What Do Law Firms Look For In Graduate Lawyers?

By Anika Legal | Thu 3rd June '21

From the Firm's Perspective

Securing a job after graduating can be an anxiety-ridden task. Trying to gain practical experience and present yourself to employers in the best light can prove to be difficult. At times, it can be hard to even ascertain what employers want from potential candidates.

The recruitment process can seem brutal, and often law students find themselves slowly losing hope of securing a place as a graduate lawyer. The recruitment process in the legal industry has changed with rapid advancements in new technologies and development in the way law firms practice.

Advances in technology have altered the way law firms recruit graduates.

While there are still traditional elements to the legal recruitment process, such as practical experience and academic performance, many law practices are taking a more holistic approach when assessing graduates. Firms are looking for more rounded candidates with a range of skills - not necessarily relating to the legal industry. People who have passions and hobbies outside of university and work can demonstrate to employers that they are motivated and can bring more than just legal skills to the table.

Melissa Lyon, Associate Principal at HIVE Legal, spoke about the importance of soft skills amongst graduate lawyer skills. “I don’t like the term ‘soft skills’…they are vital skills.” She went on to emphasise the importance of empathy. Empathy in candidates can lead to stronger working relationships and more effective results for clients. The ability to truly understand the client’s position and care about the result that can be achieved for clients, can set apart a candidate from the rest of the pool.

Other factors which were mentioned by Ms. Lyon as being desirable in graduate lawyers included tech skills, self-starters, a commercial focus, innovative thinking, and people who are passionate about working with clients. She also mentioned that a candidate being a ‘culture-fit’ is just as important as them having great technical skills. This mirrors a trend we are seeing amongst larger companies; a focus on cultivating a strong, cohesive work culture.

Soft skills and culture fit are two key traits law firms look for.

So what’s the best way to show law firms that you have all of this? Contact the firm. Ms. Lyon noted that people who engineered a way to get in touch with the firm and showed them why they wanted to work with them excelled in comparison to other candidates. Attending legal networking events and getting involved with organisations such as The Legal Forecast allows connections with potential employers.

Ultimately, it seems employers are looking for well-rounded candidates who can demonstrate skill and passion not only within the field of law, but also beyond that scope. The best way to be prepared for the graduate recruitment process is to be yourself and showcase your skills and passions.  

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