Researching Law Firms – Nicola Laver

My last column emphasised the importance of getting your CV and applications for training contracts absolutely right before sending them off to law firms. I also mentioned the necessity of research. But why is research important and what does this entail?

Imagine you’re a recruitment partner at, let’s say, a medium sized law firm. Your firm is struggling through the tail end of a recession having laid off a few associates and paralegal staff, and it can’t afford to recruit two trainees who qualify this year. But law firms are beginning to emerge from recession and your firm is now taking applications for two trainee solicitors starting next year.

But you’re inundated with hundreds of applications which you are now wading through. Many of them don’t stand out; there are a few you might follow up as the academic results were excellent and there was a bit of relevant work experience listed. But a handful of applications are particularly impressive and you will invite those applicants for an interview.
It’s a shame about the first lot because the applicants wasted their time – the majority of applications were pretty much the same in their content. All the applicants were law students or law graduates; they have good academic results, and one or two vacation schemes under their belts, and had a clear interest in the areas of law your firm does practice. That’s all good stuff but nothing really stood out.

But the few who you hope to meet at interview clearly took the time to find out about your firm and showed a genuine interest in it, its partners, one of two cases that the firm has been in the news for – and so on. This is what sets these applications apart from the majority.

The answer lies in the research that the applicants undertook before sending off their applications.

It is absolutely crucial to tailor each application individually to each law firm, particularly in this economic climate. Find out all you can about the firm, its partners and its practice areas. Has there been a case the firm was involved in that has sparked your interest? Is one of the partners involved in something in which you have an interest in, eg membership of an association?

Is the firm the specific type of law firm you particularly want to practice in, eg a commercial litigation firm, or a boutique firm specialising in sports law, pensions, media law and so on? Can you offer work experience in a particular sector area which this firm undertakes?

Does it have a branch office near your home meaning you can demonstrate excellent local knowledge which will, of course, be an asset to the firm?

Get on the internet – most if not all the information you can find out about an individual law firm will be online. Use it to your advantage. Stand out from the crowd and set your application apart from the rest.

And when you are invited for interview, do yet more research. Find out all you can about the firm, and more. Assuming that you want to succeed at interview, show your interviewers that you are genuinely interested in them and you want to be part of their experience – and their future.

Nicola Laver is a legal journalist, legal writer and solicitor. Find out more about her work on her website and read her blog at www.lawcareerblog.blogspot.com

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