On Wednesday 18th November, the Law for All society treated us to an exclusive event with Jake Schogger, where he shared his experiences and application tips. As an independent consultant and ex-Freshfields lawyer, Jake was able to give us honest and useful advice for commercial law firm applications (with the occasional amusing anecdote dropped in as well). If you were unable to join the talk, here is a brief overview of what was discussed.
General application advice
One of Jake’s key points was to (at the risk of giving generic advice) avoid giving generic answers: each application should be tailored to each individual firm. For example, match your terminology to the terminology that the firm uses. If a firm looks for organisational skills, write about organisational skills instead of time management skills. Having said this, by applying to multiple firms, you will realise that some questions do overlap. Jake suggested that by storing answers in a word processor (don’t answer the application questions straight into the application box!), you can create a bank of model answers, and draw inspiration from these to tackle questions. Other tips were discussed, such as avoiding repetition and being careful with spelling and grammar.
Specific application questions
Jake suggested that structuring your answers clearly is key. For example, show why commercial law initially interested you (e.g. something as simple as a conversation), how you acted upon this initial interest (e.g. applied for work experience), what you enjoyed from this subsequent experience (e.g. the challenge) and what this led you to do (e.g. carried out further experiences). It is important to relate the answers back to yourself. I found Jake’s suggestion of using virtual experience events reassuring, given that many of us will be applying for grad schemes and training contracts in the midst of a pandemic.
When answering this type of question, Jake suggested taking into account factors such as the people and culture in a firm, the training, pro bono/CSR initiatives, and awards and reputation (briefly). Again, it is important to relate the answers back to yourself. Jake also mentioned that using your network to find information to answer these questions can be incredibly useful.
What struck me the most in this section of the talk was that it is possible to derive skills from a vast array of experiences. From studying abroad, to being part of a chamber choir, to selling jackpot tickets in a stadium, each of these has transferable skills. Jake also explained the importance of giving context to your answers: for example, don’t just state that you were vice-president of a society – graduate recruiters need to be able to understand the nature of your role.
Resilience and rejection
Finally, Jake talked about the (basically) ubiquitous phenomenon of rejection. Don’t let 5-10 rejections get you down! He also cautioned us about LinkedIn because people only talk about success on it, which is not an accurate representation of what people actually go through.
Personally, I found this talk very reassuring and useful. Jake gave us practical advice based on his own extensive experiences. By breaking down how to answer each type of question, he made the process of applications seem a lot less daunting. However, this 500-word summary of an hour-long talk does not do justice to the masterclass! You can find out more in Jake’s book The Commercial Law Handbook, which has a special LfA discount.