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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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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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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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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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Is It Really Possible to Retrain From One Branch Of Law To Another?

  • September 15, 2023

When the time has come to move on from your role in the legal profession, in most cases, individuals are looking for something ‘similar’ when they embark on the job search. Some may look for a higher position within a different firm; others a lateral move where their general roles and responsibilities are similar – but more often than not, this tends to be within the same defined practice area.

But if you do find yourself contemplating a transition from one legal area to another altogether – it might be hard to know where to start looking for general advice on what is possible, and the steps you might need to take to get your foot in the door.

Step 1: Assess If You Might Be Jumping The Gun

The first (and certainly the most important) thing to consider before anything else is whether you are 100% set on moving practice areas in the first place.

In other words, evaluate the ‘Why’ behind your decision to retrain.

Thoroughly examining your reasons for wanting to make a change can greatly help to bring clarity in your decision-making and avoid any potential tunnel-visioning. 

Start by asking yourself if you are happy in your current practice area – or whether it is the environment, culture, or current firm that you’re looking to change instead. Indeed, it might not be what you are practising but where that is the problem here.

Or – are the reasons for moving on more personal? If you find yourself to be constantly exhausted, irritable and apathetic towards your work and personal life of late, you are likely to be experiencing burnout. Whilst this needs addressing – is it a sign that the practice area itself is no longer a good fit for you? Or more so a sign that a similar role elsewhere may address your concerns?

If you’ve run through all of these scenarios is assessing whether the time is right to move on, and you’re still set on a categorical change, there are certain things to consider as you embark on your jobsearch.

Step 2: Conduct An Honest Self-Assessment

Before embarking on your journey to retrain in a new area of law, it’s essential to perform a thorough self-assessment. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What area of law am I currently practicing, and again, why exactly do I want to move away from this area?
  • What new area of law interests me, and what is my motivation for making this change?
  • What are my long-term career goals, and how will this transition align with them?
  • Do I have the necessary skills, background, and aptitude for the new area of law?

Understanding your motivations and assessing your strengths and weaknesses will help you make an informed decision about your career transition.

Step 3: Do Your Research

To transition successfully, you’ll need to immerse yourself in the new area of law. Begin by conducting extensive research. Read books, articles, and legal publications related to your chosen field. Attend seminars, workshops, and conferences to gain a better understanding of current trends, issues, and developments in that area.

Networking is equally important. Connect with lawyers, professionals, and organisations in the new field. Join relevant online forums, LinkedIn groups, and local bar associations. Building a network of contacts can provide valuable insights, mentorship, and of course – potential job opportunities in the future.

If you are already working for a multi-disciplinary law firm, you may already have a head start here as there will likely be colleagues you can approach for informal (and formal) discussions about their own role. Depending on the firm, you may be able to talk candidly in your performance reviews or 121 about an internal move – even on a temporary basis to see if it is a good fit for both parties.

Step 4: Embrace The (Sometimes Inevitable) Additional Education And Training

Depending on the new area of law you’re transitioning into, you may need additional education and training which can be a hard pill to swallow after you’ve spent a number of years qualifying as a practicing lawyer or legal professional in the first place.

You may however need to consider the following options:

Postgraduate Courses: Enroll in a relevant postgraduate course, such as a Master’s degree in your chosen field of law. Many universities in the UK offer specialised LLM programmes, and The University Of Law has a multitude of postgraduate courses that may fit the bill).

Continuous Learning: Attend short courses, webinars, and workshops to stay updated with the latest developments and enhance your knowledge in the new area.

In addition to attending events and webinars, see what online or evening courses you might be able to take to work toward a qualification in your area of interest. Consider what other training you can do, from self-study to gaining certificates which might add credibility to your CV – although note, that some of this will likely come at a cost.

Step 5: Consider Other Options To Boost Your Experience

Paid-for training and qualifications may get you on the right track when looking to retrain, but there are also other elements you may wish to consider too:

  • Volunteering: Offer your services pro bono or as a volunteer to gain practical experience and build your portfolio. Many firms or legal organisations welcome volunteers and it’s commendable to have this experience on your CV when it comes to looking for a role in your chosen practice area
  • Internships and Work Placements: Seek internships or work placements in law firms or legal departments specialising in your chosen area. This hands-on experience will give you a deeper understanding of the day-to-day work involved. Again, if this is possible at your current firm, put the wheels in motion to shadow a colleague.

Step 6: Get Your Marketing Collateral In Order

Simply put – as a jobseeker, this relates to your CV and Cover Letter

When applying for positions in your new field, tailor your CV and cover letter to highlight relevant skills, experiences, and transferrable qualities. Emphasise your commitment to the new area of law and your dedication to continuous learning.

