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Cut The Chaff: Why Knowing What To Leave OFF Your CV Is As Important As What To Include

  • February 20, 2024

As one of the most important documents in the first stage of a legal candidate’s job search (alongside the LinkedIn profile), the CV is arguably an inexhaustible topic of discussion for hirers and legal professionals alike, particularly where relevance, structure and formatting are concerned. And although these are still very much pertinent, an equally crucial – and often overlooked – aspect of CV crafting is the skill of knowing what has no place on it, and what can be detrimental to its effectiveness.  

Spending time reviewing and improving your CV is undoubtedly time well spent, although you should never just cram it with additional points if they aren’t going to add value to any application or to enhance your profile. 

Ensuring there is the right amount of information on the document to demonstrate suitability for the role is important, but it’s a fine balance to ensure that it is to the point and not full of distractions or waffle – especially when you consider that hiring managers and recruiters take only a few seconds to scan the document and make a decision to progress, or not. 

As such, it’s always worth considering what information serves little to no purpose in your CV and worse, is potentially squandering your prospects altogether…  

Less is More 

Starting with the often-overlooked but opening information, things like your age, marital status, and arguably personal hobbies should not be in your CV as they not only hold little relevance to the position (and thus, little value to a hirer ) but they can potentially prove detrimental to your efforts, as in having them present they waste the precious time your CV has been afforded to catch a hiring manager’s eye, and can introduce an unconscious bias towards applicants of certain age groups or demographic.  

If you do want to add in a short section about interests outside of work, it’s usually best to give this no more than a few lines – you can always leave talking about this personal element in your profile to the interview itself. These should also fit in with the professional persona you wish to portray = so talking about how you love going out with your friends on an evening, or a vanilla ‘I like doing exercise’ are taking up precious real estate on the page that can be much better-utilised. 

Cull the Obvious 

Similarly, any notices informing employers that ‘references are available upon request’ are unnecessary and should be taken out. This is already implied through your job application itself and so is an obvious fact that doesn’t need reiterating in your CV. The same thing applies to any ‘salary negotiable’ statements – this is not new or unexpected information to employers and is needlessly taking up space. Ultimately, any generalist information that doesn’t communicate what the hiring firm will be looking for in your CV shouldn’t be included and failure to keep your CV clutter-free can give off the impression that little effort has gone into tailoring it for the role, and that it is being used as a catch-all document for multiple job applications. 

If you’re wondering why that might be that off-putting to recruiting firms, it is because it is one of the tell-tale signs of a spray-and-pray job application approach. And whether intentional or not, it is a surefire way to get yours binned. 

Avoid the Jobseeker Jargon Trap 

Pertinent to this is the common mistake of peppering a CV with all sorts of jargon and cliches, which is just as damaging to a candidate’s prospects if not more. When writing a CV to present as compelling a narrative of your professional journey as possible, the use of certain phrases or buzzwords to ‘doll up’ one’s profile can be a tempting move (and it may be the case that these have slipped into your vernacular simply due to ignorance); however, is an all-too-familiar ploy to employers, and an eyesore they will readily want to avoid, especially if such statements or phrases aren’t backed up by any quantifiable evidence.  

The language you use to highlight your skills and suitability is every bit as important as the information it is trying to convey and requires just as much thought and consideration. As such, a sense check of where your CV leans more on generic statements instead of measurable results, and how it can be better-written is essential if you’re aiming to craft one that catches the eye. 

With the widespread adoption of the likes of ChatGPT and other AI tools, it’s also worth considering how such tools can help (or hinder) in this regard. 

If you do choose to utilise an AI tool to support, it is a well-known no-no to write the whole document from scratch, simply because it increases the likelihood of fabricated details being added to your draft. A better approach would be to do it section by section, beginning with your personal statement, then your experience & responsibilities, then your achievements, and so on. This not only helps to avoid having false information but it also makes it easier to spot it as you work through your draft section by section, should it still be added in, and allows you to better format your CV while doing so. 

Click here for more information on how to avoid the jobseeker jargon trap. 

Filter Out the Chaff 

This applies to any other kind of passive language present in your CV or anything speculative, such as extensive lists of job roles and responsibilities without any relevant accomplishments. A career is not something that just happened to you and should never be treated as such by the language you use to describe why you are a good fit for the role.  

Your CV should be filled with examples where you actively take credit for your work and achievements to quantify your value as a potential hire, and where this is absent it signals a lack of confidence in your suitability as a candidate to hirers, which can seriously hurt your chances of employment. Remember that firms want to ensure their investment in a candidate is going to yield encouraging results, and if your CV doesn’t give them the impression that you are worth that investment, they will waste no time with time consuming interview process. 

Finally, 

When it comes to the communication of information through any media, what is said is so often what comprises the subject of discussion, when it is really how such information is structured and conveyed and – at times, what is omitted – that tends to make the difference in how it is processed and interpreted.  

This is what underpins the skill of CV crafting and where the ones that top the pile shine – no matter the role, specialism or sector in question. When every second counts with your prospects on the line, your CV needs to sell you in as clear and compelling a manner as possible – a feat we as recruiters are very much aware can be tricky at times, even for the most experienced of legal professionals. That’s why at Clayton Legal, our expertise goes beyond  the often perceived ‘transactional’ process of matching CVs to open roles. 

We are every bit as committed to empowering the legal professionals we work with to present themselves as the first choice hire, whether that be at the initial screening or interview stages. If your next career move seems to be very much on the horizon but needs clarity with regard to the way forward, we are here to help. Give us a call on 01772 259 121 or contact us here. 

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LinkedIn 101: Creating a Stand-Out Profile

When it comes to selling your value to recruiters and hirers alike, there is always some due diligence and preparation needed in order to ensure your digital profile is up to date and really sells the value you will offer to a new employer. 

Getting your CV up to date and reviewed is the most obvious first step as this humble document is still the main catalyst to displaying and demonstrating your skills and experience. 

However your LinkedIn profile is often seen as the digital version of your CV and more often than not, will be viewed in parallel with any documents you send directly in the application for a new role. Ignoring this as a marketing channel to ‘sell’ you and your suitability is a mistake some jobseekers make – but the truth is, it should be given the same care and attention as your physical CV, if not more. 

As the world’s biggest professional platform with over a billion users currently registered, LinkedIn is the place to broadcast your value as a legal professional and if utilised properly, can convey this in the most interactive and engaging of ways  ways that a CV alone can never achieve. The benefits it can provide and the edge it gives candidates willing to invest in maximising its potential are numerous and at times, it can be the only thing one actually needs to get a foot through the door of prospective hirers, particularly if you aren’t actively looking for a new opportunity, but would be open to speculative conversations about what’s out there. 

Here we look at why a polished LinkedIn profile is indispensable to your job search in the modern age and the quick, easy wins you can amass using a well-crafted profile to help earn – and cement – a place in a hirer’s shortlist. 

Headlines And Pronouns   

When talking about selling yourself, fewer things make more of a difference in your efforts than a strong first impression. As the first piece of text a recruiter or potential hiring manager will see and the second thing that will tell them about who you are, your headline is what will give the first impression of your skills, credentials and suitability for a role, and you have no more than 220 characters to make it count.  

It might be tempting to go with a simple “ Paralegal at X Company” but to hiring firms this is of little – if any – value. Rather, it is best, according to Mimax Senior Talent Partner Margaret Buj, to go with one of the below formats. You can choose any of the 3, depending on your PQE level, experience and skills but you’ll notice that each one concisely showcases your value in some way to prospective employers. This is because the key to writing a headline that captures attention, whatever the structure used is to succinctly paraphrase what you do and what you bring to the table.   

  1. Role & Specific achievement, e.g. Solicitor at BLM.  X (significant) deals closed/X high-profile cases won.
  2. Role & Years of Experience in practice area(s) and region, e.g. Solicitor at BLM. 5+ years of experience in dealing with insurance litigation, housing disrepairs and property damage in Liverpool.
  3. Role & what your expertise is, e.g. Senior Lawyer at BLM. Business Ethics & Management, London. 

You can also add a few other things that make it easier for hirers to identify you in your headline, such as pronouns. The use of pronouns lets hiring managers, colleagues or online connections know how to address you and avoid any misconceptions.   

Fix Up – Look Sharp 

We live in an era where by and large, seeing is believing, and it is well-documented how influential imagery and media can be in any context, let alone when you want your profile to be viewed by potential hirers. 

 As such, a profile photo is more of a necessity than a luxury to your job searching efforts should you be looking to remain as visible as possible to prospective employers. As it is right at the introduction section of your profile, it is very likely the first thing people will see immediately after they land on your page and whether consciously or subconsciously, the first thing with which you will be assessed both as an individual and a professional. 

