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LIV Legal Careers Fair Insights Series

LIV Legal Careers Fair Insights Series

By LIV Young Lawyers

Occupations Workplace 


The LIV Young Lawyers is supporting our law student members to prepare for this year’s LIV Legal Careers Fair with a new insights series on themes relevant to starting a career in law.

In this third instalment, we spoke with Robyn Howard, Professional Development Director at Johnson Winter & Slattery, who shared her insights on how to best prepare and perform in an interview for your first legal role.  

If you are offered an interview for a graduate or clerkship position with a legal firm or organisation, there can be a mixed sense of excitement and nerves as you consider how to prepare for a face-to-face interview. 

What’s different about a first legal job interview from others that applicants may have previously completed?

“What makes the legal industry different from a recruitment perspective is the attributes that we are looking for candidates to display in an interview,” Robyn explains, adding that “essentially we look for people who can articulate their views and have an interest in how the law impacts on the commercial world”.

When it comes to considering an applicant’s cover letter, the capacity to communicate written views and opinions hold the same value.  Writing is a key skill for lawyers even though clients may seek their advice in a range of ways. “Applicants can make themselves stand out through the way they write and their clarity of thought and expression, as most legal advice and opinion still relies on these qualities,” Robyn says.

What are some of the common traits you notice in applicant’s that interview well?

“A genuine curiosity, excitement and interest in the law. Because if you don’t love what you do, then it’s unlikely that you will succeed,” Robyn explains.

Although law graduates having studied a breadth of subjects, there is so much more to the practice of law than what was covered in your undergraduate degree. Robyn notes that “lawyers need to be curious about how the law impacts their clients and how they can assist their clients.  We have partners at Johnson Winter & Slattery that are still curious and still learning, despite a long career in their field”.”

To this end, Robyn cites that law graduates should be prepared to offer their subjective motives and reasons for why they studied law, linking that back through to what interests them in practice in the commercial world.

Robyn says that applicants who perform well in interviews are those that have researched the areas of law and practice that a firm specialises in, they have followed current legal events and cases and they are able to draw on these in an interview scenario. “It’s also about how law graduates seek to fill their own knowledge gaps in the firm’s work too. After all, an interview is a two-way conversation. Applicants that can demonstrate their capacity to answer, describe, and  seek more relevant information are demonstrating an ability to relate and work with our clients in the future,” Robyn says.

The interview preparation advice that applicants typically receive is that preparation is key, but how is it clear to an interviewer that someone is well prepared?

Robyn explains there are several indicators that demonstrate applicants are well prepared. The applicant should:

  • know the information that they have provided in their CV, be able to explain their experiences well, and remember their own key facts and dates
  • understand what area of specialisation and work the firm does
  • avoid discussing a mismatch between their own interests and the areas of work or specialisation that the firm has, for example, criminal law or human rights 
  • have researched the people they are meeting, including some research on the partner who is interviewing them and be aware of any current work or recent client successes that may have been in the media or public domain
  • demonstrate a capacity to understand what information or point that the interviewer is trying to understand through their responses.

How can law students who have little legal experience draw on their other workplace/life experiences in answering interview questions?

When it comes to applicants that have little or no previous legal work experience to discuss in an interview, Robyn explains that law firms understand that not all law students get the chance to do legal work throughout their studies.

“Some of our most successful lawyers at Johnson Winter & Slattery were in this position after finishing law school” Robyn says, “the key is to focus on the skills you have acquired in previous roles, as they will be relevant to legal practice. Dealing with competing deadlines, pressure from clients, pressure to deliver work, conflict and client management skills are all essential skills for lawyers to have. These skills can be gained in many roles so don’t feel that you need to leave this experience off your resume just because it was not acquired in legal roles.”

What can law students do to best prepare for events such as the LIV Legal Careers Fair?

When it comes to using the LIV Legal Careers Fair to your full advantage, Robyn encourages prospective applicants to identify the law firms that you really find a connection with by asking all the representatives different questions, from human resources representatives to junior lawyers to partners – talk to them all if you can.

“Treat this as a great opportunity to inform yourself about where you might best fit in the legal profession,” she says. “Take the time to work your way around the exhibition and consider that every potential employer has something different that they can offer you. Remember to run your own race, and use this as an opportunity to find out where you can get the right training that suits you best, and to make the right decisions to thrive in your legal career.”

The LIV Young Lawyers thanks Robyn for her time.

Johnson Winter & Slattery will be exhibiting at the LIV Legal Careers Fair on 12 July 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. To see which law firms and organisations are exhibiting at this year’s LIV Legal Careers Fair, head to our dedicated website for all the information you will need and please attend and register directly at the event tonight as online registrations are now closed.


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