June 29, 2023
Rejection is a difficult feeling to deal with regardless of your background, age or level of education. Yet we all stumble upon it in life – particularly in our career journeys.

Dealing With Rejection In Your Legal Career

The field of law is exceptionally rife with rejections; the academic standard that law firms look for is often very high, complete with previous work experience and adaptability potential to their specific firm culture. Moreover, there is a lot of competition looking for well-paid positions. Therefore, receiving rejections is fairly common, especially if it is your first time applying for a particular position. But in every rejection, there is a silver lining, and an opportunity to grow and learn.

1. Allow Yourself to Feel

Aspiring lawyers are often high-achievers, so, receiving rejections might not be something you have previously had to come to terms with. You might even feel the urge to turn upon yourself, questioning why you were not good enough, or what you did wrong. Most of the time, you will find that it was not something you did or did not do that caused the rejection.

But regardless of the reasons behind a rejection, the accompanying feeling of disappointment tends to linger. In order to help yourself out of a slump, you need to get to the root cause of why you are feeling this way.

One of the reasons might be your perspective of the rejection, and feeling like it is a mark of failure. But objectively, that is simply not true – a rejection is just not a victory. Similarly to a race, there is no in-between position for those who do not get first, second or third place – they just did not win.

Being objective also helps to view the bigger picture. The likelihood is that you were a candidate amongst hundreds – if not thousands – of other applicants. Not only does this mean that the chances of someone else being more qualified or having a better interview are higher, but it also means that the employer is going to be harsher.

Allow yourself to feel disappointed, as there is no other way of dealing with the feeling itself. But after the initial shock of a rejection wears of, remind yourself of the reasons above. Analysing why you feel the way that you do will help you cope better in the future, as well as making you more self-aware.

Want some more guidance? Check out our free law guides to help you on your career journey here.

2. Ask For Feedback

Depending on the position you applied for and the stage you got to in your application process, requesting feedback may be an option. Some firms state that they do not provide individual feedback – but, if there is no such statement in your initial email from the firm, you should always request feedback.

More often than not, the feedback will include one of the following reasons:

  • There were other candidates with more relevant skills and/or experience
  • There were other candidates with experience in that particular role
  • There were more candidates than job openings

None of the reasons above have to do with your particular ability or skills – the employer simply chose someone else, for reasons that you could not control.

However, you might also be told that there were gaps in your CV that you did not explain, or perhaps that you did not have the level of experience that the firm was looking for. If this is the case, you can go back and edit your CV; and when it comes to experience, that should come with time, too.

3. Reflect On Your Experience

Reflection is a very important part of accepting and understanding rejection. After you have understood the reasoning behind it, you should think about the steps you are going to take in order to maximise your chances of success in the future.

It’s possible that you will be asked how you have dealt with rejection in other training contract or job interviews. Being able to give an answer outlining the steps you took and the lessons you learned along the way will portray you as a resilient, optimistic candidate. Additionally, it will also show your ability to receive and grow constructive criticism, both attributes which are valued by employers.

4. Polish Your CV

Using the time you have between applying to jobs or training contracts is one of the best things you can do when it comes to polishing your CV. Opting for online courses for skills such as data analysis, programming or writing will provide you with additional items on your CV. Moreover, the skills you gain from such courses will always be considered valuable in the field of law, particularly when you are just starting out.

Another activity you could benefit from is attending conferences or job fairs. This way, you can gain real insight into the industry sector whilst also making valuable connections. Attending law events, lectures and conferences also provide great talking points for any prospective interview questions you might get asked.

In your spare time, start reading articles which contribute to your commercial awareness. As well as providing you with insight into economics, politics and law, commercial awareness and critical thinking are highly valuable skills in the field of law, and ones that you will be consistently tested on.


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5. Get Back Out There!

Starting to look for opportunities again after experiencing rejection can be daunting. Begin by looking back at your rejections: what level were you applying for? Did you only apply to large firms? Did you consider relocating for a job?

Ask yourself these questions in order to broaden your scope of applications. It is easy to get stuck only applying to the most advertised positions, or the ones with the highest pay. Through broadening your options, even if you do not initially intend on taking certain jobs, you might end up really wanting to join a certain firm for their culture or experience a new city.

Another thing you can do is send your CV to firms that are not actively recruiting. In cases where firms need a job filled in immediately, or even at the start of their recruiting process, they start out by looking at who they already have – if your CV is on hand, it might just be what they need!

Looking for a job in law? Check out our opportunities page here.


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