Aspiring law students are constantly told about the skills they need to become successful in their academic and professional careers. They are often encouraged to attend skills workshops, career talks and secure work experience placements in order to develop these.
However, very little emphasis is placed on the skills many young people already possess and even less emphasis is placed on how these skills are relevant in the legal profession. The following are but a few examples.
It can be difficult to see how a Saturday job in the local shop can equip you with the skills which often prove invaluable for solicitors and barristers alike. However, working efficiently under pressure while remaining approachable and communicating well with customers are just as relevant when you are preparing coffee as when you are putting together a legal case.
It is inevitable that lawyers will communicate with clients so good people skills are essential. Throw in the ability to communicate effectively in stressful situations, and your skill set will appear even broader. If you have ever dealt with a difficult customer or helped to resolve a customer complaint during a busy shift you have almost certainly utilised these essential skills. If you compare this to the scenario of a frustrated client complaining about the duration of their case or the outcome of a court judgement, the same skill set is in play.
Good communicators are also better at collaborating with colleagues which is especially important since lawyers will never work in isolation. Don’t be too quick to dismiss your Saturday job as irrelevant to your legal career aspirations, since it may have equipped you with skills which are far more relevant than you realise.
Many see social media as a way of procrastinating rather than as a useful tool for businesses. However, social media is one of the easiest and most effective methods of gaining publicity.
Many aspiring lawyers neglect this fact when applying for work experience and consequently throw away the natural advantage of the younger generation. As a result, interview questions like “what do you think our firm could do to become more successful?” can leave law applicants stumped for ideas. At best you may recite some facts and statistics you came across when researching the firm and at worst you might give an overly general or borderline irrelevant answer.
However, suggesting that the firm improves its social media presence is an often unexpected and interesting answer. The best part? It is very likely that you already know how to make these improvements. For instance, social media can be used to promote the firm in a more accessible way than a corporate website, helping to attract future employees and keep clients in the loop. Social media allows firms to promote their work, showcase any awards and draw attention to any charitable events it supports. All this improves a firm’s public image. Ultimately, standing out as an applicant could be as simple as demonstrating your understanding of social media as a powerful marketing tool.
Typically, law has always been associated with hard work, academic ability and occasionally long hours. Therefore it is hardly surprising that many hopeful law students devote themselves to work and study while their personal time gradually diminishes.
However, employers and academic institutions look for determination and resilience as key attributes in applicants. Therefore, it is important to develop your personal life and continue to pursue your interests outside of law. This will demonstrate that you have the drive and motivation to juggle multiple commitments and do more than just study law.
Do not be tempted to quit your sports team or refrain from joining a choir because you feel the need to dedicate your time exclusively to work. Of course, you should maintain high academic standards at the same time, but the key to success is finding a balance. Nurturing the skills and interests you already have not only makes you a well-rounded student or employee, it also helps you to manage your time and any stress far better.
So next time you start to panic about all the skills you have yet to develop, try focusing on the skills you already have and how you can promote them.
Words: Mariya Rankin
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