Whilst your experience to date is likely in your current practice area, highlighting transferrable skills here is absolutely key.

Could you focus on the following for example?

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Case management
  • Results-driven
  • Business acumen

That being said, be careful not to fall into the trap of peppering your CV or letter with meaningless cliches or jobseeker ‘jargon’!

Step 7: Seek Guidance From The Get-Go

You may wish to consider seeking guidance from a career counsellor or a mentor who has experience in the field you’re transitioning into if your network gives you access to these. They will undoubtedly provide valuable insights, advice, and support throughout your retraining journey.

In addition to implementing the above strategies, working closely with a specialist legal recruitment agency like Clayton Legal, who understands your situation and your goals, can significantly improve your chances of success. If you take the time to clearly explain your current situation and your goals, they will have the know-how and the connections to guide you toward landing a role in your new specialism and can help to signpost you to other resources to help you on your way,

In Conclusion

In summary, while transitioning from one area of law to another in the UK is certainly possible, it requires careful planning, determination, and a willingness to learn and adapt. By focusing on transferable skills, acquiring additional education or training, networking, gaining practical experience, and persistently pursuing your goals, you can successfully make the switch to a different legal specialisation.

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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How to Get on the Radar of a Legal Recruiter

  • September 15, 2023

Has the time come for you to make a new move in your legal career? 

While it’s advisable to give the idea of leaving your current job some thought before coming to a decision – there are certainly red flags that when present in your work life, signal an immediate need for a fresh start in pastures new.

These could include signs of burnout, difficulty in maintaining the same level of interest and engagement you once had in your job, or frustration borne of the lack of opportunities afforded to you to grow and develop as a legal professional.

If you find yourself grappling with any of the above, you might have already begun your job search either online or by asking peers, and have come up short. That is where you can benefit greatly from the support of a specialist legal recruiter, and in such cases, we highly recommend giving us a call – however, bear in mind that you are not the only candidate that will have contacted a legal recruiter like us.  

It’s not unusual at all for consultants to receive many candidates for each job vacancy, and their reputation (as well as yours) is on the line with each placement recommendation they make. So how do you sell your value to legal recruiters and give them a reason to recommend you to employers looking for nothing but the best legal talent available? 

In short… how can you ensure that they become your advocate and help to ‘sell’ your worth and fit for the role(s) in question?

Getting The Basics Down

Here at Clayton Legal, we have been receiving candidate CVs for over 25 years, and we can (still) say with confidence that this document remains an essential part of how legal candidates get their profile noticed and progressed to the interview stage. 

Whether you’re in the early stages or more into the twilight years of your career, your CV is a document that both employers and legal recruiters will expect to be crafted and polished to perfection. A standout CV creates a compelling case for you to be considered as the ideal candidate not only by backing up your (relevant) list of skills and experience with tangible results but also by doing so without being peppered with unnecessary and overused CV cliches and with a clear structure and format to keep it easily digestible. If CV writing is proving to be a challenge for you, check out our blog here on how to craft a CV that catches the eye of employers. If you can write one capable of grabbing their attention, you can be sure it’ll grab ours. 

All of which bodes well for you, the candidate. So how do you get on the radar of a great legal recruiter and maximise your chances of securing that dream job? 

Conduct An Online Health Check

You will likely be well aware by now of the importance of having an online presence that underscores your suitability to prospective employers, but if you haven’t yet done due diligence in this particular area, then now is the time to take it seriously.

It is well known by hiring experts that a first impression of a candidate usually comes before the interview, and with social media screening becoming increasingly popular as a prerequisite amongst employers to progress candidates’ applications to the interview stage, giving your digital footprint a thorough examination (especially if you have a strong online presence) should be a must if you want to appear as the top candidate for selection by a legal recruiter. 

This is especially pertinent when it comes to LinkedIn, as it is the go-to social media platform for prospective employers, and consequently legal recruiters for potential candidates. It’s therefore vital to make the most of the opportunities your LinkedIn profile provides to help you in legal career progression and opportunity. Tidy up your profile, ensuring that keywords & key phrases relevant to roles you might be on the lookout for are present in your skills experience section and make sure your interaction on the platform – both past and present – reflect the professional image your profile is trying to portray. Get rid of anything you don’t want potential employers or any legal recruiter to see, (pictures, bio, comments).

We go into further detail on how to create a LinkedIn profile that stands out to employers here. 

