The legal industry is a competitive field to gain work in, therefore it is wise to equip yourself as best as you can before starting your search for a new career in law. But how do you set yourself up for an effective job search?
We spoke to our partner and specialist legal recruiter Simply Law Jobs and asked their advice on starting a job search in the legal industry. These ten simple tips, which perhaps seem obvious but are often forgotten, will help you search for jobs more effectively and submit a stronger application for legal roles in 2020.
Filter your search
What are you looking for within your next position? Are you looking to start your legal career or for a more senior role within a law firm? Or perhaps you want to work in a specific area of law? Then there is little point in sifting through hundreds of general vacancies which have no relevance to you. Use the filtering settings available on sites such as Simply Law Jobs to narrow down your search to only include roles that meet your needs.
Filters are becoming more and more specific. For example, when using Simply Law Jobs, if you do not want a long commute, you can 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 even 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. It also ensures that when the perfect job that meets your criteria becomes available you see it quickly and easily, rather than it getting lost in the feed.
Focus on the job description
It is very common for people to fall into the trap of focusing on themselves rather than what the employer needs or is looking for. In general people will start the process of finding a new role by reviewing and updating their CV, but that doesn’t mean that the CV should not be updated and edited throughout the job search. 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.
If the company is looking for a Legal Secretary 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. Just because the job title loosely matches what you are looking for, doesn’t mean it is the best or even a viable option.
Before preparing an application, weigh up the pros and cons of that position. Is it definitely an improvement or promotion 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?
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 sound like it is contradicting what was said in the previous tip, but shortlisting jobs does not mean reducing the amount of applications you send. It is simply a way of ensuring that each and every application you send is for a job you are definitely interested in.
Remember is not guaranteed you will hear back from any of them. Don’t stop your search while you wait for a response from the initial batch of applications – a better role for you could be posted at any time, so don’t settle because you feel you’ve already sent lots. Searching for jobs can be a numbers game the more you send, the more chances you have.
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
Don’t be put you off from applying again when the same job is re-advertised just because you didn’t hear back after your first attempt. If the job is still available it means that they have not found the perfect candidate yet so it could still be you. 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.
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 CV is still important even if you lack work experience
Something that we hear over and over again is how can I find work if I don’t have 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.
The key here is to highlight any transferable and relevant skills or experience from other areas. If you completed volunteering or work experience while studying 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 or skills 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.
Create strong, targeted cover letters
All cover letters should be specific to the company and job role you are applying for. You need to make sure you are writing a new one for each and every application. Cover letters which have been sent to a dozen or so firms with no change to the content apart from a few altered names are very easy to spot. They are likely to include points which are not relevant to the role in question, and it is also likely that they will lack the crucial selling points needed to land an interview with the particular employer reading it.
In a competitive industry such as law, your cover letter needs to be as strong and tailored as possible. It must include everything the employer needs to know about you, as a candidate. Recruiters generally spend just a few seconds reading through each cover letter, so your strengths and suitability must be instantly apparent. It needs to jump off of the page.
Using the job description, you should sell yourself and highlight your skills and experience which makes you a perfect fit for the company. Research the company and then show that you have done this by emphasising what makes them appeal to you. Talk about specific achievements or individual cases that set that firm apart from the rest for you.
Never bad mouth 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
References are important because you are counting on them to promote your abilities and reinforce the opinion you have created of yourself as a good employee. Including a reference who you don’t keep in regular contact with, or hasn’t worked with you closely, 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 you and your skills specifically.
It is always a good idea to include someone you have worked with recently or are in regular contact with as a reference on applications. They are more likely to give a detailed reference which can improve your chances of being offered the job. Nowadays, 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. It is also polite to let a person know if you are planning on using them as a reference so they are prepared. Sending a person an out of the blue message, a couple 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At Simply Law Jobs, we specialise in advertising thousands of the latest job vacancies across all levels of the legal sector. We are the UK’s leading legal niche job board, providing businesses with a cost-effective and efficient alternative to generic job sites. Job seekers are at the core of what we do, so we offer candidates a site tailored entirely to their industry. Our promise is simple, we ensure quality over quantity and provide the very best approach to candidate targeting, delivering an outstanding return on investment.