I've a question about interviews that I'd like some advice on. I've been lurking on here for a while but just started posting - if you'd like to know more about me, see my post in the 'Introductions' section by clicking here.
I'm a 23-year-old law graduate who hasn't been able to find a job in the legal field thus far. I'm currently working in a hotel but applying for other jobs in a variety of fields.
However, when I go to interviews, the interviewer invariably asks something to the effect of 'Why aren't you pursuing a career in law'.
I'm not entirely sure how to answer this and would appreciate any advice anyone can offer. Thus far I've tended to say I want a change of career but I don't feel this is very convincing. How do I answer it somewhat truthfully but not give the impression I will be off at the first hint of a legal job?
Wow! Thanks everyone for the replies, didn't expect to get so many!
To answer the question about the law degree - the system is a bit different here. To be a solicitor in Scotland, you need to do an LLB (3 years) or LLB (Hons) (4 years), then a Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (one more year) and after that, work as a trainee solicitor in a law firm for 2 years. To be an Advocate (Scottish barrister) you need to qualify as a solicitor then do a year's additional training. I've done the LLB (Hons) and the Diploma but haven't been able to find a job as a trainee solicitor.
I really like the suggestion of relating my skills set to the position I'm applying for. For example my next interview is to be a trainee car salesman - I could relate my negotiation skills I gained during my studies to this and explain that I've an understanding of consumer law etc.
Ric - I take your point about the question of whether I would go to a legal job. To be honest I've been knocked back so many times from legal jobs I've come to believe that such an offer isn't going to come (or if it is, it will be a few years at least). At this point, if I'm honest, I don't really know what I want to do - just that I want something that's more challenging and rewarding than what I do now. Definitely need to do more soul-searching on this.
Andrew D - I've definitely been in situations where I haven't done enough research on the company - the worst one being an interview to be a trainee manager for a supermarket chain. The interviewer asked questions about the company that I hadn't a clue of the answer to. I'd only been told about the interview on the day before but I still felt I should've done more research. I will definitely do more research for future interviews.
Your points about acting confidently and getting across what I can do for them that other candidates can't - these are things I've struggled with.
I've always suffered from a bit of social anxiety and lacked confidence. I've been working on this for a number of years but I feel I've still some way to go. I've just got to act as confidently as possible, strong handshake, eye contact etc.
As for standing out from other candidates, I need to think more about this as well. Again my next interview I've negotiation skills, understanding of consumer law and experience of persuasion (I was involved with the university's debating society throughout my studies) so I could use these points. Thanks for reminding me about the need to stand out.
You're stuck in a catch 22: Employer want candidates with legal experience but won't give you a job to get legal experience because you don't have legal experience.
Solution: Volunteer. Find charities and NGOs and pro-bono community firms and seniors' homes and battered women's shelters and (etc etc etc) and offer them your legal services during weekends and evenings. You'll be gaining legal experience, you'll be gaining a way to distinguish yourself from other candidates your age, and these things can sometimes lead to real job offers.
If you wanted to be really ballsy you could even get in touch with all the top firms and tell them you DON'T want a job. That'll get their attention! Most big firms commit to doing a certain amount of hours or dollars worth of pro-bono every year. Get in touch with some firms, tell them you DON'T want a job and explain that, because you want legal experience, you'd be willing to do their pro-bono for them for free. (You'd essentially be negotiating your own internship.) I think you'd probably get noticed very quickly because I doubt anyone has ever gotten in touch with a firm to tell them they don't want a job with them! So, even if they're not interested in letting you do their pro bono, you'll be on their radar. They'll tell everyone about you because it's such a novel, wacky way to approach a firm. You'll be known as that guy. Eventually, someone is going to want to meet that guy because of his novel, ballsy, go-getter approach.*
(*Not guaranteed to result in people wanting to meet you. Some restrictions apply. Consult your physician. Batteries not included.)
Thanks for the response. I've done a bit of volunteering in the past with a local charity, giving quasi-legal advice to people with a variety of issues. I stopped this when I started my full-time job but I'm sure they would let me go back as and when I can. May be a good idea just to keep my experience up. Also, I like the idea of approaching firms and offering voluntary help, will write to some of the firms in Aberdeen and see what comes back.
FYI: Taking on an intern to do work a business would normally pay someone to do is illegal in the US.
American jurists also have to be very careful about giving legal advice without taking and passing the Bar exam of the appropriate jurisdiction, paying fees, getting a license, and carrying malpractice insurance. No organization, no matter how well-intended, should take in an unlicensed volunteer without making arrangements for him to be supervised by a licensed jurist. The supervision doesn't have to be like supervising a playground, though. The student can just have a conversation with the supervisor before each big step, and the supervisor needs to review any documents prepared before they're submitted.
If I were an unlicensed US law graduate who wanted to get experience, I'd try to find a legal environment where I could hang out. In the US, big law firms have formal paid internships, but small firms will let a student hang out and give him projects that aren't so pressing they can charge a client for them, but are still worthwhile.
The other advice American law students get is to hang out at courthouses as much as possible. Best would be to get to hang out in a judge's chambers. Again, bigger courts have formal programs for this, but it's actually easier to create a position in smaller courts without formal programs.
He could also volunteer overseas for the UN. That's what my wife did after articling.
You can create an internship at basically any organization that employs lawyers. From the organization's viewpoint, the upside is free skilled labor. The downside is liability from having an extra body around (to stink up the office fridge, or to disclose confidential info, etc.). All you have to do is show you're a tiny liability. You do this by making some connection (usually having to do with you and the lawyer within the organization attending the same school, but you can be a colleague-of-a-colleague, etc.) and presenting yourself professionally.
If you want prestige, go for the biggest firm in the biggest city you can tolerate. But, if you want experience, small towns are the way to go. Small firms in big towns are better than big firms, but they still tend to specialize ... so you'll probably get a lot of experience in a narrow field.
Small town firms -- even the bigger ones -- may be the last holdout of the general practitioner. They do literally anything that walks in the door. You'll get real experience a lot sooner there than you would as a first-year lawyer at a big firm. In my experience.
Of course, OP may want to specialize, especially if he wants to settle in a major market where all the firms are looking for specialists. He just has to find a growing specialty.
How do I answer it somewhat truthfully but not give the impression I will be off at the first hint of a legal job?
You can't. Unless I'm misinterpreting you the truth is that you would.
Apologies for the delay in replying to this, haven't had a chance to get online. Again thanks all for the advice, will get writing to some firms and see what comes back. Believe it or not, anyone can give legal advice in Scotland, you just can't prepare certain documents or call yourself a solicitor unless you are qualified. Firms still wouldn't take me on to give advice but I think any form of experience in a law firm would look good on my CV. If nothing else it would show I know what it's like to work in that kind've environment.
As for specialising, I've never really known what area I'd want to specialise in and to be honest, I'd take any offer of a traineeship regardless of what type of law it involved or what firm it was. I feel it's a case of 'beggars can't be choosers'.
Also John Lee Pettimore, I see what you mean. I know I can't answer entirely truthfully but I'd prefer not to tell outright lies either. Like sometimes I've said I want a change of career when interviewing for a job that pays less than a traineeship would - I know the interviewer can see through this.