Now, to some this is seen as a potential hurdle to their job-searching efforts, as a photo can be a source of discrimination, considering it can also display ethnicity, age, gender, religion and more. While it is an unfortunate reality that certain individuals, hirers included, can write off a potential candidate with unconscious bias, it still serves you well to include a well-taken photo in your profile. There are a few reasons for this:  

Firstly, from a purely technical standpoint, profiles without a photo on LinkedIn are categorised by the algorithm as incomplete and are therefore less likely to show up in the search results to hirers and/or recruiters looking for profiles similar to yours.  

They also appear inauthentic, as profiles usually tagged as fake are those assumed to be the ones without a photo to showcase proof of identity.   

A photoless profile can also lead to a perceived lack of professionalism or ability to utilise LinkedIn, as to many hiring managers, it can be inexcusable to not have one considering the level of technology candidates have at their disposal to get one of good quality.  

On that note, it is only photos of such standard that will be deemed acceptable and not just any photo will do, so deliberate effort must be taken to ensure a photo that showcases a good blend of professionalism and personality is used. Remember that your photo is what will most strongly be associated with your professional image and reputation, and what you carry everywhere with you, whether on LinkedIn, another platform or in real life. If your photo is taken on an evening out with friends from several years ago, then it is absolutely right to review and replace with something that illustrates who you are on a professional platform.  

Are You Easy to Contact? 

If your profile has garnered the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager, and boxes are being ticked on potential suitability for a role, the next step is to make direct contact.  

The quickest way to kill your chances of being selected however is a failure to include basic contact details like a phone number and an (appropriate) email address – something a surprising number of candidates still fail to check.  

Make sure these are all present and clearly visible in your profile, and that the email address provided is as professional and easy to read as can be. Avoid the likes of informal addresses like tenerifedan69@gmail.com or something indicating personal information as this can trigger subconscious biases. Ensure that this sense of professionalism is reflected in other details present in your profile such as your LinkedIn URL and any possible links to portfolios or achievements and keep them short, clean and easy to access.   

If you wish to add anything you have written such as white papers written papers or links to any recorded work done at conferences or events, then you can include them in your featured section. Regardless of where you add them though, make sure these are present in your profile if possible, as they give recruiters a chance to see more of what you can dover and above generic job descriptions and your ‘About’ section.  

Your About Section  

Contrary to what some may think, this is not a simple regurgitation of what skills and credentials you’ve got on your CV. It is your opportunity to buttress your case for your suitability and is what people will be next interested in if your headline catches their eye.  

 Think of it as an extension of this part of your profile – if your headline sparks the interest then your About section will do the heavy lifting when it comes to converting that interest to action. Therefore, make the best use of the 2000 characters you are given in this section to write relevant, useful information that sells your skillset and any successes you have seen (that is attractive to potential employers). 

 Some examples of ‘what good looks like’ from LinkedIn themselves can be found HERE which may give you an idea of how to give yours an upgrade.  

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Underneath your photo and headline you will see buttons that allow you ‘add profile section’ or add a frame to your profile picture. Both can be useful in providing more information on your job-seeking status, as well as adding more depth and insight to your personal profile and achievements. 

 The ‘open to’ button will give you three options, but as a jobseeker the one to select is ‘open to work’. If you are currently not employed this is one of the easiest ways to let recruiters and hiring managers know you are a potential candidate without even clicking on your profile. Failure to have to take this step can actually keep you out of an employer’s shortlist, as it may lead them to assume you are not open to any potential opportunities. However it goes without saying that caution should be taken if you are currently employed and your current employer is not aware of you looking for a new role.  

In the ‘add profile section’ you can add core information (education, skills), recommended (certifications, courses, links to white papers or presentations you’ve delivered), and additional (pro bono work, languages spoken, test results and more). 

Whichever section you choose to enhance, we recommend that you write this first person to avoid sounding pretentious, and to give readers a little flavour of your personality. Do you volunteer? Can you speak Russian? No one wants to hire a robot, and these added extras can help to make you more of an attractive prospect to would-be recruiters and employers.  

That said, ensure that, whatever you choose to add either in this section or throughout your profile, they tick the below boxes:  

  • Does it showcase your competence as a legal professional? 
  • Does it communicate your value, with supporting evidence? 
  • Does it help you stand out?  

Walk the Walk and Talk the (Right) Talk  

Equally important to your job-searching efforts is what you actually say and do on the platform, as this can often tell hirers and recruiters a lot about who you are and whether or not you are worth their attention, without even clicking on your profile.  

The content you post, repost, share and take the time to comment on communicates how you want others to interact with you on the platform, whether you are aware of this or not. 

Therefore, ensure that you have no track record of any ill or inappropriate communication on your profile and the content you interact with. Get rid of any comments that are distasteful, controversial, or aggressive in nature and keep your feed as clear of such content as possible. This is not to say that personality is unwelcome on LinkedIn but it should not be at the expense of your professional reputation and especially, your job-hunting prospects.  

Instead, focus on sharing content that showcases and demonstrates your commitment to professionalism, growth and value in your area of expertise. This will tell anyone that sees you on the platform through your interactions that you are a communicator who likes to stay on top of their game and has a finger on the pulse of the industry and specialism.  

Do you share (and comment on) 3rd party news relevant to your practice area? Do you champion awards or events linked to your current firm, or the wider legal industry? If so – it’s always worth glancing at your own feed from time to time to sense-check how those looking at your profile see your activity and how you interact with your own professional network. 

Similarly, if you list networking or relationship-building as a skill, but your feed is like a ghost town – there is also a disconnect, so will need amending where necessary.  

It’s not (Just) What You Know… 

 Following on from this point, capitalise on endorsements from colleagues and clients as these can be significant green ticks to employers and recruiters. Social proof remains a great influencer in people’s decision to ‘buy’ or in this case, get in touch to find out more information and whether online or otherwise, should not be dismissed as a waste of space to include in your profile.  

Any recommendations or endorsements you have acquired, you should be adding regularly and if you don’t have any, don’t be afraid to ask. You will be surprised how willing people can be to give you a recommendation (especially ifyou offer to give one back in return). 

Finally, 

The key to building a standout LinkedIn profile starts with all of the above but it certainly doesn’t stop there. Your reputation is only as good as the amount of investment you put into maintaining it, and this applies on LinkedIn just as much as it does in real life, so establish a routine that helps you stay on top of your online presence and keeps your status up to date. 

In today’s dynamic professional landscape, maintaining an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is not just a formality; it’s a strategic necessity. Your LinkedIn presence serves as a digital representation of your career journey, skills, and aspirations. It’s often the first impression you make on potential employers, recruiters, clients, and collaborators. By keeping your profile current, you signal to others that you’re actively engaged in your field, open to new opportunities, and committed to professional growth.   

Furthermore, a well-maintained LinkedIn profile can enhance your visibility, credibility, and networking capabilities, ultimately opening doors to unexpected opportunities and fostering meaningful connections.  

 So, whether you’re actively job hunting or content in your current role, investing time in curating your LinkedIn profile is a proactive step towards shaping your professional narrative and advancing your career journey. 

  

About Clayton Legal 

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.  

 If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121.  

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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The Boomerang Dilemma: Is the Reward Worth the Risk?

If you have started the new year with a feeling of discontent with your current legal role, you may have already started to consider what those crucial next steps look like.

At this crossroads, there are a number of options available, but crucially they boil down to two choices.

 

1. Speak up and express your unhappiness with your current employer. Depending on the root cause, it may be something that can be addressed and overcome or worked through. There may be a lateral move internally for example that would be worth considering, or a review of your working arrangements.

2. Consider other opportunities in the market. Whilst general hiring trends indicated a dip in the sector in 2023, vacancies were by and large still above pre-pandemic levels, and there is most certainly a wide range of roles available to those looking at pastures anew.

If you have found yourself in the second category, either by proxy, if all elements have been explored in option 1, or you feel it is simply the right ‘time’ there is also another route available that has seemed to gain momentum in the last 12 months – returning to an ex-employer.

The Boomerang Phenomenon

If you have ever considered the possibility of returning to a former employer, you’re not alone. Welcome to the intriguing concept of “boomerang hires” – a phenomenon that is reshaping the way we view career trajectories – and one that has gained popularity in recent months.

As the term coined implies, put simply it means returning or circling back to a previous workplace – whether that’s because you are seeking a fresh start somewhere else, or are aiming to rediscover a company culture that you once thrived in.

