in Changing Jobs, Legal Profession, Staying in Your Job, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

How to Dramatically Improve your Legal Career Prospects

This article is divided into three sections. The first is for law students, the second is for graduates and the third is for qualified lawyers, solicitors and legal staff.

How do I Dramatically Improve my Legal Career Prospects?

We often get asked this question and people are often expecting an easy answer. It depends on the stage of your career to date, but there are very simple, albeit extremely difficult to achieve, ways of increasing your career prospects, whether you are a law student, a law graduate, a solicitor, barrister or legal executive.

1.    Students who have not yet completed all their academic studies

This advice is very easy. To dramatically increase your chances of getting a pupillage or training contract, or progress meaningfully with your legal career, you need to get a first class degree.

When I suggest this to people they look at me as if I am completely mad and stare off into space. As if they could possibly get a first class degree.

However, as a successful lawyer you need to have a positive and “can do” attitude. If you are already starting out in your career with the thought that you cannot achieve something then what chance is there in future when a client wants you to achieve the impossible for them?

It seems to me that in recent years more and more students are getting first class degrees from universities across the UK. I am not sure what the physical evidence is, but I would hazard a guess that a first class degree is considerably easier to get now than 20 years ago.  It may be that this is because universities have their funding linked directly to their academic results, but similarly it may be that because of the way work is assessed then provided somebody puts the effort in they have a much greater chance of achieving a high mark.

Afterall, if you have coursework to complete for pretty much all of your degree modules, you can to a certain extent dictate your own destiny. If you are totally reliant on marks achieved in an end of year exam, this makes it considerably harder to achieve a higher result.

So if you are in control of your own destiny, make sure you work extremely hard because your efforts now will pay off for the rest of your career in law. People with first class degrees get job interviews from firms who recognise that someone who has worked so hard that they have achieved a first class degree is someone who is to be valued.

2.    Law Graduates

Take a look at your CV. How much work experience do you really have on it and how much of this is legally related and obtained in the last 12 months?

If you have less than 2 weeks legal work experience your CV is lacking.  In order to drastically increase your career prospects go and get legal work experience. This can make all the difference to your future career. So many different obstacles come in the way of people achieving this, it is important to be able to look past this and focus instead on your future. Do not run your career for short term gain. Careers are for the long term and any effort you put in now will pay off in years to come, but probably not in the short term.  Visit our Careers Shop for a downloadable guide on getting legal work experience (no charge).

3.    Solicitors, Barristers and Legal Executives

Get a following. A following makes all the difference to your legal career. You get a following by making sure that any clients you have know that you are their lawyer, not the firm you work for. The firm you work for is simply a vehicle to drive your talent forward.

Any solicitor with a following gets it either because they have family connections or because they have given such a good personal service that clients have wanted them to deal with their work, not the firm.

If you can achieve this you will find that your career will be recession proof and you will have a good grounding to stand on your own two feet in years to come if you decided to go it alone or into partnership.

Without this you will always be a salaried employee working on other people’s case loads and not your own.  Following is the key and to achieve one takes a lot of work and effort. However again it pays off in the long term.

I suspect that there will be a lot of people who read this article and think this is all very well and good but I just can’t do any of this.  You can and this advice applies to everybody in the legal profession. Perseverance is the key and something a lot of people are not prepared to offer in return for a rewarding career. If you are prepared to offer it you are already at a massive advantage.

Jonathan Fagan, specialist Legal Career Coach and Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment, preferred suppliers of legal recruitment to over 100 law firms in the UK.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk