Legal Recruitment – Getting a Job as a Lawyer

job interview for lawyersAll things point to the fact that the current legal recruitment market is absolute rubbish.  The question of how to get a job as a lawyer is one which is plaguing many law students and trainees as the moment.

The bad news is that many law firms, despite having large numbers of law clerks, are only taking on limited numbers of those clerks as trainee solicitors or graduate lawyers.  Legal recruitment is at a bit of a stand still.

As with all job applications the question you need to ask is how you can differentiate yourself from the plethora of other candidates that are applying for the same job.

With top tier law firms, the competition is fierce for graduate positions.  And, to be honest, in the current legal recruitment market the competition is pretty fierce for all the other jobs.

As a law student, you can expect that your employer will want to know your marks at university, to at least satisfy themselves that you went to uni and didn’t fail everything.  However, with 100 candidates with GPAs over 6, how can an employer distinguish between you and the others?  Well, that can come down to a number of factors, none of which have anything to do with how smart you are.

Here’s a few thoughts as someone who has seen a lot of people apply for jobs:

  • Be genuine.  Employers, and especially lawyers, can spot a fake a mile away.  If you don’t really want to be there, don’t really want that firm or that area of law – then you’re stuffed.  Don’t think you can deceive you way into any sort of lasting legal job.
  • Be personable.  Despite the fact that you will be nervous at the job interview, don’t forget to be a human being – show some emotion, engage with the interviewers, and be pleasant.  After all – if a 1 hour job interview leaves the other side needing a stiff drink, then why would they want to spend 10 or more hours a day with you?
  • Show incentive – what, exactly, have you done with your life and your skills?  Do you volunteer?  Do you give time to the church, to a charity, to your friends, to hobbies?  What is it that makes you a well rounded individual?  It is your depth as a person that will allow you to engage with potential clients and develop relationship (see my post on marketing if you don’t think that is important)
  • Shut up – almost all research shows that the more a person speaks, the better they will feel about the overall experience.  Therefore, I encourage you not to waffle on like a 1 year old just learning to put words together.  Show prudence with your speech – use your words correctly, speak well and confidently, articulate the point you want to get across, and then be quite.  Filling up silences with speech is an opportunity for disaster unless you have something important to say.
  • Know the firm – if you go into a firm interview without having an excellent understanding of what, exactly, that firm does then you aren’t very bright.  They will expect it, and you should do it.  Know the partners you’re likely to be working with (if relevant), know the areas the firm is in, and know a little of the history of that firm at least.
  • Be passionate – if you have read my book, or have given proper thought to your career, then you must have identified WHY you want to be a lawyer.  Don’t shy away from that – be passionate and prepared to tell the interviewers why you are there and why you want to be a lawyer.  It will show that you are likely to have an underlying drive to perform your job diligently because you are motivated already.  That said, don’t be so passionate that you end up coming across as creepy….

There are some tips, but every job interview for lawyers is a unique meeting of individuals.  There is no science in legal recruitment – often it’s more about the vibe.  Hopefully the above gives you some insight to creating the right vibe rather than the wrong one.

Be prepared, be genuine, and good luck!

  • Hello Chris H
    You say you help people or young lawyers to get their foot in the door of a firm or just to basically get lawyer work. I was wondering if u had any advice for me. I am not a young lawyer in your words which would be the 20s age gap but I am newly graduated with heaps of experience. Applied for heaps of law jobs not one interview. Any hints

    • Hi there Megan,

      Thanks for your comment and I’m certainly sympathetic to your predicament. I’m not sure I’ve put my ability to assist here quite as high as you suggest, but I’m happy to offer what I can. The reality is that the answer to your comment is far too complex for me to put into a response like this. What I propose to do for you is a series of articles on my thoughts about what graduates like yourself can do to try and improve their prospects of getting an interview. Stay tuned – I’ll do my best to get the series going soon for you.

      Kind Regards,
      Chris

  • Hi Chris,

    Having gone through many, many interviews for clerkship/graduate entry roles and having fallen at the last hurdle on most of them, there is one crucial factor in the process which is driving me crazy – “culture fit”. Apparently I don’t fit into many firms, despite ticking all the boxes in respect of GPA, legal work experience, extracurricular experience and the like. Further, I have a strong story as to why I want to practice law (perhaps too strong for firms?). It’s made me wonder if there’s anything I can do in respect of the “fit” criteria – which I suspect is the one I am not passing. Obviously it’s crucial to nail the interview (I’ve even had interview coaching to improve my “fit” issue) but it just seems so subjective. Apart from giving up, the only alternative seems to be to apply anywhere and everywhere in the hope that one firm, somewhere, thinks I fit in. Do you have any advice/wisdom on the issue of “culture fit”, or is it just one of those subjective things in life which you can’t do much about?

    Great blog by the way, really useful.

    • Hey there Mark and thanks for your comment. The cynic in me tells me that sometimes (not all the time) “culture fit” is an excuse rather than the real reason. Sometimes it’s a personality clash – they just didn’t feel any synergy (sorry for the dumb marketing word) during the interview, or had some other reason that it wouldn’t be PC (or sometimes legal) to share. Probably talking about “culture fit” is beyond this short reply, but I’ll give it some thought – keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post on it. Best of luck with any interviews you have coming up!

  • Hi Chris

    Good article ( as usual-your content in great). As a legal recruiter I can assure your readers there is light at the end of the tunnel. The legal recruitment Market is very buoyant for more senior lawyer (over 4 years owe) so the future is bright. Also I am running a free talk on linked in and personal branding for lawyers in Sydney on 30 August. Happy to send you details if you want.

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