Top QC’s Advice to Law Job Seekers in The Changed Law World

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Susie Paul – Jim Farmer QC is used to giving advice to tough commercial clients, but he also has some tough advice for those seeking law jobs in the COVID world we now inhabit.

As we recently reported the law jobs situation is significantly more difficult now with the COVID crisis, but the best thing young lawyers seeking jobs in the profession can do is prepare themselves for the new world order so far as jobs are concerned.

For senior barrister Jim Farmer QC there needs to be some reassessment made by those job seeking, as he told the ADLS Law News.

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“If you are not an A student or an A+ student the prospect of getting a job in Auckland or Wellington city is not going to be good. You should look at other options such as smaller firms, suburban firms and more particularly firms in the provinces.”

And, as with anyone seeking a job, having a point of difference is something that can turn heads sufficiently to land the job you’re looking for. One of his recommendations is a masters degree, particularly one obtained overseas.

“You can go back and say ‘here is my bachelor’s degree, which was pretty average. The reasons for that are [insert your reasons] but since then I have done a master’s degree and I got first class honours’. That is what I would be looking at.”

Pivoting Your Specialties


Not everyone will have the wherewith all or motivation to travel abroad for the sake of a top job but to develop areas of specialty that are more in-demand, or ‘on trend’ as we might say today, would be smart.

Among the areas of growth identified in the ADLS article include family law, employment law and insolvency.

But there are other areas in company and commercial law, landlord/tenant and consumer law that all merit attention from those seeking to claim their points of difference.

And obtaining any experience will help develop both specialty and confidence, both of which assist with job hunting. For instance, the ADLS’ “Newly Suited Committee” (how cute is that?) Alex Sheehan had gone to Europe and worked as a volunteer at a community law centre to improve his CV before landing a law job with Pidgeon Law.

Law, as they say, is a resilient industry and it needs resilient candidates who simply persist with their endeavours to find work.

The top grades most of the major law firms obsess about need not prevent a diligent lawyer in obtaining a great position. Bell Gully partner Angela Harford graduated when the GFC was at its height but remained upbeat with what she calls “a growth mind-set”.

Growth Areas

Another factor to consider is the ‘out-of-cycle’ job application so you are not caught in a cohort of applicants. Most larger law firms will consider applications at any time.

Remember that there are stepping stone jobs that can lead to the job you’re really after.

As Harford says, your first job does not define your career or your career

There are a vast range of jobs in government and Crown entities, as well as corporate life. Organisations like Amnesty International, The Red Cross and Human Rights Commission are mentioned.
There are also internships run in government and other organisations that offer opportunities to get a foot into well paying and interesting legal work.

Some roles involve policy analysis, which have attracted many law graduates.

Job Hunting Skills

The opportunities provided in job hunting also permit a brush up on skills in interviewing, preparing a great CV, expanding your job opportunities and other factors.

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Vodafone counsel Antonia Horton (right) suggests becoming a ‘T-shaped person’ to build deep expertise and develop a wide knowledge base. Your vertical axis is your traditional lawyering skills and your horizontal axes are other skills,” she says. “I am an employment lawyer, but I am quite comfortable
talking to you about privacy or commercial contracts.”

Practice interviews can be helpful with tough and challenging interview questions that will help you provide your best face in any interview.

It’s also a good idea to identify what you could improve upon and to ask for feedback.

Some firms will provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants if requested. So ask for it.

Learn to Network

Networking is also one of the key components to successful job hunting. There are networking events held by the Law Society, ADLS and others and remember that junior lawyers are often involved in the hiring process also, so it is not a question of just rubbing shoulders with the partners.

Many senior lawyers will also welcome the opportunity to provide advice via email or over
a coffee so don’t miss those opportunities either.

Getting noticed on social media is another way forward, although take care not to get flamed for some online outrage, so easy these days.

>> See the Latest Law Jobs on LawFuel Jobs

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