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, research has shown that boomeranging was previously quite rare. However, more recent studies have found that across a wide range of industries, nearly 20% of workers who quit their jobs during the pandemic have since returned to their old employers.

These boomerang individuals present a big opportunity for law firms who are starting to look at this option as a strategic recruitment tool, and also present a solution to the industry-wide skills shortage that continues to be a challenge for firms in the hiring market today.

(It also consequently presents a major risk with respect to retention, as new hires may be increasingly liable to boomerang back to their previous organisations.)

As far as jobseekers go, however, as with any move, there are obvious benefits as well as challenges to consider >>>

Familiar Territory

Perhaps boomeranging’s biggest selling point is the familiarity it offers. Starting a new job is so often filled with uncertainty around things like fitting in, making a good first impression, and adapting to a new firm culture, all of which can slow down that bedding-in process and affect performance in those first crucial weeks on the job, especially if it’s one very different to what the norm used to be.

Making a return to familiar territory expedites this acclimatisation period, as not only is there far less of a learning curve skill-wise during the onboarding process compared to your first time as a new starter, but the knowledge and understanding you have of the business’s ways of working and dynamics helps to bypass many of the above challenges and quickly hit the ground running.

Refreshed Perspective

Career growth often entails exploring different opportunities and gaining diverse experiences and at times a step back may be needed in order to take a leap forward. Some employees leave their previous employers in search of better prospects in their line of work, only to realise that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and consequently, return with not only a refreshed perspective but also a great deal of experience and know-how their previous employer can greatly benefit from, particularly if they joined a competitor.

This puts returning employees in a great position when it comes to career prospects, particularly if the relationship between both parties pre-departure was built on mutual respect and as a result, they are better placed to get a job offer that reflects their value to the hiring firm in the form of a higher position or opportunities for progression.

When to Think Twice…

It is crucial to remember, however, that these benefits are very much dependent on the kind of firm and working environment you are returning to. If the reasons for your initial departure centre around an unhealthy company culture, a lack of growth opportunities, flexibility or limited upward mobility, returning by no means guarantees or even promises any significant changes. Some firms are resistant to change, and if the reasons that prompted you to leave remain unaddressed, chances are you will be facing the same challenges upon your return. Before deciding to boomerang, it’s imperative you assess whether your ex-employer has taken steps to improve the aspects that initially led to your departure – or whether you have overcome those reasons yourself.

Salary Growth Limitations

One of the most likely reasons a move back to a previous employer is ever on the cards is the prospect of salary growth and improved compensation. As discussed earlier, it is one legal professionals can often feel more entitled to considering the skills, knowledge and experience they are bringing with them upon their return and certainly now more than ever in the current market, with the average salary increase for job hoppers higher (14.8%) found to be higher than those of professionals that stayed put (2-4%). However, a word of warning here – as a decision to boomerang based on salary incentives alone is an ill-advised one. Boomerang employees who expect their salary to match the increase they may have achieved after leaving may face disappointment, as employers will be hiring a lot more for fit rather than solely skill and will see this strategy coming from a mile away. There’s also the fact that even if you do get the salary increase you’re looking for, it may turn out to be the only silver lining in your move back if you happen to be returning to colleagues unhappy with the circumstances around which you and your employer parted ways.

Water Under the Bridge

Another note to consider is how and under what circumstances you left your previous employer. Was this on good terms?  This is a key thing to take into consideration when exploring the idea of returning to a previous employer, as that may dictate the terms of your relationship with present employees should you decide to boomerang. Remember that it is not only old relationships you will be returning to when you do, but also the impression you left on colleagues with your exit. With any luck you will have resigned gracefully, so a return back to the fold will be seamless – and welcome.

This also swings both ways. If feelings of bitterness or uncertainty are present due to redundancy or parting on bad terms, then it can be difficult to turn over a new leaf without harbouring a grudge or even a sense of guilt, especially if your departure was recent. According to certified life and career coach Emily Liou, a good way to determine if boomeranging is the best decision is to consider the following:

  • If your return is driven by ego, i.e. a desire to prove a point that they should’ve never let you go.
  • If there is a strong sense of scepticism regarding the integrity of the management.
  • If there is a loss of respect for the employer due to how previous layoffs were handled.

If the answer is ‘yes’ to one or all of these, it is probably not the best move to return.

Context, however, is always key no matter what way you look at a dilemma of this nature as another angle worth considering is the reason for your exit if you were laid off. If such reasons are economic and the departure was handled with respect and sensitivity, then yes, a move back can possibly be on the cards – if it is in line with present career aspirations.

Keeping Career Goals on Track

Perhaps the most important thing to consider of all is where a possible return is going to take you career-wise. Judging by where you are at present in your legal career, will it bring an upward trajectory to your career growth in the next few years is this more of a lateral move?

Whatever your reasons for or against a move back, remember that your future career goals and objectives should take absolute precedence in your decision-making and should be the biggest driver of any desire to move roles, or indeed, boomerang. T

To this end, a regular check-in and period of self-reflection regarding your progress is paramount. Your vision for your development as a professional, and the path to get you there should always be clear and if it isn’t then a snapshot of what it currently looks like it is in order. Our simple checklist can help to identify where that gap between aspirations and reality is and help you get a sense-check of your present objectives, so that you make the best decision for your career, whether that be a boomerang move or otherwise.

Unsure of Which Direction to Take?

If you’re stood at those crossroads and find that you need more guidance than a simple checklist can provide, and bit of expert advice to make those next few steps in the right direction can be hugely valuable.

At Clayton Legal, we work closely with hundreds of legal professionals who are either actively searching for a new opportunity in the market, as well as those who aren’t quite at that juncture yet.

We don’t believe in recommending roles that aren’t a good fit for your skills or aspirations, and will always provide an honest (and impartial) service which means putting ALL options on the table so that you have all bases covered.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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Your Legal Career Checklist

When was the last time you sat down and reviewed to what extent you are meeting your career objectives?

And I don’t mean your annual review with your line manager; I’m talking about your deeply personal career goals and intentions.

Wherever you are in your career journey, it is a good idea to periodically analyse your current position in light of where you aim to be. When you dig a little deeper, is everything working out as you expected? Or do you need to make some changes in order to stay on track to meeting your goals?

To help you measure if your legal career is progressing as you envisaged when you started out, we have created the following checklist to provide you with a snapshot of where you stand at present career-wise and whether you’re on the right track.

When you work through this checklist, it is essential to bear in mind the reasons you are where you are in the first place.

What did you set out to achieve in your career – and what does doing so look like up to this point? Did you plan on meeting certain financial goals by this stage of your career or have your ambitions been driven by more personal goals?

An equally important point to consider is what you value most about the firm you work for. Do your values fit in with what the firm’s culture prioritises? Is there a synergy present in your working relationships with your colleagues and managers?

If you find that your current role or firm is not providing the satisfaction you had hoped it would, or that the pace of your progress has gradually petered out, then it could be a sign that some important decisions need to be made regarding your career sooner rather than later.

Read each statement below and decide on how much you agree, using the following scale –

1 – Strongly disagree

2 – Disagree

3 – Neutral

4 – Agree

5 – Strongly agree

So, let’s get started!

Career Checklist

1. I am progressing the way I want in my career.

2. I have achieved some of my career goals, and others are within reach.

3. I enjoy my work and look forward to going in each day.

4. The people I work with are very supportive and friendly.

5. I feel like a valued member of the team I work within.

6. My manager gives me the right balance between support/guidance and working under my initiative.

7. I feel I make a difference within the company I work for, rather than just being a number.

8. The company I work for really invests in supporting me to achieve my goals.

9. I can see a clear progression path within my current company.

10. I am happy with the level of training and personal development offered by my current employer.

11. The company I work for believes in me and trusts me to do my job well.

12. I feel that my company enables and supports my focus.

13. I am recognised and rewarded for my work.

14. The sector I work in really interests me.

15. I am happy with the location of and commute to my place of work.

16. I feel my company offer a fair and competitive commission structure (if applicable).

17. The monetary remuneration I receive has enabled me to achieve goals in my personal life (i.e. buy a house, go on my dream holiday, etc.)

18. I feel I have the right work/life balance working for my current company.

19. I am happy with the way my working day is structured.

20. I can see myself staying with this company for a long time.

What Did You Score?

Tally up what you scored and take a look below at some of the points you may want to consider when thinking about how you want your career to progress in the future:

 

20-40

Alarm Bells!

Things aren’t going to plan, and you are probably not enjoying life in your current role. We suggest taking some time to reflect on the possible reasons behind your dissatisfaction and what needs to change to have them resolved. This can be anything from your current workload and position within your team to your working environment and even your practice area.

