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🎙️ AMA with Marcus from TLT

TOGETHER WITH…

EDITOR’S RAMBLE 🗣

Marcus is an Early Careers Advisor at TLT — and has the insider’s view on how to get a training contract at a leading national law firm.

Massive thanks to you all for sending in some great questions for Marcus (I added some of my own too).

I’m excited to get the *actual* answers from Marcus — someone who knows *exactly* what law this firm’s looking for in its applicants.

- Idin

IN CONVERSATION WITH MARCUS KETLEY 🎙️

What’s the most embarrassing song you’ll admit to liking publicly?

It has actually been hard to just pick one!

As a Spanish speaker, I think one of my guilty pleasure songs is Aserejé (The Ketchup Song) but the Spanish only version!

Good, now that’s sorted — let’s move on…

As a national firm, how does TLT deal with international deals (for example, if a matter has elements that are outside the UK)?

TLT has a network of strategic alliances and partnerships with organisations outside of the UK.

One example is GSJ advocaten in Belgium, which allows us to service our clients’ work that falls into their jurisdiction. Kirsty Wilson, a Senior Associate at TLT, recently had the opportunity to spend a week with GSJ advocaten in Antwerp as part of an exchange programme.

Does the type of work trainees do differ between national and international law firms?

Yes and no — trainees at TLT still have the opportunity to work with large global organisations to provide them with legal and business advice. The main difference would be that TLT doesn’t have offices around the world.

Therefore, international work is done in collaboration with one of our strategic partners rather than TLT colleagues from an international office.

What would be some similarities between a group of successful TLT applicants?

It would be: a clear understanding of the firm.

Successful applicants will have taken the time to write their TLT application from scratch, rather than trying to tweak another application to fit the firm!

What are the most common mistakes you see at each of these stages (+ how you can fix it)?

🗒️ Written application: The main issue is overly generic applications, which show a lack of demonstrated understanding of TLT.

In order to fix this, I would encourage applicants to limit the amount of applications they look to submit per cycle. Seven applications seems to be the magic number as candidates can apply the necessary amount of time to these alongside other commitments.

Open a blank word document and write down a list of all the firms you are looking to apply to. Under the firm, write the most basic question you could expect to be asked: “Why do you want to work for firm X?”

If all you can come up with are very high-level reasons (such as office location, salary or social events) then I’d definitely reconsider that as an option.

Firms are looking for candidates that want to train and develop a career with them. Really consider elements like client facing opportunities for juniors, secondment opportunities, examples of client work and support for colleagues.

🤝 Assessment centre: Lack of preparation is the biggest issue candidates face.

Don’t underestimate any section of the day — if the firm is running an activity, they consider it important!

In your interview, prepare to give detailed answers to a broad range of questions and display your understanding of the firm. Make sure you relate answers back to the role you are applying for (where possible) to show your understanding of how a given competency is going to help you in your legal journey.

What does a law firm mean when they say ‘commercial awareness’?

Commercial awareness means understanding what is going on in the macroeconomic environment and how this could impact law firms and lawyers.

How do you test commercial awareness throughout the application process?

With most applications you can expect a question regarding a recent deal that the firm has been involved in.

Think about the deal as well as the macroeconomic factors that led to the deal taking place and how its impacts may be felt going forward.

How can an aspiring lawyer improve their ‘commercial awareness’?

Choose something you are interested in and research the macroeconomic and legal factors around it.

For example, a certain phone manufacturer has recently changed the charging ports on its new range of phones.

Why was this? What are the impacts on the retailer? What are the impacts on the consumer? How will this impact manufacturing? Are there legal factors that influenced this change?

If you’ve met someone from the law firm (say, at a networking event), is it okay to name drop them in your application?

Hmmm, I would probably leave it out unless crucial.

Application answers have strict word limits. Imagine saying “Marcus Ketley (Early Careers Advisor)” — that’s 5 words that could have been used elsewhere! If you’re referencing a deal or piece of client work and want to mention a colleague for context, then I feel this would be more useful.

I’ve heard that tagging law firms in LinkedIn posts can help strengthen an application and get on the firm’s radar. Would your recruitment team actually consider something like this?

I would say this may be a bit of an urban myth — however, we do like a shoutout!

Whilst it is great to build rapport with the Early Careers team, firms usually blind screen applications. This is to ensure fairness and consistency in the recruitment process.

Early Careers teams will only be able to use the content of your application when making their decisions on whether to progress your application to the next stage.

How important is it for an applicant to have legal work experience before making an application to the firm?

Law firms understand it isn’t easy to find legal work experience.

At TLT, our application process focuses on the strengths that candidates hold and how they implement them in the workplace, rather than focusing too much on their previous experience.

In our interviews we encourage candidates to draw on examples from university (academic and societies), part time jobs or even just life in general!

Do you think law firms actually have different cultures? If so, how would you describe TLT’s?

I do — each law firm has a unique culture to suit their colleagues’ and clients’ needs.

‘Good’ vs ‘Bad’ culture is subjective. It’s more about finding a culture that suits you.

I would refer to TLT’s culture as supportive. Not only are there a range of initiatives, policies, and practices providing this support, but colleagues at TLT really look out for one another.

A firm’s biggest asset is its people and together we can work towards creating a collaborative future-ready workforce prepared for what comes next (see what I did there?).

What are you most proud of about working at TLT?

The firm’s supportive culture. From TLT World, our award winning approach to flexible working, to TLT’s dedication to diversifying our partnership by achieving 50% female partner representation by 2029; supporting our people is at the centre of all we do.

STUFF THAT MIGHT HELP YOU 👌

  • 📹️ Free application help: If you're applying to commercial law firms, check out my YouTube channel for actionable tips and an insight in to the lifestyle of a commercial lawyer in London.