Jess Dick is a trainee solicitor in the Real Estate Litigation team in Shoosmiths’ Leeds office. Here she shares her top tips on how to show recruiters and law firms that you have the right attitude to be a solicitor.
Be enthusiastic and proactive
I asked some of the partners in my team what they look for when assessing candidates at the assessment and interview stage of recruitment. Every single one said that a candidate who shows genuine enthusiasm and interest about the things they have done, whether this is law related or not, stands out and demonstrates that they have a positive “go-getter” attitude.
Having some evidence that you are genuinely interested, and have actively pursued, a career in law is important. This can be through work placements or through extended research and interest in a particular area of law. Law firms understand that obtaining formal legal experience can be difficult. However, you can show you have been proactive through volunteering, pro bono, university societies and personal research. If you have a genuine enthusiasm and interest in the law and in clients’ businesses, then you already have the right attitude to be a trainee.
Be willing to learn and take constructive criticism on board
A comment I heard early on in my career that has always stuck in my mind is when a partner said that he learnt the most by listening in to conversations and observing how his supervisor interacted with others. Pay attention to how the senior people in your team interact with clients and colleagues and you will not only learn appropriate professional conduct but you will gain legal knowledge.
It is common in an interview to be asked about your weaknesses. When I first started preparing for interviews I found this a difficult question to navigate; I wasn’t sure how to approach a question about my flaws. However, this question is one in which you can show that you are able to reflect on your skills and behaviour and take constructive criticism on board. The ability to do both of those things in a mature manner are key to succeeding during your training contract and throughout your career.
I would advise thinking about a time you received criticism, how did it make you feel? What actions did you take in response? What was the outcome? What did you learn from the experience?
Be a team player
Being a good team player and being able to work with others is essential to succeeding during your training contract. At Shoosmiths you will change teams every six months, it is vitally important that you fit in and contribute as much as you can to the team. As Shoosmiths is a national law firm, I have often found myself working with other trainees and solicitors based in other locations. Being able to work productively with each other means that the firm can offer a consistently high level of service to our clients.
You can demonstrate that you are team player in many different ways. It is important never to underestimate how useful non-legal work experience is in demonstrating the core skills you need to be a trainee. If you had a Saturday job in a shop or worked in a café you will undoubtedly have developed team work skills. On an application and in preparation for interviews consider a time you contributed to a team, how you contributed and what the outcome was. Other ways you may have worked in a team include sports teams, a band or orchestra, volunteering or group academic projects.
Be yourself! I found that I got further in the training contract application process when I became more confident in my skills and I was myself rather than what I thought the firm wanted me to be.
If you have any questions about a career at Shoosmiths you can email us at [email protected].