Both employers and legal recruiters will be looking for certain skills that highlight how well a candidate meets the criteria of the role in question. While you will naturally have ones acquired from your qualifications present on your CV and LinkedIn profile, you should also be paying equal attention to transferable skills, as they are not only always applied across roles, but they also highlight how you work in terms of communication, integrity and experience. If you have gained four, six or eight years PQE since you were last on the job market, you will have extended your skillset considerably and so now is an appropriate time to review them and ensure you use them to sell yourself as much as possible. Make sure to back up each skill mentioned with an example of how you demonstrated it. 

Are You Spotlighting Your Skillset?

Both employers and legal recruiters will be looking for certain skills that highlight how well a candidate meets the criteria of the role in question. While you will naturally have ones acquired from your qualifications present on your CV and LinkedIn profile, you should also be paying equal attention to transferable skills, as they are not only always applied across roles, but they also highlight how you work in terms of communication, integrity and experience. If you have gained four, six or eight years PQE since you were last on the job market, you will have extended your skillset considerably and so now is an appropriate time to review them and ensure you use them to sell yourself as much as possible. Make sure to back up each skill mentioned with an example of how you demonstrated it. 

Could you talk about any of the following perhaps?

Teamwork – Show you can work effectively within a team towards mutual goals.

Time Management – Demonstrate how you prioritise and manage your workload (and potentially that of others). Include examples of taking responsibility for your own work, balancing tasks and hitting deadlines.

Leadership – Indicate initiative and motivation. Examples of how you have built rapport with clients, colleagues and influenced decisions. How have you inspired others?

Technology – Knowing how to use the latest software and technology is essential. Additional skills such as being able to troubleshoot complex problems, or understand data security, will provide an added benefit.

Adaptability – Nothing stays the same forever. Everyone has to adapt, adjust and change. Showing you are versatile and agile indicates a willingness to move forward and embrace change. This sort of positivity is crucial to progress your legal career.

Problem-Solving – Offering solution-orientated answers indicates your ability to use emotional intelligence, manage risk and make decisions.

Communication – As well as being able to communicate your own ideas to others verbally or on paper, being able to listen is a great skill, and developing listening skills can help alleviate potential misunderstandings and costly mistakes.

Does The Shoe Fit?

It might sound obvious, but working with a legal recruiter is a two-way street and meant to benefit both parties, meaning that decision of which recruiter to work with is just as vital as their decision to collaborate with you. 

Therefore, before making the decision to partner with a particular recruiter, do your homework to ensure their values align with yours. How long have they been in business? Do they put the needs of their clients and candidates at the heart of everything they do, striving to nurture and build relationships? Are they trustworthy and transparent? Do they highlight ethical recruitment practices?

 Make sure they strive to provide the best possible fit for candidates (and clients) alongside ongoing support, pertinent information, ability to evaluate a candidate’s potential fit into the company culture, and a great retention rate for placements. Take the time to thoroughly research their credentials and check that they are respected in the recruiting world – online testimonials are a good indication of this. 

Be Proactive

Showing commitment and enthusiasm goes a long way to putting you ahead of the pack. Once you’ve chosen your recruiter, don’t sit waiting for them to contact you (even though they are likely to). Becoming proactive in building a relationship with your recruiter is a great way to get on their radar. 

Reach out to them via email, LinkedIn or telephone. Many recruiters have a page where you can upload your CV, getting you in the system quickly. 

Whatever method you use, a proactive response will enable you to engage with the recruiter, brief them on your skills, requirements and PQE experience, and allow them to quickly identify the best opportunities for you in your practice area, or discuss exploring a change of direction and what that entails for you. 

They will have also valuable tips and advice to offer you during your search. For best results, treat your communication with your recruiter rather like how they treat theirs with a candidate – check in regularly and demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to securing a new role. The more you do so, the clearer the picture they can get of where the next chapter of your legal career lies and the better their advice will be. 

Next Steps

If you’re here because you believe a move is on the cards at this stage of your career, you’ve come to the right place. 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 want to finally take the uncertainty out of your job search, give our team a call on 01772 259 121 or email us here. 

 

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The 7-Step Action Plan for Legal Jobseekers

  • August 29, 2023

Embarking on a job search can be an exciting yet daunting journey, not least for legal professionals that may be entering the job market for the first time in years. The process itself is marked by numerous crucial decisions and considerations, whether this is your first legal role after qualification, or a move well into your career.

And, whilst it may be tempting to jump into the process with both feet, it’s always worth taking a small step back, and approach the task at hand with a strategic mindset.

The critical factor here is doing the work needed to get organised and implement your ‘project new role’ plan – even if time is short.

To help kickstart the process, we have outlined an 8-step roadmap, focusing on key actions to take at each stage that can help to make it both easier and significantly enhance your prospects from the get-go.

