Getting a Job as a Lawyer Part 2 – Depth and Breadth

Now that we’ve looked at the importance of identifying your story, what happens if it turns out that you’ve been studying for 17 years straight, full time, and actually don’t have a lot to say?

Well first thing is: you’re not looking hard enough.  Even those of us with limited experiences have a story to tell, and the reason is this: you can tell a story that hasn’t happened yet.

If you’ve started on this part, then I strongly recommend you go back and take a look at the Series Overview and Part 1 to get some context for what I’m about to say.

Aspirations are Part of Your Story

As I mentioned in the last article, it’s not just where you’ve been and what you’ve done which make up your story – it’s where you are going.  Why do you want to be a lawyer?  What is it that you hope to achieve?  Are there people that you particularly want to help, leadership positions that you aspire to?  You can incorporate these goals (humbly) into your story.

So go back and do the exercise I set out in Part 1 again if you think you’ve come up short – and include the future into your story.  Sure it might be a way off, but it’s what drives you and motivates you daily, so it’s an important component.

Demonstrating your Passion

OK the word “passion” doesn’t get used a lot in law, unless it’s a “crime of passion”.

Hopefully, however, you are still passionate about the law (even if you don’t use that word – try enthusiastic if passion makes you uncomfortable) for some reason.  If you’re not, why are you being a lawyer and why are you reading this article?  You might find, however, that through your studies you have become a little drained of that initial incentive that made you put pen to paper on your university applications.

However, I expect you’re also interested in a variety of other areas.  Those are all components of the story you want to tell, so don’t leave them behind when you are trying to recapture your excitement about being alive!

Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to pick up your genuine interests again in a tangible way.  What you are trying to do here is to find ways where you can demonstrate to a prospective employer your enthusiasm for life (which, for you, will hopefully include something about legal practice). Ideally you want to pick “resume-ready” or “interview-ready” areas.  That is, things which you can either put on paper or say out loud that show an employer that you attack life with a certain amount of gusto and a necessary sprinkling of gravitas.

The trick here is to attach your interest with some actual activity on your part.  After all, I might be interested in being an astronaut, but repeatedly watching Apollo 13 is unlikely to get me into NASA.

There are many ways you can do this, so here are just a few that might help you get started:

  • Join some industries for young lawyers that have open membership to law students (for example, the Queensland Law Society has Student Membership)
  • Being a member of those societies is one thing, but being an active participant is another – if you’ve got a chance to participate in a committee or specific event that is relevant (your active participation in a beer drinking festival should probably not go on your resume in the achievements section – unless you were in-house counsel)
  • Participate in an association in an area of interest
  • Write an article for a magazine or journal – it might be your university, your law association website or blog, or something else – either way it gets you runs on the board and a chance to demonstrate real writing skills (assuming you have some)
  • Go to conferences or education targeted at lawyers.  This may be prohibitively expensive unless someone else is picking up the bill, but a conference here and there will expand your knowledge, show your interest, give you a talking point, and allow you to meet people (which will be the subject of a later article in this series)
  • Start a blog – I can say from experience that this can be extremely time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.  With the number of easy setup free blogging platforms out there, this needn’t be too much work.  The blog needn’t be a display of your awesome legal knowledge – it can simply be an outlet for writing on a topic that you are passionate about.  Remember, the principle purpose here is to add some depth and breadth to the story you are wanting to tell.  Nobody expects your life to be 100% about the law, nor should it be.
  • Play a sport – get involved in some kind of activity with a group of people.

That’s Great – if I’ve got 3 years to Find a Job

Obviously all of that takes time, and it will gradually build up.  That’s why there are some short term (join an association or take up a sport) and longer term (write articles, do a blog etc) to combine.

Don’t forget where I started though: aspirations as still part of your story.

The great thing about this process is that you will be articulating what really makes you want to practice law as a component of your life.  In doing so you’re really clarifying WHY it is that you want to be a lawyer.  If you recall, this is one of my major topics in Look Before You Leap.

The principle lesson here is to accompany your interests with real world activities.  If you’re still studying, then you have plenty of time (I know it might not feel like it – but wait ’till you start working full time in a law firm, then complain to me about how little time you had while studying).  Take that spare time and participate in the real world.  It can only benefit you not just for your job hunting, but also for an expansion of you world view.

If you can get in any way involved in a business, then leap on that opportunity.  After all, law firms are businesses and they focus on things that business want – commerciality, common sense, client service, profits.  The more you can demonstrate you are sensitive to those issues the better value you will be to your firm.

That’s it for part 2 – go and find some time to participate in the real world, broaden your horizons, and turn your interests into real world activities.

Part 3 we will be looking at how to build an effective resume with a guest post from one of the country’s top recruiters.

 

 

  • Thanks for sharing Chris. Really good article. The things you mention that a new lawyer can do to get themselves seen/known (writing for journals, going to conferences, blogging,etc.) are critically important to those in the job hunt. One thing I would also add is the fact that most new lawyers looking for a job aren’t doing these things even though they should be. The one’s who do are going to have a big leg up on the competition.

    Great post – keep ’em coming.

  • @Luke Ciciliano you make an excellent point. It’s always better to do something as opposed to nothing. As my Dad, often reminds me, you don’t have to be the best lawyer ever, you just have to be the better lawyer.

    @Chris Hargreaves thanks for the series of posts. All very good points here and also valuable ones #lawstudents in the US should follow. (BTW funny you said reckon. I said it just the right ther day in a successful hearing on a motion to dismiss a motor vehicle claim. But I’m pretty sure we each pronounce it with slightly different accents.)

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