Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Friday, December 19, 2008

No Legal Work Experience – Quasi-Legal Roles

"I don’t have any legal experience in my career to date although I do have prior work experience in different careers."

This came up quite regularly in a recent seminar session at a University. Quite a lot of the students said that they did not have legal experience but had former careers in other fields.

However, when we went through this in further detail, quite a lot of the students actually did have work experience to a certain degree and it was just a case of getting it out of them. A couple of examples were two students who had been directors or involved in the running of claims management companies and another student who had worked as an employment officer; there were also students who had been contract officers, employment managers and even IT consultants.

A quasi-legal role is one that involves some element of law but not actually working as a lawyer.

Examples would include someone dealing with race equality or employment issues or somebody handling contract negotiations, as all of these roles involve some elements of law, and although this law may not be immediately obvious or particularly stand out when you read through the CV, it can be used to enhance a CV that is otherwise lacking on the legal side of things.

It is just a question of thinking about roles from a lawyer’s perspective, because it will be a lawyer who looks through your CV (or at least someone from HR who is linked to law) and is looking specifically for legal issues or things on a CV that stand out to them. For a lawyer this usually means legally related issues, so if you can fill your CV with plenty of relevant bits of information linked to law this will stand out. You fill your CV with information that is linked to managers, management ‘speak’ & skills and it will not particularly stand out.

Nearly every role you ever work in has some sort of legal issue linked to it; during the seminar we did discuss the issue of how you make stacking shelves in at Tescos sound interesting or relevant to a lawyer. We try to discourage anyone from writing down lists of skills that you think are transferable, simply on the basis that usually nobody reads this as it is just subjective waffle.

There are things that a shelf stacker at Tescos would have been trained in. This will include things like health and safety, basic employment law and contracts to a certain degree. These are issues that will stand out to a lawyer, whereas if you just write that you are a good timekeeper and developed good communication skills - these will not stand out or be completely ignored. There is really no excuse for failing to have legal work experience of some sort if you are training to be a lawyer, as without it you do not know where you want to be, or how you want to develop your career. So although you may have good quasi-legal experience, you should still go out and get some of the real thing, even if it is just a few days here and there or an evening a week.

As an aside many years ago I remember a student on my LPC who was an electrician speaking to a local firm and being told that if he wanted to he could go in on an evening and help the partner shift a load of files off the floor, which he did over a period of about four to six months, unpaid for three to four hours an evening. This all lead to him getting a training contract and qualifying as a solicitor a few years later. Foot, door and right time are all words that lead to training contracts!

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and regularly commentates on the state of the legal profession and the legal job market. You can contact Jonathan for advice at cv@ten-percent.co.uk or telephone 0207 1274343.