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Easy to Action Interviewing Strategies for Legal Hiring Managers

The interview process can be a gruelling task for all parties involved. When most hiring managers think about the complexity of interviewing, they focus on the challenges facing the person being interviewed. However, those hosting the interview also have their own hurdles to overcome too.  

From avoiding unconscious bias, avoiding ageism, and making sure you sell your candidates on the idea of working with your law firm, there are several important points to keep in mind as well as remembering all the main points covered at the end of the session.  

Here are some of the top strategies to follow as a legal professional hiring manager if you’re concerned you might not be getting the most out of your interviews. 

1. Know Your Interview Options 

The first step in ensuring you can master your interviews as a hiring manager is knowing what methods you can use to best connect with potential candidates.  

Today, the traditional face-to-face interview isn’t your only option. Video interviews have increased by 67% due to the pandemic and the rise of remote working with technology advancements being key. As hybrid employment options continue to thrive and companies look for ways to streamline the interviewing process, video conversations will likely grow to be more common in many law firms throughout the upcoming years if not already popular.  

But not forgetting, there’s also the time-old classic of picking up the phone for simple phone interviews as well to simply hear the person who could potentially be working with you. 

Each type of interview has its own challenges to consider. For instance: 

  • In-person interviews:
    You’ll need to think about where you’re going to host your interview, whether it’s a welcoming space, who will attend, and whether the candidate will present or just have a simple face to face conversation. 
  • Video interviews:
    Consider what kind of video meeting software you’ll be using, the background you’ll have in your video, and how you can present yourself as professionally as possible over a webcam. Always test the sound and camera quality beforehand and check whether all those participating are visible on screen. 
  • Phone interviews:
    Ask yourself whether you may need to record any phone interviews to go back over them later and how you can ensure you get a promising idea of what the candidate is like based on voice alone. 

2. Avoid Inappropriate Questions 

Inappropriate questions are becoming more common than you would think in legal interviews. While certain topics of conversation can feel like polite small talk at first, they often cause more problems than you’d think. For instance, asking people about what they did on the weekend can create an unconscious bias if you also have a shared hobby with them – but also at the same time, could be harmless conversation to break the ice. 

Unconscious bias could favour one candidate over another because you like certain things about their lifestyle or personality, which have nothing to do with the role or the ability to complete their tasks. 

Some other questions to avoid are: 

  • Where do you live?  
  • How did your childhood shape your professional life?  
  • If you could choose a different career, what would you choose?  
  • What is the worst trait of your previous manager? 

All the above questions could be classed as too personal, too confronting and encouraging speaking badly about others – all traits you want to avoid when interviewing someone for the first time and something you don’t need to hear to assess their capabilities for this role. 

3. Interview Styles and Formats 

There are many kinds of interviewing techniques that today’s business leaders and hiring managers can use, including competency-based or collaborative interviews, presentations, and group interactions to get a real feel for the potential candidates. 

Interviews are always best performed with two people from the hiring company, which can help avoid bias. It also gives those hiring the chance to discuss different opinions on those they are interviewing and not decide based solely from one person’s perspective and therefore giving the candidate a fair chance. 

Other methods are to consider using a first and second stage interview format before the final decision is made. In today’s environment, many first and second stage interviews can take place over Zoom or Teams so that it suits all parties involved. Carrying out interviews online also gives you more chance to interview more people, without the need for travel, time allocation and gives the candidates a better chance of being able to partake at a time that suits them and you best. 

4. Generalise Your Interview Questions 

Standardising your interview questions makes it easier to assess your candidates when you have interviewed several people for a role. It also means you’re less likely to allow unconscious biases to get in the way of your hiring decisions because you’re evaluating everyone based on the same set of guidelines, criteria, and questions. 

Create specific competency-based interview questions for the specific legal role in question, which allows you to score each potential employee based on their specific values, behaviours, and results.  

For instance, you can ask questions like; “share examples of times they’ve acted as a leader” or “shown exceptional teamwork”, and then make notes about their responses. Assigning scores to answers will also help you see who you should be shortlisting based on their answers compared to others if you are interviewing a larger number of people. 

Your interviews need to maintain a level of flexibility. It will be logical to ask follow-up questions to elicit more detail at times when needed if the candidate doesn’t elaborate themselves. 

“Tell me more about X or Y or why you decided to do B or C” are classic follow-up questions that work well to get more of an understanding of the candidates’ experiences.  

To make sure you know about a candidates’ hard skills, behavioural and soft skills there are some questions that LinkedIn Talent Solutions suggests you cover.  

  • “Say you’re negotiating a contract or administrative action or settlement in which the parties are far apart in what they want. Use a past example of this to talk me through your negotiation process.” 
  • “What would you do if you were asked to work on a case, contract, or business scenario that gave you ethical qualms? Has this ever happened to you—and what did you do?” 
  • “Tell me about a time you had to make a tough call that required you to decide between a gut feeling and the strategic decision-making of outside counsel.” 

5. Make Notes and Follow Up 

Finally, make sure you take notes as often as possible as you progress through the interviews. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of the conversation and then forget everything you needed to know about the candidate when you come back to review later.  

Always set aside some time at the end of each interview to gather your thoughts and catalogue what stood out to you most about the candidate (good and bad) before heading into another interview or meeting.  

Making notes can also help when you’re following up with your candidates by allowing you to provide a more contextual and relevant message and feedback, should they be successful or not. Showing you remember what you said (like any requirements for their starting dates or training they need) shows the potential candidate you’re invested in working with them and that you are attentive to what they were talking about during their time with you. 

Remember, if you’re struggling with your interviewing process, it’s often helpful to seek some help from a specialist recruitment company like ourselves that can help with a lot more than just finding you new candidates – we can also give you advice on how to interview more effectively, with tips on questions you might need to ask. 

