How solicitors can best prepare for the interview process
The legal landscape is consistently shifting. For the 2016/17 academic year, more than 25,000 students applied to study law at an undergraduate level in England and Wales alone. Statistically speaking, between 45% and 60% of graduates in this area will go directly into private practice.
What this means for solicitors is an increase to the number and quality of qualified applicants for the legal profession – requiring a greater level of preparation to succeed during the interview process.
The core competencies that are key to portray in an interview for a solicitor role are academic ability, accuracy, determination and communication. Within this increasingly competitive market, the successful applicant to any solicitor role will need to stand out from the crowd – demonstrating each of these key skills and outshining their peers. What will result in a successful application is simple: Preparation.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. While this quote is often ignored, it is elegant in its simplicity. The first step of any successful interview begins with research. This applies doubly for the solicitor profession. As effective research is a cornerstone of a successful legal practice, an interview is often the first chance to demonstrate the talent you invariably possess in this area.
Any organisation you apply for will expect you to be familiar with the information they already provide online. Further than learning and regurgitating the details already listed on the organisation’s website, the successful applicant needs to dig deeper. Research and collate your views on the current economy and its effects on the profession as well as considering any upcoming legislation that you believe will affect your role in the coming years, for example.
A key piece of research that is often missed out in an interview involves the firm’s competitors. An excellent way for an interviewee to stand out is to take a holistic look at their desired place of employment – noting their competition in the area, how they are different, their strengths (and weaknesses) and any ideas you have for how this differentiation can be cemented. Nor forgetting the culture associated with each firm, too.
While have the finest qualifications and credentials might win you an interview, it means nothing if you’re not the right ‘fit’ for one another – both personally and culturally. Remember, this is your career and it is important that the time spent at work is not only enjoyable but also one where you want to be and one that will help you to thrive.
During the interview – key skills required
Often, the key stills required to succeed in an interview are not taught in standard education. Instead, success comes down to experience, planning and practice. Memorising your CV, developing talking points based on the key points, and communicating them in an effective way is one of the most basic ways any applicant can stand. But make sure that the areas you choose to focus on have direct relevance to the role you are being interviewed for.
There is a simple fact often overlooked when invited to an interview. No serious employer would consider interviewing a candidate that did not look suitable on paper. By virtue of being in the same room as your potential future employer, they already believe that you, your experience and your skills are a good fit on paper. The role of the candidate then becomes one of conversion – confirming that your future employer’s suspicions are correct and proving that you are the best person for the role.