 

41-60

Room for More

A better score, which suggests there are aspects of your job you enjoy but also a lot of room for improvement. For example, you might like the people you work with, but feel that there is a lack of support present within management to help you meet medium or long-term career goals. You will need to find out if there is any commitment on the part of the management team to implement changes, and assess how concrete said plans for change are. Speak with your manager and outline your concerns as well as what plans they have in this regard. Whatever the outcome of the conversation, you will have either gotten a clearer picture of what your future at the firm looks like or a clear indication that your tenure there has run its course.

 

61-80

Meeting Some Goals

You’re neither happy nor unhappy, though you wouldn’t describe yourself as entirely satisfied. Meaning that if the right opportunity came your way, you would be weighing up your options. Whenever you feel this way it’s important to bear in mind that sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If you’re leaning towards a move away from your firm, have a think of why this is your preferred option. What you want to be sure of is that there is no impulsivity driving your decision-making and that an exit is needed because of a bad career move, not a bad day at the office.

 

81+

Loving Life and Your Job

You are achieving your goals, meeting targets and enjoy life where you work. There may be elements of your work life that you feel could be better, but they aren’t big enough of a negative to make you consider working elsewhere. However, we suggest you don’t let complacency set in, as being in your comfort zone for a certain period of time can sometimes lead to that and prove counterproductive to your progress in the long run. If you find that despite being happy with where you are in your career, you haven’t taken any major steps forward in the last year or two, then a fresh challenge could be the jumpstarter you need.

 

Hopefully this checklist has prompted you to think harder about your career goals – and whether or not you are on track to achieve those with your current employer. If the final score however has intimated a change may be afoot, your next wise move is to call on the expertise of a recruitment specialist who can further challenge those thoughts; find out exactly what you are looking for from an employer and uncover the potential reasons you are ready to look at new opportunities in the market.

At Clayton Legal, we have been committed for the past 20 plus years to helping legal professionals build a career they can be proud of, whatever stage of their journey they might be at. If you are at a point where that next step in your legal career is unclear going into the new year, then we can give you the guidance you need to make your start in 2024 the strongest possible one. Give our team a call today on 01772 259 121 or contact us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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The Importance of Networking (and Casting That Net Wide)

  • January 8, 2024

Networking doesn’t necessarily come easy to everyone, and sometimes even the thought of it can be met with apprehension or worse, sheer anxiety when placed in a situation that can be emotionally or mentally draining.

That being said, investing time to hone your skills will pay dividends in the long run, especially in today’s highly competitive legal landscape where networking will not only help you to expand your client base but also provide opportunities for mentorship, career growth, and collaboration.

As an essential skill, networking has huge potential to open up new opportunities for aspiring legal professionals and play a major part in their career success. And, whilst it’s a given that not everyone is comfortable networking, all lawyers should at least be competent if they want their skills to advance. You might be worried about what to say, or how to introduce yourself to new people, especially if you’re surrounded by reputable professionals, but, in reality, it’s relatively easy to become a pro with a little bit of extra practice. Here are some key tips to keep in mind.

Seek Guidance from a Fellow Professional  

Consider who you know to be an impressive networker and could provide you with some helpful advice on how to approach it to form professional bonds. This could be a family member or friend, colleague or even someone from your time at university or law school. At the very least, they are likely to let you bounce some ideas off them which will enable you to sharpen and hone your skills.

Be proactive

Waiting for networking opportunities to come your way won’t yield significant results – you need to be proactive. Take the initiative to attend industry events, seminars, conferences, and bar association meetings. Through your employment at a law firm, you will no doubt have exposure, and be invited to join more formal legal networking events. However, do seek out other associations that can equally provide fantastic opportunities to widen the net in your professional network. As a newly qualified lawyer, there are Junior Lawyers Divisions set up locally and regionally, as well as Trainee Solicitor Groups for those yet to qualify. These will give you a great foundation and springboard to networking in usually informal settings, yet still add a huge amount of value to those starting out in their legal career.

Always Come Prepared

Perhaps an old-school networking method, but still an effective one, having a business card on hand can be extremely useful when actively networking with legal professionals, and even more so in the non-professional conversations you have on a daily basis that could give rise to networking opportunities. When they come your way, you want to have a way of capitalising on them. This leads to an even more important factor in networking – having an ‘Always On’ mindset is crucial if you want to do this as effectively as possible. While you don’t need to shoehorn your career passion into every interaction, looking at networking this way can help you improve your social skills in these lower-risk’ situations and build confidence for the bigger conversations you might have with employers or reputable professionals down the line.

When it comes to preparation in the more conventional sense, a set of simple but clear pointers is your best friend, no matter the size or type of network event you are attending. As these events are ultimately about getting you in front of, and eventually front of mind of other like-minded legal professionals, it is essential that on the day you are confident in your ability to navigate the most common social scenarios you find yourself in.

Set Realistic Targets

This starts with going in with realistic expectations about your interactions at the event. Under no circumstance should you be expecting yourself to speak to the majority of people at any event, whether that be an event of 50 or 500. Consider your reasons for being there in the first place. Are you looking for new commercial opportunities or are you perhaps lining up your potential next employer? This will help you narrow down the scope of your search for individuals to speak with to a select few targets, and make planning for those conversations far easier and consequently more productive.

Your next step should then be to ensure you have a few pointers in mind about said conversations, how to begin them and keep them going. A simple but firm handshake and a brief introduction of yourself, your work and what you wish to speak about, before asking them about theirs, should be enough. Avoid kicking things off by firing questions at them as it disregards the other person’s involvement in the conversation and is a quick way to get them uncomfortable with talking about themselves to you.

Prepare Your Pitch

One of the most important parts of networking is your initial pitch – and first impressions count.  How will you introduce and describe yourself to people in an engaging yet concise way? Again, the best way to do this effectively is to get feedback from fellow professionals in your network; ask them to listen to your pitch and offer constructive criticism if required. However, you should also be careful not to over-rehearse, nothing sounds less authentic than an overly polished introduction.

Find Common Ground

In terms of the content of the conversation itself, this will vary depending on who you meet on the day of course, but there are certain scenarios you can prep for beforehand. For example, if you know a certain guest or speaker will be present at the event, then you should be doing your research on their background – where they graduated from/are studying, what law firm they work at and what their own personal interests are.

The best networkers don’t just stick to the stuffier topics when networking. They recognise it’s about showing empathy and finding out more about the person that they’re talking to. And, after all, most lawyers like talking about themselves so finding common ground is of paramount importance. Whether that’s football, cycling, your children or anything else you can think of, it’s easier to build stronger relationships if you have some sort of shared interest.

Your research should not just be limited to LinkedIn or a simple Google search either, or even the person themselves, but also around what you find out about the above areas like the university or law firm they studied/work at. These can commonly be found in any interviews, podcasts or panels they’ve spoken at. The reason for this is that in reality most legal professionals attending the event will already have done their research on at least a surface level, and will therefore ask largely the same questions like: what motivated you to move into this profession, what are your personal interests outside of work, etc. which the person in question will quickly find boring.

As your goal for attending the event is to build lasting relationships and expand your network, particularly with well-known legal professionals, you need to ensure you leave as strong an impression as possible on with whom you are speaking and to do that you need to make it less like an interview and more like an opportunity to talk about their most enjoyable aspects of their life/career. For example, if you have already done your homework on the above and know they happen to also regularly play badminton in their downtime, you could ask a question like:

“I found out in your interview with X talk show that you’re really into your badminton and I also happen to love playing with my friends on the weekend! I was wondering how you manage to fit it around your schedule considering your line of work demands so much of your time. Is it a serious interest you have outside of work?”

See the difference between this and a casual ‘How do you balance work with personal hobbies’ question? While the latter really only is concerned about what the answer is, the former takes care to make it relevant and personable to both parties with the aim of learning more about the person, thereby making the chances of getting an equally engaging and unscripted answer more likely.

Follow Up

It’s all well and good meeting people at an event, but it means little if you don’t keep the conversations going by following them up. If it helps, make a short note on the business cards that you’re given to remind you about the individual and then follow up on any information you promised to send over the next day. This leads on to another key point; the importance of reciprocity. People are likely to feel much more inclined to help you if you can offer something that helps them. That means if you know a solution to a problem that someone you met was struggling with, pass it across to them. People are more likely to remember you based on how you make them feel, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to make their lives easier by addressing problems they have. This is how you facilitate reciprocity in professional relationships.

