Maybe you’re about to graduate from law school. Perhaps it’s time for a career change. Whatever the situation, you’re hoping to get a job at a law firm. In order to be successful, you need to know what law firms want in a strong candidate.
Here are 10 qualities that law firms look for:
1. Sincere Interest in the Area of Practice
If you apply to a personal injury law firm, they’re going to see if you show some kind of interest in personal injury law. Did you take advanced courses in trial advocacy? Were you part of a civil litigation clinic? These are signs that you’re interested in doing the work that the law firm does. They want to see you show a passion for their practice areas because you’re more likely to learn that area of law in depth and stay at the firm long term.
2. Expertise in the Area of Practice
Any specialized knowledge that you have in the firm’s practice area can also give you a leg up on the competition. Did you work on a complicated case that taught you all about premises liability case law? That’s a notch in your favor. Are you intimately familiar with how the courts handle child support cases involving high-income earners? A family law firm wants to know about that. A law firm will look for attorneys who can bring niche knowledge to a practice area to expand the firm’s expertise.
3. Professional Achievements
A law firm wants to hire people who are going to be successful. They want to know that you can compete and manage a busy practice. Participation in moot court competitions and leadership in organizations are two signs that you’re able to take the lead and be successful. The firm will interpret these achievements as signs that you’re going to excel in your legal practice, too.
Lawyers make multiple decisions every single day. These decisions are often highly consequential for clients. The ability to make critical decisions and have confidence in them is a must for any lawyer. A law firm is going to want to know that you’re capable of managing a case independently and the conviction to make the tough calls when it comes down to it.
5. Oral Advocacy
Lawyers need to be able to express themselves clearly by speaking. Even if you focus on transactional law, you still need to communicate with clients and colleagues. Law firms look for the ability to communicate verbally as an essential skill. They’re judging you by what you say as well as how you say it.
6. Writing Skills
All lawyers write. In fact, it’s one of the most essential skills that a lawyer uses in their practice. Don’t worry about using big words or Latin terms just to impress your friends and neighbors. That’s not good legal writing anymore. Instead, the law firm will look for someone who can communicate clearly in writing with a solid grasp of language and grammar. Knowing and following conventions for submitting formal court documents matters, too. Expect the law firm to ask for a writing sample to evaluate your work.
7. Technology Skills
Technology skills are also a must for all lawyers today. You need to know how to use email and be comfortable with word processing programs, at a minimum. Today’s lawyers type their own documents and even do their own e-filings. Is the printer broken? You might be called on to fix it. Bonus points if you know the basics of making and operating a website. The more you know about technology, the better you’re going to look to a law firm.
8. Interest in Putting Down Roots
When a law firm hires a new lawyer, they invest in that person’s professional development. The firm must allocate pay, mentorship, technology, office equipment and more. A company wants to see a return on their investment. The company hopes that you’re going to put down roots and work for the company long-term. Signs that you’re interested in putting down roots in the area can give you the upper hand.
9. Unique Skills
It’s a plus if you bring something to the table that the firm doesn’t have yet. Do you speak a second or third language? Bonus points! Are you trained in mediation? Great! Do you have computer programming skills? What about a background in accounting?
A diverse law firm is equipped to help a diverse set of clients. Diversity can take a lot of forms. Unique skills can separate you from the pile of applications, even if those skills aren’t directly related to the law.
10. Marketing Potential
What you do in your free time matters. Do you play in a Tuesday night soccer league? That’s potential clients right there. Are you in social or business clubs? Having a wide range of community contacts means having a lot of people to tell about your firm’s services. If you’re involved in the community now, it’s a good sign that you’re going to continue to build priceless contacts that can ultimately bring in business.
Do Law Firms Look at Law School Grades?
Yes, law firms look at law school grades. Law school grades show that you’ve demonstrated the logical, writing and oral advocacy skills that it takes to be a lawyer. Good grades also show that you’re willing to work hard.
However, how much your grades matter depends on the law firm and the circumstances. If your interview skills are excellent, you can overcome weaker grades. A small firm in a rural area is going to emphasize practice readiness over grades more than a large law firm with multiple offices.
Ultimately, firms look at law school grades, but they look at other factors, too. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have perfect grades. Focus on your different strengths and diversify your search. If you have great grades, continue to work on other skills in order to stand out from the competition.
Attorney Adam S. Kutner has spent more than 29 years fighting for fair compensation for victims of personal injury in Nevada. With more than 40,000 settlement cases behind him, Mr. Kutner knows his way around the court system. As a former insurance defense attorney he knows how to get clients the maximum settlement promptly and trouble-free. Adam S. Kutner, Injury Attorneys has also been recognized by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to be Las Vegas’ Best Accident Lawyer of 2020.