Article written by Rachael Noble, Nottingham Trent University LLB Graduate.
Due to the competitive nature of law, students often put themselves under immense amounts of pressure to achieve the highest possible grades in the hopes of securing a training contract, vacation scheme or their first legal role. However, although it is an important aspect of the application process, the idea that good grades are the only thing that matters to succeed in law is mistaken. Employers nowadays look for well-rounded candidates who have gone beyond their education to gain experience and have points of interest.
It can be difficult to think of how to distinguish yourself from other candidates but there are many different ways you can go that extra mile and prepare yourself for your future career. This article sets out what you can do to highlight there is more to you than your degree and how you can use those accomplishments to become a stand-out candidate.
Work experience is an excellent way to stand out against other applicants and is highly valued by employers. Whether it be specifically legal or otherwise, having work experience shows you have a forward-thinking mind-set by investing time into your future career and developing transferable skills used in professional working environments. This is reassuring for a lot of employers and shows you have an understanding of the corporate world. Having work experience to talk about will assist at the interview stage when employers may ask you to draw on specific examples you have encountered in the workplace and how you dealt with them.
In addition to increasing your employability, work experience can highlight to you what you do and do not want your future career to look like. This will help when deciding the kind of environment you want to work in, perhaps the sector of law you are interested in and the nature of the role you want to undertake. Law is a diverse industry; some firms are small and boutique, others are larger and more corporate, therefore the job hunt may become easier when you already know the type of firm you want to work for and how their values align with yours. It is important to remember, no work experience is bad experience. Being self-aware and able to recognise why somewhere was not for you is just as beneficial as going into work experience and loving it (although it may not have felt like it at the time).
Gaining work experience can pose quite a dilemma for students as you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. Boosting your CV does not always have to revolve around work experience and whilst it is important, there are other ways to demonstrate you have relevant skills through other endeavours such as life experience.
Showing an employer you have developed soft skills through interesting ventures may in fact be what distinguishes you from another candidate and perhaps what an employer remembers about you the most.
Some good examples of experiences you can use to highlight your skills and apply them to applications are:
There are a variety of volunteering roles you can try from non-profit and charity work to environmental, climate and educational work. Perhaps you volunteered at your local food bank or assisted at an after-school club or maybe you volunteered at an Elephant Sanctuary for a month in Bali! Regardless of the kind of role you played, volunteering shows you have an ability to care for others and have developed interpersonal, communication, and empathetic skills – all of which make an excellent legal professional.
Travelling is often a contentious topic when considering your future career. There was a view that travelling appeared you may not take your career seriously, or that it would leave gaps on your CV. However, in the modern climate of the legal world, travelling is a great way to show you are a well-rounded individual with an array of life experiences. Travelling also requires skills such as time management, organisation, and independence – all of which stand out to employers.
3. Workshops and other programs
There are many legal and commercial workshops to boost your legal knowledge. Attending workshops run by universities, law firms and other organisations can be great talking points in interviews and will assist when writing applications. Even by reading this article you are showing you take an interest in your career.
4. Side hustles
Many employers look for candidates who have commercial awareness and are driven individuals. Perhaps you run a small business such as proofreading services or you are a piano tutor or football coach. Maybe you have an interest in crypto and have investments. Regardless of the type of endeavour, showing you have gone above and beyond using an entrepreneurial mind-set will stand out to employers.
5. Personal Interests
Personal Interests are usually kept brief on your CV. However, you can use the interview and application process to go into more detail about what it is outside of your degree and working life that you enjoy doing. Drawing on your personal interests is a great way an employer can get to know you better as a person, as well as a potential employee.
Being an accomplished individual is something to be proud of and there is no better time to show off your achievements than during the application process. Whether it be sporting, academic, charitable or work related, if you feel you have achieved something and are proud of it, talk about it. Achievements highlight your strengths, morals and commitments and can often be used as talking points in interviews. Employers want employees who take pride in their role, and showing you have amazing achievements before your career has even begun is a great way to show you are a standout candidate.
It can be disheartening when you have not received the grades you hoped for or perhaps are not finding the application process easy. However, there are many ways to show you have a skilful profile to demonstrate that you will be an excellent candidate and more than just your degree.
Many law firms are taking a forward-thinking approach to grades and are interested to see ways you fit the role from your professional, educationaland personal experiences. Therefore, do not let academic results and grades define you. Having confidence in yourself is the first step to making a strong candidate – the rest of the hard work follows.