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Progressing your career as a junior lawyer

28 February 2017

In a highly competitive job market, junior lawyers willing to refine their technical skills and personal attributes will have a better chance of being shortlisted according to the recent report ‘How to get a job in 2017’ by Hays. Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand, notes that while 2017 may see new positions up for grabs, the focus for prospective employers will be on ‘securing the most useful person’ through much more discerning recruitment processes.

Legal practice is one of the very few careers that requires graduates and junior lawyers to include their academic transcript in a job application. Needless to say, doing well in law school should be a priority. Strong academic performance is indicative of whether you have some of the skills and personal attributes that law firms look for in junior lawyers. While academic performance can tell a lot about you, employers are also looking for people who can add value to their business from day one, through demonstrable skills and experience.

It is no secret that Australia is currently experiencing an oversupply of law graduates. In this environment, firms have the luxury of being highly selective and thorough when recruiting. According to Nick Deligiannis, law firms will be looking for candidates who not only meet all the criteria of a position but who are also technically competent, personable and adaptable. “Once identified, employers move quickly to secure the right person, whether that’s in a temporary or permanent capacity,” he said.

If you want to have a better chance of being ahead of the pack, here are some useful tips you should consider:

Plan your career and upskill yourself

Having a clear career goal and devoting time to plan your professional development is as crucial as performing well in law school. A career plan will make it easier for you to see the bigger picture and to set milestones to assess your progress. Recognise the importance of upskilling yourself through work experience and/or postgraduates studies which can give you specialised legal knowledge, and invest time into expanding your professional network. Finding a mentor willing to guide and advise you can also be tremendously beneficial.

Be realistic and honest when applying for a job

Search the market to identify jobs that are suited to your skill level and experience. Discerning employers will be able to see from your CV whether you have what they are looking for. It is very important that your CV and cover letter genuinely reflect your academic achievements, work experience (including volunteer work), skills and personal attributes. Avoid overstating or embellishing your experience – employers will pick this up fairly quickly in an interview!

Regularly service your CV and online profiles

Don’t be caught unprepared when a great employment opportunity comes up. In the current job market, employers tend to move quickly when they find the right talent. Make a habit of regularly updating your CV and online professional or social profiles. It is not unusual for employers or recruiters to look up potential candidates online to get a better sense of who they are and what they stand for.

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