Step 1: Consider what you want from your new role

Before beginning your job search, it’s important to sit down and have a think about what exactly you’re looking for. You might be instinctively looking for a role that is similar to your current one, or you might have had a change of heart and are looking at a role in a different practice area, or area of specialism. Regardless of what your initial preference might be, it’s important that you take some time to re-evaluate your career progress, goals, how close you are to achieving them and what steps you can take to get you there. Have your priorities changed since you last considered looking for work? If so, what are those boxes your new role should absolutely be ticking career and personal-wise? Having a clear idea of what to look for in your job search will help to make it a much more fruitful venture. 

Step 2: Enlist the help of a specialist

Once you’re set on the direction and purpose of your search, the next logical step is to decide whether to go it alone and spend time researching opportunities in the market, your region, and your practice area and apply to vacancies advertised.

The alternative is to enlist the help of a reputable legal recruitment specialist who will search the market on your behalf, and present you with (often exclusive) roles that are designed to be the absolute best ‘fit’ for you and your requirements from your next employer.

A legal specialist will be particularly helpful if you are aiming to carry out your job search with discretion while currently employed. Not only will they help you do the  above but they can also ensure you are fully informed and in the know about the culture, vision, and values of the firms that you have in mind as well as provide guidance on how best to approach the other parts of the hiring process, including interview preparation, how to handle your notice period, and leave on good terms with your current employer. 

Step 3: Get your documentation in order  

Even in a world where 91% of all employers now use social media as part of their hiring process, the CV/Resume is still one of the most important tools any candidate has.

It is the first thing most employers will look at before even thinking about inviting someone to an interview. It’s also your best chance to immediately introduce your education and experience. Used correctly, your CV can improve your chances of getting the ideal job.

Unless you are searching for your very first legal role, you will need to make some time to update any existing or old documents, adding in your most recent experience and any new skills you’ve picked up (that are relevant for the role you want of course).

When listing previous roles, don’t just describe your responsibilities. Rather use it as an opportunity to showcase results you produced, and can produce for prospective employers by detailing your achievements in the role you’re describing. 

What you want to do here is take this opportunity to convince a hiring manager you’re the right fit for the role in question, and avoid the common mistake of using your CV as a catch-all document for every potential role. If you want to write a killer CV that stands out to prospective employers, it must be relevant to them. Research the firm, look over the job description and make a note of all the important qualities and experiences they value and then, tailor your CV accordingly.  

Step 4: Include a Cover Letter 

At Clayton Legal, we’ve long been advocates of the humble cover letter to create standout for our legal candidates and provide that golden opportunity to add personality and interest in the role, over and above a CV.

Without a cover letter, your job application is just another sheet of paper, or another PDF file on the computer screen – one often lacking in personality and excitement. It is also much more likely to be skimmed over and discarded; worse, not read at all.

However, that’s not to say that any old cover letter will do. Crafting a compelling cover letter seems to be somewhat of a dying art in recent times, and whilst it has certainly evolved, it is still a worthwhile document to have in your job-seeking armoury.

Whilst we have a number of top tips when it comes to cover letter etiquette, in short, keep it short. Keep it readable. Keep it relevant to the job offer. Get someone to check it. Above all, put some serious effort into making sure it’s as good as it possibly can be, as a lack of effort will rarely open the door to an interview.

Step 5: Carry out your due diligence

If you are considering moving into a different practice area, it goes without saying that you need to ensure you do your homework. Find out as much as you can about your chosen area of specialism by thorough research and attending relevant webinars and workshops, and consider what evidence there is to show that a different practice area can actually provide what you’re looking for. Networking can prove incredibly useful to this effect. Leverage professional networks, both online and offline, to connect with individuals that possess a background & experience you could greatly benefit from, and consider joining trade associations and special interest groups to stay informed on what opportunities that switching may or may not provide you. 

If you’re moving into a different kind of role – managerial perhaps, look at a range of job profiles in detail and prepare to demonstrate your suitability and knowledge of what will be involved. Linking this back to your own CV here is key.

Step 6: Get your digital footprint in order 

If you don’t already as a legal professional, ensure that you harness the power of LinkedIn in your job search as it will not only help to expand your network but also help to build a winning personal brand with a presence compelling enough to catch the eye of employers. This is what makes your LinkedIn profile one of the most important assets in your search. As a platform that provides immense value for professional relationships, learning how to utilise it can facilitate eventual life-long connections with potential mentors and employers. 

If you already have a strong online presence (be that on LinkedIn or in a personal capacity on other platforms) you should also make some time to check your digital footprint. Are there any posts or content that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see? Consider your privacy settings in the very least and give everything a thorough review with fresh eyes (profile pictures, bios etc).

