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.
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.