How to sell your non-legal skills and ensure you perform your best in interviews
The prospect of breaking into the legal profession as a non-law student might seem daunting at first.
But, in fact, non-law grads can be found in troves at some of the UK’s top law firms. The Legal Cheek team has compiled their top tips for non-law students with their eyes on making this year the year they bag a TC.
Sell the strengths of your non-law degree
Never having studied law shouldn’t deter you from pursuing a career in law. Law firms do not hire trainees based on the assumption that they are already legal experts! Of course, it can be useful to have a basic understanding of legal terminology to demonstrate your interest in this career, but you are certainly not at any disadvantage if you specialised in an entirely different subject.
In your application, it is important to articulate the ways in which your degree has provided you with the skills that make you a great lawyer. As an arts student, for example, you will have developed the ability to write persuasively and to use evidence in support of your arguments. As a STEM student, you will have be practised in taking a careful logical approach to problems, as well as being encouraged to be inquisitive and open-minded. These skills are all highly sought after within the profession, so deserve emphasis in any application you submit.
Link the law firm’s work to your interests
When you go to an interview, a big question that will crop up is “Why us?”. When asked this question, it’s important to link it to something you’re actually interested in and can talk about freely and passionately. The interviewers will be able to tell if you’re reciting something you found off the internet that you don’t really care about.
Take some time before your interview to research the firm and find out what type of cases or transactions they have been working on in your field of interest and have a few examples that you can talk about during your interview. It shows that you’re actually interested in the firm you’re applying for, instead of hinting to the interviewer that you just applied to as many firms as possible!
Get some work experience under your belt
If you haven’t previously studied law (and even if you have!) it is crucial to have examples of past work experience to hand on your application. Regardless of whether that experience is directly relevant to law, any work or volunteering experiences will serve to refine your skillset and allow you to showcase your interests and what you could bring to a law firm.
A wide range of interpersonal and organisational skills are important for those looking to become lawyer. This ranges from handling clients in a difficult situation to having to make an important judgement call and working well in a team, among other things. Work experience in any field — from summer jobs to part-time work for a retailer whilst a student and so on — can provide a great insight into your values and skills, which you can then link back to how it would make you a great trainee solicitor.
Familiarise yourself with a couple of legal concepts
Whilst graduate recruitment often say that as non-law students they don’t expect you to know anything about the law, it can be quite helpful if you have taken some time in advance to learn some basic law phrases and concepts. In an assessment centre you may be given a task to complete as a group, and being able to contribute to the task with some legal knowledge in addition to any degree specific knowledge you have will impress the interviewers.
It shows that you have a genuine interest in law, as you have taken additional time to learn about some law concepts, no matter how basic! A really good way to do this is to find some law-related opportunities, such as law society pro-bono challenges for example, that are often open to anyone regardless of their legal knowledge, or simply try and uncover the legal issues behind a topic or news story that interests you.
Build a rapport with your interviewer
Once you reach the interview stage (hooray!), it is useful to try and build up a rapport with your interviewer and really engage them. Undeniably, interviews are a nerve-wracking experience, so this may seem easier said than done. But sharing a bit of friendly small talk at the start of an interview can help you remain calm and settle your nerves for the remainder of the interview.
As much as an interview serves for the interviewer to assess whether you are a good fit for their firm, it is equally for you to judge whether the firm is right for you, and seeing whether you gel with your interviewers can be a great way of helping you make this decision. Besides this, building up a rapport with your interviewer and having meaningful conversations will often help you to stand out from a sea of candidates, even if that conversation was nothing to do with law!
Dress to impress
As a non-law student, during assessment centres, you’re likely to be entering a very professional environment, which can be quite intimidating, especially given the fact that you’re probably used to attending uni lectures in casual clothes. It’s really important to ensure that you are not underdressed for the occasion, as you want to make a good professional impression with your interviewers. A good tip is to make sure that you take some time to think about what you’re going to wear on your interview, so that not only are you prepared for your interview questions, but you’re also prepared to look professional and feel comfortable on the day.
Overall as a non-law student, thinking outside of the box is your secret weapon. What you lack in formal legal qualifications, you make up for with other skills and ways of thinking, which can make for a really strong TC application and interview.