About Clayton Legal 

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

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

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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Interview Preparation tips for Law Graduates

  • May 20, 2022

1. Do your research.
Lawyers are known for being good researchers. You spent countless hours in law school researching and scrutinizing information. Before every interview, know who you will be speaking with and research their background. Find them on LinkedIn, and conduct a light Google search to find any commonalities between you and your interviewer(s). Note down their accomplishments, awards, and accolades. Bringing it up during your interviews will show them you took the time to get to know who they truly are and gives them a sneak peek into your research capabilities.

On top of knowing the interviewers, walk into your interview with a deep understanding of the firm itself. After all, this is where you plan to dedicate your next several years. Having a good understanding of the firm’s founding story and partners will give you a good sense of the culture the firm builds.

Know what role in the firm you would have if you got the job. Knowing this in great detail will help you craft your narrative on where you want to take your career and how the firm closely aligns with your goals.

2. Be presentable and dress your best.
A Solicitors core job is to represent their clients, and coming to your interview polished and presentable bodes well. First impressions are powerful, and making it extremely important to you as you prepare for an interview will heighten your chances of being well received by your interviewers. The good news is law fashion has loosened up over the years.

3. Come prepared to ask questions.
What kind of lawyer would you be if you were not naturally curious and thorough? Let your curious nature shine through during your interview by coming prepared with well-thought-out and intelligent questions. Avoid questions that are related to your personal benefit. For example, don’t talk about money, vacation time, billable-hour logistics, and other related questions.

Think big picture and ask about the successes of the firm, where the firm is headed, and how you can contribute to their growth. Promote positivity in the interview and avoid any negative sentiment. If they were in the press for a controversial case, avoid bringing up uncomfortable topics that could sour moments in your interview.

4. Be personable and show enthusiasm.
Good Solicitors know how to build relationships. It starts with trust and one way to build trust is to be personable and get to know your audience. Show interest and enthusiasm for meeting your interviewers. They are taking time out of their busy days and their billable hours to meet with you.

Show respect by fully engaging in the conversation. Show up on time or early even. Being late is the kiss of death in the interview world. Be polite and courteous to support staff, such as secretaries, front desk receptionists, and other non-attorney staff. No need to come across as pretentious in the interview or ever for that matter.

5. Be genuine.
Repeat after me: Never, EVER, lie in an interview. There is no quicker way to bomb an interview than by starting to tell lies—even little white lies.

If you are invited to lunch during your interview day, don’t let your guard down. Those lunches are often strategically placed in the interview process to test how you interact in a casual setting. Be your usual genuine self, stay professional, and represent yourself just as polished over lunch as you would in an interview room. The same goes for virtual interviewing.

Sample interview questions and answers

Review these sample interview questions and answers to form your own responses:

Why do you want to practice law?

This question allows you to talk about what attracted you to the legal field. Your answer to this question can position you as the best person for the role and can provide the hiring partner with a glimpse of the knowledge and experience you can bring to the job. Employers want to hear how important this field is for you, so show your genuine interest in law when providing an answer.

Example: “I want to practice law because I’m passionate about bringing justice to clients and upholding the law of our country. I believe it’s important to be fair and unbiased, and I’d like to help someone experience that in their case. Being an attorney is more than filing paperwork with the court—it’s a chance to represent someone who needs help.”

What are your strengths as a lawyer?

Employers want to know your strengths so they can see how you could work with their current team. Since your strengths are unique, you can use your response to stand out from other candidates. Answer this question by relating your strengths to the job you’re applying for and the tasks you expect to be responsible for. Use the STAR technique to give a specific example of your strengths.

Example: “One of my biggest strengths is perseverance. I once represented a client who filed a suit against their employer for failing to pay for injuries they sustained while on the job. It was a difficult case to gather evidence since no employees claimed to witness the accident and there was no video footage. After performing some in-depth research and interviewing several employees, I was able to find out that there was a delivery driver present who corroborated my client’s story. Thankfully, we were able to settle quickly after that.”

What do you want your clients to know about you?

This question helps a hiring partner understand more about your client relations. Think about how you want a client to feel after an interaction with you in the office or courtroom. Consider what attributes you have and how you work that makes a client happy to have you represent them. Employers want to make sure that you treat clients well and represent their law firm in a positive light.

Example: “I want my clients to know that I’ll work hard in their case because they matter to me. I care a lot about their personal outcome and do my due diligence in researching their issue to offer solutions, file the appropriate paperwork and represent them in disputes. My clients should know that I am their advocate, and they can be honest with me about their situation and take comfort in the fact that I’m providing a safe space for them.”

Describe your approach in the courtroom.

How you perform in the courtroom can be the determining factor in winning your case. Answering this question is your chance to share how you interact with members of the court, present your case and represent your client. Give a detailed, step-by-step answer that shows exactly how you prepare and work in a courtroom.

Example: “Either the night before or the morning of a case, I study all of my notes so I’m fully prepared for the trial. I make sure any witnesses or evidence I need to present are confirmed. I usually take an aggressive stance during proceedings so my client gets fair representation. When the opposing side is presenting, I take thorough notes so I can counter effectively.”

Law firm interview tips

Here are some interview tips to consider so you can present yourself well to the hiring partner:

  • Familiarise yourself with recent court rulings.
  • Research the law firm.
  • Bring examples of papers you’ve written.

Research the law firm

Especially if the law firm is well established in the community, the partners want to make sure you will continue to bring good representation to them. It’s important to show that you have researched the firm and are excited to work there. You’ll also be able to better explain what makes you a good fit for the firm and why you chose it as your new place of employment.

Bring examples of papers you’ve written

A large component of working at a law firm is being able to articulate your case in a clear, concise and professional way. Hiring partners may want to see evidence of your writing, so bring some examples. This could include court documents you have prepared, an extensive legal research paper you wrote in school or a legal memo.

