The Guardian recently published an article entitled “What law firms are looking for from new recruits.” With the legal market becoming ever more competitive, more and more lawyers are relying on the expert advice of legal and executive recruitment companies. Everyone from your friend’s aunt, the cab driver, to a tenured professor is willing and eager to give you his or her two cents on the matter of the mysterious job search. However, for reliable, qualified, and high-quality guidance, it’s best to go to the professionals.
Although the professionals of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are situated in the UK, their suggestions travel well across the pond. With a Canadian twist, here are the top tips for neophytes and new recruits:
1) Major in something you like.
Getting into law school is difficult. Despite the talk of holistic admission methods, an applicant’s undergraduate and graduate grades still matter a great deal. Law school is like nothing you have ever done before, this holds true for everyone. Rather than trying to enroll in a “Pre-Law” major, choose an academic subject that you think you’ll enjoy and will likely excel in. You’re more likely to put more work into something that interests you, and thus reap the fruits of your labour. Once in law school, academic achievement continues to be a significant signifier, don’t trust anyone who tells you otherwise.
2) You are more than a sum of all your grades.
Taking a lesson from Aristotle’s Metaphysics, “the whole is more than the sum of its parts;” so should be your resume. A fancy degree, or two, or three, is simply not enough anymore. A stellar transcript is an asset, but it cannot be the only instrument in your arsenal. Law firms, like the good lawyers they are, look for evidence. They look for evidence of your skills, talents, and interests. It is not sufficient to say you are a great leader or team player, you must demonstrate these qualities through a specific, relevant, and recent endeavour or experience.
3) Pick up a newspaper, or it’s equivalent electronic source.
In my opinion, this is the best piece of advice (that is rarely received). Being a lawyer, and existing in the legal field, is not all about the law. Law in and of its self is a means to an end; it is neither the source nor the finished product. In whatever practice area you are working in or hope to work in, any recruit would be remiss not to keep up with the news in his or her preferred field. Not only does topical news provide fodder for small talk and conversation starters, it also broadens your knowledge, vocabulary, and general sense of the trends in [insert practice area of interest name here]. Lastly, being able to speak about the recent events indicates a commitment and genuine curiosity about the law.
4) Get your foot into any door.
There are many ways to get your foot into the door without working as a summer student, articling student or associate. Events such as firm receptions and tours are excellent ways of getting a first hand look at the day-to-day operations. These affairs are also a prime place to show up your keen networking skills. If you are able to connect with someone at the firm, ask to have a casual conversation about his or her experience over coffee. Keep your mind open to different ways of making contact with different people at different levels of a firm.
Job opportunities don’t just happen, they are cultivated and created. Work on developing a good (academic and social) reputation among the community, and with the help of an excellent recruitment agency, the rest will follow.