Clifford Chance Training Contract PrepFind Out More

Clifford Chance Training Contract

Updated February 26, 2022

Written by the WikiJob Team

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Clifford Chance, headquartered in London, is one of the world’s largest law firms, both by size and revenue.

With clients across five continents, Clifford Chance is a ‘magic circle’ firm with a formidable reputation. The firm has 570 partners and over 6,000 staff.

In this article, we'll cover what the firm's training contract offers, how the application process works, and what to do to give yourself the best chance of being accepted.

What Training Contracts Does Clifford Chance Offer?

Clifford Chance offers a standard legal training contract and IGNITE, the lawtech trainee programme.

In 2018, there were 200 trainees at Clifford Chance and there will be up to 90 trainee places in London for 2021/22 (places are also offered in the Middle East). There are five IGNITE lawtech trainee places.

The starting salary for trainees in London is £46,600, which includes a binary bonus, rising to £52,500 for the second year.

Before the two-year training contract begins, candidates first need to complete one or more approved training courses in Law.

If you have studied law at university, your training begins with an accelerated seven-month LPC (Legal Practice Course).

If you have studied a subject other than law, your training begins with the one-year-long GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) conversion course, followed by the LPC.

Both courses are fully funded by Clifford Chance.

The standard training contract is a two-year training programme that includes four seats: one each in finance, corporate and capital markets, plus one other.

There are opportunities for secondments to an overseas office, or client secondments.

In each seat, in-depth training is offered with support from The Clifford Chance Academy, as well as the graduate development team, your supervisor, the legal support manager and monitoring partners.

The IGNITE Lawtech Training Contract

Pushing the relationship between law and technology, Clifford Chance has launched a new tech-focused training contract, which aims to explore how technology can solve problems in the legal sector.

Applications are sought from candidates with a STEM background or other interest in tech, such as coding.

The contract offers the oopportunity to both qualify as a lawyer and work alongside professionals in the Clifford Chance Tech Group, to help transform the face of the legal sector.

What Other Opportunities Are Offered?

In addition to the Clifford Chance training contract and the IGNITE lawtech trainee programme, there are also various work schemes on offer.

For first-year university students, there is the Clifford Chance SPARK scheme (formerly known as Springboard), which is a five-day paid placement for students to ‘gain an insider's view into what a career in law can look like’.

Students earn £350 for the week and, following the scheme, could end up with a training contract offer.

For penultimate-year students of any degree discipline, there is a two-week Summer Vacation Scheme that pays £450 and may also lead to a training contract offer.

The application process for the SPARK scheme and Summer Vacation Scheme is very similar to the training contract application process, albeit with different deadlines.

Clifford Chance also holds open days (including the INTERFACE day-long event for those interested in the IGNITE lawtech training contract).

For students considering their options prior to university, Clifford Chance has a four-day PRIME placement scheme. This is an introduction to a career in law for state-school students who have the academic potential to be a successful lawyer.

You must choose whether to make an application for a training contract, the Summer Vacation Scheme or SPARK programme, as you may only make one application per academic year.

When Do I Need to Apply?

Deadlines for the Clifford Chance training contracts are in December, with applications invited from the prior August. Check the website for exact dates.

What Key Skills and Qualifications Is Clifford Chance Looking For?

Candidates must be in at least the penultimate year of a law degree or the final year of a non-law degree to apply for the Clifford Chance training contract.

Candidates must be able to demonstrate that they have achieved 340 UCAS points at A Level (or equivalent) and have obtained, or are on target to achieve, a 2:1.

Clifford Chance encourages applications from both law and non-law backgrounds, of any age group, from a variety of universities and not exclusively from the UK.

Clifford Chance is also interested in applications from people seeking a change in career, who have transferable skills, commercial awareness and the intellectual ability to contribute to the firm’s success.

Like other international law firms, it recruits those who can demonstrate a strong academic background with excellent written and verbal communication skills, as well as a strong aptitude for teamwork and collaboration.

Those seeking to become Clifford Chance trainees should demonstrate that they will be capable of the tasks they will face as trainees and that they are hard-working, fitting the culture of the firm.

The Clifford Chance DNA

Candidates should familiarise themselves with the Clifford Chance DNA – the eight values ‘designed to unite, differentiate and help drive priorities and strategic action’.

These are:

  1. Exceeding clients' expectations
  2. Local excellence, global standards
  3. An ambition for success
  4. Investing in talent
  5. An adaptable and approachable team
  6. Thinking ahead
  7. Strength through diversity
  8. Community

The best applications will convey these principles and clearly show how the candidate fits the culture that Clifford Chance prides itself on.

The Application Process

The Clifford Chance training contract application process is more streamlined than some other firms and consists of:

  1. Online Application Form
  2. Watson Glaser Test
  3. Assessment Day

Previously the Watson Glaser test formed part of the assessment day, with candidates asked to carry out an online verbal reasoning test as part of the application process.

Now, all applicants are required to complete the Watson Glaser test first, alongside the online application form.

The application process also used to include video interviews, though these did not form part of the most recent application process.

1. Online Application Form

You will need to register to complete the online form.

The application form will ask you basic questions in relation to personal details, academic credentials and work experience, as well as longer questions about your career plans and achievements.

Through your answers, you will need to demonstrate your motivation, desire and passion to be a commercial solicitor, plus an in-depth knowledge of Clifford Chance and its clients.

You will need to provide full details of your degree, including module scores for all years of study – even if they don't count towards your overall degree classification – so have this to hand before you begin your application.

If you are requested to provide any further information, you'll need to return it within 24 hours of the request.

Clifford Chance says that any mitigating circumstances relating to your academic record will only be taken into consideration if written proof is submitted from your exam board, and verified by a third party such as a doctor or tutor.