About Clayton Legal

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

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

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Interview Rejection: Handling Rejection From The Law Firm You Wanted To Work For

  • February 22, 2022

Rejection rarely feels good.

I am sure we can all remember that amazing boy or girl we thought we would be with forever who then unceremoniously dumped us.

Ouch!

On the upside, although being rejected for a role in a firm hurts, it’s rarely personal, unlike Mr or Miss Right, who cuttingly informed us they didn’t feel the same way we did.

Over the years, we have placed thousands of candidates, and the law of averages naturally suggests our clients have rejected many more. In today’s post, we wanted to share insights and ideas on how to bounce back, learn the lesson and move on to something even better.

Managing Your Mind

Our minds are amazing. They keep our body working like clockwork most of the time and enable us to do the most incredible things. For example, inventing technology that allows us to speak to our friends in LA or design our new fitted kitchen online with one click.

All good, although unfortunately, our brains always want to keep us safe and consequently swerve towards the negative more times than the positive, evidenced by the latest neuroscience research.

So, how does this relate to your interview rejection?

Candidates torture themselves when the hiring manager says no, often forgetting the bigger picture. Rejection is regularly blown out of proportion and viewed as a huge sign of failure.

By thinking objectively, you can use the experience to build on your strengths and address development areas, which helps you find the next role and law firm that suits you best.

Being objective, let’s start by asking for feedback to plan your next interview in an informed way.

Ask For Feedback

Always ask for feedback.

It might not be easy to hear, yet it is the best way forward if you want to make improvements.

Ideally, you will receive this from either the hiring manager or your legal recruitment consultant. If you are working with another recruitment consultant, not Clayton Legal, ask for it.

You might be surprised that there isn’t any feedback because the explanation might be as
simple as:

  • another candidate might have additional or relevant skills, or
  • worked in the role slightly longer, or
  • had gained more experience in a specific sub-sector.

All logical reasons why now wasn’t your time.

On the other hand, maybe there were gaps in your CV that you didn’t explain.

Perhaps the examples you shared were not relevant to the questions asked. Maybe interview nerves got the best of you, and your presentation floundered.

The key here is to use this useful data to hone your approach next time. With practise and focus, all of these areas can be improved.

Plan Your Future

The most common reasons for rejection are lack of technical skill, capability, experience, cultural misalignment and poor interview skills.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Technical skills and experience take application and time. It might be that additional training and self-development are required or looking at a sideways move to gain additional experience before moving upwards.

Cultural misalignment isn’t something you can always predict and in honesty, being turned down is probably a good thing. If you are very friendly, bubbly and enjoy a practical joke, being with a super analytical firm isn’t going to work long term for either of you.

Poor interview skills can be improved. These can range from being more confident, answering questions in detail about the results you have achieved for other law firms and communicating your worth.

It is not uncommon to find out that a candidate hasn’t shared some of their results or specifically how good they are at one part of the role.

Interview skills work both ways, and surprisingly your interview may be carried out by a partner that isn’t experienced in interviewing or remembered to ask you what you can bring to the role.

Always be prepared to answer questions in detail and have your top three results you are proud of that align with the job description you are working to.

Then communicate these achievements during the interview.

Knowing which areas need work is a great opportunity to create your plan, which can be in conjunction with your recruitment consultant.

Here at Clayton Legal, we work with our legal candidates confidentially, often years and months before they are ready to move.

Knowing the goals for their legal career, we can map out a logical approach and next steps. This might include suggesting a sideways move before going for a Head of Practice role or staying put for a year to gain stability and experience that specific law firms are looking for.

Finally, Look For The Gain

Though it isn’t always easy to see, rejections are often good for us. They help us identify what we are missing and do better next time with more knowledge and awareness.As recruitment consultants, it’s not uncommon to see a candidate rejected who, a few months later, gets an even better opportunity; imagine if that could be you?

How Can We Help?

Here at Clayton Legal, we have multiple clients looking for skilled and ambitious candidates like you. For a confidential conversation about your legal career goals and your next move, please get in contact with one of our team here.

About Clayton Legal

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

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

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Legal Interview Skills: How to Excel In Your Virtual Interview

  • January 22, 2022

Though this post will focus on virtual interviewing ideas, the fundamental process of the interview is the same.

Interviews are an opportunity for candidates and employers to ‘meet’ virtually or face to face. This enables you to ask questions of each other, demonstrate why you as a candidate will be an ideal hire for the firm in question while you test their compatibility to help you develop your legal career.

Interviews can still be an unsettling experience, particularly in an environment where virtual interactions are still taking place across the sector, and many of us aren’t always keen to jump in front of a camera.

Like any life skill, preparation is key. As you prepare for your interview, ensure you answer the following.

  • Knowing why you want to move now.
  • How you will communicate the value you bring through the results you can achieve.
  • How to demonstrate your confidence and capability in every way, including on video
  • And how to confirm you are what your prospective employer is looking for.

If you plan to develop your legal career in a new role, this blog will help. I will be reviewing several interview fundamentals and how to present well on video.

The first part of any interview process is to gather data – let me explain.

1. Do Your Research

As a legal professional, you will be used to researching extensively for cases and arguments. The same dedication should influence your job search too. Start by getting to know the firm you’re hoping to work for and make sure you can answer the question, “Why are you a good fit for our team?”

The legal recruitment consultant you are working with will help with this, and it is vital to do your research.

Assessing the firm’s website, social media channels, current legal team, and online content can give you a good insight into the values and principles that guide the business.
You may even find it helpful to look into the background of the person who will be interviewing you on LinkedIn so that you can ask questions related to their role. Remember, asking questions in an interview is a great way to show you are interested, involved, and engaged, all key employability skills every firm is looking for.

2. Plan and Prepare

Planning and preparation can make all the difference to how confident you are as you enter the interview.

