Saturday, 30 July 2011

In celebration..

Closing in on the 2000 page-views mark. As a sign of my appreciation to all of you who have visited my blog since its inception 12 days ago, I give you this. Use it sparingly..Legal Interview Answers for Lawyers. Its all you'll ever need. So i've been told anyway.

And on a lighter note..


Yep. Its a TC. A real no foolin' TC. All you need to do is print this out, walk in to the law firm of your dreams, slap it on the front desk [remember to smile; don't smile, and it could queer the deal] then stroll up to one of the partners and start complaining to him about why they haven't arranged for somewhere for you to sit yet. And they say its competitive..

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

31st July - Holy day

There has always been and will forever be a greater flurry of activity during the hours leading up to 31st July than in any other period in the year - that includes the July/August rush to flee the motherland and 24th December christmas shopping.

Getting applications out before the great deadline date is a sport; as in football, as in tennis, as in hockey, as in basketball, as in etc etc, the dying moments of a game are crucial. There are of course many firms which recruit on a rolling basis which can make 'delayed' applications futile. But there are so many which don't.

The doubts that stream into your soul around this time become trifling; will a late application be consigned to the shredder? Who cares. I'm rolling the dice, and the more times I roll, the greater chance of snake eyes! [If only it were that simple]. Most people I know who have a TC tell me they sent out anything between 20 and 100 applications before they landed one. Sending out 100 quality applications sounds near impossible let alone paradoxical. But the message i'm receiving is that I should use all the time i'm prepared to use to apply. Moreover, I should use all the time i'm given to apply- this includes the hours leading up to 31st July.

So there it is. 31st July- one day they'll make a film about it. Oh, the tales it would tell.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Changing tack

I no longer fear interviews. And I'm not terrible at them. At least, I don't think I am. I've had successful interviews for non-legal jobs as well as for numerous vacation schemes. But for TC recruitment I hadn't before come across an interview-only process, until now. I have one next month. This could be my moment, touch wood.

My approach to interviews has changed over the last couple of years. I used to flick through interview books. And only flick through interview books. This, as anyone with a bit of common sense will tell you, is like training for the big match by reading Wayne Rooney's biography. Don't get me wrong, interview books can be useful (check out Complete Interview Guide for Lawyers or for the more gung-ho amongst you, take a look at The Best Book On Getting Corporate Law Jobs (The Only Guide By Real Corporate Attorneys)) but to do an interview well, I quickly realised (i.e. was told repeatedly by various irritable people) that I need to practice and practice and practice. This led me to my second interview strategy; to learn answers by rote. Depending on the type of interview, this can work, particularly if you make it all seem natural. But I'll never do this again and I'd never encourage anyone to do it. Straying from a scripted answer, which would probably be necessary in most law interviews, is like leaving the footpath in a forest- you'll struggle to find your way back.

So my present strategy is to learn to talk about my experiences freely and to relate them to the law. Of course, a lot of people would have realised that this is the correct approach long ago, but where would you all be without the selfless folk like me who have tried and tested the other methods and tumbled at the first hurdle? Nowhere! That's where! 

The famous STAR approach in delivering answers (i.e. Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a sure fire way to show the interviewer that you've prepared. But to ensure that my answers are flowing, I am practising to 'chat' out STAR answers- making it second nature. Lets see if it works. Lord I hope it works..

How do you prepare for interviews?

p.s. have you ever written on a banana skin with a biro? Its smooth. Real smooth. Try it. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

MLitt - Master of Letters

Scandal is all around us. Police, politicians, billionaires, and even notable squillionaires have felt the sting following News of the World's ignominy. But to me, as to many, the greatest scandal of all is my lack of a job. Now, I've come close. Real close. A few times. And into my third year of trying I don't feel like chucking up the spongy sponge just yet. The real difficulty I have is with assessment centres; the big AC, the Colosseum, the Lion's den, the Savage Snake-pit, the..errr..old..Gruffalo Hut.

If I cherry-pick the various successes I've had over the four assessment centres I've been to, it jigsaws neatly into the perfect day. I sometimes wonder if I can put this fact on my CV, but I don't want to run the risk of having oily fish heads thrown at me. But whatever the weather in AC land, it's always sunny in application..ville! Oh yes, i'm a singing whippoorwill when it comes to getting my foot on the first rung of that knackered old ladder. That's because I know how to do it. I especially know how to write covering letters and CVs. I do you know. I wish I could make a six figure salary out of it. I could you know. And to my mind, the numbers game shouldn't be discouraged too much, as long as you know what you're doing. Possibly to the dismay of those law firms who consider themselves the cat's meow, the numbers game is very necessary in this most trying of years.  