Step 7: Prepare, prepare, prepare

Landing a new role is all about confidence. The more confident you are in yourself, the better chance you have of securing a new position when you get to the all-important interview stage.

This is where preparation is a non-negotiable.

Practising and preparing for potential and/or upcoming interviews equips you with not only the skills, but also the readiness to go into the interview room and effectively communicate your suitability to employers. Begin looking at the most common questions candidates are asked in interviews and draft your answers to match what they’ll be looking for in your responses.

On that note, it is worth practising adjusting your body language and facial expressions as those can often impact the first impression you’re trying to give more than what you actually say, considering it is something hiring managers will also pay particular attention to. There are also common mistakes to avoid in your preparation too, which we delve into here 

In Conclusion

Entering the job market can be daunting – whether at the start of your career, or part-way through (when you will have been through this process before). And, even if you find yourself back here after many years of employment, don’t assume the steps to success are the same as they always were.

The market continues to evolve for jobseekers and hirers alike – be that from a tech perspective, or the general landscape impacting decisions throughout the process.

That’s where enlisting the help of a specialist recruiter will undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run as they can help to map out your plan of attack, support with your documentation, and really help to elevate your profile in front of your next employer. And, if you’re still a little step behind and just want to weigh up your options, many will be more than happy to chat through market conditions and the opportunities out there at the moment.

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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Career-Progressing Performance Reviews: A Guide

  • August 1, 2023

For career-minded legal professionals, performance reviews are an essential part of working life – helping to identify training needs, opportunities for development, ensuring output and objectives are being met, and focus on the next steps and milestones on their career path. 

Before we dive into the tactical side of performance reviews from your perspective as a legal professional, it’s important to understand what a performance review is and why it often goes hand in hand with career planning. This will give you the foundation to use your review more effectively to drive your results, and sense check continually, your progress to the next steps in your legal career.

What is a Performance Review?

A performance review is a two-way conversation between your direct manager and you about your: 

  • performance impact, 
  • results, 
  • development, 
  • and growth; 

related to the objectives you were set as part of your onboarding and review process when you joined your firm or each year at annual appraisal time. 

Depending on the size of your firm, it is often a key component of a wider performance management strategy. 

Traditionally, performance reviews have occurred once a year and have focused on evaluating past performance, although many businesses these days tend to have more regular meetings just to make sure everything is on track as you move through the year, and offer the chance for feedback, be that positive or developmental.

The reality is performance conversations can help you improve your performance when both you and your manager engage in the process.

So, let’s look at the benefits of engaging with the performance review process >>>

How Performance Reviews Can Directly Impact Your Performance

Why are performance conversations important? Because they have a significant impact on your success and that of your company too.

Discussing performance isn’t always easy. It may be tough for managers to give feedback, especially if that feedback isn’t as positive as you would like – and more than likely, even harder for you to receive it.

However, a performance review with both parties engaged in the process can make an enormous difference for all concerned.

  • It helps you review your objectives and goals – and progress against these.
  • It is an opportunity to ask for help with any challenges you face should you need it
  • It is an opportune time to get feedback on your work from your direct manager – both positive as well as constructive to help you improve and get even ‘better’ at what you do.

Knowing all the benefits a performance review can bring you as a respected legal professional in your organisation, how can you prepare?

Preparation Is Key

It is worth noting at this juncture that not every line manager you work with will be perfect, especially when it comes to conducting a performance review(this in itself is a discipline that requires training, learning and refining).

The good news is management training has improved dramatically over the last few years, and most managers are better at what they do and are open to receiving feedback from their team on their performance too.

Something to consider as you prepare; your manager is a human being. Today,we all are part of a workplace where everyone is expected to ‘achieve’more because of our available resources.

Your manager is likely to be spinning multiple plates, of which running performance reviews is just one thing on their to-do list; remember they have performance objectives to achieve from their manager in the same way you do.

Come to the review process with the thought that we are all doing our best to achieve the success we all want, and you might be surprised how your performance review proceeds.

In brief, preparation should:

1. Start With The End In Mind

Preparation and planning are the cornerstones of achieving an exceptional performance review.

The well-known leadership author Stephen Covey authored The 7Habits of Highly Effective People – first published in 1989, but still popular today and well worth a read..One of the habits he shared through his research of effective people was to decide what you want to achieve first and work back from there.

Let’s say you are a solicitor who wants to become a partner within your firm. What will you need to demonstrate consistently over the next few months and longer to establish that you are the ideal person for the role?

Achieving your performance objectives will be your first starting point.

You may be reading this report from a different period of your own review process. The key thing to remember is to make sure you know what exceeding and achieving means when it comes to the objectives you have been set.

