Mason Hayes Solicitors



I am the new trainee solicitor here at Mason Hayes and I would like to give you a brief outline of my journey so far.  I decided against taking the traditional route into law and instead began my higher education at the University of Liverpool studying History.  After then graduating in 2010, I went on to study for a Graduate Diploma in Law (“GDL”) at what was then known as The College of Law.  I decided to take this alternative route for a multitude of reasons.  Before starting at Liverpool I had already made the decision to pursue a career in law.  However, whilst considering my options and trying to decide whether to apply for History or Law, I was informed about the possibility of completing a GDL within just one year and I therefore made the decision to study a subject that I had always loved and enjoyed.  This decision has definitely broadened my horizons and also gives me something a bit different to discuss in interviews.

After completing the rather demanding GDL, I then went on to study the LPC full time graduating in 2012.  Following this, I took an in house role in a debt management firm as a fee earning legal assistant before moving to Mason Hayes as a paralegal.  The road to becoming a Trainee Solicitor has by no means been easy but I have found it to be both challenging and rewarding.

As many of the application deadlines for the larger firms are rapidly approaching, I am sure most students and/or graduates are beginning to prepare to complete applications and interviews.  I have therefore outlined below some guidance in respect of the Vacation Scheme/Training Contract application process which I hope will be of some assistance to you.

Where do I apply?

Before beginning to draft any application, you must first of all think very carefully about what it is you want to achieve in your legal career and what is important to you.  In doing so, you should consider which practice area(s) you would like to gain experience in, what industry or sector is of interest to you, where you would like to be located, what salary you want to earn and how important a work/life balance is to you.

You will then need to undertake detailed research of the legal market and find those firms that can offer you what it is that you want.  Your research should not be limited to the internet.  I would encourage you to attend law fairs, firm open days and presentation evenings.  In my experience this provides a greater insight to a firm than simply reading the website.

Once you have conducted this research you should then have a list of firms which you consider are right for you.  You should then conduct more detailed research about those firms in order to have everything you need to begin drafting your application.  However, before beginning to prepare any applications, you should draw up a timetable to ensure that you have given yourself enough time to draft and submit the applications before the deadline.

Prepare thoroughly for common questions

You will find that firms tend to ask the same or similar questions.  A good example of this is “Why do you want to pursue a career in law?” or “Why do you want to be a solicitor?”  These are questions you will undoubtedly be asked at any interview.  You should therefore put some thought into your answer for this and make your answer as personal as you can, taking care to avoid generic responses.

Another classic question is “Why do you want to work for our firm?” If you adopted the approach which I outlined above regarding finding firms that are right for you, your research should provide the basis of your response to this question.  There was a reason that you added that particular firm to your list, or at least there should have been!  If there isn’t a reason, why are you applying?

Competency Questions

The application may well contain a competency based question but they are also very common interview questions.  An example being “Describe an occasion where you worked within a team and where your contribution made an impact on the team’s performance.”  When answering these types of question you should always adopt the STAR approach: Situation, Task, Activity and Response.  I would suggest preparing a couple of factual scenarios which you could use for such questions before any interview and practice answering the questions using the factual scenario and the STAR approach.  This will help you give a clear and structured answer in your interview.  If you have answered a competency based question in your application, be prepared for further questions from the interviewer(s).

Check, check and check again!

You should proof read your final draft.  I would also recommend asking somebody to check it for you such as an advisor at your University career centre, a lecturer or even a family member.  It is no exaggeration that if there is one typo or grammatical error in your application then it will end up in the bin.  Remember the firm has to go through thousands of applications to decide who to see at interview.  Do not give them any excuse to throw yours in the bin!

Interview skills

It sounds obvious but making a good impression at an interview is all about preparation and presentation.  You should therefore revisit the research you did when you applied and conduct up to date research before the interview and review your application.

The interview is really a chance for the firm to see what you are really like.  You should take confidence from the fact that the firm is interested in you on the basis of your application.  This is what you should be reminding yourself of when you are waiting in the reception area to go in!

The most important thing from my experience is to engage with the interviewer(s) so that it is more of a conversation than a question and answer session.  You need to show good communication skills, so listen to the question and answer it directly rather than reciting something which you had rehearsed in advance of the interview which relates to the topic but does not truly answer the question.   Don’t forget the basics such as eye contact and body language.

Before any interview you should prepare questions for the interviewer.  It is important to remember that as well as you being right for the firm, you must establish whether the firm is right for you.  You may ask questions regarding something that you have seen in the news about the firm or one of its clients, what the likelihood is that you will get a seat (or in the case of a Vacation Scheme a week) in a certain department, what the retention rates of trainees were the previous year or what the goals of the firm are both short and long term as a business.

General points:

  1. Always remember firms are hiring for future partners and not just for a trainee!  Do not therefore be surprised if you are asked a hypothetical question such as “You are a partner, you have the option of having one client whose matter is likely to generate fees of £1million or taking five matters which are likely to generate fees of £100,000.  Which would you chose?”, or even something like “If you were chairperson, what would you change about the firm?”
  2. Be pro-active, tenacious and determined.  Do not sit and wait for a training contract to land on your lap…because it won’t!

I wish you all the best of luck with your applications!


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