When asked how associate-level lawyers can set themselves apart from the rest when job seeking, MLA legal researcher Mikaela Orme (pictured) said there are many things, but importantly they must start preparing well in advance.
"The key to positioning yourself as a desirable candidate for when the time comes begins far before the decision to move is actually made," Ms Orme told Lawyers Weekly.
Ms Orme said the majority of firms look for the same things when hiring associate-level lawyers, but that the criteria goes well beyond good academics and work history.
"You need to build up a personal brand within the professional community as someone who has thrown themselves whole-heartedly into the business of being a lawyer," Ms Orme said.
This can include getting involved in firm culture, demonstrating management skills, having a mentor, embracing networking, and knowing what’s going on in the market.
"You really need to invest in your firm and this does extend beyond the work that you're given. This might mean you end up joining the firms' sports team or joining in on a quiz night or anything like that, just put your hand up and volunteer wherever possible," Ms Orme said.
"Senior associates can also mark themselves out by being adept at management of more junior members of the team. If one has partnership ambitions, the ability to organise and delegate to a group of associates, and also assist them with technical development is critical to the sustainability of a practice, so start now."
Ms Orme believes all junior lawyers should consider picking a mentor, even if it means arranging it themselves.
"Whilst a number of firms offer formal mentoring programs, if yours doesn't, think about whether you can organise this yourself," she said.
"At the very least, take time to observe what the most successful people in the firm do and attempt to replicate that behaviour in some one way or another. The most successful people didn't learn it all by themselves."
While associate-level lawyers may feel like they're stuck in the middle with more skills than a graduate but less experience than partners, a good network can make them stand out, according to Ms Orme.
"It’s never too early to network and you don’t need to be a partner to start building up your contacts," Ms Orme said.
"Some of the best associates and senior associates I see are those who appreciate the value of networking and start making those connections early in their career. And the best senior associates do regularly bring in work."
Finally, Ms Orme said finding the time to keep up to date with the market is invaluable.
"With how busy a lot of associates are this one often falls off the radar but it’s important to keep informed of what's going on outside of your own firm, not only locally or nationally but internationally as well, because all those trends may ultimately have an effect on your market."