As an employee of your current company, you will have specific performance objectives to hit and values and behaviours to demonstrate.

The challenge for many people is that they take their objectives at face value without thinking through a plan to achieve or exceed the objectives they are set.

If you aren’t sure of the detail around howto achieve something,talk to your manager, especially if you are new to the firm.

It’s the same when it comes to values and behaviours your company want to see you demonstrate.

Our values and our behaviours drive our actions which drive our results.

For example,the following behaviours might be championed and desired within your law firm >>>

  • Accountability
  • Flexibility
  • Transparency
  • Proactivity
  • Professionalism

It’s important to understand how you can demonstrate and verbalise how you demonstrate these behaviours with examples if you can. I.e. how can you show you have acted proactively as part of your role, and how can you demonstrate professionalism?

2. The Devil Is In The Data

You have put in the demanding work of planning and prioritising what you need to do to hit your objectives. The next key step is to document evidence of what you are doing and the results you are achieving.

We tend to get diligent about tracking our wins when it’s time to ask for a pay rise. Unfortunately, not everyone takes a disciplined approach to writing down their accomplishments throughout the year.

Start a list, and jot down things that you do well and are achieving as they happen.

Be specific: Did you successfully win a new client, deliver an important presentation to senior partners, offer a helping hand
when a co-worker was swamped, or get a record number of caseloads over the line?

Write it down as you go so that you don’t have to scramble to find examples the night before your review.

3. Ask For Catch-Ups In Advance

In most roles, your line manager is not with you every second of your working day, or rather, monitoring your workload every second. If you do not have regular catch-ups where you are open about how everything is going in your legal role, they will not have the detail at the level you do.

You may or may not have regular catch-ups/mini-reviews with your manager. If regular reviews are not commonplace in your company, be bold and ask for interim conversations. They don’t need to be a formal affair,though they will demonstrate your commitment to the role to your manager and to the wider business.

The beauty of interim conversations like this means that you consistently review past performance so that tweaks can be made and results are achieved. There is nothing worse than turning up to a review and discussing something you didn’t understand or were annoyed about that happened eight months earlier.

4. Be As Prepared As Your Manager

Depending on whether you have managed people yourself, a fact to be aware of is that your manager will appreciate the enthusiasm, honesty, and positivity you bring to the process.

Ask ahead of time for an agenda,the review time frames, and what will be discussed. If this is a more formal yearly review, you should expect and plan in time to prepare.

Your preparation ahead of time and the data you have collected can now be aligned to reviewing your objectives, behaviours, and future goals.

As a rule, your manager will take the lead and ask questions. Here are a few examples of questions they might use >>>

  • What results from last month/quarter/year are you most proud of?
  •  How did you achieve X, Y or Z?
  • What do you think you could improve on?
  • What will you stop, start, and continue next month?
  • Tell me more about what happened with A, B or C?
  • What roadblocks are in your way?
  • What impact has your performance had on the company?
  • How can I support you as your manager?
  • How have you demonstrated our firm’s values of X, Y, and Z?

Many managers we work with as legal recruitment specialists will share their disappointment that team members don’t answer the questions they have been set about their performance or avoid going into detail about their highlights, challenges and what has been happening for them in their role.

5. View All Feedback As A Gift

Some people will no doubt think there is irony in this phrase, yet the truth is how can we improve unless we are given both motivational and development feedback on how we perform, what we are doing well that we could do more of to get better?

Mastering the art of receiving feedback is one of the most important things you can do as a human being.

Receiving praise and recognition is fantastic, and hopefully, your review will have this as its main theme.

However, as human beings,we live in a world where mistakes happen, and it is always a good idea to own yours and share them with your manager.

Ahead of your review, here is a suggestion to make your feedback session run well—document everything you want to share >>>

  • What you are doing well and your standout achievements
  • Your challenges
  • What went wrong for which you were accountable
  • How could you improve in your role?
  • Your development and training needs
  • Ideas you have to improve your own and the firm’s results in the future

6. Ask Questions & Take Notes

Performance conversations should be two-way, so make sure you ask questions and take notes. When your manager makes suggestions on improvements you could make and what you are doing well, write them down.

When it comes to questions, there are a few commons ones that will flow naturally throughout the conversation; if they don’t, make sure you ask them at the end.

  • What do you think were my highlights?
  • What am I doing well, and where could I improve?
  • What does the future hold for me here?Are there opportunities for growth and progression?
  • What projects could I be involved with?
  • What additional training do you think I need?

