If you are trying to get a job as a lawyer (and hold onto it) in the current market, then the first thing you’re going to have to accept is this: it’s going to be hard work.
I have been extremely fortunate in my legal career to have had positions available at times when I needed them (or perhaps I’m just great – but I’m not sure anybody would believe that), but in the present economic environment jobs can be few and far between.
As the first article in this series, I wanted to deal with some fundamentals, so we’re going to start with a little bit of time looking at ourselves.
You’re Not Special…. Unless you Are
Look around you. Are you the only graduate looking for jobs, or the only applicant sending letters in? No, of course you aren’t. You are one of many, many graduates, final year law students or young lawyers looking for a job. No doubt your grades are somewhere between acceptable and superlative, or you probably wouldn’t pass your degree. However, I know a number of first class honours students who are still struggling to find positions, so if your grades were a little under what you were hoping then don’t panic. It might make your road a little longer or harder, but doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel just yet.
What you need to ask yourself is this: what distinguishes you from your peers? I’m not trying to create some kind of horrible competition here between you and your friends, but you need to be comfortable doing a little bit of introspection to figure out how it is that you can articulate a unique and gripping story about yourself. What is it that makes you stand out from the crowd?
I’ll give you a hint at this point: going to Grammar School, getting an OP1, completing a straight law degree then looking for a job are not likely to be the X factor that you’re looking for. What you are looking for is something that, hopefully, will set your resume or your interview apart from the others, and make you memorable (in a positive way) in the minds of the people you are trying to reach.
What Might Make Me Unique?
There are plenty of variables in everyone’s life that allow them to tell a unique story. Some stories might be more interesting than others, but we’ll be looking at ways to make your story more interesting in a later article.
For now, consider the following factors in your life and jot down some dot points:
- Where were you born and raised? Was it different to where you are now? How?
- Have you traveled, if so where and what did you learn?
- Why did you decide to study law – (if you haven’t already, you might see my book for some ideas on motivation – if you’re not sure why you want to be a lawyer then you’d better get that sorted out)?
- Did you study anything else? Why?
- Where have you worked, what did you do there? Were you given any unique or special opportunities?
- Do you/have you volunteered anywhere?
- What is it that you are aspiring to be in the law?
- Do you have any hobbies or interests?
- Got any published articles or journal pieces? Do you do a blog or anything similar?
Why am I looking at all this?
The why will come later when we get to telling your story. For now, what you are looking at is identifying the factors that create your story. Each story is going to be unique, and those who stand out are those who understand that and make a point of differentiating themselves.
In case this all sounds like mumbo jumbo so far – remember this: all law firms try to market themselves on a unique selling point. It might be price, expertise, size, strength, big clients or friendly service. Whatever it is, you’re simply doing a miniature version of the same thing.
I can’t talk for you obviously so you’ll need to figure this one out on your own. Go and spend some time before the next article in this series, and find out what pieces make you up.
Next Up: Adding Layers to the Story – Depth and Breadth