Taking into account the competitive nature of the legal industry, it is wise to equip yourself as best as you can before starting your search for a new career in law.
Changing jobs is a big decision, so before you jump in to it, decide on the reasons why you’re moving. For example, is it for career progression? The kid of company/firm you want to work with? Or perhaps you’re ready for a new challenge? Then, ask yourself what roles best suit you in terms of your skills and level of experience.
In addition to knowing what you want, you must also make yourself an attractive proposition to employers, so you can stand out from the competition.
These ten tips, which could be easily forgotten if this isn’t your first time searching for a new job, will help you search for jobs more effectively and submit a stronger application for legal roles in 2020.
Filter your search
If you are looking for a more senior role within a law firm, or you want to work in a specific field as a paralegal, then there is little point in sifting through hundreds of general vacancies which have no relevance to you. Use the filtering settings available on Simply Law Jobs to narrow down your search to only include roles that are specific to your needs.
If you do not want a long commute, you can also filter the search to only accommodate jobs within a certain area e.g. within 10 miles of your location.
If you have specific salary demands, this can be filtered too – and you can also find a filter related to benefits of the jobs.
Filtering your search is a great time saver and will reduce the chances of procrastination when scrolling through page after page of irrelevant job posts.
Focus on the job description
When preparing an application, the wording in your CV and cover letter should fit around the job description to ensure you cover all areas recruiters are interested in, showing them why you can meet their specific requirements. Many people fall into the trap of focusing on themselves rather than what the employer needs.
If the company is looking for a lawyer who has a proven track record in employment law, then your application should be based around this key point. Of course you should inform the employer of your qualities, but when doing so, they should be applied to the specific requirements of the job.
Just like when you filtered your initial search, you should also shortlist the jobs that you intend to apply for.
Before taking the time to prepare an application, it is wise to weigh up the pros and cons of the position. Is it definitely a step up from your current job? Can you do everything (or most responsibilities) the job description mentions? Is the wage on offer good enough for you? Is the commute reasonable? What are the benefits?
Just because the job title loosely matches what you are looking for, it doesn’t mean it is a viable option. Create a shortlist of quality roles that tick all the boxes – you don’t want to waste the employer’s time or more importantly, your own, so be sure that these are the jobs you’re going to focus on.
Don’t assume you have sent enough applications
This might seem contradictory to the previous tip, but just because you have sent a relatively large amount of applications, it is not guaranteed you will hear back from any of them. Don’t put your search on hold when waiting for a response from the initial batch of applications – the perfect role for you could be posted at any time, so do not risk settling because you feel you’ve already put alot of time into your job search.
Research shows that most candidates are rejected from over 15 law firms before they get a job offer, as such, it is sensible to keep applying for suitable vacancies until you get an offer which meets your requirements. It also increases your chances of receiving more interviews and hopefully, job offers, giving you options and even enabling you to negotiate a better deal in some cases.
Don’t be afraid to apply again
If you applied for a role at a company and didn’t receive a response, then don’t let that put you off applying again should the same job be re-advertised.
Assess your initial application and see where it could be strengthened – get rid of anything that lacks relevance and ensure you meet the needs of the job description. A second pair of eyes could also be of great help in critiquing your application, especially if they work within the legal sector.
Your first application may have fallen through the cracks or could have been overlooked – there is no guarantee that will be the case a second time.
Your CV can still be important even if you lack work experience
If you are a recent graduate or have been out of work for a long time, don’t worry, there are still ways to strengthen your job application despite it lacking detail. Your CV can still prove why you would be a valuable asset to a company.
If you completed an internship or work experience while at university then talk about it – alternatively, you can also describe how you have helped friends and family from a legal perspective.
Make a note of your various achievements and any volunteering work or personal development that could be applied to the legal sector.
This sort of information can intrigue an employer and may be enough to get you an interview, even without the relevant experience. It could turn out that you are unsuited for this specific role, but there may be another job within the company that fits your skill set.
Many law firms also have trainee programmes, so showing personality, professionalism and enthusiasm can help you be considered for such opportunities.
Create strong, targeted cover letters
All cover letters should be specific to the company and job role you are applying for.
A standard cover letter, which has been sent to a dozen or so firms with no change to the content apart from a few altered names is typically very easy to spot. It is likely to include points which are not relevant to the role. It is also very likely that it will lack the crucial selling points to land yourself an interview with the employer in question.
In such a competitive industry, your cover letter needs to be as strong and tailored as possible, and include everything the employer needs to know about you, as a candidate.
A recruiter generally spends just a few seconds reading through a cover letter, so your strengths and suitability must be instantly apparent. Using the job description, you should sell yourself and highlight your skills and experience which makes you a perfect fit for the company.
Show that you have done your research by emphasising what makes the company appeal to you. Talk about specific achievements or individual cases that set the firm apart from the rest.
Also be wary of bad mouthing former employers, or rival firms, as it can make you seem like a potentially problematic employee with a negative attitude.
Your CV is a reference point which provides a summary of you, as a law professional, whereas your cover letter is your chance to sell yourself and prove why you are the best candidate, who can be a real asset to the company.
Use references who you keep in contact with
Including a reference who you don’t keep in regular contact with can sometimes be a mistake. A manager at a firm that has a high staff turnover could be quite forgetful in terms of former employees, which could result in them giving a standard reference which does nothing to promote your abilities.
Because of this, it is always a good idea to include someone you have worked with recently or are in regular contact with as a reference, as they are more likely to give a detailed reference which can improve your chances of being offered the job.
Social media allows you to stay in touch with former colleagues and employers very easily – the occasional comment on a status or an exchange of messages can ensure you don’t lose contact with a key connection.
Of course, sending a person an out of the blue message, days before they are due to give you a reference is not advised.
Networking can swing things in your favour
Rightly or wrongly, an employer is likely to give more attention to an application from someone they are already aware of. Social media can give you direct contact to top law professionals for discussion purposes, or maybe even to ask for their advice or insight.
By putting time and effort into networking with people within the industry, you can make yourself known to decision makers at law firms you would like to work for. As ever, make sure you do not become somewhat of a pest – ensure any messages you send are strictly professional and do not attempt to add people you haven’t previously communicated with.
Joining legal discussion groups on LinkedIn & Facebook can not only improve your knowledge base and give a heads up in terms of potential opportunities, but it can also prove how enthusiastic and passionate you are about the industry. Replying to tweets made by respected individuals within the sector can also help you to grow your network.
Networking away from the computer is also very beneficial, as speaking with a person directly and striking up a rapport is going to have a much more lasting impression than any tweet or message. Law events could also inform you of vacancies before they are posted online, giving you an advantage over the opposition.
Never stop trying to grow your professional network – persistence is a very sought after trait within the legal sector.
Use your connections
If you currently, or have previously worked within the legal sector, then it is certain you will know a few people who are experienced in finding a new job within the industry. Get in touch with anyone who you think could help and see if they can take a look at your application, provide do’s & don’ts, or give you some insight into specific firms.
If you are a graduate, then there will be resources open to you at your university. Many career advisers have strong contacts within a range of sectors and could point you towards an opening, as well as providing you with excellent advice on how to approach your job search.
We hope the tips above have been useful and can help you in your search for a new career. Remember not to give up and always try to improve your legal knowledge and skill base to stay on top of any industry changes.