Article by Giovanni Parcou
Alongside expressing your enthusiasm and motivation to work for a particular law firm, demonstrating your skills will be just as equally important as your commitment to the profession. Not only do you need to demonstrate your passion for an opportunity, but you also need to be able to explain what value you can add to a firm.
The most over-discussed skill in the industry and probably the least clear. A simple definition of commercial awareness can be: ‘an understanding of the world of business’.
Not only should this understanding relate to how a law firm offers its services to deal with new client challenges day-in day-out but it should also be understood to include how law firms deal with the challenges they face internally.
For example, Conveyancing (acquisition and sale of property) will face challenges with the latest surfacing of proposals for E-Conveyancing where you can find cheap conveyancing quotes online. Your commercial awareness will identify that there are challenges around the witnessing of contracts when signatures may be required online and you would identify threats posed internally for firms as a result of making such a high-risk transaction more digital.
To demonstrate your commercial awareness on paper best practice would be to highlight how you have solved a problem for someone or something. Equally, your ability to explain how recent economic events that you have read about and how these could affect the law firm (and its clients) you are applying to can also demonstrate your commercial awareness.
At its core the ability to be commercially aware is to be able to consider as many problems possible and offer solutions to deal with those problems.
Attention to detail
It should be glaringly obvious but you would be surprised the number of firms that reject candidates on the basis that an application submitted lacked attention to detail. With a typical candidate spending at least 3-4 hours on an application, you have to make sure you compare favourably to the competition.
To demonstrate attention to detail applicants should be reading and proof-reading meticulously. Reading your application, the questions, firm resources and understanding what the firm is looking for in your application are all essential in demonstrating this.
As an aspiring lawyer attention to detail is a basic skill but so easily forgotten as the most vital in preparing your candidacy as a prospective trainee lawyer.
When writing your applications or cover letters treat them like you would a written essay that you are expecting to be marked and graded. Question whether sentences are too long or too short and check whether capital letters, commas, apostrophes and full stops are in all the correct places.
You need to show recruiters that you can communicate effectively on paper as you will be doing this on a regular basis with your clients as a lawyer. Whether by drafting letters, preparing contracts or emails you need to be able to demonstrate your ability to present perfect work product.
Teamwork as a skill is fairly straightforward: it is how you work together with other people. However, the difficulty arises when demonstrating this.
Candidates who can demonstrate excellent teamwork skills are those have the capacity to work in a positive manner and deliver good results.
Candidates who display poor teamwork are those who may spend too much time disputing ideas, have an inappropriate aggressive approach and do not demonstrate collaboration.
Good team workers will share their thoughts, encourage others and seek confirmation from their group of colleagues that the work and methods of work are appropriate – some will have a flare for leadership and this comes across well in team based assessments. If you are struggling to see this in context then look at Meerkats as an example of living things that display excellent teamwork skills.
Communicating with colleagues in an ever-evolving digital world creates a tandem of issues to consider but needless to say it does not need to be that complicated.
Candidates who display the best communication skills are those who can deliver information in a clear and positive fashion whether verbally or digitally.
The problem candidates make in the training contract and vacation scheme application process is often communicating in a way which they think lawyers should sound and often this is a poor approach.
Law firms are hungry for individuals who have a flare of character, people who can deliver in their own way but with confidence and positivity. If I can be any clearer I would draw on a lot of the content in City A.M’s podcast “How to be an email hero”, in which they discuss everything to do with mastering your emails, getting on top of your inbox, and writing successful marketing emails.