So you wanna be a lawyer huh? You do realize you're not the only one. Why should we give you the training contract instead of the 100 other applicants? While speaking to a newly qualified lawyer friend, she told me about the perils of looking for a training contract. I'm 2-3 years away from my diploma year but I've become very aware already of the fact that it's tough out there and getting tougher. When being introduced to a friend's wife for the first time recently, and discovering she was a lawyer I naturally picked a conversation about law, when she found out I was a student, with a sad glint in her eyes she said 'hopefully by the time you graduate there'll be some jobs again!'.
I'm a naturally optimistic person, but I think Thomas Jefferson hit the nail on the head when he said 'I find that the harder I work the more luck I seem to have'. With this in mind at the start of my LL.B I decided that if I was planning on looking for a training contract at the end of my degree I'd be more inclined to 'get lucky' if I put the work in to building a strong CV from the outset. I've maybe got a slight advantage as a mature student, by having more experience in terms of trying to get what I want, but realizing that to make that happen you often need to 'bring something to the table'. So what have I done and what am I planning to do to build my winning CV?
Well, firstly I've tried to think about the experiences I've had in my work life which relate to being a lawyer and the types of transferable skills applicable to law:
Sales roles: dealing with clients directly, explaining the contracts, persuading them of the best course of action.
Management roles: Working effectively within a hierarchy, delegating responsibilities, passing on key information to team members, dealing directly with other businesses.
Being 'Staff/Class Rep'; Dealing directly with senior management, understanding the needs of those you represent and communicating them effectively.
Then comes the process of trying to find other things to boost the CV:
While attending a charity event during my 1st yr, I happened to meet and get chatting to a lawyer who runs a small criminal defense firm, after a relatively short chat he told me to email him and arrange to pop in for some work experience. I went on to volunteer for six months in his firm 1-2 afternoons per week, this was a great experience where I learned a great deal about the actual day to day running of a law practice.
Other ways to gain experience include: Law Clinic/Pro Bono work, Citizens Advice etc
I also try to stay up to date with developments in the legal landscape, I do this by having a number of links on my web browser to favorites such as The Law Society Journal and The Firm, I have a wee look at these as I'm checking my emails in the morning. In addition I follow the twitter feeds of a number of people who regularly blog on legal news, such as Guardian Law, (I'm not a big fan of traditional newspapers).
This year I've joined my University's Mooting Society, and I'm glad to say my partner and I have made it to the quarter final of our internal competition, which brings with it a trip to the Supreme Court. In my mind the benefit of mooting is two fold:
1. It forces you to go and research an area of law you may have little or no experience of.
2. You then have to defend your opinions and research to a 'Judge'
I'm planning on trying to add to my CV year on year, and make a point of choosing the electives which will give me the best chance both at diploma and beyond, (as far as I'm aware you can't be an Advocate without having studied Roman Law).
In a competitive market I can't help but think the jobs and diploma places will go the best applicants. Becoming the best applicant means making an effort to think of the bigger picture from the outset by developing a plan to build a great CV along with the self discipline to implement that plan.
'Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning' - Thomas Edison
If anyone has any suggestions for other things I could do to boost my chances of success please get in touch, I'm all ears! (Any Malcolm Gladwell fans'll know what I mean when I say I'm chasing after my 10'000 hours.)