Find value in online networking

Whilst face-to-face interaction is perhaps the first thing that springs to mind when you think of ‘networking’ in today’s digital age, some of the most invaluable opportunities to connect with professionals outside of one’s local vicinity comes from online networking. Platforms like LinkedIn offer a wealth of resources for lawyers to showcase their expertise, connect with peers, join industry-specific groups, and share valuable insights through thought leadership content. Actively participating in online discussions and engaging with other professionals worldwide can equally be hugely beneficial in building your personal brand, marketing your services and that of your firm, and gaining insight and updates relating to your specific role and practice area. For legal-specific online networks, groups like the Junior Solicitors Network are also a virtual hive of activity, giving members access to news and resources to support career and personal development, as well as opportunities to connect with other legal professionals.

In conclusion

Networking in the legal sector isn’t straightforward and some professionals will find it much more difficult than others, whilst others may decide to avoid it altogether.

However, learning the skills around professional networking is essential for lawyers looking to thrive in the legal industry – not only forging strong relationships for their own career and professional development, but using it as an opportunity to market yourself (and your firm) to potential stakeholders and clients.  

By being proactive, building genuine relationships, utilising online platforms, and staying connected, legal professionals can create a robust professional network that opens doors to new opportunities, enhances their careers, and contributes to long-term success.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.  

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis.  

Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here

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Are You Still In Love With Your Legal Job?

  • November 21, 2023

Find a job doing what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

It’s a common adage, but what does it really mean to “love” your job? Do people who love their never wish they spent their days kicking their feet up at home instead of being in the thick of it at work? Are people who love their jobs less likely to procrastinate, get caught up in a daydream, or have the odd bad day at the office?

Not necessarily.

Every position, even the one you can only dream of attaining, comes with a few pesky tasks you’d probably rather avoid. Loving your job isn’t synonymous with always having an unwavering passion to spend more time in the office than at home.

It simply means that when you do work, you’re passionate about what you do, find it highly engaging, and are committed to giving your best in your position with your chosen employer.

As we approach the year’s end, many will be assessing their options to gauge how well their needs are being met on a personal and professional level and among these, will have their career satisfaction and development front of mind.

If you find yourself in a similar vein of thought, then now is a good time for a little introspection regarding where your heart is at. Here’s how you can figure out if your love and passion for what you do is still going strong or if it might be time to move on to new pastures.

1. What Motivates You to Show Up?

If you do profess to love your job, then your biggest sources of motivation should transcend the monetary value it brings. Yes, money can certainly be a strong driver of performance, particularly in this line of work, but your first answer to the “why do I have this job” question shouldn’t be “it pays the bills”; if it is then something is amiss. If your motivations are primarily financial, then you’re working to check off tasks on a to-do list.

With this in mind, it’s worth looking at your biggest reasons for sticking with your current role. Do you share the same values and vision as the firm? Does it give you a sense of purpose, and do you enjoy the challenges that your work brings you day-to-day?

If you find that you’re failing to derive much fulfilment or lack any non-monetary sources of motivation, then the biggest favour you can do for your career right now is to have an honest conversation, both with yourself and with a specialist legal recruiter about what steps you can take to realign your current position with your present ambitions. After all, endless alternatives exist for the right talented professional.

2. Do you love the job but not the firm?

When you look at yourself 3 to 5 years from now, what future do you envision for your career? Do you see yourself working with the same firm, but further up the ladder in a position with a greater degree of responsibility? Does the thought of building your career there excite you? Or do you see your future taking your career in an entirely different direction?

If you find it difficult to see a clear path of progression at your current firm then it might be worth asking yourself if where you are now is really beneficial for your career, even if you do love what you do at present. What you don’t want is to find yourself 5 years from now in a position where the advice given in this piece rings true for your present situation. Sometimes, the best move for your career is a move away from your comfort zone.

3. Does Your Firm Love You Back?

Any good relationship is a two-way street. You can pour all your sweat, blood and tears into a role, but if this isn’t reciprocated by your firm, the relationship between both parties will quickly turn sour.

Ask yourself how you demonstrate your commitment to the business and also how (and if) your employer and the wider firm supports you in return. What kind of culture is the firm building, and how does it contribute to facilitating individual success from a performance and inclusivity standpoint? How frequently do your managers or team leaders share feedback with you through recognition and reward? Do you find your hard work to often go unnoticed? If your firm doesn’t make much of an effort to recognise its employees as valued members of the business, then there’s a good chance that your love for it will diminish over time.

4. Is Your Firm Invested in You?

If you’re deeply passionate about your role, chances are you dedicate a significant portion of your time and energy to your job. Perhaps you go the extra mile, ensuring that you deliver nothing less than the best on any project or case, and work to continuously add to your value as an asset. While your firm’s growth and success is certainly reliant on your level of commitment, it is once again important to consider how much this is reciprocated. How invested is your firm in your own growth? Are there regular conversations about your plan for and goals in development in check-ins or reviews? Does your manager take a proactive approach to supporting you in meeting your objectives?

Do you have access to in-house resources and training to upskill?

Or are you regarded as the sole person responsible in your firm for broadening your skillset? A company committed to nurturing the relationship between the business and its employees will consistently invest in its staff. Your engagement will eventually drop if or when you sense a lack of commitment from your firm in this area.

Is the Love Still There?

Over time, your love for your role will either flourish or wilt depending on your day-to-day experience on the job; and if the firm you work with is as invested and committed to helping you grow as you are to it, then the future is certainly bright for your career.

On the other hand, if you discover that over time, your love for your job begins to dwindle or aren’t sold on the prospect of building your career a growing with them, you can always look for other opportunities to find new love with a different firm.

If your general job satisfaction for either your current role, and/or your employer isn’t as strong as it once was, now could be the perfect time to start getting back on the playing field.

Wherever you are in your career journey, it is a good idea to periodically analyse your current position depending on where you want to be. When you dig a little deeper, is everything on track and working out as you expected? Or do you need to make some changes in order to meet your goals?

To help you measure if your legal career is progressing as you envisaged when you started out, we have created an easy-to-follow checklist to provide you with a snapshot of whether you’re on the right track.

The back end of a calendar year may seem like a strange point in time to begin your job search – but those considering a New Year opportunity should take heed of the fact that many will be ‘on the market’ as it were in January – making the aforementioned playing field that bit more competitive. What’s more, the festive period is often a time when individuals will have that much more time to dedicate to CV-updates and job applications.

So do get ahead of the curve and use these next few weeks wisely to reflect, review, and take action if needed.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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The Counteroffer Conundrum: Why Staying Put May Curtail Your Career

  • November 16, 2023

If you just got that confirmation email or call from the hiring firm offering you the job you’ve long been hoping to land, then chances are you’ll have already punched the air in triumph and let out a huge sigh of relief at the conclusive news, thankful that the hard part of the job searching process is now behind you.

And while it’s certainly in order to celebrate such wonderful news with friends and family and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for making it this far, caution is advised at this junction – as there is still a transition period you are to navigate successfully, especially when there is still your resignation and notice period to manage.

Perhaps the most pertinent when discussing the activities involved in a thorough due diligence post-job search is the topic of counteroffers, an aspect of the transition process that presents a challenge to legal candidates often regardless of what they might have on offer from their soon-to-be employer.

According to the latest CIPD Labour Market Outlook report, 40% of UK employers have made a counteroffer to departing employees in the last 12 months and among that number, 38% matched the salary of the new job offer while 40% exceeded it. With employers increasingly reliant on counter offers to retain their key staff and a skills shortage across the industry to contend with, these findings point to two indisputable facts that any legal candidate on the brink of leaving their current role faces at present:

  • The chances that you will be made a counteroffer are higher than ever before.
  • It will likely be a tantalizing prospect to consider, regardless of whatever offer you’ve got on the table.

All of this to say, it isn’t an issue you can afford to take lightly, simple as its solution may seem.

So, what happens when you break the news to your current employer with your resignation letter at the ready and your current manager provides a counteroffer, asking you to stay?

While the promise of extra benefits, money, or extra responsibilities from your existing employer might be tempting, they usually point to a few red flags that make accepting a counteroffer ultimately a bad move for your career in the long run.

Here are 5 reasons you may want to think twice before accepting the new offer on the table:

1. Counteroffers Don’t Solve Underlying Issues

Moving from one job to another isn’t a decision most legal professionals will arrive at on a whim. There will be a lot of time and thought gone into weighing the pros and cons of leaving your current role, and from every possible angle, before deciding to take the leap.

When you’re given a counteroffer, it may address one or two gripes you have with your existing role (such as a low salary), but it’s unlikely to tackle every major issue that convinced you to leave. When faced with one, it’s a good idea to take a moment to ask yourself why you wanted to take this new job in the first place.

