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Application advice

We know the application process can be daunting. Our tips are aimed to help make the journey a little easier.

The kind of person we're looking for:

  • Someone who is clever and enjoys engaging their brain
  • Someone who takes responsibility and thinks for themselves
  • Someone who wants to join in - who will work well as part of a team and will contribute to the firm as a whole
  • Someone that understands that a law firm is a people-based business and has good communications skills
  • Someone who is passionate about a career in the law
  • Someone who wants to succeed but not at the expense of their colleagues.

On our application form:

  • Fill in your application form carefully - we do care about typos, poor grammar and punctuation
  • Tailor your application form to us - your application should demonstrate why you have chosen to apply to Bristows rather than looking like one of 50 applications you have submitted to any city law firm
  • Let your form give a flavour of you as a person - you don't need to go over the top trying to sell yourself
  • Get your form in on time - we can tell when an application form has been rushed and submitted at the last minute, so give yourself the best chance and prepare your application form early.

Here’s a more detailed guide to putting together a well-researched application:

Step 1: The Groundwork  

Step 1: The Groundwork 

Before you start drafting the application, you should do the groundwork. Split this into two tasks: commercial and legal research, followed by competencies and skills.

Commercial and Legal Research

a) Legal graduate recruitment websites – these are a fantastic resource as they allow you to compare law firms by practice area or sector. Frequently the information is provided by current trainees, which provides an honest insight into the culture and ethos of the firm.

b) Law firm website – after you know which firm you’re applying to, next head to their website. It’s here that you can get to grips with the firm’s business. Identify their practice areas and sectors – which of those interest you most? What markets are relevant for that firm?

c) Microsites – lots of firms now have microsites, commenting on important cases or market trends. Reading up on these topical blogs is a great way to show your interest in the firm and commitment to that area of law. Bristows, for example, have some useful sites on the UPC, Competition & IP and the Cookie Jar.

d) Legal news – whether it’s a legal blog or a news website, these resources are useful for staying up-to-date with the legal industry, as well as alerting you to pivotal cases and deals. If you find any firm-specific-stories interesting, it’s good to weave them into your application.

e) Case law – if you're interested in life sciences litigation, for instance, search case law databases to see which firms were involved in which cases. If you don’t have access to subscription services, is a fantastic free resource for case reports.


You can do all the research in the world to show your legal knowledge, but the law firm is ultimately interested in one thing: you! To show them that you’re the candidate they’re looking for, you need to identify which competencies and skills they value and illustrate how you’ve demonstrated them.

To do this, you could go through the law firm’s website and jot down all the buzzwords; what have you done that shows these traits? Consider your work experience, projects at college, societies at university, volunteering, or even a challenge you’ve overcome – you’ll have a wealth of experiences to draw upon. Any example of how you’ve demonstrated a skill or trait is fantastic as it makes you stand out from the crowd.

Step 2: The Drafting  

Step 2: The Drafting 

If you’ve done the groundwork above, this bit (hopefully!) will be easy. Use your research to explain why you want to work for that firm, what aspects about their practice areas and sectors interest you, and how you’ve demonstrated the competencies that they’re looking for.

The one thing to remember is to tailor your application: really shape your answers to that specific firm. After you’ve finished your draft, remove the firm’s name from the entire application and try to replace it with another firm – do your statements still apply? Would the application be make sense if it was sent to another firm? If that’s the case, you need to go back and tailor it some more.

Step 3: The finishing touches  

Step 3: The finishing touches 

This application is the first impression you make on that law firm – you want to make it a good one. Try not to let silly typos, which are so easy to fix, ruin all of the effort you put in during research and drafting. Leave your draft for a few days, before coming back to it with fresh eyes – you’ll be surprised at the minor mistakes you notice or small nuances you can tweak. It sounds obvious, but read it, re-read-it, and re-re-read it again – if you can persuade someone else to review it as well, even better.

Hopefully some of these points will help with your application – best of luck!

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