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Early careers

The application process

Applying for the trainee associate programme or a vacation scheme may seem daunting. Read the guidance and advice below and you’ll find the process is actually straightforward.



How do I apply?

Whether applying for our trainee associate programme or our vacation scheme, all applications should be submitted through our application portal. You can only apply once per academic year: either during the winter application window or the summer application window.

Access our application portal here.

What does the first stage involve?

The first stage involves an application form and an 850-word personal statement.

What should I include in my personal statement?

Our 850-word personal statement is your chance to stand out from the crowd, to showcase what makes you unique, and emphasise your strengths.

What to include in your personal statement:

All about you

The personal statement is all about who you are. Tell us about university activities, hobbies, work experience and your reasons for applying. Avoid bullet-point CV extracts.

Demonstrate you have the potential to be a great trainee and try to show how your interests align with Freshfields’ and our clients’ needs.

Support claims with evidence (like “team player” attributes backed by sports or committee involvement). Include all types of work experience and other activities (even if unrelated to law) to showcase versatility.

Share your passions outside of work and studies to bring your application to life.

Why law?

You should have a good idea of why you want to work at Freshfields so make this clear.

Avoid phrases we see all the time: ‘enjoy being challenged’ or ‘find the law interesting’. Instead, highlight how legal work stimulates you and your long-term career ambitions. Why does Freshfields appeal? Do you want to join an international firm? Have you heard good things about us from a trainee? Be specific.

We already know all the facts and figures from our website so only talk about Freshfields if it genuinely supports a point you’re making.

Efficiency, structure and repetition

Use your word limit effectively, avoiding repetition of personal information. Be simple, direct, and distinctive. Stay concise and maintain a professional tone. Structure your statement with essential points first and use paragraphs.

Keep your sentences relatively short. Long sentences can be difficult to follow. Tone is important. Don’t be too informal or deferential. Your writing should reflect who you are.

We read a lot of applications so avoid cliché. Try not to talk about ‘honing’ your analytical skills. Avoid ‘relishing’ the chance to work on ‘cutting-edge, high-profile deals’. Find meaningful words of your own.

Errors diminish the quality of your application so edit, seek feedback and refine your statement.

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What is the Watson Glaser test?

After a successful application, you'll take the Watson Glaser test, assessing critical thinking skills, decision making, and problem-solving abilities. You can use our practice test to understand the mechanics.

Access the Watson Glaser test here.

What does the half-day assessment involve?

If you progress to this stage congratulations! We think you have the potential to become a Freshfields lawyer. You'll now be invited for a half-day assessment that includes a written exercise, a general interview and an analytical interview.

Written exercise

A lot of work for our clients is in writing so we want to evaluate your attention to detail. Our written assessment does not test your legal or technical knowledge.

General interview

The general interview is your opportunity to tell us more about you and your skills, including examples of things you’ve done that demonstrate your best qualities.

There are no traps: we want to know why you would make a good trainee. The one-hour interview will be conducted by two interviewers, usually a partner and an associate. Your interviewers will have read your personal statement but won’t have access to any other part of your application.

You’ll need to have done some deep thinking about yourself and be self-aware to be able to answer our questions. Think of examples from your life that show you how you’ve contributed to getting something done, how you’ve stuck at a difficult task or have pushed yourself. These are all things we’re looking for in our future trainees. Be yourself and openly discuss your motivations, strengths, weaknesses and desire to work with us. Ask any questions about our firm and culture.

The analytical interview

The analytical interview will assess your ‘business mind’.

We’ll give you 30 minutes to read an article. You’ll then have an hour-long interview with two different interviewers, usually a partner and an associate, who will ask you questions about what you’ve just read.

Your interviewers will not have seen your application and will only have your name prior to meeting you.

The analytical interview is not a test of your legal knowledge. Our interviewers want to get a sense of your commercial awareness and how well you think on your feet. You’ll get the chance to show your curiosity about commercial and legal topics. If you’re unsure of an answer, admit it – there are no tricks.

Before the interview you might want to read recent articles from business press (such as the FT and Economist), considering how political, economic and financial developments might affect our clients.

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Get in touch with our early careers team