Is your current role lacking the challenge you’re looking for at this stage of your career, or are you planning on moving in an entirely new direction? Perhaps the culture or lack of flexibility are a constant source of headaches at your firm. If the sticking points with your role aren’t resolved by the counteroffer (which tend to be the case if these sit at the root of your concerns as culture and career development are not as simple a problem to fix as salary concerns) you should absolutely be turning it down and moving on with your new job offer.

2. An Unwelcome Change in Dynamics

Whilst it is well within your right to explore alternative options if your needs aren’t being met professionally and personally, an inevitable by-product of accepting a counteroffer after making your departure known to your employer is the impact it will have on your relationship going forward.

There’s a good chance your employer will have lingering questions about your loyalty after accepting the counteroffer, and this can manifest in ways that will eventually come to undermine the reasons that sit behind your decision to stay.

You may see yourself getting passed over for promotions, or find your employer actively looking to hire for your position to fill the gap you’ll leave when you do eventually jump ship, all because they consider you a flight risk.

As they will (somewhat understandably) no longer have the same level of trust they once did, there’s likely to be an uncomfortable and awkward dynamic at play, even if they do end up going in the other direction and working harder to keep you happy.

3. A Growth Plateau

Career development often involves moving between different roles, taking on new responsibilities over time and stepping out of one’s comfort zone constantly to keep the trajectory of one’s growth on the up. While there is the benefit of quickly climbing up the ladder in one law firm and building up experience working within a particular team or role, staying put for too long can be as damaging to your career prospects in the long run, as it keeps you out of the loop on what opportunities are ripe for you to expand your skills and experience and consequently stunt your growth.

When deciding if a counteroffer is worth accepting, ask yourself if it keeps you on course to achieving your short and long-term career goals. Compared to the job you presently have lined up, does your existing role get you closer to meeting those key milestones any faster?

Remember that a higher salary won’t bridge the gap that an unrewarding role leaves. Yes, the money will certainly be a welcome incentive but that will quickly become irrelevant if your existing role isn’t pushing you in the right direction. It’s important that you keep your end goal in mind when considering a counteroffer and avoid any ill judgement based on the promise of monetary value.

4. With Great Investment Comes Great Scrutiny

Given the gravity of the skills shortage prevalent in the hiring market today, keeping a hold of top talent has become a lot more of an urgent imperative for businesses across the industry. As firms increasingly opt for desperate measures to retain their key personnel, it has become commonplace to see employers rush to offer a more handsome remuneration package to save themselves the stress of scouring the market for an adequate replacement.

While this is good news for candidates currently without a role, it is a double edged sword for anyone considering the prospect of a counteroffer. This flexibility towards a salary/benefits increase can and often does mean employers  become increasingly wary of how much you warrant the extra investment down the line and can lead to them actively looking for tangible evidence you’re worth it right away.

Having this extra scrutiny placed on your performance, conduct and attitude – down to the smallest of things – can be a stressful experience, even if you are conscious you are well-deserving of the extra benefits you received.

In some cases, employees who accept counteroffers find themselves under pressure to perform like a new hire all over again, trying to prove they deserve their new salary and responsibilities. In other cases, you may find that some of these responsibilities aren’t ones you asked for or are fit to handle, and that’s because your employer simply wants to ensure they’re getting their “return on investment” from you.

5. Risk of Regret

Job changes can be stressful and worrisome, but they can also present incredible opportunities to tap into your potential as a legal professional and build a stellar career for yourself. If you’ve been offered a job at another firm, and you’ve said “yes”, then chances are there’s clearly something about the new role that appealed to you.

Maybe you loved the level of flexibility it offered and don’t have an opportunity to get that kind of work life balance at your current firm. Perhaps you were interested in branching out into a slightly different aspect of your practice area and won’t get the chance to explore that in your current role. Bear in mind that any unfulfilled desire will always be there in the form of regret if you do nothing to change your circumstances when opportunity knocks at the door.

Although you’ll have the comfort of not having to get accustomed to a new working environment or team, you’ll also be left constantly wondering what would have happened if you had followed through and moved into that new role.

Counteroffer Strategies 101

It’s always worth preparing for a counteroffer in advance before approaching your manager with your resignation letter. Think about how best to pass across your rejection to their offer politely and firmly, and whether there are still any important factors at play that warrant you seriously considering passing up the chance to make a new move.

By far the best way to add that extra layer security to your preparation is to work alongside a specialist legal recruiter throughout a process. They possess a great deal of knowledge about the job application process, from both a hiring and employee perspective and are best placed to help alleviate any doubts you might have about your current options – counteroffer or not.

If you find yourself at a critical junction in your legal career with no clear pointers on how best to advance, then you’re in luck. At Clayton Legal we make it our goal to simplify the job-hunting process as much as possible for legal candidates, whatever the complications involved may be, and would love to give you the helping hand you need in navigating any uncertainties about the next move for your career. Give our team a call today on 01772 259 121 or contact us here.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers. 

Whether you are building your legal team or are looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here. 

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10 Smart Questions to Ask In Your Legal Interview

  • November 13, 2023

So, you’ve reached the first major milestone in your journey to finding a new legal role: being invited successfully for an interview.

Whilst there is already much to celebrate, arguably the hard work starts now and many legal recruiters will tell you it all boils down to one thing – preparation (and plenty of it).

There is already much written on the specifics of what kind of preparation you should consider. From researching a firm’s digital footprint (including PR, reviews, news articles and social media channels) to connecting with your interviewers on LinkedIn.

But there is also one element of an interview that is essential in not only demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm for the role and firm, but also in ensuring you are sense-checking job suitability against your own objectives while you’re in the room.

All interviews, whether they are conducted over the phone, over video/virtually, or face to face, will present the opportunity for you as the candidate to ask questions.

Pass up this opportunity at your peril.

We know from our own independent research that the top reasons legal professionals choose to move roles are:

  1. Progression
  2. Salary Increase
  3. Redundancy
  4. Relocation
  5. Work/life balance

It certainly makes sense therefore to pose your interviewer relevant questions that align with the above and use the interview as an opportunity to conduct your own due diligence of sorts.

Here are 10 smart questions to consider:

1. What are the opportunities for progression with the firm?

The question itself is multi-faceted in that by asking it, you are already demonstrating you are ambitious and career-minded and are already in it for the long run. It is also an essential question to pose if you have decided to leave your current role due to a lack of progression opportunities.

As your role’s career path and available opportunities are critical for your professional growth, it is in your best interest to find out where your future lies with the firm in question. One way to circumnavigate this topic if you’re concerned about being too direct is to ask instead ‘Where have successful employees in this role moved on to?’ or ‘How are promotions handled?’

You can also ask if there is specific career-path documentation although don’t be put off if this doesn’t exist in smaller firms. Whilst some roles may not necessarily have an apparent move ‘up’, you may still want to check that there are opportunities to train and upskill more generally.

2. How will my performance be evaluated?

Whilst we know that salary and remuneration are often a catalyst for moving roles, it is generally a no-no to ask about specifics in your interview – at least initially. That is of course, unless your interviewer brings the topic up themselves.

However, one area of questioning to consider instead which is likely to touch on the subject is around performance.

The question in itself demonstrates that you are eager to make a positive contribution to the firm and are once again thinking about your long-term career in understanding how job performance is evaluated.

You may want to probe a little further around expectations in the first 90 days, or the formal review process but should seek to understand any specific metrics or KPIs that you will be measured against.

Whilst this line of questioning doesn’t necessarily touch upon base salary on offer with the role, it is likely any sort of performance-related incentives or bonus will be communicated at this juncture.

3. What are the firm’s plans for growth and development in the next 5 years?

Asking questions about the firm’s growth trajectory will certainly impress during an interview. It shows that you are curious about the wider company and its success, rather than a sole focus on your role and the specifics that come with that.

However, the response you get from your interviewer will also give you further insight into progression plans (and where you may fit in with these in the future) as well a general idea of job security – a must if you have concerns in this area or perhaps find yourself on the job market due to a recent redundancy.

You shouldn’t however ask questions on this topic that you could typically find online – on the law firm’s own website for example. This may include things like their mission statement, their vision or press releases. This will only demonstrate that you haven’t done your homework.

Instead do an ‘environmental scan’ (a term used by Dr. Lenaghan at the Hofstra University School of Business) to understand what is happening in your specific practice area, region, or the legal sector more generally. The questions you ask then could focus on the broader implications of these on your role and the firm you are interviewing with.

4. How has the firm changed since you joined?

Questions that focus on the individual(s) who are interviewing you are a great way to build rapport and that initial relationship – imperative if they will be your direct line manager or supervisor if you are successful in getting the job.

