How to get a Linklaters training contract
Our trainee sources were attracted to Linklaters not for a particular department or style of work – after all, it is well respected across the board – but because they deemed it capable of offering them the best work experiences and, by extension, the best training. As one frank source put it: “Obviously the name and reputation matter. This place is arguably the best at what it does.”
While Linklaters is no place for underachievers, our sources insisted no one should be put off because their university isn’t one of the most prestigious. “The firm is working hard to look at a wide range of universities, so people shouldn’t be deterred from applying,” said one. The firm visits many UK universities during the course of the year and also sends recruiters to India and Australia to interview overseas candidates.
That said, we can't deny the advantage of having Oxbridge on your CV. At the time of writing, some 31% of trainees had degrees from Oxford or Cambridge. “Academics are important because the work is tough,” recruiters say. Likewise, a law degree gives you a slight up: the proportion of law/non-law graduates is about 60:40.
Linklaters is looking for hard workers, naturally, but not highly strung people who need stress to succeed, insiders say. The firm needs people who can chat and make the atmosphere as enjoyable as possible while pumping out the hours.
The vacation scheme
There are good reasons for striving your hardest to get on Linklaters’ vacation scheme: around 80% of vac schemers go on to train with the firm. Vacation scheme participants are automatically entitled to an interview for the training contract. Another bonus is getting to join senior figures for dinner at an impressive restaurant like The Ivy.
The application form for a vac scheme is the same as the one for the training contract. There are three schemes open to law and non-law students in their penultimate year of study, with around 90 places available in total. “There are around 700 applicants, so you need to put in some effort with the application form,” recruitment sources stress. Don’t just regurgitate the firm’s own marketing spiel. As insiders point out: “We wrote it, and we will recognise it!”
Participants in the scheme sit in two practice groups during their visit (they can state preferences as to where they would like to spend time beforehand). Over the course of the scheme, students “should get comfortable and familiar with the firm but not be lazy,” one trainee advised. Each student works alongside an associate who acts as a formal mentor and provides both guidance and feedback. A buddy from among the trainee group stands in as a more informal point of contact.
Over the course of the vac scheme are a wide variety of lectures on core practice areas, a talk from the managing partner about the firm’s strategy, a session about the City and the Lehman Brothers administration, a video conference with international secondees and a session giving general advice on how to conduct yourself at an interview. Vac schemers also participate in several skills session. One involves a hypothetical client pitch, and there’s a negotiation exercise in which students can show off their communication skills.
The application form
On the application form you are advised to use the space permitted to suggest what you can give to the firm. Let your personality shine through and demonstrate an understanding of the long-term picture for your career and the firm.
Extra-curricular activities and work experience are important because recruiters are looking for well-rounded people. Languages are a plus, especially those spoken in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). Watson Glaser test If recruiters like the look of your application form you will be asked to complete an online Watson Glaser critical thinking test. The test is designed to measure five skills: drawing inferences, recognising assumptions, argument evaluation, deductive reasoning and logical interpretation. The actual questions on the Watson Glaser test are a closely guarded secret, but you can find a practice test on Linkslaters' grad recruitment website.
Assessments and interviews
Around 400 people are invited to attend one of several assessment days each year. These days involve a critical thinking test, work simulation exercise and two interviews. The work simulation is computer-based: candidates are confronted with a simulation of an email inbox that sees emails ping into the inbox and candidates are expected to contend with them. As part of the simulation candidates are asked to draft a written response to one email. This task doesn't just test commercial judgement but also writing skills.
The first interview takes place with HR and is designed to test “key competencies like teamwork, leadership, motivation, desire for commercial law and the ability to organise. We try to gauge applicants’ communication skills and their commitment to commercial law and Linklaters in particular,” say recruiters.
Then there’s a partner/managing associate interview, which is more focused on business and the law. It involves discussion of the written exercise from the work simulation plus some commercial awareness questions.
“They look at current topics and the role of law,” an insider revealed. “In recent years questions have been on the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft; the eurozone crisis; the phone-hacking scandal and so on. The focus is on law, so applicants should be careful to limit the discussion to the legal side, not politics.”
After interviewing, candidates get a chance to tour the building and ask questions to current trainees – a good chance to settle any lingering doubts.
The firm has recently revamped its grad recruitment website. Check it out for more information about the firm and advice on applications.
The Linklaters LPC
Linklaters was among the pioneers of the firm-specific LPC, which is still offered in conjunction with what is now the University of Law Moorgate. The course was originally a year long but has since been redesigned as a accelerated LPC lasting six-and-a-half months.
There are two courses run each year, one commencing in January for September starters and another in July for those who start in March.
The Linklaters LPC is business-focused, and according to the firm's graduate recruitment website 'you will be working with the same tools, precedents and processes that we use in our daily work.' The course combines face-to-face with online tuition and uses 'a wide range of learning strategies and media' and 'DVD and internet-based packages backed up by lecture notes.'
The LPC Integration Programme will keep you in touch with the firm while you study at CoL. It includes practice area presentations and current events updates as well as business briefings and social events. As you might imagine, the accelerated course requires more intensive study.
Trainee sources said they valued the early opportunity to “gain familiarity with Linklaters’ precedent documents” and described the course as “well structured.”
A major benefit of the firm-specific LPC is that future trainees get to know each other well before starting their training contract, giving them a strong network of friends across the firm right from the beginning. “I consider my colleagues to be friends, so in a sort of sad way, being here becomes an extension of your social life. If someone needs a chat, they can easily get a coffee with a close friend within the firm – there’s a sense of camaraderie.” And of course, there’s an awful lot of socialising done during the LPC itself.
Linklaters in America
We interviewed junior lawyers at Linklaters' New York office for our US sister publication Chambers Associate. Read their thoughts here.