As you prepare, look through the job description and expectations and discuss the key motivations and drivers for the firm with your recruitment consultant.

For example, suppose you were applying for a Family Solicitor role. In that case, the requirement might be to demonstrate prior experience working within Private Family Law and manage your workload efficiently.

Therefore, logically what examples do you have to demonstrate where you have gone above and beyond in this area? Once you are clear on examples, it is much easier to use them to answer questions.

Though you can’t predict every single question you will be asked, several time-tested questions might appear. Prepare for questions around:

  • Your motivation to study law
  • What’s the most difficult case you’ve ever had to deal with?
  • How do you deal with an X, Y or Z situation?
  • How would you handle a difficult client? Can you share an example?
  • Why us and why now?
  • What are your career aspirations?

Many firms use a combination of general and competency-based questions, so be prepared for both. A general question may have a yes or no answer though there is usually an opportunity to share more detail, which helps you demonstrate your knowledge and the drive you will bring to the role.

A competency-based question may be asked so that you can demonstrate your knowledge and skill in a specific area. Say that is client management. Use a situation here and describe the scenario, then share your action and the result you achieved.

Practising your interview skills is a great way to perfect your answers to complex questions. It’s also a chance for you to ask people whether you’re making the right impression with your overall attitude, presentation, and image.

3. Master Your Video Skills: It is Easier Than You Think

Video interviews are still often part of the first stage of the hiring process after the hiring team has viewed your CV.

Depending on the firm, you may be asked to record a video where you answer a number of questions about yourself and your capabilities as part of a first screening stage.
Videos ahead of time give you an opportunity for multiple takes to get everything right. Though the hiring manager won’t expect you to be in a professional studio, it is important to record your video to profile you in the best possible way.

People use two popular cameras; one is a webcam, the other a smartphone. I want to share a few important details about both.

Using a smartphone, use a stand to avoid a camera shake from a nervous had. A useful technique is to look up or directly at the camera rather than down. This allows you to use your eye contact and body language to maximum effect.

When it comes to video technology, smartphones do an amazing job, and to improve the impact, better lighting and an external microphone will lift the experience. The number of people using video technology has meant that you can get a camera stand, lighting, and a microphone for under forty pounds.

Remember to record in a well-lit room with a plain background behind you.

Recording ahead of time allows you to practise what you say and how you come across. Importantly remember to look into the camera lens, which you can test ahead of time.

Similar principles apply to web cameras which can often be plugged onto a monitor screen or are part of your computer. Test the audio quality ahead of time as using ear jacks or an external microphone might give a better experience.

A headset and earphones are gamers’ choices; however, try to avoid using a headset like this during an interview as they can restrict your movement and are not flattering to wear.

It’s also worth taking extra steps to “set up your space” for video. Make sure your lighting is excellent in your room of choice, and there isn’t clutter or a window behind you in the video stream. If you can’t find a professional-looking space in your home, use virtual or custom backgrounds instead.

Remember, when you record a video like this, taking one will rarely be your best version. Practice really does make perfect, and a rushed or unrehearsed video stands out a mile.

When it comes to having an interactive video interview, the same principles apply that I mentioned earlier.  Remember to look into the camera as much as you can, varying your gaze when someone else is speaking so that you can get a sense check on the body language your interviewer is sharing.

It goes without saying that you should dress for the role you want, which includes all areas of your body that will be both off and on camera.

Being generally confident, friendly, and open will make it easier for your interviewer to connect with you and imagine a space for you in the firm. Pay attention to your actions throughout the interview, and try not to engage in any nervous behaviours like wringing your fingers, or tapping your desk, as this can make you look impatient.

We have focused on working with the camera and sound, and there may be other software involved. If that is the case, download the software you need for the conversation in advance, and practice using it. Ensure you know how to do everything from sharing your screen to muting yourself when someone else talks.

Check the quality of your internet connection in advance, so you can warn your interviewer if you’re concerned you might have any lag issues. You can also contact a friend or family member via video to check your video and audio look and sound as good as possible.

Next Steps

The legal industry is on the verge of a virtual hiring revolution. For some time now, recruitment has been growing increasingly virtual.

Before the pandemic, the Clayton group had already begun utilising video interviewing for our client and our candidate recruitment, with great results.

We have invested in the latest video technology that provides an unparalleled recruitment process for legal job seekers.

Contact the Clayton Legal team today if you would like support to develop your legal job search in the virtual age.

About Clayton Legal

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

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

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Planning Your Legal Career in Our New Normal Workplace

  • January 18, 2022

At the start of a new year, many of us review where we are in both our personal and professional lives. For those of us working in the legal sector, it’s no different.

The specific details of the legal path you want to take might differ slightly. However, the five fundamentals we are sharing today form part of any successful career planning process, as we have observed placing more than 5000 legal professions over the last twenty-two years.

First, let’s put some context around the impact of the new ‘norm’ when it comes to creating your plan.

The New Norm

As we navigate our way out of the pandemic and multiple new variants, it is fair to say that the new normal hasn’t impacted the legal sector as much as others, except for improved technology, communication channels and virtual recruitment.

We noticed here at Clayton Legal that the phone continued to ring after the initial few weeks of the first lockdown as clients asked us to help fill their roles. This continued throughout 2021, accelerating at pace as the year went on. 2022, so far, shows so sign of this appetite to hire slowing down.

Hybrid, home, and remote working are still major debates across firms as they consider the permanency of such working arrangements.

As predicted by the Microsoft Workplace Trends report, many candidates we speak to are keen to have some flexibility around working in the office or at home. Consequently, we are seeing more firms willing to consider hybrid working moving forward.

The critical piece of the conversation is that skilled legal candidates are in short supply. This results in employers counter offering employees to stay with them rather than moving to a new law firm. Some legal candidates continue to have multiple offers on the table.

In summary, if you are a skilled candidate looking to move, this is your time.

