I studied English at Cambridge and will be joining Norton Rose Fulbright as a trainee in 2015. I applied directly for a training contract, and was surprised by the speed of the process. I attended an assessment day a week after I submitted my application, and received my offer a few days later, which saved a lot of anxious waiting.
Before applying, I had completed two vacation schemes with city law firms, each of a distinct size and culture. These were valuable experiences which familiarised me with the world of corporate law, and taught me how to appreciate the important differences between firms that I might otherwise have missed – for example the number of lawyers in each area of practice, or which seats are typically available for trainees. Vacation schemes were also useful in helping me refine my awareness of what kind of firm I wanted to join. I discovered that I was looking for a firm with an unrivalled presence in the world's most exciting developing areas, combined with a strong historical presence in London. This sense of tradition with a modern outlook led me straight to Norton Rose Fulbright.
Before applying for a training contract, I also did internships at a number of small NGOs, and found this experience very useful in the application process. These small organisations gave me responsibilities crucial to their smooth functioning, and asked that everyone take a creative approach to problem solving, which was useful preparation for training contract application forms and interviews.
Something I wish I had realised earlier is that the opportunity to pose your own questions in an interview is highly valuable: there's no better way to get an insight into the culture and future direction of a law firm than a captive audience of senior lawyers!