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As a lawyer candidate, do you have the ‘X-Factor’?

It’s that time of year again: the nation’s hopeful sharpen their vocal muscles and compete for a shot at the big time. What always interests me, is that those contestants who make it to the final few, have effectively made it. All the way back to the Pop Idol days, the individuals and groups who came second or third have had equal chance to release records; often doing better than the winners!

What are law firms looking for in a lawyer with the ‘X-factor’?

I recruit for partners, solicitors, legal executive and paralegals for a number of the leading legal practices in the Midlands. Roles with these firms always attract a good number of applications and it often comes down to which lawyer candidate can demonstrate they have the ‘X-Factor’? Whilst a number of leading firms prefer candidates who work for a similar type of firm, this is not a hard and fast rule. Opportunities exist for those who demonstrate the strength of their experience, a desire to learn and an ability to progress.

How do you demonstrate you have the ‘X-Factor’?

On your CV

Your CV is the starting point. Many larger firms have compartmentalized or sector-specific teams. Therefore, as a lawyer candidate, you need to allocate time to review your CV (thoroughly and properly) before you make any applications. You need to put yourself in the best position to detail your work and really showcase the experience you have that’s relevant to the role.

A commercial partner whose team undertakes IT work for financial services clients won’t be interested in your IP work for clients in the retail sector. This advice can mean a complete overhaul of your CV before each application.

At the interview

The next stage is at interview and hands down the best opportunity to demonstrate you have the ‘X-Factor’. At this stage in the process, what does this mean exactly?

Perhaps surprisingly, many Partners at leading firms are less concerned with technical knowledge during an interview. It’s reasonably unlikely for them to make an attempt to ‘catch you out’ with obscure technical questions at this stage. What they’re looking for is potential and general ability. A candidate who has the following has a great chance of success:

  • Well presented
  • Speaks clearly, concisely and honestly about their experience
  • Seems enthusiastic about the firm and keen on the role
  • Able to combine professionalism and personality whilst also demonstrating an ability to give commercial advice

It’s not unheard of for firms to come back to us on candidates that have done well at interview when a new opportunity arises.

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