What an opportunity, though let’s have a sense check here. Jumping into a new role with an improved package and a hybrid working opportunity is OK, provided it is part of your long-term plan.
Therefore, consider this as you plan your career. Moving and building your career takes time, depending on the level you want to achieve.

So, what should you be considering in your overall plan?

Decide What You Want

Goal setting and tweaking can happen at any time of the year. As Professor Maxwell Maltz shared in his New York Times bestseller, human beings are success-seeking creatures, and therefore we want to achieve success.

Without goals to inspire and drive you, it’s impossible to know if you’re moving in the right direction. In simple terms, if you don’t know the destination, then you can’t plan the journey.

Deciding what you want allows you to take control of your professional life.

Simply saying that you want something isn’t enough. Goal setting is a strategic process that considers what you want to achieve through a series of milestones and action steps and ends with hard work and dedication.

Therefore, setting a goal and then moving towards it is a logical process we would all be advised to tap into.

Most legal professionals want:

    • To work in an area of law that they enjoy and find interesting

To receive sufficient income for their work to enable them to live comfortably

  • To be considered as being professional and knowledgeable
  • To achieve a work/life balance that allows them to enjoy a life away from their work

No matter your opinion about setting goals, you will find yourself meandering around with no real sense of purpose unless you are clear on what you want.

Choosing stretch goals means finding the right balance between targets you can realistically achieve and aims that challenge you.

However, don’t set goals that are too easy, either. It’s essential to challenge yourself, as that way, you can reap the rewards of feeling accomplished and driven. Find goals that help you raise the bar on your work and performance.

Always have both short- and long-term goals in mind.

Let’s take an extreme example. If you are a trainee solicitor who wants to become a barrister, you will have to move, study, and gain experience over several years to achieve what you want. This will therefore inform the steps you need to cover in your plan.

Remember, the legal field has many options for you to consider. The more you learn about the legal space, the more you’ll discover new career opportunities and paths you can take.

A Goal Setting Framework

One of the most popular goal-setting strategies involves creating “SMART” goals. There are variations on what the “SMART” acronym stands for, but most experts agree that it requires your goals to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Your legal career goals must be clear and defined. A vague goal like “I want to get a promotion” doesn’t provide sufficient direction. Determine what kind of promotion you want that will fit your plan and when you want to accomplish that target.

Conduct a Skills Audit and Contact A Legal Recruiter

To accomplish what you want in your legal career, you will have to up-level your skills relevant to your desired roles. Knowledge is power, and this is where talking to someone who has the ultimate position you want can be useful.

Although, remember that a lot has changed during the last few years and what was once required for a role, either skills or experience, might have changed.

This is where talking to a specialist legal recruiter will help. Here at Clayton, we have over twenty years’ experience recruiting legal professionals and can guide you on the best next steps according to the specific legal career path you want to take.

With the specs for your ideal job to guide you and your CV in hand, write a list of the skills you need to work on and rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 4. A rating of 4 indicates that you’re an expert in the area, while a rating of 1 means that you have very little knowledge or skill in that area.

Once you know which elements need the most work, you can develop a list of activities that will help you close the gap.

Managing Your Mind

The first step in developing your legal career is to embrace the right mindset by managing your mind. More than ever, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of working with our mentality to handle whatever is happening globally.

It’s easy to assume that creativity, intelligence, or talent are the things that set successful people apart from the rest of the world. However, the truth is that all the most powerful people in business today reached their goals through perseverance, grit, dedication, and the right mindset.

Your ultimate goal may take a few years, and the more you can manage your mind through the process, the better.
Good Luck!

What Next?

Though many workplace sectors experienced poor growth in 2020 and into last year, the legal sector wasn’t one of them. Here at Clayton Legal, we have multiple clients looking for skilled and ambitious candidates like you. For a confidential conversation about your legal career goals and your next move, please get in contact with one of our team here.

About Clayton Legal

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

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

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How to Make a Compelling Legal Job Application

  • May 25, 2021

We were delighted to take part in a Live Q&A event in association with The Law Society earlier this month where we offered our advice and expertise to legal professionals on how to make a compelling legal job application.

In the session we covered a wide range of subjects – from how to master CV basics, to revealing some recent market research where we spoke to Partners and Hiring Managers about what they’re looking for when reviewing applications.

If you weren’t able to join us, you’ll be pleased to know that the session was recorded – click below to view.

We also spoke in detail about current market conditions, and the so-called ‘war for talent’; much documented in recent weeks across many professional sectors. According to statistics from Broadbean, despite a 20 per cent rise in vacancies advertised in Q1 2021 compared to the last three months of 2020, applications to those roles rose by only 4% in the same period.

Law Firms are once again competing for the same, sometimes scarce, pool of legal professionals; some of whom are reluctant to move roles against the backdrop of a pandemic and perceived market uncertainty, and others who do have that confidence and find they have a number of options available to them.

Despite the backdrop of the pandemic, the market is awash with opportunities for those considering a move. If you are indeed in the market as a jobseeker, making your application compelling, engaging, and one that works hard to give you standout is still as important as ever – whether you choose to go direct to the Firm, via a job board, or utilising the services of an experienced legal recruiter.

Top 10 Tips for Supercharging Your Legal Job Application

For legal professionals considering a career move, navigating the job market can be daunting. We were recently asked to share our top 10 tips for creating a standout legal job application with The Law Society which we also wanted to share here:

Click here to have a read

If you would like any further guidance on current market conditions or would like to speak to us in more detail about the opportunities within your region or practice area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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.

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Why Working with a Great Legal Consultant is Essential in the Current Covid Market

  • July 1, 2020

As we enter into a post-pandemic world, you might be thinking about what this means for the future of your legal career.

In uncertain economic times, it can be more challenging for candidates to locate the same great career opportunities, especially if navigating the recruiting landscape alone.