However, this line of questioning is more so about ascertaining what the culture is like at the firm in question.

It allows you to sense-check that your own values align with the firm in question and consider your general compatibility and ‘fit’ on a deeper level than just being competent and able to do the job.

Making the transition from interviewee to interviewer isn’t always easy, but it will certainly help to uncover how those individuals view the office environment and helps to build a certain camaraderie from such a personal response.

5. What are the opportunities for collaboration within this particular role?

Asking questions that focus on your relationship with existing members of the firm is great in showing your interviewer that you are a team player that can think outside of the singular job description in front of them.

Questions that probe more generally around the specifics of the position are also worthwhile in understanding more about team dynamics, the structure of the law firm in question, and scope for growth and personal development.

If the role in question is hybrid or remote, this question also demonstrates that you are looking to cement working relationships regardless of where or how you physically work for the firm. This is important as the general sentiment around hybrid working and an apparent ‘gap’ between business leaders and employee preferences continues to widen, according to an article from the World Economic Forum released last year

The article focuses on research conducted by Ipsos in which over half a million survey responses from 95 countries were analysed revealing attitudes to hybrid working. Interestingly, over 25% said that working remotely improved communication and collaboration (and actually led to decisions being made swifter as a result).

Regardless of your anticipated working pattern, however, this question will also give you an insight into your direct team, individuals you will be working alongside, and other projects or steering groups you could be a part of.

6. What does a typical day look like in this role?

If you are looking to ascertain or enquire about work-life balance at the law firm in question, then you need to tread carefully. You don’t want to jump straight in by asking questions around working patterns, flexitime, expectations around working outside of contracted hours or holiday allowance (although all of these may certainly be on your mind when considering a new role).

Whilst there will be the opportunity to gain answers to some of these as part of the general hiring process (indeed your Recruitment Consultant can act as a liaison here) in the interview itself, you can certainly assess the work-life balance without projecting a negative impression – even if that means reading between the lines in places.

You might ask about a minimum billable hour requirement or ask the interviewer about their own work schedule over a typical week/month/quarter as well as ascertain if there are seasonal peaks (relevant to certain practice areas over others).

There is also a lot to be gained by assessing more generally the interview process itself; was it easy to get the interview arranged or has it been chaotic? Do the other team members in the office (or on-screen) seem relaxed and happy, or distracted and frenetic?

If you are looking for a new opportunity that offers a more suitable work-life balance, then questions that probe around this topic are essential, yet should be handled with care in order to still leave with a good impression and not focused solely on the ‘what is in it for me’ sentiment. A fine balance to strike.

7. How much contact with clients can I expect to have on a daily basis if I’m successful?

As a bit of a spin-off from the previous question, this one helps to further build a clearer picture of what to expect on a more practical level in a typical day on the job. As your skillset will be better suited to some aspects of the profession than others, this question provides the opportunity to gauge how much of the role actually aligns with your key strengths and whether it will ultimately be a good fit for you skill-wise.

If for example, you find that the role involves a lot more of the behind-the-scenes aspects of client management, such as document writing and paperwork than actual face-to-face interactions with clients, it may be best to reconsider the options you’ve got on the table with your recruitment consultant to find out where your preferred work style can be better accommodated.

8. Can you describe a typical client the firm represents?

This question serves a dual purpose here, for your sense-check of each party’s suitability. While you will likely be aware of the firm’s values and culture by this point from your own preliminary research about the business, learning what kind of clients the firm usually represents can give you an inside look at exactly how well this lines up with what is professed. It can also prove useful in determining whether you are likely to handle cases that resonate with any ethical considerations you might have, particularly if you’re being interviewed by a larger firm, as you would likely be working with a more diverse clientele. However, if you’re being interviewed by a smaller firm, it can be quite beneficial to gain pointers on which strategies and approaches can be best used to build rapport with clients, considering the type of client you will be working with will be more frequent.

9. How is workload distributed?

Getting a general idea of the distribution of tasks among team members allows you to gauge the level of collaboration, potential stressors, and potential work-life balance within the firm. This question helps to assess if there is a fair allocation of responsibilities, whether there are support systems in place, and how teams collaborate to meet deadlines. Moreover, it signals to the interviewer that the candidate is mindful of the practical aspects of the work environment and is interested in ensuring they can maintain a sustainable level of productivity.

10. What are the next steps in this process?

Understanding the general timeline and steps that follow the interview is important and shows the interviewer that you are still engaged and wanting to progress (if of course, you decide that you do at this juncture).

Rather than focus however on the ‘yes/no’ decision, or when to expect an invitation for the second/third interview, asking about the onboarding process or what the first few months will look like demonstrates further that you can envisage yourself in the position, and are enthusiastic about starting on that journey.

If nothing else, this line of questioning and the responses you get may indicate the interviewers’ own thoughts on you as a potential candidate through their body language and general fervour when they run through what those next steps look like.

In Conclusion

Asking strategic questions in your interview is always recommended and will undoubtedly impact the chance of you moving on to the next stage in the process.

In the same way that you will spend time researching the firm in question, as well as perfecting answers to the most commonly asked questions, preparing for the questions you wish to ask is always worthwhile.

At the very least, it demonstrates that you are engaged in the process and focused on a long-term career with the firm. Yet it is also the chance to cross-check against your own objectives and goals when looking for your next employer.

If you are leaving your current role due to a lack of progression – ask about those opportunities at this firm. If the catalyst to move is around culture fit, probe a little around that.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t focus too much on the specifics of the role regarding salary and benefits but do use this part of the interview to ask about the elements of the role you’re not sure about, any concerns, or to clarify a point that had been discussed earlier in the interview.

At Clayton Legal, our regional recruitment specialists help to prepare candidates for interview as standard as part of the service we offer. We already have valued working relationships with the many law firms we work with and, as such, can help to get a head start on some of the topics raised here around culture, structure, and remuneration.

If you are considering a move at the moment, our team can help to understand current opportunities in your region and practice area specialism, as well as general market conditions and the competitive landscape.

Get in touch today for a confidential, impartial chat and we’ll help you take that all-important first step in the next stage of your career.

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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The Ethical Steps to Finding A New Legal Role While You’re Still Employed

  • November 4, 2023

If you’re ready to start a new legal role this year, you’re not alone.

Despite the current economic climate and still choppy waters as we look ahead to 2024, it is nevertheless a great time to consider the next steps in your career – especially as law firms across the country continue their search for top talent in line with their own growth trajectories.

Multi-skilled legal professionals are in high demand across a number of practice areas and there are some fantastic opportunities for individuals at all levels who will no doubt be mindful of not only salary and benefits, but also assessing that all-important ‘fit’ on a number of levels including culture, shared values, green credentials, and genuine career development opportunities.

Current employment rates in the UK mean that most individuals will already be employed when considering a new role which can present several challenges in the job-searching process, particularly with regards to time and prudence in the manner of approach. Searching for a role when you’re currently employed elsewhere can be a tricky process, as the last thing you want to do is burn any bridges with your existing employer.

But there are several steps to take to kick-start the process:

Step 1: Prioritise Discretion

Discretion is key when you’re searching for a new role while you’re still employed. Although it might be tempting to speak to colleagues about your plans; avoid doing so at all costs.

Being discrete about your job search doesn’t just mean keeping quiet at work. It’s important to think about how you’re interacting online too.

Avoid mentioning your job search on social media or setting your LinkedIn status to “open to work”. It’s best to avoid posting your CV/Resume on job boards too.

This might seem like stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often the above mistakes are made. Candidates are often left frustrated and unsettled when having to stay silent about their job search, as there is no one to share their progress or struggles with. But fighting that urge to spill the beans is crucial, as there is often no such thing as telling ‘one co-worker’ when a potential leaver is involved. You might as well be announcing it to the whole office! 

Not only can being overly vocal about your job search cause friction with your current employer, but it might tell future employers you’re not respectful of your role or the Firm you work for and represent. So, avoid putting yourself in a bad light with both parties – the last thing you want to do is sabotage your job search efforts through a lack of self-control. 

The points above however are largely null and void if you are in a position where redundancy is on the cards.

Step 2: Update Your CV & Cover Letter

If you’re going to be looking for a new legal job in the next 6 months, it’s important to ensure you have the right resources in hand. This could mean you take some extra time to update your CV and cover letter, focusing on adding your most recent achievements into the mix and learning what works in today’s job market when writing a CV or cover letter.

