Fletchers Solicitors Serious Injury Litigation Executive, Ceri Dudley, reveals her top 5 tips for improving your chances at landing that prized legal grad job. Ceri talks you through the process, from networking and gaining work experience to acing your interviews.
1. Work experience
The legal industry is a competitive one, to say the least, so getting your foot in the door can be somewhat of a challenge. The reality for any aspiring lawyer is that you are up against hundreds of credible candidates who are eager to impress. These same candidates will also have similar qualifications to you. So, it’s important to find your niche and seek ways where you will stand out from the crowd.
Although you will have heard this before, work experience is crucial here. Not only will this help you secure your first legal grad role, but it can also help shape the professional you become later in your career. My first tip is to actively seek legal work experience wherever possible. Work experience, in any profession, is an essential means of developing your knowledge and sharpening those ‘soft skills’ that accompany the ‘harder’ skill sets you’ll develop over time.
As a starting point, there are placement schemes, volunteering opportunities, even shadowing other legal professionals. Keep your eyes and ears open to legal vacation scheme placements. You may have to contact a range of law firms first, but many firms offer them and have plenty of advice on how to apply online. Ultimately, obtaining work experience will prove invaluable.
Another good option is university events. Universities often hold what are known as ‘mooting events’ and these are a good way to build your advocacy skills.
Before applying for a role, or even attending an interview for your dream position, preparation and research are key! My best advice here is to ensure you know the role you are applying for and what the company is looking for in a candidate. Spend time researching the company, its culture and its values. For example, here at Fletchers, our customers are at the heart of what we do. Spending time looking into the company and its ethos will assist you in explaining why you genuinely want to work for the company, as well as why you’re the right candidate for the role.
Sometimes, opportunity comes down to “who you know”. You may be thinking, “oh it’s fine, I’m still just undertaking my studies”, or “I’m just starting out. I can’t be expected to have lots of great contacts.” Well if that’s you, this is where networking can open doors.
Networking is a key aspect of building relationships within the legal industry. This is also especially important in an inherently competitive arena, such as law. Universities often put together law and career fairs and the importance of these cannot be overstated. Make sure you attend these events and actively seek advice from the experts.
In my experience so far, you never know what valuable piece of information you may receive in helping you land that first grad job. The ambassadors at these events are there to help you and are usually more than happy to impart their knowledge and advice. Of course, Covid-19 presents new challenges to networking. Despite the global pandemic, networking can be just as worthwhile when done virtually and over the last few years, social media has become key to building a professional network. My advice here is to ensure your profile is not only up to date, but it paints you as you want law firms to see you. Actively engage in topical conversation and join relevant groups. These methods are a good way to market yourself and get your name out there.
4. Stand out from the crowd
I said it above, you will be up against many candidates with similar legal backgrounds, so what will make you stand out? Do you have any hobbies or non-legal skills? Do you undertake any volunteering? If so, it is important to put these across within your CV and to the firm that you are applying for. Often firms want to see the type of person that you are in addition to your legal qualifications, and this is a good way to illustrate this.
5. Work hard
Last, and probably my biggest tip, is to work hard! There is no getting away from the fact that hard work creates success in law. This goes not only for the start of your career but throughout! Working in law can be really challenging, but it can also be really gratifying. It takes focus and determination to succeed. Sometimes, my job is not just a nine to five role, but seeing the changes made to our clients who have sustained serious injuries once a case has settled is incredibly rewarding.
Always remember why you want the role, put in the work and you will find the hard work and challenges are entirely worth it.