Many legal employees don’t realise the range of recruitment services out there; others aren’t aware of the advantages of working with a dedicated legal recruiter to find their next role.

If you’re a legal employee currently thinking ‘what next?’, today I want to share how working with a dedicated recruiter, rather than a general recruitment agency, will be the key to unlocking legal career opportunities you didn’t know were possible.

CV Preparation

A lot of job seekers think that working with a recruitment agency means sending your CV, which then may or may not be sent out to employers with current vacancies. While this might be the case for certain recruitment agencies, a dedicated legal recruitment consultancy will be able to provide you with bespoke CV amendments, free of charge before we even consider sending your CV onto the right company for you.

Your CV is your best tool in securing a new role, but the truth is that many CVs that get sent to recruiters need amending if they are going to communicate how good you are.

As recruiters, we work with countless legal CV every day, so we know the type of CVs which get attention from employers, as opposed to the ones which are less likely to make an impact.

Using this knowledge, we can work with you to help tailor your CV to specific roles and specific employers you are hoping to target – we can improve your CV to give you a better chance of landing your new role, and all without a charge attached.

Flexible Legal Roles to Fit: Locum Positions

Covid-19 has changed the way we live and work.

The UK furlough scheme has proved successful in protecting jobs, and we are yet to see confirmation of any lasting significant economic downturn.

But this does not mean job roles and working arrangements will not be altered. We have already experienced an increased number of the workforce working from home, or on reduced contracts, and the introduction of job sharing.

We specialise in finding legal candidates roles that suit their current situation. That could be a part-time role to fit around your newly changed schedule (to account for a partner now working from home) or locum positions for individuals who have unfortunately been made redundant.

We understand that the pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty in some fields of the legal landscape, which is potentially affecting careers in these areas. We are here to help find you the legal role that you need right now, which will help you with your wider career goals.

Unlocking Hidden Opportunities

Using a legal recruiter to find your next role will open opportunities that you would otherwise not be able to access.

It is a fact of recruitment that 80% of jobs are not advertised.

The legal network in the North West is tight-knit, and with over 20 years of experience in this sector, we can provide opportunities for legal candidates that they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to be considered for.

Your recruitment journey with Clayton Legal starts when you tell us about your career aspirations. We can then use our extensive network to identify where the opportunities are for you, we then make these enquiries for you and put you in touch with the right people, arranging interviews and helping you prepare.

Our goal is to find you the ideal role using our industry connections – we provide career consultancy, as opposed to recruitment ‘agencies’ who just send volumes of CVs out to multiple firms.

Which leads me onto our free legal career consultancy service, and how it will benefit you.

Legal Career Consultancy – For Free

There is an increasing number of recruitment companies in the UK who claim to all do the same thing – this can be overwhelming for candidates, and quite frankly it isn’t true.

As a legal candidate, it is essential to differentiate between a recruitment agency versus a recruitment consultancy. And in addition the level of expertise and experience they have in the legal sector.

The critical difference is that a consultancy will provide you with a far more complete, tailored service.

Using a recruitment consultancy local to your area is also a pivotal point to consider. Some agencies recruit locally, but they do not have an in-depth knowledge of key localised legal firms. Making a career decision without a full understanding of the sector can negatively affect your career plans. If you act without true expert advice, you might not realise this until it is too late.

And considering that both agencies and consultancies are free, why wouldn’t you choose to use a complete, customised service?

Next Steps?

Choosing which recruitment company to work with should be a highly personal decision, and you should only work with a legal recruiting partner who you are confident will deliver you an excellent service, with the highest level of communication and customer care.

To find out what our legal recruitment process entails, and how we can help find you the legal role you’re looking for right now, get in touch with us on 01772 259 121, or contact us here.

About Clayton Legal

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

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.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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The 5 Legal Interview Mistakes

  • September 28, 2019

You may be a legal professional with knowledge, experience and the right soft skills to nail your next role, but it’s still easy to slip up in an interview.

Preparation and knowing how to act at your interview will allow you to showcase your talents, but if you don’t prepare sufficiently or think carefully about what you are saying on the day, you risk falling into the trap many legal professionals make, scuppering your chances of getting that ideal legal role.

Here are the five most common interview mistakes legal professionals make – and how to avoid them.

Not Being Prepared

Fail to prepare; prepare to fail. Failure to do your research and preparation can make you look lazy and uninterested in the role.

Reading up on the firm’s background, noting its place and competitors in the legal sector, its specialisms and recent positive news will put you in a great position to arrive confidently ready for anything. Your background research will give you a ‘feel’ for the firm and will demonstrate to the interviewer your understanding of both the firm, the market/verticals in which it operates and the role on offer.

Research can be as simple as checking out the firm’s website for information. Additionally, you could dig a bit deeper by checking out individual LinkedIn profiles, reviews, blogs and articles to give you a rounded view of the firm you hope to work for and help you prepare for the questions you may be asked.

Not Looking the Part

Legal roles, be they at trainee or Senior Partner level, require a certain level of professional dress.

I know it sounds obvious, but some candidates do fail to dress suitably for interview.

You should arrive for your interview as you would expect to arrive at work. Smart, professional, clean and tidy. First impressions do count in the legal world, and you won’t impress an interviewer if you roll up in creased, worn or just plain inappropriate clothing.

If in doubt about how formal you should go, lean on the side of caution – too formal is better than not formal enough and of course check in with your legal recruitment consultant who will be conversant with what is expected at the firm where you are being interviewed!

Looking the part will also give you an air of confidence: if you know you look professional, you will feel it.

Oh, and remember to switch your phone off too!

Talking too Much (or Clamming Up)

There’s a fine line between showing you’re interested and taking over the conversation. You don’t want the interviewer to think you’re going to be the employee who spends all day chatting to colleagues, but neither do you want to hold back and appear disengaged.

