Lawyers are needed in the business world in good economic times and bad. So despite today's difficult economic climate, City law firms are still keen to recruit graduates onto their training contract programmes and, what's more, retain them in permanent roles as newly-qualified lawyers. All the firms featured in this issue have kept on over 80 per cent of their trainees in recently qualifying intakes, with some firms' figures nearing 100 per cent.
However, the competition to get a training contract remains tough, with City firms receiving thousands of applications for the places they have available. To win one, it's important that your application is up to scratch and that you prepare well for your interview or assessment centre. But your first hurdle is making sure you know when to apply and of the particular application windows at the firms you're interested in - however good a candidate you are, your application won't be successful if it comes in after the deadline.
As a general rule, law firms tend to recruit students for their training contracts about two years in advance of their start date. Applications are usually invited from law students in the summer of their penultimate year and from non-law students in the winter of their final year, though application windows differ significantly between firms. Note also that you can apply after the usual window for your year group and even as a graduate/law school student, if you're prepared to factor a gap year or gap few months into your plans if your firm can't fit you into an intake starting immediately after you graduate from law school.
Vacation schemes are not only an excellent way to experience working life at a law firm, but can also be a direct route into one. Do well on a vacation scheme and it will count highly in your favour if you apply for a training contract at that firm. In addition, some firms amalgamate vacation scheme and training contract application processes, or fast-track good vacation scheme candidates, meaning you may be able to win a training contract as a good vacation scheme student without having to go through a second full application process. But don't worry too much if your vacation scheme applications to City law firms aren't successful. There are fewer vacation scheme places available than training contract places and the fact that some students do more than one vacation scheme reduces capacity even further. So if you're a good candidate, you may well be able to win a training contract without having done one, especially if you've had some other legal or business-related work experience.
To help you get to grips with the application process, here are the deadlines for applications to the training contracts and vacation schemes for our 14 featured firms. For more information, and for details of open days, workshops and other student and graduate opportunities at any of these firms, please visit the relevant firm's website.