Author - Aaron Marchant

The Interview

With deadlines drawing ever nearer, potential lawyers will be anxiously waiting to hear about interviews. With this in mind, here are some tips to make sure your interview is the best it can be.

Know the firm inside out

Graduate recruiters aren’t just looking for potential lawyers, but candidates who want to work at their specific firm. If you want to get that vacation scheme or training contract, make sure you thoroughly research the firm. Find out about their strongest practice areas or their latest achievements. Show that you understand their core values, and think about ways in which you share them.

Read through your application

Be prepared to be thoroughly questioned on all aspects of your application. If you’ve made claims about yourself, make sure you can back them up with evidence. For example, if you said you are a great team-worker, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate moments when you have worked successfully in a team.

Don’t stop growing

Just because you have finished your applications doesn’t mean you should stop improving. Doing more things which benefit your application will help you succeed at interview stage. Think about where your CV is lacking and improve it before interview. That way, if you are questioned about weaknesses in certain areas, you’ll be able to show that you have acknowledged and addressed these concerns.

Do a mock interview

An interview can be a scary situation, so try to practice beforehand. Ask a careers advisor for their help, or read through some mock questions online. Focus on questions which you find hardest to answer, and work on them until you feel confident. Questions like ‘what is your biggest weakness?’ are designed to test you, so make sure you can answer them.

Draw on past experience

Just because you haven’t had a law interview before doesn’t mean you can’t draw upon past experience. Maybe you’ve been interviewed for an LPC course or the LLB. Or you might have had interviews for a variety of other graduate jobs – all of this is useful experience which you can draw upon.

Why are you doing this?

Think about why you want to be a lawyer. What is it that motivates you? Why did you apply in the first place? If you’re passionate about the job, this will come across in your interview.

Stay calm

As a lawyer, you’ll have to make pressured decisions. Show that you have the ability to manage the stress by staying calm during the interview. Don’t be afraid to take a moments to think about the question rather than rushing out an answer or waffling. You have the ability to answer the question, so make sure you do!

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Beyond an Undergraduate Law Degree: The LLM

The LLM

So what is an LLM? An LLM is a ‘Master of Laws’ postgraduate law degree, which allows students who have studied law at undergraduate level to broaden their legal knowledge. Whereas an undergraduate degree gives a general overview of the various parts of law, an LLM allows far greater scope for specialisation within a specific area of the law. Studying full time for a year means that you can engage with your subject in a detailed and in-depth manner. Moreover, you can develop your legal research skills through your work, which will aid the transition from student to trainee.

What do I get out of it?

Students who have attained an LLM when they apply for law graduate jobs will be able to demonstrate a range of positive attributes:

  • Commitment to the law
  • Research skills
  • Specialised knowledge of a subject area
  • Academic rigour

If you don’t want to pursue a career in law, the LLM is advantageous for a number of other paths, be that further study at PhD level or HR, consultancy and finance careers. LLMs have developed so that they now encourage independent thought and detailed analysis of the law. Internationally-recognised, the LLM is prestigious qualification which is now pursued by qualified lawyers, not just students.

Where can I study?

There are a variety of LLM law schools throughout the UK, ranging from universities to law-specific colleges. Take time to research the various options and think about the environment you want to study in – different institutions will suit different people. Make sure you factor in course fees, living costs, and funding opportunities.

What can I study?

There are a huge range of LLM course available to study, with options that suit almost any interest you might have. If you can’t find a taught programme which interests you, consider taking a research-based course; this will allow you to focus specifically on the areas of law or research topics you like the most.

Choosing to do an LLM is not an easy decision, and there is a lot of work involved. However, if it is something that appeals to you, an LLM has the potential to really improve your career prospects.

Developing your commercial awareness

A key buzzword in any legal application process is ‘commercial awareness’. However, whilst firms are constantly looking out for commercially-aware application, showing you know what that means and how you can apply it is not always that easy.

What is commercial awareness? Commercial awareness is an understanding and general knowledge of current developments in the commercial and business sector. This might range from mergers and acquisitions, to new laws on tax or changes in the economy.

What do law firms expect me to know? Whilst most firms won’t expect you to know every commercial development that happens, you should have a general idea of the main stories, as well as an understanding of how theoretical changes might affect the firm. For example, if a firm does a large amount of international business, an understanding of exchange rates would be important.

How should I keep up-to-date? Reading a quality newspaper is always a good start. Look at the business and financial pages and try to keep up with stories as they play out. The Financial Times is probably the most useful as it offers in-depth and comprehensive content. If some of your friends are applying for financial careers, it would be worth talking to them about their views on the commercial world; they will also have to show commercial awareness, so you can share ideas and discuss developments.

Should I learn anything in detail? As a rule of thumb, it is useful to know one or two detailed case studies which you can then bring up in application forms or interviews. Think specifically about how you chosen case study is relevant to the law, and specifically to the firm you are applying to. Show that you have followed the case with interest, and make sure you have your facts straight!