Waffling is a common side effect of nerves, so if you feel yourself beginning to ramble, take a moment to gather your thoughts and think about the question you’re being asked before giving your answer.

Conversely, being too concise in your answers can make you appear indifferent to the job or worse still lacking knowledge.

Practising answers to the type of questions you are likely to be asked will help enormously. You can practice with a friend or your recruitment specialist. The more you rehearse your answers, the more you will find you are confident in what to say. This will go a long way to help alleviate your nerves on the day and will allow you to deliver your answers calmly and with confidence.

Remember, interviewers are human too, and they know that nerves can be an issue. So, if your mind goes totally blank, it’s fine to take some time to gather your thoughts or ask if you can come back to that question to give you time to think about your answer.

Bad-mouthing Former Employers

This is an absolute no-no.

Regardless of how you feel about a former workplace or colleagues, your interview is not the appropriate place to indulge in a rant about how awful your ex-team was, or how you believe the Senior Partner was incapable of doing their job.

Nothing will put your interviewer off you quicker than listening to you complain about former colleagues. It gives a terrible impression of you and will make them wonder what you might say about them in future!

I always advise candidates that diplomacy is called for if you are asked about former work situations. If they weren’t great, try to focus on the positives by concentrating on how you dealt will potentially tricky occasions (without going into detail) so you are seen as loyal and proactive, rather than hostile.

Not Thinking About Your Own Questions

Preparing for the questions you will be asked is only one half of the interview. It’s a two-way conversation, and you are almost certain to be asked if you have any questions.

Whatever you do, never say you don’t have any or ‘I think you have covered everything’, even if your interviewer may have!

As part of your preparation, it’s ideal to come up with three or four questions to ask when it comes to your turn. Suggestions include:

“What does a typical day look like?” (shows you imagine yourself in the role)

“Is there scope in this role for me to add value to it?” (shows you are keen to develop and expand your abilities)

“Do you see the firm scaling up/taking on additional specialisms in the future” (indicates you are planning to stay, and are interested in helping the firm grow)

Questions you definitely should not ask include anything related to salary or annual leave. Those concerns can be discussed once you’ve been offered the role.

Remember, preparation is vital for interview success; prepare well, and you will have confidence in yourself on the day.

Your interview is an opportunity to showcase your talents, interest and character, and be memorable to the interviewer – for the right reasons!

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

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.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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5 Questions Legal Hiring Managers Always Ask At Interview

  • September 10, 2019

Interviews. They don’t get any easier with time, even if you are a seasoned legal professional, it can still be nerve-wracking attending an interview.

Obviously, you are there because you want that ideal legal role, and the key to success is always in your preparation.

So, along with the usual planning of what to wear, how to get to the interview, times, dates and name of the interviewer, there’s the essential practising of potential interview questions.

But how on earth do you know what the interviewer is going to ask?

There will be specific role-related questions; that’s a given. And as you have worked in this role before and/or have all the relevant qualifications, you’re ahead on that one.

There may be questions about the company you are hoping to work for, so with a bit of research online, you can garner information about them, their latest news, company newsletters, mission and goals etc.

You can also bring your soft skills in to play by aligning them to the role. If you’re going for a Senior Partnership or Manager role, these could include your ability to lead a team, to time manage efficiently, delegate, and give constructive feedback thanks to your emotional intelligence.

If you are early on in your career and looking for a Fee Earner position, your soft skills could include being a great team collaborator, empathetic to others, able to manage your own diary and with an excellent work ethic.

There will likely be questions on all of the above, but there is also a set of fundamental questions that legal hiring managers ask all candidates time and time again.

So, note them down now and make sure your answers are ready to ensure you nail that interview!

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is often the first question interviewers will ask. They don’t want to know your life history here, so don’t be tempted to go off on a tangent.

What this question is trying to do is act as an icebreaker and test how you respond to open-ended queries. This could prove useful to the employer in gauging how you will react to similar questions within your working role.

You can use this question to (briefly, please!) describe how you got to be where you are today – so tell them about your achievements so far in your career, career highlights you have most enjoyed and your goals for the future.

Use the ‘present-past-future’ formula to enable you to give a potted version of your career history.

So, for example, you are applying for a position as an HR Manager in a law firm. Your answer to the past, present, future may look something like this:

“My interest in HR started about 6 years ago when I was working at X firm. I partnered with the HR team helping to design some custom training programmes.

I’m currently working as X. I recently completed my Master’s degree in Y, which I’ve studied part time.

My ultimate goal is to become an HR Director within a law firm.”

It’s also appropriate here to mention your hobbies. For example, you may enjoy chess or hunting in antique shops at the weekend.

Additionally, an interest in a sport or physical exercise such as tennis or yoga shows you take your health and mental wellbeing seriously.

2. Why do you want this role?

Don’t be fooled into thinking this question is asking about your personal goals and ambitions in the legal world.

It’s more about testing what you know about the job role you’re applying for: have you done your homework, and are you really keen, or is this just one application in a scattergun approach to job seeking?

Employers know that the best employees will proactively seek to improve their performance by embracing lifelong learning and growing their skillsets. This question, therefore, also addresses your motivation to learn new things and develop your career.

As well as establishing your interest in the role and your motivation to develop, this question will also allow you to give credibility to your current skills and qualifications and confirm you can hit the ground running in your new position.

If you mention the benefits of working for the company as a whole, you’ll score additional points too!

3. Tell me about a time you faced a significant challenge or problem in your last role – how did you successfully overcome it?

This question is trying to ascertain how you react to problems and your ability to solve issues that arise. It is looking to see how you work under pressure, test your emotional intelligence and resilience to stay positive and focused if things don’t go to plan.

The answer to this will require you to have one or two examples to hand, so ensure you can illustrate your response with tangible examples of a time when you dealt with difficult situations successfully.

