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28 Mar

How Can Candidates Stand Out in a Competitive Legal Job Market?

by: Astor Professional Search

The legal job market in Illinois is fiercely competitive. It has many opportunities and a large pool of qualified candidates. Standing out and landing your dream legal job requires carefully planned job search strategies. You can gain a competitive edge over other candidates by identifying and using your strengths, showcasing your transferrable skills, and polishing your resume and cover letter.

Businessman standing on skyscraper. Legal job market.

Identify and Leverage Your Personal Strengths

Hiring managers in the legal job market look beyond the qualifications and basic skills on resumes of candidates. They assess unique personal attributes to choose candidates who can handle events that might arise in the work setting.

Effective communication abilities, willingness to learn, ability to negotiate, and emotional intelligence are personal strengths that can help you ace law firm interviews and find a job after law school. Here are tips for identifying and leveraging your personal strengths:

Find Your Unique Qualities and Accomplishments

Every legal job applicant has unique personal strengths and skills that set him or her apart from other applicants. Understanding and leveraging these strengths and skills can make you likelier to secure a position in your dream law firm or company.

Start by determining what your potential employer may find useful. Law firms and companies searching for legal talent want candidates with the necessary skills and strengths to help them expand their businesses and profit margins. Carefully examine the job description of an open position in your preferred law firm and identify the qualities the employer needs in a candidate.

You can then assess yourself. Take time to think about your experiences, accomplishments, and competencies. Note down what you love about your career, skills you have gained over time, and achievements relevant to the job.

Seeking feedback from others can also help you find your unique qualities and strong points. Find out what your family, close friends, and workmates think about your strengths and weaknesses.

Another way to identify your strengths is to analyze your past projects. List the steps you took to complete each project. Determine the parts you enjoyed the most. Also, identify the tasks you completed in close collaboration with your team members.

Look for Evidence to Support Your Qualities and Accomplishments

Determine what type of evidence can help you prove your qualities and achievements. Published legal writings in local journals can help demonstrate your impeccable research and written communication skills. A letter of appointment to a leadership position in and outside the legal sector can prove you possess strong leadership skills. Another way to demonstrate your unique qualities and strengths is to share personal success stories.

Build an Outstanding Resume and Cover Letter

A strong resume and cover letter is an essential element of any job search.

Showcase Your Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are competencies from your current job that are relevant to the position you are pursuing. They fall into two main categories: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills constitute career-specific abilities like legal research and writing. Soft skills consist of people skills like problem-solving and communication.

Emphasizing your transferrable skills in your resume and cover letter using previous job experiences helps convince a potential employer that you are the right candidate for the job. The more transferrable skills you can showcase, the higher your likelihood of securing the job.

The first step in showcasing your transferrable skills is to review the job description and identify the skills and attributes the employer requires. You can then tailor your experience, skill sets, and personal attributes to those requirements. Be sure to explain how your qualifications fit into the open position.

Mention projects and capacity-building programs you have completed. Doing that helps your potential employer know your background and gauge the value you will add to the company if hired.

Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter to Every Job

Do not use the same resume and cover letter for every job application you make. Instead, customize the resume and letter to highlight transferrable skills relevant to each role. A legal recruiter can smoothen the job search process by pointing you toward employers looking for candidates with skills and qualifications like yours. The recruiter will update your resume and cover letter to suit the potential employer’s requirements.

Keep it Short and Use Relevant Keywords

Resumes and cover letters should be short and clear. Your resume should be one to two pages. The cover letter, on the other hand, should be three paragraphs. Given the limited word count, you should be strategic in your word choice. Choosing the right keywords can help you achieve that.

Relevant keywords for a specific role are in the job description. You need to check the qualifications section and identify the skills and qualities a law firm or employer wants in an ideal candidate.

Use those keywords in your resume and cover letter. Demonstrate to the hiring team that you are the right candidate for the job by providing relevant information about your skills and experiences.

Incorporate a Header and Summary into Your Resume

A single open legal position may attract hundreds or even thousands of applications. Your best shot at capturing the hiring team’s attention is to add a catchy header and summary to your resume.

The header should include your name and contact information. Its font size should be slightly bigger. A three-sentence summary should appear directly under the header. It should highlight your relevant skills and personal strengths.

Proofread Thoroughly

Carefully read your resume and cover letter. Identify and correct any typing errors and ambiguous language. An error-free and precise resume and cover letter show your professionalism and a keen eye for detail. Be sure to proofread your resume after customizing it to a new position.

Showcase Your Understanding of the Latest Legal Industry Trends and Regulations

Law firms are interested in candidates who follow industry trends and changing regulations in the legal sector. They include widespread technology adoption in the legal industry, workplace diversity policies, workplace inclusion programs, and working from home.

A resume that shows your knowledge of the latest trends and regulatory changes in the legal job market portrays your professionalism and real-life competencies. Such a resume can set you apart from other candidates.

The Importance of Technological Fluency and Adaptability

Technological fluency and adaptability are crucial in the legal job market, as they allow new hires to familiarize themselves with technologies available in the new workplaces quickly. They also help them perform their job duties efficiently.

Law firms and other corporations that hire legal talents want tech-fluent candidates. Courts and regulatory entities have adopted technology-based systems like e-filing and case tracking. As such, basic technology skills like conducting online research, emailing, and using a word processor are mandatory for any lawyer, paralegal, or legal assistant.

In line with the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Illinois requires legal professionals to be technologically competent. This requirement stresses the importance of lawyers keeping up with technologies related to their practice areas.

Tech-fluent lawyers can use online customized contract tools to create and negotiate agreements that reflect their client’s best interests. They can leverage automation tools to manage legal documents and collaborative platforms to organize work, communicate with clients, and collaborate with peers.

The types of lawyers that are in demand must be tech-savvy and adaptable. An adaptable lawyer will easily embrace new technologies, transforming the legal industry and law practice. He or she will use AI-powered tools to conduct legal research and draft contracts to gain an edge over the competition and address the unique client needs.

The current legal job market requires professionals with versatile skills. Adaptability allows legal professionals to be willing to learn new things and develop new skills inside and outside their practice areas. It makes lawyers well-rounded and adaptable to rapidly evolving client needs.

Adaptability is instrumental in staying on top of the rest in the competitive legal market. You stand a better chance of building a successful legal career if you are ready to adapt to new technologies.

Highlight Your Proficiency in Legal Software and Tools

Law firms are leveraging legal technology to automate repetitive tasks, smooth processes, and offer quality services to clients.

Thanks to the widespread adoption of legal technology tools, law firms are interested in candidates who can perform their duties efficiently immediately after getting hired. They are searching for employees familiar with legal technology tools and willing to learn new ones.

Proficiency in legal software and tools can help you stand out from other candidates. Potential employers will be more likely to hire you as they will save time and money they would have otherwise spent to train you on using those tools and software.

Ensure your resume highlights only tools and software you can use competently. That way, you will demonstrate your competency in the software and systems highlighted on your resume if asked to do so during an interview. Legal placement specialists can help you build a strong resume and prepare for an interview adequately.

author-bio-image author-bio-image
William Sugarman

William Sugarman is the president and founder of Astor Professional Search. He engages in the successful placement of attorneys with local, regional, and international law firms and corporations. Bill’s extensive legal and business development experience give Astor an edge over other legal recruiters nationwide. At the cornerstone of Bill’s strategic philosophy is providing the highest level of personalized attention to his clients and attorney candidates. This is also a key factor that separates Astor from other legal search firms, and it consistently delivers legal placements year after year.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years

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