if they have received your application or in your cover email, include the line “kindly acknowledge receipt of this email”. Be optimistic, don’t stress and let the process take care of itself. Try not to pester or demand a response from HR, as that usually elicits a negative response.
HR will likely schedule an interview within a week from the date that you are contacted. In this regard, we strong recommend preparing for the interview in advance. You may access our list of commonly asked interview questions for a training contract here. Ensure that you prepare and rehearse responses to every single one of our commonly asked questions. You have put in countless hours into law school. Don't let all those hours go to waste when you are so close to your end goal.
Feel free to contact us at email@example.com if you have any questions on the above or if you have any queries on the practice of law in Singapore generally. Best of luck with applications!
Ace the interview
Secured your training contract with your dream firm? You only get one shot at this, so make sure you don't let the opportunity go to waste.
After doing due diligence on your desired firm, you should prepare and rehearse responses to commonly asked questions. Go over your answers as many times as necessary for you to be able to articulate them naturally. Try to anticipate difficult questions, and most of all be confident!
For more experienced candidates:
Want more? Schedule a mock interview with a practicing lawyer. Schedule an interview here.
Part II of our Training Contract Guide is linked here.