Get your motor running
A new academic year has begun and the recruitment race is underway. We've come up with lots of tips on how to hotwire your way into a career, including full-throttle info on self-analysis, research, law fairs and where to seek help. Vroom, vroom - drop the pedal to the metal and let's go!
The recruitment drive is once again upon us. Law fairs are scheduled. Recruiters are primed. All they need is eager potential trainees. That's you! To be in the race to get a training contract or pupillage for as far away as 2015, you need to be at the track and getting your head in the right gear.
There are a few obvious things you can be doing to enjoy the ride and LawCareers.Net (LC.N) is here as your trusty navigator. Set out below are a few of the things you should be looking out for over the coming months and beyond, so start gunning your engines and read on.
It's all mine
It sure is! LC.N has a super members-only area called MyLC.N. Revamped and improved in 2012, this is a customisable bit of the site where you can manage your law firm applications and research. A brief summary of its most attractive features follows:
- MyFirms, MyChambers and MyCourses: These sections allow you to keep a record of each employer you consider and build up a dossier on what you have found out, when you have interacted with them, what you have to offer them and vice versa. As for law schools, considering how much you are likely to be paying them, it also pays to do your homework!
- MyPages: This is the repository for anything and everything that might come in handy, be it information on the LC.N pages or from elsewhere - details of Inns of Court bursaries; a list of the 10 biggest corporate deals of the year; a government policy document on the future of legal aid; or even a profile of the partner who is due to interview you in a fortnight.
- MyCalendar: As you save firms or chambers to your MyLC.N account, their deadlines (eg, training contract, vacation scheme and/or pupillage) will be added to your personal calendar. MyCalendar also keeps track of events you plan to attend, added to MyLC.N by you via the Diary, such as law fairs and firm presentations. What's more, you will receive a weekly email to remind you which events and deadlines are coming up.
- MyJobs: LC.N's Jobs section features ads from firms and organisations around the country looking to hire, among others, trainees, paralegals, legal assistants and caseworkers. Some organisations post short- term work experience (both paid and unpaid) and volunteer positions. It is likely that some of these may appeal to you and as such, you can save those that you're interested in or have applied for direct to MyJobs, so that you can make notes and keep track of any deadlines.
- MyLocker: MyLC.N is integrated with the application forms of around 70 leading firms which use the Apply4Law online application system. You can save all the stuff that you find yourself writing out over and over again (eg, exam results or course modules) to your MyLocker account beforehand. When you apply to a participating firm, you can quickly and easily transfer this information to the form and devote the bulk of your application time to the important business of telling the employer who you really are!
As you can see, MyLC.N will fast become the easiest and most reliable way of storing information and keeping on top of your progression towards a legal career. If you're not a member already, sign up here. Now, let's zoom forwards to our next innovation...
Or rather, know MySelf, LC.N's snazziest online tool. MySelf is designed to give you a way of systematically analysing and recording your activities and achievements to present to employers in an application form or CV.
If there is one piece of research that can be described as essential to success in establishing a career in law, it is research of yourself. You are the commodity that you are putting in front of recruiters and asking them to buy into. If you do not know exactly what you are selling and what you have to offer, your strengths and weaknesses and how they will be of use to the 'buyer', then you are unlikely to prevail.
To use MySelf, log in to your free MyLC.N account and click on MySelf. First, you need to take each individual experience - be it academic (eg, degree, thesis or special project), extracurricular (eg, societies, trips or charity initiatives) or work experience (eg, vacation scheme, pub work, office experience or McDonalds) - and think in depth about what you did, what skills or competencies you had to demonstrate and what you learnt. You must then record which of these will be of interest to employers. With this systematic approach, you will (i) gain a much better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, and (ii) have all this information at your fingertips, ready to blend together into the perfect application!
Most importantly, you should complete your MySelf analysis BEFORE you start making applications. Your careers adviser will be overjoyed if, when you book a session, you have already started looking at your selling points. The adviser can then ensure you are on the right track and away you go.
Law fairs will take place across the country this autumn, most of them before Christmas. Universities will open their doors to trainees, recruiters and partners, who will in turn tell students and graduates how to get on the ladder. In addition to the fairs, firms will also be showing up on campus to give individual presentations.
At these events, recruiters will be taking a good look at the available talent, largely because firms place ever more emphasis on summer work placement schemes, the deadlines for which come in January and February. Many firms hold them at Christmas and Easter too. Securing a place on a work placement scheme can sometimes be more competitive than getting a training contract, so you need to start thinking about them now and, if you get a place, celebrate it as an indication that you could also get a training contract on the back of it. And if you think you're fit for the Bar, mini-pupillages are practically the only way to be taken seriously by chambers.
There's nothing like a hefty research project to stimulate the mind. That's what you are about to embark upon. Getting a career in law starts with painstaking, solid research. Identify the criteria that are important to you (eg, size, location or practice areas) and find firms/chambers that match. Never underestimate how pleased recruiters at law fairs are when they meet a well-briefed candidate. LC.N should certainly be your first port of call. After all, it is the most comprehensive online guide to training contracts and pupillages - and you're already here! Specific sections you might like to consult include News and Burning Question.
If you like a good book, check out The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook, published in October and available free from your law faculty or careers service. Then there are the websites of the firms/chambers themselves. Usually their websites are an excellent source of information about deals, cases and personalities, and they'll give you an impression of what the firm/chambers is like. Recruiters spend a lot of time disseminating information, so use it. You're more likely to get a job if you do.
You are not alone! Although you're competing for a job and have to do a lot of solitary research, there's actually a huge support group surrounding you. Deserting your university careers service is a big mistake - you will miss out on a wealth of advice. Its advisers will give you a candid assessment of your career prospects and how to enhance them. Believe it or not, even lecturers can give you input on your ideas. And forsake LC.N at your peril. Check out the many Solicitor Career Spotlights and Barrister Career Spotlights and think about what they did that you haven't yet done. And of course, you can email our friendly Oracle to ask for advice.
Begin now and you really do give yourself the best chance. The closer you are to the starting line, the more chance you have of seizing the early opportunities. Do your homework, reflect on where you're at, and then get stuck in by meeting recruiters and applying for work placement schemes or mini-pupillages. If you're not in the driver's seat and ready to race, somebody else will be.