Speaking to a specialist legal recruiter will pay dividends here as not only will they be able to give you the inside track on the market and hiring activity, but they can also advise on the tangible elements of looking for a new role and how to craft a killer CV that will get you noticed.

It’s worth noting that your CV is only one of a number of formal documents you may need to present to a potential employer or recruitment consultant. Depending on your current role or the one(s) you are applying for, you may also need reference documentation, business portfolios, or presentations. So make sure to get in order sooner rather than later.

Step 3: Plan For Interviews Accordingly

If you successfully apply for a new role and receive an offer for an interview, you need to be mindful of how you approach this next step and its impact on your current role and place of work.

You could request an interview outside of office hours or over a lunchtime if the hiring manager or interviewee can accommodate. With the prolific rise in video interviewing (at least for stage one) this is more achievable than it once was.

Scheduling your interviews around your existing work hours will also ensure you can stay focused and productive when you’re on the job, to maintain a strong relationship with your existing employer. However, if you do need to book off annual leave in order to attend interviews, ensure you always abide by the rules set in place by your current employer regarding the notice required.

When you contact the hiring manager for the job you want to apply for, let them know you need to keep the process discrete. Ask them to only contact you on your personal phone and email (don’t use any business contact details). It might also be worth letting them know when you’re likely to be at work, so you can avoid any overlap.

If you have instructed a legal recruitment specialist to help with your job search, this discretion should come as standard – but it’s still worth communicating the best times (and methods) to get in touch with you about progress and next steps as you move through the process.

Step 4: Job Hunt on Your Own Time (and Devices)

If you want to maintain a good professional reputation in the legal space, it’s important to demonstrate commitment to every role you take. Searching for a job when you’re in the office, on company time, shows disrespect, and could scare off future employers.

Avoid the temptation to review new job postings when you’re in the office, or respond to messages from potential employers. If something needs to be addressed quickly, set time aside in your lunch hour, and get outside of the office so you can maintain your discretion.

Always make job-related calls away from the office, particularly if you’re scheduling an interview or need to ask questions about a new role and stay off company equipment. Remember, many businesses have access to tracking software to check which sites are being visited.

Step 5: Continue to Give Your All in Your Current Job

Commitment to your current role is crucial, and even if you’re tired of your current role, or unhappy in your position, it’s important to act professionally. Avoid any notable drop in performance and maintain your work ethic throughout this period. Not only will this reduce suspicion but will also leave your employer with a favourable impression of you long after you’ve left the firm.

Don’t allow yourself to “check out” and ‘coast’ performance-wise because you’re planning on going somewhere else. Preserve your reputation and prove yourself to be a fantastic employee. This will be particularly important if your future employers decide to contact your previous manager at a later date regarding a reference.

Find Your New Role the Right Way

Searching for a new legal role while you’re still employed can be a complex process. In any situation, finding the right job can take significant time and effort. However, the process becomes a lot more challenging when you’re trying to balance your existing employment with your career plans.

If you need help discretely searching for a new position, utilising the services of a recruitment agency will undoubtedly give you a head start as well as a competitive advantage.

Not only can they give you an assessment of the current job market for the roles you are looking for, but they will ensure that you are fully informed and in-the-know about the culture, vision, and values of the firms that you have in mind. And, when the time comes, can furnish you with a wealth of insight and advice on how to ace your interviews and provide further guidance to ensure you resign gracefully – ensuring you leave on a positive note, and your professional reputation within the legal community follows you as you move on.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. And, if you are currently employed, you can be assured of complete confidentiality, professionalism, and honesty throughout the process – as standard.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or get in touch with us here

 

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Take The Stress Out Of Your Legal Job Search: Use A Specialist Recruiter

  • November 1, 2023

The amount of stress that searching for the right role to advance one’s career can cause, is no secret to any legal professional. Time constraints, mounting case workloads and the resulting pressure to juggle work and personal commitments are just some of the struggles candidates often have to deal with. And that’s not even mentioning the rejection emails or calls jobseekers will inevitably have to face as part of the process, before beginning to make headway in their job search.

While a little stress can be useful for certain situations, high stress levels can quickly wear us down and drain our mental resources, robbing us of the energy, motivation and headspace we need to tackle daily challenges head-on. As many as 79% of workers around the UK have cited the source of their stress to be work-related this year, with 74% saying it has reached a level that has made them unable to cope.

Considering how demanding job-searching can be, having to deal with unbearable levels of stress is not exactly helpful when needing to be on your A-game to network effectively and make the best possible impression on prospective employers.

This is where the option of enlisting the help of a specialist recruiter would be a game-changer for legal candidates. Not only does it save you an inordinate amount of time, but it spares you the hassle you would otherwise have to contend with if you were job-hunting alone.

Here are just some of the many benefits you can gain from working with one:

A Time-Efficient Job Search

Many will be well aware of how daunting and time-consuming a job search can be, especially if you’re already employed and are trying to find a better role elsewhere. Being one of your most important resources as a legal professional, you stand to benefit greatly from utilising the services of a specialist recruiter as it significantly cuts down the time spent on scouring job boards and websites. Due to the vast network, connections and knowledge they possess of the industry, they are in the best position to find you a role that ticks all your boxes. As a result, what might have taken you months can easily be achieved in weeks or even days.

In some cases, consultants will already know in advance if a particular firm is actively on the hiring market before a vacancy is even posted. Leading firms often utilise agencies, because it’s a more efficient way for them to hire the right person. Rather than searching for opportunities that may not be visible online, you could save a considerable amount of time by working with an expert.

Valuable Market Insight & Access to Connections

While job boards can be a useful resource for identifying opportunities, firms will often opt to use their network and their recruitment company’s network to seek the right people for most fee-earner/niche roles, rather than advertising them online. The reason for this is that candidates who are right for these particular roles are often in demand and are either not on the market or are not actively seeking new employment opportunities. With a skills-short market currently making the fight for top legal talent more intense than ever, prospective employers are far more likely to rely on the help of a specialist legal recruiter to source the right candidate for their firm.

With a recruiter on-hand, you gain instant access to the information they hold about all relevant roles in the industry and current trends in the market. A good specialist recruiter will utilise the insight their network provides them to find the right fit for you, culture and skills-wise. By acting as a representative for both you and the firm, a specialist recruiter will facilitate the communication process, and ensure that the firm you are interested in is a good cultural fit for you.

Expert Guidance to Boost Interview Performance

Certainly, the most stressful part of searching for any new job is the dreaded interview stage which can be particularly daunting if it has been a while since your last interview. That’s where a specialist recruiter earns their keep, as they exist to make all parts of the transition from your current role to a new one as stress-free as possible. They are therefore always on-hand to help you prepare for the big day and offer career-specific guidance on how to approach your interview preparation accordingly.

As they are well-informed of the current hiring trends and practices adopted by employers, it is undoubtedly in your best interest to take onboard any advice they give regarding common and tricky interview questions, body language and even things like dress code and travel logistics.

They Will Negotiate the Best Deal for You

Getting an offer of employment for a role that you’ve long been in search for is half the battle; the other half is of course getting what you want (what you feel you’re worth) in terms of remuneration. Salary negotiation can often be a tricky and awkward conversation with a future employer, especially at such a sensitive stage of your relationship, and so it is best to let a legal recruiter handle such discourse. In addition to ensuring that you get the best possible deal when it comes to pay and benefits, they will also iron out other important parts of the deal such as notice periods, start dates and career development opportunities available to you in your new role.

Personalised Support – Your Success is Their Success

One of the biggest advantages of job-hunting with a specialist recruiter is the vested interest and understanding they will have of your particular needs on both a personal and professional level. What you’re looking for in an employer in terms of culture, values flexibility, role and ‘fit’ can be difficult to find and even articulate at times, especially as these are not always reflected in the job descriptions. This means candidates are often left to gauge where the best fit is for their career. Whereas by working with a legal recruiter they will not only have a firm grasp of what your priorities are but will also ensure they – and you – are well-sold to the firm in question.

It is therefore in their own best interest to be selective on your behalf with regard to vacancies; by choosing the most suitable roles for their candidates to maximize success, which will not only reduce the competition candidates face for each role, but also improve their chances of getting hired. Their success lies in their ability to see to it that you’re happy in your desired role as it means they are successful with their client – a win-win for everyone.

If you would like to speak to us confidentially about market conditions, opportunities in your practice area or geographical region, or if you are actively looking for a role and would like us to help give you that competitive edge, we would love to speak to you. Contact us here or call the office on 01772 259121 for more information on how our exceptional recruitment experience can help your career aspirations.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are looking for a new legal position or just want to speak to a recruitment expert about the current market, call our team on 01772 259121 or click here to submit your CV.

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