Updated: Sep 6, 2020
The most important skill in you CV and cover letter: lessons learnt from running the
largest platform for previously successful legal applications. Landing an internship at Skadden, Jones Day, Cleary Gottlieb, Clifford Chance or any other prestigious law firm is definitely the most challenging graduate career path a fresher can take. We have been there ourselves and we know the process inside out. Running Congrapps (https://congrapps.com/) and viewing hundreds of previously successful applications helped us identify patterns, talk to people and discover what it takes to land a job with the biggest law firms. What we discovered is that those who failed were more or less the same – template cover letters, generalized answers and lack of authenticity. Amongst them, were people from Oxford, Cambridge and UK’s best universities On the other hand, the ones who succeeded were all unique in their own way. They crafted their applications in a way that reflected their personality and engaged the reader. They stayed within the guidelines as to what you need to cover in your applications, however they did not approach it a checkbox exercise. What does this mean? There is no golden rule when it comes to successfully applying The most important question:Is this the right career for me? Landing a job in Big Law is definitely one of the most
rewarding career paths a recent graduate can take – rewarding both intellectually and
financially. You are surrounded by extremely smart people collectively trying to solve some
of the most complex corporate issues. However, the legal industry exacts a heavy physical and mental toll on its workers. To survive as a lawyer, you need to have a high stress threshold, tolerate drama and be excellent team player. Consider this before applying as otherwise you may find yourself in a vicious cycle. The question to ask yourself is the following: “Am I hard-working enough and how have I proved this in the past?”
The easier you answer this question, the easier it will be to write a successful cover letter
and make it to the top law firms. Let me explain why this is important. Success in this field,
as in other fields, is entirely attributable to high levels of energy, dedication, intellect and
hard work. Not the type of “hard work” that the average office worker feels at the end of a
day in the office. In the early years, as well as in the formative and/or mature years of one’s
career, at least in the City of London or Wall Street, we are talking about a level of hard
work and dedication that is as close to complete professional dedication as the dedication
and effort shown by Olympic athletes. If this amount of effort is combined with strong
intelligence and a desire to be useful and commercial to clients then the roads are open for
How can I show commitment?
Lazy people are everywhere. People who watched Suits and thought it will be easy to get
your foot in the door are also sitting amongst us. What we observed from our own school
years is that everyone can talk but not everyone can get a distinction in their degree as the
latter requires commitment, sacrifices and all-nighters instead of chatting on Instagram and
seeking virtual validation. It also requires cancelling a night with your friends, bailing on this
summer trip to complete an internship and actually paying attention to classes. So if good
grades tell nothing about intelligence, they tell a lot in terms of the required skills to
succeed in Big Law. Some of these skills are willingness to work extremely long hours (80+
per week), high attention to detail, ability to take direction and of course team-work.
While, your only objective while at Uni is to demonstrate these skills, it’s not all about
grades. Excellent ways to showcase the above skills are online courses, meaningfully
contributing to a cause you care about, running a side (or family) business or learning a
foreign language - human or computer. Show initiative and be proactive. Chat with people
and see what they did when they were in your shoes.
To conclude, we think we made our view clear as to what we think is the most important
skill you need to show in your cover letter in order to bring into Big Law. Before we leave
you we also want to briefly comment on the some of the pitfalls, candidates tend to fall in.
By viewing past successful applications and identifying the successful patterns we realised
that the most common mistakes are also the easiest to avoid. These are:
a. Not understanding your unique selling points and failing to communicate your value;
b. Not understanding what Big Law entails and why you want a career in the industry.
Go out there and make your dreams come true!
London, United Kingdom
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