If this applies to you, make sure you have this to hand before submitting your application as, again, you will only have an additional 24 hours to supply any evidence requested.

Tips for Success with the Application Form

  • List out all possible examples you could use, including work experience and pro-bono work unrelated to law.

  • Use the opportunity to sell your motivation for a career at a Magic Circle law firm (Clifford Chance in particular).

  • For any work experience, show what you gained from it, what you learnt and the overall impact it had on your interest in the type of work that the company does.

  • Consider the current political, economic and social climate around the world and reflect on how that affects Clifford Chance as a business – as well as its research strengths, competitors, strategic vision and cultural fit.

  • Consider all the skills and requirements in the job description, as well as relevant buzzwords from the recruitment website and job description.

  • Plan your answers carefully, making sure to stay within the word count – allocate a word count to each part of the question, to ensure you have answered it in full.

  • All answers should be impeccably drafted and show a strong written style, with no punctuation or spelling errors.

Typically, Clifford Chance has around 3,000 applications to whittle down to only 90 eventual places. The person reading the application is looking for reasons to reject it, so make it hard for them to reject you.

clifford chance application process

2. Watson Glaser Test

Once the application form is submitted, you will be asked to complete the Watson Glaser test.

Lasting 30 minutes and using 40 questions to assess your critical thinking, you must draw inferences, recognise assumptions, make deductions, interpret information and evaluate arguments.

It is essential that you practise for this test, making sure you spend more of your prep time on the areas that you are least strong. You can also practise using the Clifford Chance website.

Note that when you complete the Clifford Chance practice test, you get a percentage mark for each area but it does not tell you which questions you got wrong, nor suggest any pass mark for the test.

The pass mark may be different depending on how many people take the test that application cycle.

The skills it measures include:

  • Defining a problem
  • Selecting relevant information to solve a problem
  • Recognising stated and unstated assumptions
  • Formulating and selecting relevant and promising hypotheses
  • Drawing valid conclusions and judging the validity of inferences

You will only have to complete the Watson Glaser test once for the Clifford Chance training contract application. If you have successfully completed the test before for a previous application, you will not be asked to complete it again.

If you are unsuccessful in the test, your online application will not be screened and that will be the end of your application for that cycle.

3. Assessment Day

Successful candidates are then invited to attend an assessment day at Clifford Chance’s Canary Wharf offices.

At the assessment day, there will be two interviews conducted by partners:

The partners carrying out the interview process will not have seen your application form, so you will need to bear that in mind when preparing your answers.

You will need to sell yourself and your motivation for both becoming a commercial solicitor and doing that at Clifford Chance. This means you can repeat examples, but you might also have to re-emphasise your passions and strengths.

Competency-Based Interview

During this interview, Clifford Chance will want to evaluate your career motivation, the way you work, your commercial awareness and how you build relationships.

Prepare thoroughly and ensure you have considered any questions that may be asked. These may be similar to the ones you answered in your application form, but they may be more specific or technical.

You will be asked a range of competency-based questions, and also ones about the industry and the firm.

Here are some example interview questions that Clifford Chance might ask:

  • What other firms have you applied to?
  • What is your biggest disappointment?
  • What other careers have you considered?
  • Do you enjoy working in a group/alone?
  • How do you feel about long working hours?
  • Why did you choose your university?
  • Why did you perform poorly in one of your degree modules?
  • Have you ever had to overcome a significant barrier to achieve an objective?
  • Why commercial law?
  • Why Clifford Chance?
  • What do you see as the bad points of joining Clifford Chance?
  • What do lawyers do/what work do they carry out?
  • What did you learn from your vacation placements?
  • What's the difference between your vacation scheme firms and Clifford Chance?
  • What deals are Clifford Chance currently working on?
  • What do you find unique about the recent deals we have completed?
  • How do interest rates affect the market?
  • What was your role in a particular extra-curricular activity?
  • What complex issues did you overcome?
  • Give an example of teamwork.
  • Legal questions, such as whether a legal principle is in a client’s best interests.
  • Ethical questions, such as balancing loyalties to the firm and to clients.

Case Study

A brief case study will be given to you before your interview and you will get some time to prepare and write notes.

You may only receive a very short piece of information, such as a single paragraph explaining that someone has called you with a view to setting up their own business.

You will also be given a question which will be something like, ‘What advice would you give to this person?’

The advice you are expected to give is generally of a commercial nature, not a legal one.

You will then present your thoughts to your interviewers. They will ask you further questions about your reasoning and potential complications with your answers.

Tip: Write down everything you know related to your question in the short amount of time provided. Try to write in note form, as you will then be able to use this when you deliver it as a presentation later on in your interview.

Clifford Chance is looking for commercial awareness, confidence, common sense and intelligence from candidates.

Interviewers will ask questions that test whether you can draw logical conclusions and if you are able to explain yourself clearly, both of which are requisite skills for all good lawyers.

As many candidates do not come from a law background, no specific knowledge of the law should be necessary to do well.

Receiving an Offer

Successful candidates will be notified as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours.

Candidates will receive a pack containing the offer letter and all details regarding the offer.

Candidates will be given details about the three-day Trainee Induction Programme and the buddy scheme, whereby new trainees are partnered with existing trainees.

Unsuccessful candidates will be telephoned and offered feedback.

Final Thoughts

As with all applications, you need to put in the time to prepare thoroughly before you start your application.

Make sure you:

  • Read all available recruitment material.

  • Attend any events at your university, and meet or talk to any current trainees for additional insight.

  • Research market position, strategic vision and client offerings.

  • Consider all elements of the Clifford Chance DNA and identify where your skills cross over with the key principles – and where you need to work harder to find relevant examples.

Clifford Chance sees its future trainees as its future partners, so make sure to show them what you can offer.


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