Getting a job in the legal profession
This week when my diary reminded me that it was my turn to write the blog post, a topic came straight to mind. Whilst I usually prefer writing about meaty topics like police misconduct, the rule of law, white privilege, sexism etc – this week’s is a little less controversial, though hopefully helpful for those of you out there looking for a job in this field (or any professional field).
We’ve grown in the last few months and so have been recruiting for some new staff at various levels. Among the many resumes that have come across my desk and the various candidates that have come in for an interview, some common themes were present in the candidates that ended up with their resumes in the bin. So, for those of you that actually do want a job, here’s some things that will keep your resume from becoming a bin liner or will ingratiate you with a potential employer:
1. Proof read your resume
If I pick up a resume that has spelling mistakes, overuse of punctuation or formatting mistakes it goes straight in the bin. You might be a Rhodes scholar, but if you can’t take the time to make sure there’s no spelling mistakes in your resume or cover letter, how can I be sure you won’t do the same thing when drafting pleadings or advices to clients? Also, please, please, please learn when it is appropriate to use a capital letter at the start of a word. You wouldn’t believe how many resumes come in with Sentences Like This with no Discernible Reason for Capital Letters in the Sentence. If you don’t know, google it. There’s so many useful tools on line to help with spelling, grammar, punctuation and all the things that will make you look like an English language superstar (even if you’re not).
2. And your cover letter….
This also applies to your cover letter. And please, for the love of all things holy, proof read your cover letter and make sure it’s addressed to the right person. If you’re looking for a couple of jobs at a time, take care to ensure your cover letter to Aulich is not addressed to the last firm you applied at. I will not only put you in the bin for that, I will put you in the “never to work here” folder. Same thing applies to anyone who use there/their/they’re or your/you’re or his/he’s in the wrong context.
3. Be yourself and respond to the ad
So many cover letters I read are so boring and robotic. According to everyone’s cover letters, you all have excellent organisational and communication skills and of course, attention to detail. If I’m still reading after the first paragraph and you haven’t committed any of the sins referred to at 1 or 2 then I might be on board with your attention to detail. But, have you read the ad? What else does it ask for aside from communication skills and attention to detail?
One thing we always ask for is someone who is robust and has a good sense of humour. So, show me. Show me you’ve read the ad and find a way to show me you have a good sense of humour. I don’t mean inserting a “knock, knock” joke or some token attempt at humour, find a way to make yourself stand out in a funny but subtle way.
4. The interview
You’ve got an interview which means you’ve passed steps 1, 2 and 3 – but, then you’ve got to impress at the interview. Some ways that you can (coupled with some things you must avoid):
- Be on time – we’ve had a couple of people show up late with no real explanation. It’s safe to say, they did not get a chance to impress in the interview because we sent them right back out.
- Dress to impress – you’re coming to a law firm (and this applies to any professional industry), don’t show up in chinos and a shirt, save that for the beer garden on the weekend. Wear a suit, and a tie for the lads. If you don’t own one, borrow one. You’ll need one if you get the job anyway so beg and borrow to get yourself one.
- Do your research – show us you know about us. Read our website and our blogs. Know who we are and tell us why you are right for us.
- Be yourself and be honest – for us, cultural fit is just as important as your education and skills. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. If you’ve left a job recently, be prepared with the real reason you left and be honest about it, we will invariably find out anyway.
And the final one, that old saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” is sort of true. We have so many great staff that have come to us through different recommendations from people we know. For all you young ones especially, don’t rely on your degree alone to get you employed. Get out there, do work experience, go to functions where you might meet influential people, volunteer, play sport – broaden your networks and make a good impression.
Good luck, we hope to meet you one day.