Are they any other ways I can demonstrate commercial awareness? You probably show commercial awareness every day without even thinking about it. If you run a university society you have to think financially to make sure everything goes smoothly. You can also sign up to your legal societies, many of whom offer workshops about commercial awareness. You might also consider working at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or going to talks by guest speakers.

Commercial awareness, then, is not easy to pin down. However, if you retain a general interest in the news and keep up-to-date with business developments, you should be fine. Remember to think about how you show commercial awareness in various aspects of your life; being commercially aware is more impressive than just knowing what it is.

The Law Fair: Why you should check it out

Now that the new term is firmly under way, it’s time to start thinking about your career in law. A great place to do this is your university law fair, where you can find out all the things different firms have to offer.

Something for everyone. Law fairs are essential sources of information for anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in law. Whether you’re set on being a barrister, considering becoming a solicitor, or just want to know more about the legal profession, law fairs will provide you with a wealth of information. Graduate recruiters, trainees, and even qualified lawyers will all be on hand to answer any questions you may have. You’ll be able to pick up a variety of booklets and brochures containing everything you need to make your application for a training contract, vacation scheme or placement.

Time for a chat. Law fairs are the perfect opportunity for you to get some facetime with people you’re applying to work for. Don’t be afraid to go and have a chat with them about the firm; talk to them about how the firm operates, what kind of opportunities they offer, and smooth out any questions you have about their recruitment process. Ask them about their own career and whether they have any tips for someone hoping to follow in their footsteps. Before you go, think about any unique questions you have to ask them – this will help you stand out. Mention in your application that you met them, and focus on how their answers might have strengthened your resolve to apply.

Find out the crucial information. If you don’t have the opportunity to talk to every firm or chambers, make sure you’ve still got the key facts you need. Things to find out include:

  • Location – are they based on the high-street, or do they have a large city headquarters?
  • Size – are they an international company with thousands of staff, or is it a close-knit office environment?
  • Training prospects – how many trainees do they hire each year, and what opportunities are they offered?
  • Funding – do they pay for your LPC or BPTC, or will you be expected to find the money yourself?
  • Practice areas – what do they specialise in, and does this suit your interests?

Explore other possibilities. If you’ve already got your mind set on a city law firm or you’d prefer an in-house job, don’t close your mind to other possibilities. Check out the variety of different options on offer, as you might find out you prefer something else. Moreover, if you’re even more sure afterwards, demonstrating a knowledge of the other options on offer will improve your applications; you’ll be able to show not only why you want to work in a certain place, but also why you don’t want to work at the rest. If the city is for you, show your knowledge of the high-street firms, and why that isn’t the path you want to take.

Keep track of your information. Rather like freshers fair, you’ll probably leave a law fair with a huge collection of literature, mugs and pens. When you get home, sort it all out and work out what is most important for you. Read through the information you have about the places you want to apply to and note all the deadlines. Pick out anything that you find especially attractive so that you can focus on it in your applications. Make note of key phrases and features so you won’t waste time hunting about later.

So write down those questions, bring a bag for the freebies, and head off to that fair!

Thinking about a career in law? 5 Top Application Boosters

Read a good newspaper

Law is an integral part of modern life and plays a huge part in current events. Simultaneously, the law has to react to major developments in the world in order to function successfully. A good lawyer must keep themselves informed about a Read a quality newspapervariety of topics, from politics to finance. Law firms, therefore, are looking for applicants who have a broad understanding of major news stories. Reading quality newspapers such as The Times, The Financial Times and The Telegraph will help you discuss current affairs in an intelligent and detailed manner.

Don’t neglect your hobbies

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Law firms are looking for people they want to work with, rather than legal robots. Taking up a sport, learning a craft or volunteering for a local cause are all great ways to boost your application and help you stand out as an individual. Moreover, you can develop your talents, creativity, or team work skills, all while having fun!

Attend an insight day or open evening

With a huge variety of law graduate jobs, both in terms of specific practice fields and types of law firms and barrister chambers, it’s important to show that you know where and why you want to work at a specific firm. Many employers offer opportunities to find out more about what they do, such as open evenings. By attending these, you can gain a sense of what it would be like to work at a firm and build relationships with the lawyers currently working there. This means that upon application, you can show that you understand the working environment and can explain exactly why it is suited to you.

Brush up on your interview techniques

An interview is an important part of any application process and you should use it to really make a positive impression. Make sure you are prepared to answer any questions about your written application. A good thing to do is to read through it beforehand, imagine you are the interviewer, and think about what you would ask. Take a moment to think through any questions, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer – recruiters will know immediately if you are bluffing, so it’s better to just be honest. If you’re not feeling confident about an interview, make use of your university or college’s career service, as they can offer mock interviews and tailored advice.

Look out for tick-160426_640errors

Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes can be fatal to your applications. Graduate recruiters receive thousands of applications, and distinguishing between them can be really difficult. Misspelling a word provides them with an easy way to reject you; if you don’t check your application, which is really important for you, are you going to properly check a legal document which doesn’t personally affect you? Read over each application a number of times and don’t just rely on a spellchecker.