Four things I wish I had known as a ‘Dear Applicant’

Posted on August 6, 2018 Under All 0 Comments

By Naveena Movva

Gather round my young ones and listen to a tale as old as time (or at least as long as an LLB takes to complete – same difference). Many of you will soon begin the perilous journey of navigating the legal industry. As a crinkled and weather-beaten fourth year with some experience in this industry, I feel it is my duty to impart my wisdom on the youth of today so that you may go forth and be employed.

1. Brush up on your knowledge of the bovine industry

I remember a particular interview I attended where I had obtained knowledge that the partners I was interviewing with, were breeders of a particular type of cattle. I spent the entire evening before this interview reading everything I could about this until essential facts about this breed of cow were imprinted on my brain. I ultimately did not get the position, but I’m certain they were impressed not only with my knowledge of the breed, but also with what I’m sure was a flawless ability to work cow facts into every answer I gave. ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say is, do your research. You may be a perfect applicant on paper, but being able to relate to the people you will be working with is a powerful tool. But maybe be more subtle about it than I was.

Charles Fincher/Law Comix

2. Sharpen your weapons and prepare for battle

Despite the competitiveness of law student job-hunting being likened to the Hunger Games, this is anything but a game to many people. If you’ve previously duelled in the clerkship colosseum or thrown down the gauntlet for a grad position, then you know what I mean. Chances are, there is a bevy of bright law students such as yourself who are vying for the limited number of positions available; such is the life of a law student. It’s good to be aware of this fact, as it may encourage you to go that extra mile when putting in an application. Be a Katniss, not a Cato.

3. In the words of Robert Frost, ‘I took the road less travelled by – and that has made all the difference’

A semi-wise person once told me that the majority of jobs available aren’t even advertised. I imagine the look on your face right now is the same one I made when I heard this – but it’s true. For this reason, it may be worth exploring alternative methods of applying. Some examples include cold-calling firms or handing in a physical resumé, or even going through a secondment or contracting agency. Your attempts to weasel your way into the legal industry this way may not always be successful, but a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in the legal industry. This method may be most effective with boutique (which sadly does not mean the firm also sells funky law-themed jewellery on Etsy) and mid-tier firms. Additionally, the road less travelled may also mean widening your job search to include more diverse areas of law or more locations. Even if you are dead-set on being a criminal lawyer, maybe give wills and estates a go? If you are staunchly opposed to public service, maybe still explore opportunities in the public service a little bit – you might find some opportunities that align with your interests and that will provide good legal experience. Widening your search range is likely to lead to more opportunities, even if you don’t land your dream job straight away.

4. You may fail to receive an offer – but you ARE NOT a failure

I loathe this kind of hallmark-style self-affirmation. However, I couldn’t tell you the number of times I had to repeat this adage to myself while hyperventilating into a paper bag and desperately trying to stave off a descent into a spiral of melancholy after receiving yet another rejection letter. Sometimes, it’s not about what you did or didn’t do – it’s just the whim of circumstance. As hard as it is (and I know it is hard) try not to let it discourage you. If a rejection gets you down, take the rest of the day to regroup, and refocus your efforts the next day. We all started somewhere. Getting your first foothold is the hardest step but you can only climb up from there.

And on that note, my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youthful first-years, I will leave you to your journey of professional self-discovery. May it be filled with effective networking, countless interviews, and many new LinkedIn connections!