Mukesh Kainth looks over what graduates and junior lawyers require to progress.
With the change of governments, cabinets and political agenda the landscape of law is again changing. Graduates and junior lawyers may be under the impression that the ship has well and truly sailed and may look to other professions. In 2014 5,514 trainees were registered however 6,171 students completed the Legal Practice Course in 2013.The trend shows no sign of abating and the gulf is projected to increase.
There is no doubt the profession faces increasing uncertainty over the years to come however those who are talented, skilled and show the necessary aptitude still have enough room to flourish in the sector. It is more important than ever to take control of your career and to set out your goals as to what you intend to achieve. You will also need to set yourself out from the rest and convey what makes you different.
Employers will always expect lawyers of the highest quality and it should be taken as read that you should be able to actively deals with files, interact with clients and be able to evidence your skills. It is important to demonstrate your attitude to your employer when given the opportunity, for example, a willingness to accept more challenging, innovative work. Be prepared to deal with issues outside of your comfort zone, show initiative and seek to gain responsibility if you are being overlooked.
There is nothing more appealing to an employer than enthusiasm. As a junior lawyer I have volunteered for pro-bono projects and readily went on secondments with insurers across the country.
It is more and more prevalent for employers to expect their lawyers to show business acumen and awareness. Gone largely are the days where by lawyers could just case handle and automatically expect to progress. With the amount of competition at disposable you need to understand the workings of the business and demonstrate that in your make-up i.e. identifying potential new clients and retaining those on board and understanding how client charge out ratios keep the firm afloat. A marketable lawyer will always be more attractive to a prospective employer.
Undoubtedly each one of us with have different attributes and we do not wish to see formulaic and robotic lawyers. A lot of what you are and do will form part of your personality and how you get noticed, rewarded and how you achieve. It is however imperative to get the basics right, for instance, possessing a strong grasp of the legal framework that you work within i.e. the Civil Procedure Rules.
James Brewster, Associate Director of BCL Legal Recruitment, has had first-hand experience of dealing with candidates and employers across the legal spectrum and provides feedback to assist graduates and junior lawyers in their future careers:
“Do not over-think the area of law you are going into, the role is about building your litigation experience and skills and do not be too perturbed with the end goal at the start”. There will be opportunities to move and grow. Candidates can be too pre-occupied with the training contract or some other role in the distance without addressing the here and now. Those who do so tend to fail.
“Are you in control or are you a passenger? Employers will look for anything that makes you accountable”
A willingness to engage in the business structure and to progress is important. Employers do not want baggage but someone who is willing to show resilience and a willingness to learn. What examples can you share of where you hold responsibility? Again, seek that responsibility even if it is a willingness to assist new starters to the business.
Employers are likely to give regard to extra-curricular activities but not before you core basis skills. If you can evidence something out of the ordinary or something that you can relate back to your role then more important to do so.
James Brewster comments that all employees regardless of their position should be updating their CV every six to 12 months. Essentially, this will allow us to take stock of our position and to ensure that we are achieving the goals that we have set and not suddenly find ourselves working into a rut without direction. You must ensure that you know your style of work, talents and what you have achieved. Akin to a job interview, your employer may request that you evidence this to them and if you remain on top of this document this should not present an obstacle.
It is important that whilst striving to improve yourself and standing out that you undertake the basics correctly. Employers will expect a solid basis of legal skills and knowledge and from that the additional aspects of your role and personality to make you stand out.
Plot out your goal and what you wish to achieve. Place the building blocks now to allow you to develop your skill set and knowledge and become known in the industry. Periodically measure your attainment against your goals to ensure that you remain on the right track.