So I manufactured me some rules! What are them rules? If i'm interested in a particular firm, I'll give the application the time it deserves. I reckon I can fire out an on-line application in about four-ish hours, including editing etc. A covering letter shouldn't take quite as long. But this, of course, isn't the numbers game. Last November I sent out twenty CVs and covering letters and I have six interviews lined up this summer. Some are for my dream firms. Some are for firms I hadn't heard of until I did a bit of snooping around. Using the numbers game, 20 applications can be sent out in a week easily.

CV - 2 pages maximum.   
Unless asked to state all grades, I only mention the ones i'm most proud of.

For the covering letter.
One page only.
Include my address, their address, date. I find the name of the person i'm writing to.
The sir/madame thing doesn't fly any more.
Header in bold under the 'dear whoever' bit.
5 short paragraphs.
Para 1 - where did I hear about the firm - two lines.
Para 2 - Why that firm. Size, their wonderful training scheme, the practice areas and what made me interested in those areas - five/six lines.
Para 3 - My degree, my skills, my suitability to law, my passion for law - four/five lines.
Para 4 - What i'm doing now, any extra skills I've picked up - four to six lines.
Para 5 - Closing line. 'I love you so much, that's why I'm the bacon to your butty'.

For the numbers game its only really Para 2 that I might change. But only for the numbers game shall I do this.

So my approach to applications has two limbs- The focussed limb, and The numbers game limb. I know others who have received TC offers by employing about as much effort as I have in writing this post. It can be frustrating. But I can see an end. Its the toughest year on record for getting a TC so it should be the most triumphant of triumphs when it finally comes. That's what i'm aiming for.

On an unrelated note, do you like how petrol smells?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Slow beginning, slower middle...

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity". I have a theory that Seneca wrote this catchy one-liner either under the great stress of his exile or while running from the ominous shadow of the murderous Caligula. To me it has never made much sense, mainly because I always felt that 'luck' exists in the opportunity alone.

It should be, "success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity". Whatever the hell Seneca meant, luck seems to be in short supply, opportunity is the carrot at the end of the stick, and preparation is...(anyone?).

I've been searching for a TC for the best part of 3 years now; battle-scarred is a 1-word/2-word thingy I like to describe myself as. Like any other ragamuffin, I started out as a dreamer. I saw myself in the pin-striped suit, pink tie, thick slicked hair, silly pointy shoes, clean shaven face, walking fast around canary wharf, holding a satchel of some kind in one hand, coffee in the other, newspaper under arm, jogging up steps to get to big gleaming automatic slidy doors, gliding into a 40 storey building made of seemingly nothing but chunky bumper glass squares, clippety-cloppetying along solid polished marble floor tiles, under high ceilings, smiling at the beautiful receptionist, big someone&something&someone name-board above receptionist's impossibly blonde head, arriving at the head of a tunnel of elevators-either-side-of-me, floors still glistening, pushing a big button which illuminates instantly, angel's touch, big glass elevator arriving, seeing everything below me in a turbo-speed yet near-silent elevator, arriving at my floor where everyone goes silent and I bellow a resonating 'good-morning'.  Right now is the first time I am revisiting this magical sequence in what has honestly been around 2 years.
Obviously, no matter what you do- accountant, rockstar, hunter, gatherer, mother, county friar, local shrubsman- idea and reality will forever be unharmonious. I graduated, did the GDL, then the LPC, now here I am. Through strife and experience, reality slowly bleeds into your red-ribboned conception of what legal life will be like. Having said that, 'slowly bleeds' is more like mass genocide when the LPC comes to pass.

I've had several experiences in the legal industry, I've studied what I need to, i'm a heavyweight champ when it comes to writing covering letters and CV's. No TC. Some might say i'm getting this that and the other wrong. Clearly I am doing something wrong and I feel this is entirely it- 'luck' only plays a part if you believe it will play a part; its a word, like 'shoes'. If success is when preparation meets opportunity, as one great man once said, then for me preparation is the hound of the baskervilles (i.e. obstacle- i'm seeing if this phrase could take off).

I'll be posting as often as I can on my experiences of the TC struggle. What's your hound of the baskervilles?...