Monday, 22 August 2011

Employ me I don't want babies!

By Sissymoon [guest writer]

I am going to do my GDL in September , and like many others of you out there I convince myself I am the one that these firms want, they just don’t know it yet. I’m sure you all know how much soul searching you do while completing your application forms, you convince yourself that each firm you apply to is the one for you, you simply have to make yourself stand out from everyone else, that is actually in essence a clone of you.

You reel off how much passion you have for the firm, how you believe you will fit in very well with the other solicitors, how you respect their trainee recruitment because you understand how important it is to recruit the ‘partners of the future’ (when actually you hate it because it makes the process harder)etc etc. What interested me while completing these applications was how far one would go to get a TC. I am constantly searching for new ways to improve my applications to gain the elusive TC, and through many networking events with lawyers I found when talking to women the subject of babies always came up.

Now I am certainly no feminist, I hate them, whinging about the ‘glass ceiling’, about how porn is essentially abuse of women, how they are expected to become housewives. The basis of their argument is all wrong; why would you attempt to be equal to something you are so different to? However one conversation I had with a lawyer has always stuck in my mind; when is the right time to have babies? For some reason this stuck and made me think, has it got to a point where I feel like one of my unique qualities is that I am prepared not to have children to have a career? I am prepared to choose my employer over my ovaries.

I always joke that I would be the type of mother who would say ‘go and play on the motorway’, but the reality is if I am even debating this I would not be a good mother. Under the section ‘is there anything else you feel would support your application’ I am always desperate to put “I don’t want babies” , “I won’t take maternity leave”, “I will sacrifice my main biological purpose of being in this world”! I do however stop myself – they may think oh good she won’t sting us for flexi-hours, and covering maternity leave but she will need time off for being certifiably insane! Just how much do we need to sacrifice to show that we are different from the other 500-1000 applicants? When does the line need to be drawn, but how do you show commitment to your chosen path? I know I will regret it when I am lonely and old, and there is no one there to wipe the food away I dribbled or change me when I soiled myself , yet I would still say I am prepared to not have children for my career (and the greater good).

Friday, 12 August 2011

Interviews: Is your body betraying you?

A study, reported in a Forbes magazine article called Is Your Body Betraying You In Job Interviews?, claims that "a first impression is based on 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language." The article is from 2006 but I imagine the science is still good. There is no substitute for being enthusiastic. This probably goes for assessment centres too. But what body language? How can one 'appear' enthusiastic in a scenario as artificial as an interview? Maybe its time to put on a show, break out the mirror and with it the Othello charm. Although, I suppose it helps if you are genuinely enthusiastic...


Sunday, 7 August 2011

Interviews: another perspective

The following piece is by Lawyered_87, poached from the cathedral that is Roll on Friday with permission. I thought it was rather spiffing, hence the poach.

By Lawyered_87 on Roll on Friday on 7 August:

I was one of those candidates that was lucky enough to get invited to a lot of interviews at good City firms but never seemed to be able to break through that "glass ceiling". This had happened since I started applying 3 years ago. So I have a lot of experience with interviews and I've come to one conclusion: you cannot wing anything, ever.

I managed to get a t/c recently and I totally changed my approach for that interview and I feel this new approach helped me get it.

I treated the interview as if it was an exam. So a few days (or even a week, it's up to you) all I would do is get into a routine of getting up early and going to sleep early, and throughout the day I'd "revise". This would consist of:

- reading everything I can about the firm (its website,, lex100, student chambers and partners etc.)
- keeping up to date on current affairs (BBC News, Lawyer 2B, Legalweek etc.)
- watching BBC News 24 whenever having breakfast and lunch
- practising verbal reasoning tests (if you had to)
- And the most important one - looking at every possible question that can be asked at an interview and coming up with at least some answer to them or one example.

That last part is really important. I know it's virtually impossible to know what could get asked at interviews; they'll throw you a left-fielded question you may not have anticipated. You deal with those wildcards the best you can. But there are some questions that are very common; there are great resources on-line that give for example 100 interview questions that could be asked - so I went through each one and asked myself what I'd say if I was asked them. It's a tiresome, tedious and boring process - but when you realise the potential dividends of getting a t/c through this preparation, it's worth it!

I'd also practice actually answering some questions out loud - privately in my room of course! The very act of speaking about yourself and bigging yourself up is so unnatural, that the more you do it the more natural it'll be. You can also practice structuring your thoughts/answers in your head and speaking a little slower, as nerves on the guy can make you speak too quickly and wildly.

For each potential interview question, I'd try and come up with 3 good points I'd always reel off. So, for example, "Why do you want to be a solicitor?" - for this I'd have 3 points I'd rely on; it makes you sound confident and certain. Competency questions, I'd always have one example but a second one just in case I needed it. So, for example, "tell me about a time you used teamwork?" - I'd have a good example for this, and then go through STAR structure (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

You'll see that preparation is key. When I began to have so many dud interviews, I started to realise that I wasn't preparing for them enough - and it's silly to not prepare for them. Because at the end of the day the mere opportunity to get an interview is a lot more than a lot of applicants get at all! An interview is an opportunity for you to shine and if you don't put every effort into it you've just robbed yourself of a great opportunity that others would kill for.

