changing legal landscape

November 24, 2017, by Carla

The Changing Legal Landscape – What Applicants Need to Know!

By Andrew Chow, second-year law student

The significant rise in the number of law graduates each year, coupled with the disproportionately limited number of training contracts offered by law firms, inevitably leads to a fierce competition for training contracts.

As an inherently service-based profession, candidates are expected to demonstrate that they possess the necessary skills and competencies to excel in legal practice. One main issue that candidates, such as myself, face when applying for vacation schemes or training contracts is the ability to stand out among countless other candidates. My search for answers came to an end after attending a seminar delivered by Craig Sharpe, from Darlingtons commercial law firm called:

“What’s changed in legal practice and how can students prepare to impress law firms when applying for training contracts?”

Focus was first drawn to the major changes in the legal market and legal practice in the last 25 years. The main role of a lawyer is no longer informational in nature as access to the internet has allowed individuals and clients to look for the relevant law and ‘self-diagnose’ their legal problems. While historically lawyers were the sources of legal knowledge and information as well as trusted and experienced advisors, now in many cases clients see lawyers solely as advisors.

Good lawyers provide innovative solutions to achieve a client’s objectives, while staying within the confines of the law. The advent of the internet has definitely led to an increase in access to legal information. Technology has and will continue to play a key role in the evolution of the legal profession.

What should future lawyers consider when choosing a law firm?

Whether a firm is practice area or sector-based may impact the scope of work you will have access to. There are many types of law firms you could work for: international firms, US firms or regional firms. The size of firm is a huge differentiator.

Don’t underestimate firm culture

Another important factor to take into account is that different types of law firm have different cultures. I’m finding it particularly difficult to decide what type of law firm would suit me as I lack the necessary first-hand experience to make an informed decision.

Think about your clients

One recommendation was to try to identify practice areas of particular interest and consider the type of clients you might like to work with. This is crucial. To be able to enjoy your work, you need to ensure your interests are aligned with the interests of the clients.

Large or small firm?

The atmosphere and culture of a firm largely depends on the size of the firm, its working hours and its team structure. Equally important is the degree of team ethos. Generally a trainee in a smaller law firm will have a more hands-on experience, than a trainee in a large international law firm. The lifestyle of working in a city law firm might not be suitable for everyone.

What are law firms looking for in future lawyers?

More than just good academics

A good academic background is taken as a given, so you should also have a good understanding of the legal sector and its current issues. Firms want to see you have identified clear and specific reasons for wanting to work for them. They also want a strong sense of commercial awareness, team-working skills, relationship-building skills and leadership. It was pointed out that the only way to demonstrate these skills would be to understand how they would be assessed.

A strong and clear understanding of the recruitment process is therefore vital towards success

Applications must be free from spelling mistakes and display a high quality of written work. Needless to say, the best way for you to market yourself in the application process is to understand yourself on a deeper level. You need to know which strengths and skills to highlight in the application.

I can confidently say, I have attained a better understanding of how to approach the application process and stand out among other candidates. If I could only take one lesson away from the seminar, it would be that the key to success is to be able to effectively market yourself. I do not mean marketing an image of what you think an employer would want, but market yourself for who you truly are. Besides, with the growing trend in embracing diversity, how can individuality not be valued?

Want to know more about the changing legal landscape? Need help choosing a law firm? Looking for advice on your application? You can find lots of resources about starting a legal career on our website. Prefer to chat one-to-one? Book an appointment here.

Posted in Choosing Your Career