Are foreign training contract applicants at a disadvantage?

We often get questions from worried training contract applicants from overseas – especially since Brexit. Will their lack of a British background mean firms will think twice about hiring them? We asked some graduate recruiters for their thoughts…

Map, Europe, hearts, flags, european countries.

“I’m not from the UK – will I be at a disadvantage compared to British applicants when I’m applying for training contracts, especially in the light of the Brexit vote?”

“No! As a global firm we need candidates with international backgrounds. As visa sponsors we can assist you with any logistics that may be required, but your nationality and visa status is not a consideration when we’re reviewing applications.”

Katie Makey, recruitment officer, Shearman & Sterling


“You won’t be at a disadvantage – law firms, particularly those with an international presence and outlook, really value the experiences that applicants from overseas can bring to the role of a trainee solicitor. There are some firms which will sponsor a work visa so check with the firms you are targeting.

“We are awaiting full details of how Brexit will impact overseas recruitment; in the meantime, your knowledge of other cultures and the diversity you bring to the role is really what matters to a recruiter.”

Mirrick Koh, graduate recruitment and trainee development manager, Nabarro


“I’m applying to firms, but I’m from overseas, so I don’t have GCSEs or A Levels. What should I do on this part of the application form?” 

“Don’t think that you are at a disadvantage simply because you haven’t undertaken GCSEs and/or A levels. If you have overseas qualifications, detail them in your application form and summarise the equivalent GCSE or A level grade.”

Mirrick Koh

“As a global law firm we are more than familiar with receiving applications from overseas students and we are able to convert international grades to the equivalent of the UCAS points that we ask for. I would therefore encourage applicants to put in their equivalent grades as you received them and leave the rest to us. If you wish to explain the grading system of your school, there is the opportunity to provide this information on our application form.”

Rebecca Ryalls, senior graduate recruitment and development officer, Baker & McKenzie

“Our application form allows candidates to enter international qualifications instead of GCSE and A Level grades. The form also offers an opportunity for you to provide a more in-depth explanation of your specific academic background and qualifications.”

Rosie Buckley, graduate recruiting coordinator, Latham & Watkins

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Katie Makey

“Our application form is responsive to various different education boards and exam formats, please select that you did not go to school in the UK and then you’ll get a free-text box to give us as much information and context as possible. Luckily we have many Shearman employees from all over the world to help us understand different accreditations!”

Katie Makey

“We welcome applications from international students and appreciate that academics equivalents are not always easy to calculate.

“Therefore, we advise candidates to complete the academic achievement section on the application form with as much detail as possible as this enables us to benchmark this appropriately. Enormous attention goes into ensuring fairness in all our recruitment processes so we will be in touch directly with any questions we have.”

Sarah Harte, graduate talent advisor, Taylor Wessing


Is there any other advice that you’d have for an overseas graduate applying for a UK-based training contract?

“Spend some time researching how the UK training contract system works, and how the firms you are applying to fit into the UK market.”

Rosie Buckley 

“It’s great to see international candidates with a strong interest in other jurisdictions, languages, politics and cultures – this is the understanding our multi-national clients need! But make sure you have a strong commercial reason for wanting to train in the UK, this will show you understand the benefits of becoming England & Wales qualified.”

Katie Makey