Legal departments can and must do more to introduce the next generation of legal professionals to graduate opportunities in-house – particularly at a time that continues to be challenging for those entering the profession, argues one senior legal counsel.
Large in-house teams are attending recruitment drives at universities and have a presence at careers fairs but, broadly speaking, there is still somewhat of a disconnect between corporate entities and law schools on how best to promote in-house careers, says Cognizant senior legal manager Wayne Clarke.
Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, Mr Clarke – who went straight into an in-house role post-graduation – said that graduates coming through the ranks “are able to be molded”, and are less likely to have to change any habits picked up in previous employment.
However, he noted, there remains a “disconnect between corporates and law schools” as to how to attract those grads into such roles.
“LinkedIn, SEEK and [other such job platforms] seem to be the path that most companies attract people on. I do believe there should still be a stronger collaboration between the professional bodies of the in-house counsel and also the law schools to see how they can connect a pathway in,” he said.
“I know there are some in-house internships that are going on at the moment and there are a few bodies that are doing fantastic jobs at getting law students into doing internships within companies. That type of stuff should absolutely continue. The universities are fantastic at it. I know Deakin University in Melbourne has managed to attract local graduates to their legal teams. Even the likes of Deloitte are able to tap in based on their significant market presence to bring in law grads very early on into their hybrid legal models that they have going on as well.”
It is especially important that in-house teams find new ways to reach out to emerging graduates, Mr Clarke continued, given that “it’s going to continue to be a very challenging time for law grads”.
This is a result, he said, of the “layover” from the Hayne royal commission, which will continue until such time as the issues arising from that federal inquiry are properly addressed.
“The skills that we need from graduates are going to [centre around] what are you like as a lawyer and can we translate you to a client or can I put you in front of a general manager of a company to run a deal,” he said.
Emotional intelligence will also be hugely sought after in graduates, Mr Clarke added.
“Having a significant sense of self-awareness is going to be really critical” for those grads whom in-house teams can mold as required,” he said.
“Nine times out of 10 we’re spending maybe 20 per cent of an interview [with a young lawyer] looking at technical skills: ‘What would you do in this position? How would you look at this clause, what’s recent case on X, Y, Z.’ And, then we'll ask how do you deal in a situation? I think if these law grads that are coming out now can recognise that it’s as much about you as the person and how you operate versus the training and the grades that you’re getting at law school.
“The way that we do law is changing, the way that our clients expect that we provide legal services is changing, whether we are in-house or at law firms. So, having a sense of resilience is going to be absolutely paramount as well.”
To listen to the full conversation with Wayne Clarke, click below: