Gratitude is an essential trait for lawyers to demonstrate. As such, it is arguably an essential trait for applicants as well.
This is because the legal profession intrinsically relies on individuals helping each other to succeed.
For example, supervisors must give up their time to effectively train trainees – time that those supervisors realistically do not have to spare. Elsewhere, partners often have to review trainee work at the expense of their own projects, solely in order to meet trainees’ deadlines.
Further, even the most revered QCs will humble themselves to emphasise the mentors, clerks and occasionally clients that assisted them throughout their career.
With this in mind, I have noted three ways in which applicants can – and should – show their gratitude too.
Thank you notes
Remember all those thank you notes that your parents made you write as a kid? Applicants should take the same approach following events.
Anyone who has ever organised a presentation knows that tremendous time and effort goes into arranging open days and insight evenings. This effort is not only in relation to the tailored catering, freebies and name badges. Considerable exertion goes into organising travel details, adequate sound systems and session themes. Further, persuading partners in a student’s favoured practice area to keep their diary free can require a networking masterclass by graduate recruitment.
Therefore, if you have had a positive experience, be sure to let the recruiters know afterwards. A good strategy is to express a personal thank you and state what you enjoyed and what you learned. I prefer handwritten thank you notes, as I feel that this adds a personal touch and shows a dedication that is unusual in an age of mass emails.
After all, as an event attendee, you have been invited and welcomed at the firm’s expense. Therefore, you should show your appreciation as you would if you were a guest elsewhere.
Finally, your thoughts regarding specifics will provide valuable feedback for the recruiter, as well as demonstrate basic decency and an ability to generate professional relationships.
After vacation scheme and training contract rejections
Remember the thank you note that you wrote after your last break up? Ok, this one is a little harder to digest. But again, although a rejection from a favoured law firm may hurt at the time, becoming disillusioned is a misguided decision.
Instead, if you gained a lot from a vacation scheme, a lecture or even video content on the firm’s website, let your contact at the firm or chambers know. In addition, thank them for the time that they spent reviewing your application and, where applicable, for giving you genuine, honest feedback.
Doing nothing in such circumstances is not bad etiquette and is entirely normal behaviour. However, being positive in the face of such disappointment and adversity will really be noticed. This approach shows that you are eager to grow and that you can be resilient. Further, it shows the one-to-one humanity that separates extraordinary applicants from the generally good.
Moreover, graduate recruiters frequently move between firms and have been known to discuss candidates. Further, you never know if you will apply to the same firm again. Therefore, you will not lose out from this – in fact, your name will likely be remembered for positive reasons.
Public praise on social media
Many applicants benefit from the exceptional training and opportunities offered by law-related organisations.
For example, Aspiring Solicitors hosts a commercial awareness competition, while some chambers will organise moot courts with Supreme Court judges and invite students to participate. Student societies also put on numerous sponsored lectures for the local community to enjoy.
If you have benefited from such an activity, be sure to recommend it to others on social media. Alternatively, lionise the individual who helped to organise it. Many of these events grow through word of mouth alone and they may receive budgets from sponsors only if they can secure similar numbers next time.
This public encore will help to increase the event’s exposure and will give future attendees the opportunity to benefit. Additionally, your support is a good way of acknowledging the work of another person in a way that they can tangibly use for future promotion. For example, they may quote you on the event or even find out more about their typical online audience via your feedback.
Writing a recommendation on LinkedIn for a recruiter or colleague that has assisted you may seem a little odd. Perhaps weirder still is asking for feedback.
Yet, these public acknowledgements are valuable measures of support – especially as LinkedIn is slowly becoming the first place to look when first meeting somebody in a professional capacity.
Hence, by writing a recommendation, you are effectively confirming your trust in that person for your network to see; this is a meaningful gesture, especially the higher that you progress in your career.
Likewise, the more feedback that you give to genuinely appreciate the work of others, the more you will see that showing gratitude is a great way to build your professional network.
Ultimately, people like to work with those who enjoy building strong working relationships with them.
For lawyers, demonstrating gratitude is an important part of working in a team. Further, supporting and affirming those who have helped you is an effective way of rewarding such assistance.
For applicants, expressing what you are thankful for can serve another purpose. Showing gratitude arguably helps to clarify to yourself what it is that you explicitly value in a firm and its people. Once you have identified what it is that you value most in general, this insight will really help you to determine whether a firm is right for you.