The road to becoming a lawyer can be rewarding, but can be full of obstacles. Despite what the movies might have taught us, law school is not all glitz and glam. It’s tough. And landing a job is highly competitive. But for those ready to commit, you’re in luck: law is one of the top jobs in Canada with a great future outlook.
For those of you considering a career in law, you may be wondering what to expect in law school and beyond. Amy Stoyan is a second-year law student at the University of Toronto, and has provided us with advice on landing your first student position in a law firm. Amy recently completed a series of interviews, resulting in her securing a summer position at a top Toronto law firm. She discusses her experiences searching for her position below:
What process were you required to go through to secure a summer position?
The recruitment process for summer law positions is comprised of three stages, all of which are complex and highly competitive. First, I applied to all of the firms I was interested in. The application process required about two months of drafting resumes and cover letters, networking with over 65 lawyers, attending over 12 firm tours, and doing extensive research. I had about 20 different updated versions of my cover letter – every detail counted.
The second stage was on-campus interviews. Firms notify you if they liked your application package and want a further interview. Over the course of two hurried days, I dashed from booth to booth interviewing with 14 firms in 17-minute increments, doing my best to bring enthusiasm and ask thought-provoking questions. The whole experience was as close to speed dating as I’ll ever get!
If firms were impressed with your on-campus interviews, they request an in-firm interview. This is the final round, and the most intense. Over the course of one week, I interviewed multiple times with four different firms. After a long day of interviews, I attended cocktail receptions each night and then proceeded to dinner with the firms, which was essentially an extended interview.
At the end of in-firm week is “call day,” when firms hopefully call to make you a job offer. I was absolutely thrilled to receive an offer for a summer position from my top choice.
Now that you have succeeded in landing a summer position, what do you feel it was that set you apart from the crowd? What did you feel was a priority for employers during the hiring process and what made you stand out?
I think what made me stand out in the pool of other applicants was a combination of my unique background, my grades, and my personality. Grades may get you through the door, but your personality is what keeps you there.
In an interview, recruiters don’t want to be talking to a rock. You have to know how to communicate and reciprocate. I tried to really listen to what my interviewers were saying and latch on to any personal details they provided when I asked them follow-up questions. I think I stood out because I tried to be myself as much as I could, such as sharing my personal interests, while still emphasizing my accomplishments.
What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers who are struggling to find a position? Do you have any tips for interview/job search success?
My three biggest tips for success in finding a summer position or going through the recruitment process are to network, to polish, and to know yourself.
Networking is an essential and hugely effective tool to make an impression and get your name out there. I cold-called and emailed almost 200 summer and articling students and junior associates, offering to take them for coffee in exchange for their wisdom and time. Almost everyone I spoke to had pearls of wisdom to share, and several offered to connect me further with other lawyers at the firm.
Polishing is another really important element of the job hunt. I had 20 different versions of my cover letter for a reason – every period, every comma, every sentence, every idea had to really count and be impactful. I spent an enormous amount of time perfecting and polishing my application package, as well as my handshake and speech patterns.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, know yourself. Be aware if you are comfortable in certain types of working environments – this will help you determine if you should pursue a big firm or a firm specializing in a specific niche practice area. Firms want to hire people who know themselves well enough to be able to challenge and inspire.
Committing to the job search
Amy’s experience shows us that for a career in law (or any career path for that matter), you need to give the job search 110%.
Even though law is a field with a promising future in Canada, it is highly competitive. Be sure to find what makes you the best of the best, and what makes you unique. If you can do this, you will stand out to employers.
Visit career-advice.monster.ca for more tips on how to ace your job interview and make a great first impression; also visit our website for the latest job ads in law or in any field you want to orientate your career. Let us help you find better!