Key Skills & Attributes Needed as a Trainee Solicitor

Competition for training contracts has never been more fierce than it is today.

So, unless you are an applicant with an Oxbridge double first, rowing captain and chairman of the debating society on your CV, you need to understand what firms are looking for and seek to demonstrate as much of it as you can.

Demonstrating Key Attributes

Here’s a summary of some of the key attributes you need to project to your potential future employers:

1. Academics

It goes without saying that the law attracts those towards the top of the intellectual scale.  Many firms have a minimum requirement of a 2:1 at degree level, and possibly minimum A-level requirements, and they have no difficulties filling their vacancies.

Firms do not solely look at the final degree achieved, they may also look at the marks achieved in each year at university to weed out those who slacked in years 1 and 2 and pulled it round in year 3.

Therefore, if you want to ensure you have the edge the key is consistent, rather than patchy, academic results.

2. The rest of you

Are you just an academic robot or have you developed other sides of yourself?

Recruiters like to see extra-curricular activities such as sports, arts, volunteer work, travel, gap years, or anything else that is interesting, demonstrates key competencies or might set you apart from the crowd.

These sorts of interests and activities jump off the paper at the application stage and help give the recruiter a more rounded image of applicants.

3. Communication

This is one of the key skills of a solicitor and includes written, oral and listening skills.

It must always be borne in mind on applications and in interviews and if you keep things simple and show good judgment you will go a long way.

4. Confidence and enthusiasm

Being confident and enthusiastic without being arrogant or aggressive are powerful attributes of prospective trainees.

All solicitors need to be self-starters and to be able to cope with a wide variety of people and situations.

5. Trust and integrity

These attributes are as important within a firm as they are when dealing with the firm’s clients.

Do not at any stage look to bend the truth or embellish in order to progress – if this is picked up you will have blown your chances.

6. Interpersonal skills and teamwork

Even as a trainee solicitor you will work as part of a team and probably have support staff working for you.

To be able to get on with, and command respect from, colleagues and clients at all levels is an invaluable skill to have.

7. Real world and commercial knowledge

The solicitor who can practice law in the context of the outside world has an advantage over those who are limited to solely what comes out of law books.

Being commercially aware and knowledgable about business and the world at large is now more important than ever for lawyers in all disciplines (not just commercial lawyers).

8. A real interest in the law

You must be able to project an interest in the law and the practice areas you are aiming to work in.  If you’re just in it for the cash or the status this will be found out.

Gaining work experience at an early stage is a good way to show an initial interest and sufficient career motivation during the application stage.

9. Eye for detail

Being meticulous as a solicitor is a pre-requisite – a good lawyer can spot a mistake at a thousand paces.

Ensure that all written applications are fully proof-read and spell checked and that all pre-interview research is 100% accurate.  There is nothing worse than a typo in a CV or an erroneous fact about the firm being cited at interview.

10. A personality

Whilst the traditional image of many law firms may be one of stuffy men in pin striped suits you must remember that solicitors are human too.

Whilst you must be prepared and professional try to ensure that your personality shines through. Showing your personality and uniqueness could be the very thing that sets you apart from the crowd.

Matt Oliver

Matt Oliver

Matt is a former FTSE 100 in-house lawyer, an experienced legal career coach and MD of Trainee Solicitor Surgery. He provides entry level law careers advice to students and graduates through his writing and mentoring. He also offers private one to one coaching to those struggling with training contract, vacation scheme or paralegal applications and interviews. Find out more about Matt's 1-2-1 Coaching >>>>

Learn How to Master the Watson Glaser Test

The Watson Glaser Test is a critical piece of the training contract puzzle.

Each year, more law firms use the Watson Glaser Test to filter our candidates from their recruitment processes.

It's simple, if you don't know how to pass it you won't get a job offer from them.

We teach you the nuts and bolts of this test and how best to practice it to get to the required pass level.