The legal industry is a highly-competitive one, and landing a job – especially if you’re a fresh graduate – is easier said than done. There are hundreds of applicants exactly as qualified as you are. Here’s a bit of advice to help you stand out and maximize your chances.
Whether you’re an aspiring lawyer or a recent graduate, finding a job is probably near the top of your priorities list. Unfortunately, it’s also one of your greatest challenges. Law as an industry is highly-competitive – there are scores of applicants who are just as qualified as you, all seeking the same jobs you are.
How exactly can you stand out from the crowd? What can you do to ensure you make the shortlist of qualified candidates, and avoid having your resume tossed in the trash bin? Let’s talk about that.
A killer resume and cover letter
Start with your resume – with your first impression. This might seem obvious, but it bears emphasis. In addition to being properly laid-out and well-written, your resume and cover letter must both be targeted to the specific job you’re applying for.
In addition to having a trusted friend or two review your application before you submit it, you should tailor your approach based on the firm you’re trying to apply for. The experience you highlight, the language you use, everything down to your layout should be re-written for each different employer. Sure, that’s time-consuming – but if you take a shotgun approach and submit the same resume to every single firm, you’re very likely to get lost in the noise.
Some other resume-related advice includes:
- Establish yourself on LinkedIn, and look to get a few recommendations from friends and colleagues.
- Don’t just target major, multinational law firms. Boutique law firms can be just as rewarding to work at, and might even be a bitter fit for your personality and skill-set.
- Don’t cast your net too wide. Do your research and create a shortlist of employers you want to work with.
Relationships with the right people
Law, like any other industry, ultimately boils down to who you know. That’s why networking – both as a student and as a new graduate – is so critical. Friends with whom you’ve cultivated real, meaningful relationships; mentors who’ve guided you along your path to becoming an attorney; family members; and professional colleagues, these can all help you land your dream job.
There’s a kicker, of course – you cannot simply view them as resources.
People tend to have a pretty good head for figuring out when someone is using them. If your only interest lies in establishing shallow, self-serving relationships, it won’t take long for them to figure it out. Focus on building those connections for personal fulfillment rather than professional gain.
Everybody likes helping a friend – no one can be bothered with a user.
Good interpersonal skills
How are your written communication skills? Are you able to work effectively as part of a team? Do you have a level of personal charisma that turns heads the moment you enter a room?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, you’ve got some work to do. Legal services is about far more than knowing the law, after all. It’s just as much about understanding people.
If you don’t know how to communicate, if you can’t empathize with and understand the men and women around you, you’re not going to get very far.
The right mindset
In addition to interpersonal and legal knowledge, you also need a firm grasp of the industry you’re going to be working in. No, I’m not specifically referring to law – I’m talking about your secondary industry. If you’re looking to get a job in copyright law, for example, you’re probably going to want a solid background in tech.
Additionally, it’s important to understand that for all they do, law firms are businesses. That means that an understanding of the business world is essential. Changing legislation, major acquisitions, emerging markets; these are all things you have to have a grasp on – things you must constantly seek to understand.
I’ve saved the most important ingredient for last – a genuine interest in your career. Desires and goals beyond just making boatloads of money. For example, I’ve known colleagues who got into law solely because they wanted to help people, others who were passionate about driving the future of new industries, and still more who simply loved working with laws and regulations.
They all had one thing in common – a deep, abiding passion that drove them to weather the hardships of being an attorney.
Finding a job in legal services isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. And provided you’ve got the skills, knowledge, and passion required, it’s well within your capabilities. Get out there and get working – you’ve got this.