If you are set to become a newly-qualified lawyer this year, March is an important time.
Beginning to focus on your first qualified role in early spring could give you an edge over other applicants in what can be a very competitive market.
In Scotland the majority of trainee lawyers become qualified in September of each year. Internal vacancies are normally issued in April and law firms begin looking externally from May and June time. The recruitment process is well under way during the height of the summer.
If qualification is just around the corner for you, spring is the ideal time to take stock and work out what you want to do. What area do you want to specialise in? What law firms do you want to work with?
Start doing your research now. And as premature as it may seem, begin preparing your CV and covering letter and decide on the approach you’re going to take in forthcoming interviews. Here are five areas to focus on.
Whether it’s in the context of your CV, covering letter or interview preparation, bring alive how passionate you are about a particular opportunity.
Demonstrate enthusiasm for your chosen discipline and provide details from your background to reinforce this.
The UK legal market is still undergoing a period of consolidation. Having a high degree of commercial acumen has never been more important for a lawyer. A hiring firm will be attracted to a candidate who shows the potential, say, to stand in front of a client and have constructive and successful conversations about fees.
To demonstrate this, look back at topics you studied at university - e.g. business law - and link them to your current opportunity. Show a broad knowledge of the financial details and health of your prospective employer.
Give examples from your traineeship where you acted in a commercially astute manner, e.g. taken a course of action which increased revenues or saved the firm money.
Whether it’s during the application process or at interview, find out as much as you can about the hiring firm. Research the company and commit to memory 10 facts about it. Speak to peers in the market and get their views on the organisation.
Before interview, find out who is due to interview you (it will most likely involve one of the hiring partners) and learn as much about their background and experience as possible.
The Q&A at the end of the interview is often a good time to highlight the homework you’ve done. For example, refer to an aspect of their professional past or ask they why they chose to join the company.
Whatever specialism you are applying for you must demonstrate a deep understanding of the subject.
Whether written or oral, refer to any key developments in this area, e.g. recent changes in employment law or a forthcoming amendment to the corporate tax regime.
This knowledge allied with a passion for your subject (see above) should make a powerful impression on the hiring partner.
If you are polishing your CV or putting together a strong covering letter, ensure it is error free. You will know by now that lawyers have an obsession with detail. Sloppy prose or inaccurate drafting could see your application rejected out of hand.
Similarly, if at interview, be clear, concise and confident. This is good advice for anyone in the midst of an interview but particularly important when facing a lawyer.
The guidance above should put you in a strong position as you navigate your way through the next few months. Keep your career options open but stay focused on what you want to do.
Don’t accept the first thing you are offered. Instead take a measured approach. Set yourself a deadline. If that passes without success, review your options.