A business woman from a firm I work at said that she was actually a bit suspicious of graduates with the best grades in every subject. She would rather hire a graduate with a 2:1 and evidence of extracurricular activities or interests than a graduate with a first with little interest in anything other than school work.
With more people graduating with a law degree than jobs available, more and more pressure is put onto applicants to distinguish themselves from the others.
Here is a collection of tips that I have gathered from recent graduates that have secured pupillages and training contracts, lecturers that have talked to employers, and barristers and solicitors themselves.
NEW FOR 2018: Our Interview Practice Simulator package is the perfect, innovative way to prepare for your upcoming interviews – video or face-to-face. Access real legal interview questions through our video interview package now!
In a Norwegian article from DN.no, an employer said that he had never called applicants into an interview that did not show capacity and interest for something other than themselves. By example, volunteering was very important to this employer as it shows you care about others and have met people outside of your own comfortable bubble.
What you can do:
The Law Society and careers department at your school will usually know of different volunteering sectors.
Students at my law school volunteer with Street Law, where they travel to primary schools and teach children about the law; the Justice Project, where they investigate potential miscarriages of justice; and for charities such as Red Cross.
Remember that it does not have to be volunteering within the legal sector.
This will showcase that you are able to socialise and potentially bring in new clients.
What you can do:
The most obvious option is to attend networking events. Speak with lawyers and enquiry about their interests outside of work. It’s nice to talk business, but mostly it is about establishing contacts within the legal sector.
Dare to ask them for their business card. This way you can acquire contracts and ask them about their work! Acquiring contacts outside of the legal profession can be just as important. This is especially important for those of you who wants to become solicitors as they may be your future clients.
An interest that distinguishes you from other applicants:
I’ve talked to graduates who said that having something different on the CV helped them gain a pupillage interview.
Remember that employers sort through thousands of applications and will be incredibly bored by reading the same extra-curricular activities over and over again. Do something that you think will jump out on the page – and that you enjoy, of course!
What you can do:
This could be anything you have a passion for that is slightly out of the box – from volunteering in places like Asia or Africa, to competing in martial arts competitions, to climbing a mountain. It shows that you are active and are not defeated by a challenge.
Bonus point in that you get something to brag excessively about to your friends.
What Lecturers Have Said Employers Look For:
Find out what extracurricular activities are relevant to what you’re applying for:
By example, I had underestimated how interesting my drama background would be to a law employer as it distinguished my CV and showed that I had an interest in societal issues. My seminar leader pointed this out to me and I therefore elaborated on this experience on my CV.
What you can do:
If you are an international student, like me, that comes from a country in which CVs work differently from the UK or are generally unsure about it, ask one of your lecturers or adviser to have a look at it. They might help you structure it better as well.
Trust me: once you have stared at your CV for three days straight, you can’t spot the mistakes anymore.
Improve your commercial awareness:
I know, I know; you have heard it a thousand times from your lecturers and read it even more times online.
There is a reason for this though and it has something to do with what I wrote earlier. It shows that you care about what happens in society and are not living in your own comfortable bubble.
It is also important to know what is currently happening in the world of finance and business as you may in the future have clients working in those sectors.
Subscribe to BBC News and the Telegraph to get daily notifications of what is happening in the world. If you are already thinking about specialising within a particular area of law, you should do a bit extra to ensure that you stay updated on what is happening in that sector.
Final tip (from me): have some fun with distinguishing your CV! You might try something you never would have and end up actually liking it. And if not, nobody is stopping you from walking away.