4. What is your greatest weakness?

This one is a classic interview question and catches a lot of people out.

Whatever you do, don’t respond with the implication that you are perfect – the interviewer won’t believe you anyway!

The question is devised to test your self-awareness by acknowledging your less-positive strengths and how you cope with them. So, the best answer to this one is to give an example of an area you know you need to work on, and what you are doing to overcome it.

For example, you could say that you are a perfectionist who needs your work to be perfect every time, and consequently, you find projects can overrun as you tinker with things. But you are dealing with this by setting yourself deadlines to ensure you hit targets.

5. What can you bring to this law firm?

The interviewer is assessing the law firm’s ROI here.

They want to be sure they take on an employee who will be a good fit for them in terms of team working, skills, ability and dedication.

They are investing a lot of time and money in interviewing, hiring, onboarding and providing training – so they want to get it right first time.

So be sure to show your enthusiasm in your answer as well as expressing your confidence that you can help them increase the business in terms of clients and monetary value and collaborate in striving to achieve company aspirations and goals.

Armed with your responses to these questions, you can sail through your interview confidently and land your perfect legal role.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

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.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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7 Steps to Success at Your Legal Job Interview

  • August 20, 2019

Whether you are a Child Care Paralegal or a Senior Conveyancing Solicitor, an interview is potentially the start of a new level in your career and a step nearer achieving your aspirations. So, it’s essential to get it right.

You’ve already made a positive impression with your CV, or perhaps a direct application or covering letter – so that first hurdle has been crossed.

The interview, be it over the phone, over a video call virtually, or face to face, is a chance to bring all of those points to life – and it’s essential to put your best foot forward and create a positive first impression that increases your chance of the job offer.

Here are our top seven steps to success…

1. Plan Ahead

Give yourself plenty of time to do your research. Learn all you can about the law firm and the job you’re applying for.

Don’t just look at the facts and figures; see if they have an online newsletter and sign up for it and follow them on social media. You may spot an interesting snippet of information or news story that you can bring into the interview.

Find out what specialisms they have, and what their plans are for future scaling.

These easy hacks will show your knowledge and demonstrate you are keen to work for their law firm.

2. Work with Your Recruiter

It’s also a good idea to work closely with your specialist legal recruiter. They will be able to discuss the role in depth with you and point out any gaps in your skillset that need addressing.

They can also help you assess your value and the strengths you bring to the role, such as soft skills, as they will have in-depth knowledge of the law firm you’re hoping to join.

3. Create a Cheat Sheet

Interviews are stressful enough without adding to the anxiety.

This top tip is useful in keeping you calm and avoiding any last-minute panic. You can use the notes app on your phone to list all the essential things about the recruitment job you need to remember.

Include:

  • address of the interview
  • contact number
  • interviewer’s name
  • time of your interview

Add three or four main points you want to make during your interview, some brief notes on your answers to competency-based questions and anything else that you think you might need.

You will then have all the information to hand for last-minute revision – allowing you to walk into the interview with confidence.

4. Be on Time

Being on time for an interview is crucial to setting yourself up positively in the eyes of the hiring manager. It says you are a reliable professional and conveys respect.

Conversely, being late for an interview is a no-no. It leaves a lasting impression and will not go down well with the hiring manager, trust me.

To minimise problems on the day, make sure you know where you are going for the interview and how you’re going to get there. Ideally, do a practice run and time yourself.

Everyone knows that hold-ups on the roads or public transport can affect us all.

If the worse happens and you are delayed, phone and apologise as a courtesy. Keep calm and provide them with details of how long you will be (if you know) or ask to reschedule.

It won’t hurt to follow up with a polite email later in the day to reinforce your apology. Good manners cost nothing but can convey a good lasting impression.

5. Harness Your Anxiety

Even with the experience of presenting at conferences or making court appearances, interviews can make the most experienced solicitor or paralegal nervous.

An excellent confidence technique is to “make friends” with your anxiety, says mindfulness teacher Charlie Morley. Acknowledge its presence, but don’t let it overpower you.

Try channelling all that adrenaline by changing your thought patterns – so you view your nervous energy as excited energy. You’ll still feel charged but in a positive way!

You may also consider doing some basic breathing exercises before you go into the interview. I’ve found this NHS exercise helpful.

Finally, positive thought can work wonders. So, picture yourself having a positive outcome and landing your dream legal job. It will boost your confidence levels and give you that extra push to sail through the interview.

6. Know Your Value

Your value to the company goes beyond your knowledge and skills in your specialist area of legal practice.

That doesn’t mean to say that these are not a priority; of course, they are paramount to the job, but your soft skills are also relevant.

Ask yourself what you bring to the law firm that is your USP. Are you a great team player? Do your ethics match those of the law firm? Are you a good culture fit?

If you have relevant testimonials, referrals or letters of recommendation from satisfied clients, take them with you to show the interviewer.

7. Watch Your Body Language

Interviews are not just about talking the talk. You may know all there is to know about your specialist area of family law or litigation and have a first-class degree, but your body language can still let you down and scupper your chances of success.

Body language is more important than you might think – in fact, Mehrabian’s findings are that:

  • 7% of meaning in words that are spoken
  • 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of meaning is in facial expression.

So, pay attention to it!

Avoid fidgeting, crossing your arms, making wild, distracting hand gestures, or slumping in your seat.

Eye contact is the fastest way to build rapport, but at the same time remember not to stare your interviewer out!

Three to five seconds of eye contact works perfectly. If you have more than one interviewer, give the person asking the question 60% of your eye contact when answering and share the remaining 40% across other panel members.

Finally, smile. It’s a fact that smiling will make you feel more confident and you will appear friendly.

The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself and prove your potential value to the employer. So, adopt a pleasant manner and follow these tried and tested interview secrets to get your dream legal role!

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.

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.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our guide here.

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