For the majority of law students finding a job in the legal industry can be just as challenging as completing law school. So what do law firms look for when recruiting aspiring lawyers/junior lawyers?
With plenty of material out there, here is a summary of some useful tips that we hope will assist you. These are listed out in no particular order – they’re all important.
Job search tips
- Be strategic - Only apply to firms that you genuinely believe might be suitable for you. Check the firms’ prerequisites before applying, for example, do you have the grades/qualifications that the firm seeks?
- Do some research before you apply - If you want to be a corporate lawyer there is no point in applying to a high street practice that is unlikely to have a corporate law department. It is obvious to employers if you have applied to a firm that does not have a department with your preferred practice area or one that doesn’t fit your requirements.
- Read the job description carefully - Are you able to offer what the firm is looking for? If that’s a yes then ensure that your application highlights all the skills that directly satisfy the requirements in the job description.
- Don’t limit yourself - Make sure that you’re covering all bases where a possible job opportunity may be posted. Do not rely solely on online job postings - speak to internal recruiters or ask friends if they are aware of any positions that may be suitable for you.
- Accuracy - Make sure that there are no grammatical or typographical errors in your CV or your job application. You might be a perfectly good candidate but if your CV/application is strewn with errors, it could cost you a potential interview.
- Timing - Training contracts usually stipulate an application deadline but in all other cases you should apply as early as possible. Law firms will generally select five or six suitable candidates to interview and the likelihood is that they will find these in the first 50 or 60 applications they receive.
- Competition - Law is an extremely competitive field so don’t be disheartened if your application is rejected or your interview is unsuccessful. If possible, request some feedback on an interview to see if there’s anything you can improve going forward.
- Use our “Create an Alert” service - You will be the first to know when an opportunity matching your requirements first arises.
The moment you receive that call inviting you to an interview you do a little victory dance …. and then the nerves kick in. Hopefully these tips will be of some help.
- Commercial awareness - Practising law isn’t just about knowing the law - it’s important to understand your client’s business too (for example, its customers, competitors and suppliers, etc.) as this is key to providing them with the best solutions and advice.
- Know the firm/Research - Employers and recruiters are looking for candidates who are enthusiastic about the firm. Be aware of the firm’s latest news and updates, their cases, their clients, their competitors and the services they provide. Read their website and search for any mention of the firm in news articles. See what you can find out about the firm’s achievements and awards. The more you know about the firm the better. You will go to your interview feeling more confident and your interest and commitment will be evident to the person interviewing you.
- Preparation - Read through your application and CV and refresh your memory because you will be questioned on its contents. Also, think about the work/cases you have done to date.
- Read the job description again - This will aid you in preparing for an interview because it sets down exactly what skills the employer is looking for. Consider examples of how you have applied these skills or how you will develop the skills mentioned. Focus on highlighting your accomplishments, milestones and the goals you’ve achieved using those specific skills. The job description will also indicate what the position entails and provide some indication of the firm’s values and its culture.
- Know the Partner / person interviewing you - Try to remember their names and roles within the firm. Read the firm’s website to familiarise yourself with the names of the firm’s Senior Partners/Managing Director.
- Company ethos - A firm’s social media account will often reveal their ethos and values.
- Frequently asked interview questions - Review typical questions and any ‘off the wall’ ones that you may be asked in an interview and prepare answers with examples from your life and work experiences. Don’t waffle, keep your answers concise and express them with conviction.
- Understand the importance of client relationships - Client relationships are the root of any practice. Clients want lawyers who understand their business and provide sound advice when they have a problem. If you are seeking a partnership in a law firm you must build these connections and work on your client relationships. By doing this you are essentially generating business for the firm.
- Cross-selling - This is when you offer a current client the use of another of your firm's services. Perhaps you have a property client who you think would benefit from advice on taxation law. By identifying a potential problem and steering them in the right direction you will not only have solved a thorny problem for your client but, at the same time, you will have generated business for the firm.
- Questions for your interviewer - Prepare a few good questions. It will show the person interviewing you that you have done your research, you have a genuine interest in the firm and you are serious about the position.
- Honest answers - Always be truthful. Lawyers have a sixth sense.
- Be confident, not arrogant - Everyone gets nervous at interviews but HR Officers/Managers try to see beyond that. Remain calm - no one expects you to be perfect.
- Don’t be late to an interview - Being late to an interview is one of the worst things you can do. You’ve already started on a bad note. Leave home with plenty of time to spare.
- Dress smartly - Don’t underestimate the importance of first impressions.
- Always be polite and smile at everyone you meet at the firm. Make eye contact and have a firm handshake.
- Try to be memorable - Likeable candidates will always have an edge.
Try your best and good luck!