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LCN Says

Assess your application strengths and weaknesses

updated on 21 November 2016

One of the biggest barriers to success in finding a career in law is the trouble many candidates have in successfully translating what they have done in their academic, work and extracurricular lives into a set of skills and attributes that are attractive to employers and backed up by evidence. In the main, it's a question of technique - the actual process of looking deeply and dispassionately at oneself is both laborious and slightly unsettling, but look you must. The secret is to be systematic. Every part of your previous life is likely to throw up useful evidence of skills and behaviours that recruiters will see as relevant to your potential ability to succeed as a lawyer. Now you need to work out what they are.

First, let's look at the type of thing you are looking to uncover. Here are some examples:

  • Anything where you have shown intellectual rigour - consider your academic career, of course, but also look at problem-solving exercises in your work or leisure time. You use your brain all the time - think about when it has been stretched!
  • Have you worked in teams? Not just playing football, but in a work scenario, during a leisure activity or as part of an academic project. The more examples you have of being a habitual team player, the more convincing you will be.
  • Are you resilient and good under pressure? It can't be too hard to come up with examples of when you experienced a stressful situation. Examine how you dealt with it and pick out the evidence!
  • Remember that you are going to have to present all this evidence to employers. When else have you effectively presented and communicated information in written and verbal format? During academic study is the obvious answer, but when else? Look deeper and you'll realise that you do it all the time. How about when you've had to make a consumer complaint?
  • We're all more commercially savvy than we give ourselves credit for. Perhaps there are examples of how you run your household - do you always get a good deal?
  • And of course the whole exercise we are discussing here is about attention to detail. More examples please!

Second, let's take a quick snapshot of an activity and how it can be used to demonstrate a variety of skills. I recently spoke with a postgraduate law student working part time as an overnight hotel porter/receptionist. We looked at his tasks: dealing with (sometimes difficult) customers face to face and on the phone (communication and resilience); dealing with orders and requests, and conveying these to other workers at the hotel (attention to detail, teamwork and commercial awareness); writing nightly logs and reports (written communication and intellectual ability); and working after studying during the day (drive and motivation). As you can see, with some thought, seemingly ‘normal' tasks can provide evidence of saleable abilities.

Finally, let's look at how to record all this. At LawCareers.Net we have created a section in your MyLCN account where you can record this sort of information for later use. It's called MySelf and you can make a note of and score your past activities, item by item. You can do it at your own pace and it is an excellent way of (i) having the evidence at your fingertips when you want to make applications, and (ii) identifying the areas in which you may have a weakness and highlighting the need to do something about it.

It will pay to start getting all the evidence written down now. The more you work at it, the more you will find, so get going now!