Bournemouth University student Patrick Herklots who is studying a Graduate Diploma in Law shares his experience of applying and researching for jobs in law following his undergraduate degree as well as providing a useful insight from a talk given by Craig Sharpe at Darlingtons Solicitors about what is needed to stand out in the job application process when applying for training contracts.
Why the internet and marketing matter for law firms
Increasingly, research shows , we are all using the internet and google especially for self-diagnosis in areas where we would traditionally first seek professional help. Medical professionals and lawyers are faced with clients who attend with a solution they have found through a simple internet search. This raises expectations for clients regarding the service they receive in terms of efficiency and cost and potentially alter the interaction from one of professional respect to purchasing a service. Equally importantly, it demonstrates clearly that when people have legal needs or problems they seek solutions online, so a strong and visible presence and brand online are essential now in a much more competitive professional services market.
It is therefore vital that law firms rise to meet this challenge. A strong online presence can attract a large number of clients and presents an opportunity to take ownership of this problem.
Brexit is an area of current concern for business. A simple internet search using terms ‘Brexit, ‘business’ and ‘law’ results in top hits from two legal firms supplying resource packs and a wealth of easily accessed information. This gives prospective clients an idea of the advantages found in consulting the professionals.
Examples of interesting online marketing
The growth of artificial intelligence is another concern both for businesses and the legal industry that many law firms are addressing on their websites. Clifford Chance, for example, have a detailed paper explaining how they have used artificial intelligence to reduce costs in the firm and create more accurate charging mechanisms for the client than the current billable hour method provides. This clever use of the latest technology not only shows transparency of legal fees but addresses expectations clients may otherwise have had about costs. It’s also clever marketing and PR.
Presenting a friendly and approachable image is another important aspect of a firm’s online profile. One method that has been adopted is for firms to upload videos of their solicitors onto their websites, outlining their roles within the firm. Darlingtons’ website includes video clips of clients and people describing the firm. This personal and informal approach is effective in encouraging trust and breaking down some of the formalities often associated with solicitor firms.
Twitter boasts 330 million monthly users. It is unsurprising therefore that most law firms now have twitter accounts. This is another way of communicating the particular assets of individual firms. Burges Salmon’s twitter feed is active and dynamic, frequently posting community initiatives and blog articles for followers to read. The tone is informal and friendly and shows a more ‘human’ side to the firm.
The right mentality for new lawyers is lawyering but with other activities too
Law firms face unprecedented competition, the threats as well as opportunities created by technology and the need to adapt to the changing demands of the client.
So how can today’s aspiring solicitors show a readiness to embrace working in this changing environment and demonstrate they have the ‘right mentality’? Commercial awareness, initiative, team working and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone are all essential qualities.
Gaining commercial awareness is easier than ever with the presence of the internet. A quick search on twitter and you can easily following some law related accounts such as ‘Legal Cheek’, which gives easy access to the commercially-driven world of law. You will find posts and retweets on a variety of topics on these accounts that can keep you updated on the way the legal and business industry is changing. The more accounts you follow on twitter, the wider your network of sources will be, making it a valuable way to access a range of commercial knowledge.
Your CV is vital. You will need to use your initiative to build your CV and demonstrate to firms that you are willing to take on new challenges in order to succeed. There are many opportunity available of which you can take advantage. For example, the Personal Support Unit (PSU) needs volunteers. This charity provides practical and emotional support to people going through court proceedings and are representing themselves in person. I have been working for them over the last few months and they are happy to take applications.
This is a great opportunity to throw yourself into the ‘deep end’ and get a grasp of what it may be like dealing with clients. Many people arrive at the PSU with a lot of information they have received from the internet. Often this makes them more anxious than is necessary and there is great satisfaction in working through this with them and often finding that their problem is more simple than they thought.
Volunteering at any legal charity will give you the opportunity to deal with a wide variety of clients and to demonstrate a willingness to take the necessary leaps to learn and develop. With the evolving challenges presenting to modern law firms through developing technology these will be necessary traits to have.
Teamwork is now essential for lawyer success
Demonstrating that you can work as a team is another key attribute that law firms will be looking for. As a postgraduate student, you will have a wide range of experience to draw on from your undergraduate years. For example, there are likely to be a number of teams you have worked for during that time. During the last few years I have been in sports teams, worked as a supermarket member, as an office clerk in a solicitor’s firm and as team member of a small off-licence alongside the group presentations integral to my degree programme. Each of these has given me a valuable and varied experience on how to be an effective team member.
Be flexible, be adaptable, be willing
With the ongoing challenges for law firms to keep abreast of current technology in an increasingly connected world, use all your life skills to create the right mentality for a successful career in law. With firms evolving on the internet, you will need to use the online tools available to the best of your advantage. Firms are marketing themselves in new ways and will be looking to employ people who are willing to post blogs and videos and show an active involvement with the community. So, take opportunities, get online, show willingness and stretch yourself. This will all serve to demonstrate that you have the right mentality to approach the challenge of working in a fast changing legal climate.