You may also wish to use the meeting to talk about about compensation, benefits and work flexibility. Whilst, as the name suggests, the meeting is designed to revolve around your‘performance’ against your goals and objectives, you may also wish to ask yourself ahead of the date:

  • Am I being underpaid for my current role or could the changes in the market mean I could earn
    more? Does my performance impact this?
  • If I want to develop and grow, will my employer support these ambitions? Or, do I need to make a
    move?
  • Realistically, I can deliver the objectives of my role working from home or in a hybrid role, so will my
    company be flexible?

All good questions to ask, which takes us back to the start of the guide; decide what you want now. We are in a unique hiring market at the moment, and as a high performing legal professional, you have many options open to you,which starts with a conversation with your manager.

As an experienced legal recruiter, we ask all the candidates who come to us for career advice if they have discussed what they want with their current manager first. Performance reviews are as good a vehicle as any to have open, frank conversations about not only your performance, but also where this puts you on your career path more generally.

A recent article by LifeLabs Learning focuses on the ‘paradigm shift’ in the world of performance reviews,where the objective has moved from‘correction or reward’ to amore holistic review of progress whilst also monitoring general engagement, putting career aspirations at the centre.

Whilst they can be daunting, reviews should also be viewed as an opportunity to shine – highlighting your achievements and ways you have met or exceeded your objectives. They also give you the chance to look at the future,talk about your ambition, and those all important next steps.

And, Finally

It goes without saying that if conversations about your future career with your current employer are leaving you feeling a little underwhelmed, it may very well be the turning point to consider your options more widely.

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 recently created a simple checklist to provide you with a snapshot of whether you’re on the right track.

And, if the results have prompted you to think harder about what your current role and company are providing you with, and perhaps made you realise that now is time for a change, then get in touch with Clayton Legal today. Our experienced team can help you in deciding what step to take next to further your legal career, and back on track with your own ambitions and goals.

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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Post-Holiday Slump or Mid-Career Crisis – Recognising The Signs

  • July 25, 2023

A report at the beginning of the year highlighted that, despite the very real economic squeeze, people are spending more on holidays than ever before. And, whilst the average British holidaymaker is expected to spend an average of £2,115 on foreign breaks this summer – up 48% from an average of £1,425 last year, it’s clear that taking a well-earned break to recharge, relax, and refresh the mind is still a priority for many.

Much is written about how to disconnect from work when on holiday – not least as the pandemic is cited as kick-starting the so-called ‘grind culture’ where productivity apps like Slack and Zoom make it all the more difficult to truly switch off.

And, whilst Physicians and academics alike have rightly focused on practices that can help holidaymakers work through their stress, and focus on the impact of burnout – inevitably, this down time may in fact focus your attention on your more general career path, future goals and aspirations, and whether these are on track.

According to a study by HR analytics business, Visier, 20% of the respondents admitted that they actually quit their current role once they came back from holiday, and 44% had given it serious thought. A further 12% even used their time off to find another job.

Whilst returning from a holiday may foster a case of the ‘post holiday blues’ as you reminisce about quality time with friends and family – the question is, how do you tell the difference between a standard case of short-term sadness and a real need to refocus and reassess your legal career?

Are you dreading the return to work as your holiday comes to an end?

As you prepare to get back into the mindset of work as your holiday comes to an end, it’s common to feel drained and anxious -but this doesn’t necessarily mean you hate your job.

Holidays and travel allow us to escape the working world’s stresses and explore other passions. Returning to reality after experiencing so much freedom can be difficult.

Post-holiday blues are a normal response to leaving behind your fun-filled and carefree holiday life. The phenomenon doesn’t just happen following a holiday either; it’s also common around the festive season and after any long breaks from work. Even a fun-filled weekend doing something you love can leave you with some foreboding for the busy week ahead as a legal professional.

How to handle holiday blues

If your concerns about returning to work are based largely on the desire to stay sitting by the pool for a little longer, the chances are your post-holiday blues are just that. Temporary, short-lived, and incredibly common with around 57% of Brits say they feel down when returning to work.

The good news is, if you’re still relatively happy in your legal role, this feeling of sadness will dissipate with time.

There are always worthwhile steps to take periodically in your career to asses if you are still on the right-track – and doing so after a holiday or extended break, can certainly help to assess where things stand:

1. Setting some goals

Start establishing actionable short-term goals as part of your preparation for your return to work. This will help to keep your mind focused on positive, realistic outcomes and get you moving mentally (and potentially physically) towards them.

Look at your career plan and where you were heading before your holiday (a career checklist can prove to be a great aid here). If you were thinking of pursuing a promotion in your law firm, begin planning steps for how you can you can show your employers you are the candidate to consider. Reviewing your objectives and establishing your priorities will take your mind off any negative post-holiday feelings, give you a sense of empowerment and bring a fresh resolve that can help you dive back into your career.

