Lawyers Weekly asked previous winners of the 30 Under 30 awards for their top tips for getting their foot in the door at firms.
James Johnston from Ashurst, who won for his pro bono work, suggested grads need to demonstrate a point of difference from other high-achieving graduates.
“Inevitably, everyone else applying for the position will have solid academic results, work experience and co-curricular involvement of some sort,” he said.
“I would recommend doing something that can set you apart from everyone else – and generate easy conversation should it secure you an interview – such as speaking a second language, having a unique or interesting hobby, or achievement in some other aspect of your life.”
Fellow Ashurst lawyer Jessica Norgard – recognised in the intellectual property section – seconded this viewpoint, suggesting interests outside study showed that grads could manage their time well.
“Achieving good grades and having a part-time job shows a firm that you can balance competing priorities and may give them confidence that in the face of multiple competing deadlines that you will be able to handle the pressure,” she said.
At the same time, Ajay Khandhar – formerly of Minter Ellison and a winner in the workplace relations category – urged grads to “articulate your value proposition”.
“Think about the qualities, skills and experiences that differentiate you from your peers, and align with the values of the firm or organisation,” he said.
To this end, he advised doing in-depth research on the firm in the lead-up to the interview, including getting first-hand accounts from current staff.
“Try to speak to people who work or have worked there to get an appreciation for what it's like 'on the ground',” he suggested.
Once a grad has joined a firm, however, extra-curricular activities remain important for career-building.
Mr Khandhar urged young lawyers to "get involved" and continue seeking opportunities outside of work.
"But it's not about signing up to anything for the sake of it," he said.
"Figure out what you're passionate about outside of work, and seek out roles that will enable you to develop your leadership, project management, communication and relationship-building skills. These are invaluable skills for any legal practitioner, and the professional networks you'll form will stand you in good stead for years to come."
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