Here are some ideas about how to tackle those common online applications for training contracts and vacation scheme placements.
Activities, interests, positions of responsibility
Please give brief details of your key non-academic extra-curricular hobbies, activities, leisure interests, highlighting any positions of responsibility whether at school, university or otherwise.
Please provide details of any academic prizes, distinctions, skills, scholarships and any other noteworthy achievements. In the case of skills please specify level of proficiency.
Please explain why you think you are well suited to , and have chosen to apply to  for a training contract or vacation scheme placement? why you think you would make a successful trainee?
[X] is a leading UK law firm. How do you think we are distinct from other law firms?
All [X] trainee solicitors are based in our [Y] office. Please give your reasons for choosing to live in or around and train at the [Y] office.
Despite the temptation to apply for as many different corporates as possible, it turns out from here that law students do extensive research in fact into their choice of firm. The 2010 CVmailUK survey indeed provided these as the top ways in which law students ‘did their research’:
What qualities do you think you possess to be a successful lawyer at [X]? Which areas of law interest you and why?
Identify a current commercial article that you read or a recent event from the business world which has attracted your attention recently. Why do you consider it to be significant? Who are the key stakeholders in this situation and what are the implications for those concerned?
Business acumen and commercial awareness are important elements to becoming a successful solicitor. Please outline, in your opinion, why you think this would be important and tell us about a time when you’ve demonstrated your abilities in this area. What was the occasion and what impact did possessing this awareness have over the final outcome?
Choose a sector group of the firm and summarise the biggest challenges and opportunities they will face in the future.
Describe an occasion when you spotted an opportunity to make an improvement in ‘going the extra mile’, and took action without being asked to do so. What steps did you take? What was the outcome? Explain why you think this attribute is relevant for a solicitor.
Describe a time that you have had to change your approach to a project or task halfway through. What changes did you have to make? Why did you need to make these changes? What was the outcome?
Teamwork is considered crucial to functioning well as a trainee/junior in a corporate law firm.
Please give an example of a situation where you were required to work in a team to accomplish an important objective and describe your role in achieving this objective
Defining qualities of the candidate
What can you tell us about yourself that sets you apart from other applicants, and which are convincing reasons why we should recruit you?
All solicitors at [X] work with a wide range of people so need to be able to persuade, influence and display effective communication skills. Describe a situation when you have had to communicate effectively.
Conflict and pressure
The success of [X] is built on the self-motivation and applied effort of all its employees, as demonstrated by their ability to work through setbacks coping effectively with conflict and pressure. Describe a situation when you have had to deal with conflict and pressure. Which other people involved? What did you learn about yourself?
Commitment to excellence
Describe an occasion when you have demonstrated commitment to a task or project that resulted in you exceeding expectations either for yourself or others. What steps did you take? What was the outcome?
Describe a significant challenge that you have faced outside of your academic studies ideally from the last 2 years. How did you initially analyse the challenge? What approach did you take to solving it? What did you learn from this challenge?
Are there any important mitigating circumstances why you feel the exam results you have listed do not fully reflect your abilities?
The cover letter
Generally, the cover letter should be in three parts, and should be no more than one page long (ideally): viz,
- a third on why law in general (legal education perspectives, why a solicitor? Why law? why are you interested in pro bono? why are you interested in tweeting law or blogging?),
- a third on why their firm is attractive to you (I found the Lex100 and Chambers and Partners Guide extremely useful here – - and here it’s essential to demonstrate that ‘you’ve done your research), and
- a third on what generic skills can you “bring to their table” (it’s useful to consider especially whether the firm has particular cultural values or programmes you associate with?)