Law Career Guide

What to do if you are unsuccessful?

It’s natural to feel disappointed if your application is unsuccessful. But if you don’t receive an offer, it’s important that you pick yourself back up and try again. 

Getting to any point in a legal application process is a huge achievement, and often, many of our unsuccessful candidates come back and try again. 

Take a moment to acknowledge that the result isn’t what you were hoping for. Then, let go of that disappointment and start to think about what you can gain from the experience. Reflect on each stage and think about what you can learn from each part of the process. 

Here’s some advice from our recruiters and lawyers – including those who were previously unsuccessful and are now part of the firm:

“I was really disappointed not to be asked for an interview when I applied for a training contract at A&O Shearman. Having read so much about the firm, I felt that it would be a place where I would thrive, learn and be happy. However, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and maybe it was better for me to train elsewhere and then work as an in-house lawyer before I finally joined A&O Shearman as it meant I came to the firm with more experience, a better understanding of what I could offer and also what I wanted from the firm. That enabled me to hit the ground running when I arrived (almost 5 years qualified) so much so that 18 years down the road I am still here, still thriving, still learning and still having fun!” 
Sarah Henchoz, Partner

“Every one of us has been unsuccessful applying to firms. The best possible thing to do is get any feedback available from the Early Careers team, identify where you can grow and put your best foot forwards for your next application – I wouldn’t be at A&O Shearman if it weren’t for previous failures that I learnt from!”
Alex Denny, Trainee

“I applied 3 times before I was successful. There is always something to learn from the previous TC cycle, so it’s good to reflect on your answers in your application and see how you can take conscious action to improve your application for the next round. For example, getting experience from a different business sector, going out and meeting more people at law fairs, trying different work experiences to show how your skills would translate into a career in law. There are always active ways to improve your application and you need to make sure you use the time in between application cycles to actively improve.”
Saranya Barthe, Trainee

“I was rejected many times in my career, and although it is painful at first, treat it as a lesson which can be turned into success in the future.”
Kuba Roszyk, Trainee

“Keep going, reflect on your performance, ask for feedback and focus on proving your personality is a good fit for the firm next time round – for instance everyone has good grades, so make sure you focus on something more personal.”
Max Brankin, Trainee