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Top tips for newly-qualified solicitors

by Chloë Cameron | 16 August 2021

Finding a legal role in the current climate can be a long and difficult process. Many junior lawyers at the start of their careers are being hit considerably hard, as they don’t have the all-important experience that many employers are deeming 'essential'.

This is particularly true within the legal sector, with newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors often feeling stuck on where to turn for advice. Here Senior Recruitment Consultant Chloë Cameron has shared her top tips from writing a CV and applying for roles, right through to choosing a job from a range of offers.

Applying for jobs – your CV:

  • It’s really important when applying for jobs that your CV is tailored to the job you’re applying for – an example would be showcasing your relevant experience for a specific job. This is particularly important for NQ or junior lawyers as you might have covered multiple areas of law (e.g. four seats in your training contract), but you may be most interested in going into one of those areas for your next role.
  • There’s no point in having tonnes of information on the CV from all the areas you’ve covered, especially if you’re only applying for one area (e.g. property law). Therefore, we would suggest that you tailor your CV to the job description and make sure it really showcases your property experience. Make sure this part of your experience is the first thing the employer/recruiter sees on your 'employment history' section and make sure it’s very detailed in this area. You can lose some details from your other areas of law that aren’t relevant to property law.
  • Within this, make sure the most complex and impressive things you’ve done are at the top, ending with less complex duties at the bottom (e.g. administrative tasks). 

View video from Chloë where she shares her first tip on how to tailor your CV to help you to secure your dream role! 

Interview stage:

  • Interviews are nerve-racking for anyone but the way you’ll come out ahead is to prepare, prepare, prepare.
  • The difference between a good/average interview and an excellent one is using examples – this substantiates the claims you’re making on your CV and in the interview.
  • If you're unsure or stuck on giving an example, the best way of incorporating them into your answers is by using the STAR method (situation, task, action, result). S: the situation you were asked to complete - this could be an urgent legal matter that came up in your current or previous job that required immediate action. T: the task/s you needed to complete to reach the goal - in this example, it would be reacting quickly with the goal of getting the matter resolved in the desired and time-sensitive way. A: what action/s you took to address the situation - such as communicating with various parties, drafting relevant documents, working quickly and effectively to solve the issue/matter. R: the end result that you achieved – in this case, was the urgent matter solved? Was it solved by the expected deadline? Remember, even if this was not the desired result, you can still speak about it and talk about contributing factors and any learning points.   
  • Try to answer every question to the best of your ability, but if you don’t know something or haven’t done what the interviewer is asking about, don’t lie. Equally, don’t just say that you don’t know. You need to explain that you’ve not done it (or not done that much of it) but then turn it into a positive and either talk about something similar/related that you have done, or talk about how it’s something you’re keen to pick up, touching on relevant personal qualities that could make up for this skill gap - how you’re a hard-working, enthusiastic and fast learner. 
  • Technical knowledge in interviews is very important, but the way you come across (personality/attitude/willingness/intelligence) can be just as important. This might be the difference between you and another candidate.

View video from Chloë where she shares her second tip on what to expect during the interview stage and how you can turn an average interview into an excellent one.


Offer stage – what now? How to choose the right job:

  • Ideally, you need to begin thinking about it before you arrive at this stage. You need to know what you’re looking for and what your priorities are, because things are more important to some people than others. 
  • Factors that could influence your decision might be: day-to-day duties in the role; what area of law it is; sector (e.g. public sector, private firm); location; flexibility; salary; organisation (size, values, team); progression; training – it really could be anything! 
  • You need to have a good think about these from the beginning of your job search, so that when you get to offer stage you’re confident in your decision. Equally, I appreciate priorities might change over the course of the recruitment process, perhaps in unexpected ways, so it’s worth constantly checking in with yourself in terms of your priorities. Salary could be the most important thing but after interviewing somewhere with a lower salary, you might love the sound of the job and progression and this might shift what you originally thought was most important to you. 

View our third and final video from Chloë where she shares her tips for the offer stage of the interview process and if you have multiple job offers, how you can decide which job is the right one for you.

If you are currently looking for a legal role, please search our latest legal roles. If you are interested in discussing this topic further or have any questions, please feel free to contact me on 0161 834 1642 or email me at chloe.cameron@sellickpartnership.co.uk.