The added bonus of good preparation is that it makes you more comfortable, which relaxes your nerves on the day.

So be focused. Stay sharp. Prepare. It'll pay off in the end, believe me.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Commercial awareness - savvy?

Socrates. When people hear this name, many will identify the great Greek philosopher of ancient times, others will shrug their shoulders. For a minority, images of the 1982 World Cup and the blind heel pass, the two-footedness, the ruggedness, the height and the majesty will present themselves instantly. Socrates. One of the finest football captains the beautiful game has ever produced. A Brazilian [of course], Socrates was able to do the impossible. He could see things that other players couldn't even fathom. His skill and vision on the pitch made him an idol to millions.

An acute knowledge of what is around them, coupled with the requisite know-how of what to do with that knowledge is instilled in every great captain- of industry as well as football. I view commercial awareness similarly. Knowing the elements of the commercial world is one thing, but to then make connections between those elements is where, I believe, true commercial awareness lies.

Knowing that the sovereign debt crisis exists is good; knowing how it has consequences for the legal and commercial world is better- A impacts B which impacts C. Now i'm thinking like Socrates [the footballer, that is- although the philosopher was probably no dope when it came to making simple deductions]. He would know the elements on the pitch, identify the connections and execute the necessary [with all the aplomb and swagger that came to be expected of a Brazilian maestro, I should add]. For an incredible book on commercial awareness, I recommend All You Need to Know about Commercial Awareness 2011 (All You Need to Know Guides). Also, check out the Bank of England website's education section which is full of useful and easy to understand information-

For more information on the legend that is Socrates take a look at Giants Of Brazil: Soccer World Cup History 1950-1994 DVD. Its well good.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Who came up with the phrase "please f*ck off"? I want to know who he or she is. Was it one person, or was it a team effort? Was there a meeting at which it was decided that 'PFO' was going to enter the mainstream and prosper? Its a phrase used frequently and across continents and cultures; you might say its a popular, cross-continental, cross-cultural phrase. But its a funny phrase because it is intrinsically counter-intuitive, yet it captures the essence of most situations it is used in. How interesting. And it is so aptly used by beaten down future-noblemen/women.

Of course, firms that write to you to reject you cannot say 'don't want you, get lost' or 'heh' or 'yeah, nice one mate', although it would save them a great deal of time and ink. Ink is important. They pretty much have no choice but to 'PFO' us. It's good manners. PFO is manners. PFO is the art of manners encapsulated in a couple of lines on a sheet of A4. I've received some beautifully written, deliciously crafted PFO's. A few times i've been tempted to reply with a thank you note.

I'm yet to receive a PFO for the most recent round of applications. But they'll come. They will. Indeed, it was never the idea that I send off 20/30 applications and get greenlighted for all of them. PFO is part of the process. Much like people say death is as much a part of life as life itself [although this to me has always smelled a lot like BS], PFOs are as much a part of the struggle as interview offers [what's the acronym for 'interview offers'? IOs? Never heard it before.]

Who came up with the word BS? I'd like to meet them too.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Knowing when to quit

Many people will accuse those who do the LPC without having obtained a TC of being either misguided or stupid. In the worst cases I have seen, some unfortunate souls have been referred to as both of these quick succession. It doesn't happen often, but i've seen it. But from official statistics which i'm assuming must exist, most people start the LPC without a TC. Moreover, those who start the LPC having secured a contract make up only a small proportion of those who do the LPC and then go onto TC'hood. But, still, there is the beclouding statistic that there are more LPCers that TCs.

But how are we supposed to know when to quit? No doubt for many of you who don't have a TC, 'quit' isn't a word which enters your vocabulary. But for me, i've always felt that I do know when to quit. It just happens that that time isn't now. My feeling of 'knowing' that I will secure one soon is sort of compounded by the fact that I know many mooks who have signed their names on that hallowed piece of paper. How did they do it and I not? Of course, there are so many objective, subjective, economical and personal factors affecting this query, but lets ignore those.

A further reason why i'm not quitting, other than that I want to be a lawyer and all that lark, is because far too much has been invested in this; financially, emotionally, and most of all, time-wise. 31st July has passed us and soon we will all discover the fate of our words of promise, and the worth of our summer sacrifices. For many, the summer of hardship will pay dividends, but for others, it won't be a time looked upon with fondness.

A summer of hardship is quickly displaced by a summer of relentlessly checking emails. I'm doing it right now. There..I just did it. Its not fun, nor is it easy to stomach a lot of the time; but for those of you like me, you'll know that now is not the time to quit, and for those of you who don't know when to quit, what can I say, other than 'keep plugging away'...until its time to quit, that is.