Working out where you are and where you are heading in your legal career isn’t just something you’ll do when you’re fresh out of college or upon qualification either. The best industry leaders frequently refresh and update their strategies based on their changing priorities, deeper evaluations of the marketplace, and a growing understanding of their sector.

The economic and socio-political backdrop may also influence career planning, as well as other more-permanent ‘trends’ such as a seismic shift towards flexible, home, and remote working patterns that have meant people are reassessing how (and where) they work too.

Finding time (whether that’s on your holiday or when you’re back at your desk) is vital to put a stake in the ground and take stock of the real reasons why you may be feeling discontentment.

2. Adjusting your mindset

Sometimes it’s hard to snap out of your post-holiday blues when you’re constantly reminiscing about your break – especially when you come back to a busy inbox, a diary full of meetings, and case files or projects to pick back up and run with as part of a busy law firm.

A good way to flip the script is to start focusing on what you enjoy about your role. Remind yourself of the things you look forward to when you’re at work, whether connecting with colleagues or delighting clients.

And, if you were feeling overwhelmed or overworked before your time away, be mindful of your work hours and try to maintain a healthy work-life balance upon your return.

3. Preparing for your return

Where possible, a ‘buffer day’ in between your holiday ending and the next working day is a sound technique to catch up on emails, get a sense of what the week ahead is likely to entail, and to manage your diary effectively before you hit the office or turn your laptop on.

Create a to-do list and prioritise tasks based on urgency and importance. This will help you focus on what needs to be done first and prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Even creating a little time to physically unpack, rest, and mentally prepare for the return to the office can help during this transition and (hopefully) get you back on track.

Is it more than holiday blues?

Holiday blues are undoubtedly an unpleasant experience affecting even the most dedicated employees. However, they usually disappear on their own once you’re back doing work that you enjoy and get satisfaction from.

If however you find your negative feelings linger or go deeper than simply missing your holiday, simply put, there may be a more significant issue at play.

If you can’t seem to shake the holiday blues with the strategies above, ask yourself:

  • Are your concerns connected to your holiday at all – or is the unhappiness connected to the job itself?

If you’re constantly struggling with a difficult manager, feel unfulfilled in your job at any time of year, or dread the tasks you do each day, this is a sign you may need a change of scenery – professionally speaking of course.

A good way to determine whether you’re suffering from holiday blues, or struggling in the wrong position, is to look at your career plan. Are you making progress towards your targets? Can you see room for growth in your current company, and do you know how you will take the next step? If you feel trapped and unsatisfied in your current position and you’re not making any progress, you may need to look for another role. 

Wherever you are in your career journey, i’ts a good idea to periodically analyse your current position depending on where you want to be, even if that’s as you return from a break away. 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?

A career checklist can help here – helping you to remember the reasons you got into your current role in the first place,

It will focus on your attention on answering questions such as:

  • Do you fit in with your company’s culture?
  • Do you have a good working relationship with your colleagues and managers?
  • Is your remuneration and benefits package where it needs to be (and fair for your work and achievements)?

If your current role or company is not fulfilling you in the way you had hoped, or if the pace has slowed down recently, it could be a sign that you need to start making some big career decisions.

Time for a career change?

If you decide post-holiday blues aren’t the cause of your workplace issues, then you have a few options. You can consider speaking to your manager about ways to make your legal role more appealing. For instance, maybe you can change your schedule or explore the potential of hybrid and remote work.

If you can’t see a way to improve your working life, or if you are hitting the proverbial dead end when raising any issues or concerns with your current employer, seeking a new role may be the viable option to ensure your career path stays on track

The first step, of course, is to decide whether to go it alone and spend time researching opportunities in the market, your region, and your practice area and apply to vacancies advertised.

The alternative is to enlist the help of a reputable legal recruitment specialist who will search the market on your behalf, and present you with (often exclusive) roles that are designed to be the absolute best ‘fit’ for you and your requirements from your next employer.

In Conclusion

Getting the work-life balance right is key to general happiness and satisfaction both in your role as a legal professional, and as an individual. Holidays – or more specifically, time away from work plays a huge part in this for both your mental and physical health, and finding time to switch off completely from the day job will only help you be more focused upon your return.

Taking time off from work can give you the space you need to learn about yourself , your passions, your interests, and your career – however much you are adamant that the complete switch-off will be just that.

As the summer holidays take hold here in the UK, many legal professionals will no doubt experience these so-called holiday blues over the coming weeks and months. And, whilst this is completely normal and expected – recognising when this may be something more is key.

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 returning from holiday and dreading the working week ahead, or more generally need a new challenge or opportunity, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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