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20-01-11Dare to be Different: It Could Clinch That Training Contract The training contract market is tough... brutal actually. The application process is arduous and competition never fiercer. So, in a world laced with mind-numbing forms and stern-faced employers, is a candidate with an unconventional background doomed? Happily not. I'm a second year trainee at Clintons in London, a leading entertainment and family law firm and my route into the profession was far from conventional. I had always leant towards law but, at 18, was reluctant to narrow my options. After work experience and internships at recording studios and temp jobs at media companies, I took a degree in English and then went into music management. But I discovered that it was not "celebrity" that excited my interest but engaging new talent and the pitfalls of badly formed contracts. At 24 I decided to convert to law. Had I rushed into a law degree I would have run the risk of a doubt-ridden meltdown. The standard route, via law degree and work experience, is tried and tested but lack of other experience can create the impression that a candidate "fell" into law. If you are applying for training contracts and are concerned that your non-law experience and degree choice might work against you, here are a few things to consider: 1. In your application, mention the catalyst for your interest in law. For me, it was a dreary day removing staples from files during a work experience placement at a record label. I stumbled across a recording agreement, began to read, got told off - and read on. If you fail to explain how non-law experience inspired your interest, it's a lost opportunity. 2. Show that your earlier interests follow a trend and that you are targeting firms linked to those interests. You will find it easier to explain why you chose to make the application if you can draw your experiences and the firms' practice areas together. 3. Be selective about the non-law experience you list. Unusual or depressing temp jobs can show strength of character but think strategically. You might be hard pushed to convince an interviewer that a few mad weeks as a pole dancer in Ibiza inspired you to pursue a legal career (unless your contract contained small print that unacceptably widened the job specification…). 4. Explain how your initial degree choice and work experience has strengthened you, perhaps by improving your confidence, satisfying your creativity or developing your commercial awareness. Has it helped you to adapt to different work environments, take responsibility, generate work or relate to clients? Diversity of experience makes the legal tapestry a whole lot richer and, I would hazard, much more effective than if we all had just one story to tell.
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