This is an article in a series of articles called Your Ultimate Guide to Law Student Recruitment. Don’t forget to read the previous article here: Should I Participate in the Law Student Recruit?
Once you decide to participate in the law student recruit, the next step is to do some law firm research. Doing your research is essential because it will not only help you decide on which firms you should apply to but it will also help you later on when writing your cover letter and preparing for interviews (hint: why this firm?). But…where do you start?
Start With You
As cheesy as that sounds, it’s true. You should start with you. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Who do you want to help? Someone very wise once told me “do you want to help big corporations with their mergers and acquisitions? Or do you want to help a mom and pop shop down the street? Depending on what you want to do and who you want to help, you’ll end up in very different places.”
Take some time to reflect on your own interests and goals. Consider the following questions:
- Where do you want to work? In the city? A rural town?
- Do you want to do big law, mid-sized, or boutique?
- What kind of work environment do you thrive in?
- What kind of work do you want to do?
- Do you want to be a litigator or a solicitor?
- Do you want to do public law or private law?
- Do you have a specific practice area you’re interested in? Criminal? Family? Corporate?
- What’s important to you? Big $$$? Academics? Work-life balance? Diversity?
Starting with you and knowing what you’re looking for can help you figure out where to apply based on which law firms align with your personal goals and values!
That said, for a lot of you, the answer to these questions is probably “I don’t know” and that’s okay! If you don’t quite know what you want, here’s my suggestion: apply widely i.e. apply to as many law firms as you can! Sometimes, that’s the whole point. You dive right into the process and figure things and yourself out as you go.
Look at Firm Websites
In today’s digital world, almost every law firm has a website with a lot of information about the history and background of the firm, their lawyers, practice areas, culture, etc. etc. so be sure to check out firm websites in your research.
Meet with Summer/Articling Students and Lawyers
Looking at firm websites is a great starting point. But if I’m being completely honest with you, most firm websites all sound the same so if you really want to find out what makes a firm unique, you should reach out to their summer and/or articling students and junior lawyers. Invite them out for coffee, have a conversation. I highly, HIGHLY recommend doing this if you’re participating in the law school recruit. On top of helping you figure out what the firm is all about, it gives you a huge advantage: name dropping. Name dropping is basically when you “name drop” i.e. mention the name of a student or someone else you’ve talked to at the firm in your cover letter. Just having a name in your cover letter boosts your chances of getting an interview because it shows you’re genuinely interested in the firm and have made an effort to get to know them.
Go to Networking Events
If you don’t feel like setting up one-to-one meetings, another thing you can do is go to networking events like Career Day and the Networking Reception. Your law school should be organizing a number of these events. Many law firms also host their own networking events and participate in webinars or luncheons for law students. Take advantage of these opportunities to interact with students and junior lawyers and learn about the firm you’re interested in from them.
If you’re not feeling up to doing research at this stage, that’s okay too. You can opt to do it later on in the recruit process and just apply to as many firms as you can (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again for good measure). By applying widely, you increase your chances of landing an interview and sometimes, the only way to really get to know a firm is by doing an interview with them. Why? Because most firms send their best people (i.e. the most approachable and friendly ones) to network with students. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the lawyers at the firm are like that. So you might not get an accurate picture of the firm just by attending networking events or meeting with a few representatives for coffee. Go for an interview. You’ll get a pretty good sense of the firm, it’s atmosphere and the people by sitting in on one. Plus it’s great experience going through multiple interviews. You learn a lot and you build great connections!
Firm research can help you figure out where to apply during the recruit. It will also serve you down the road when it comes time to writing your cover letter and preparing for an interview. Start off by doing a bit of soul-searching. What do you want to do? Where do you want to work? Look at firm websites, go to networking events and meet up with students and lawyers for coffee. Get to know the firm you’re applying to. See if they align with your goals and values. If you don’t quite know what you’re looking for yet, that’s okay too. Just apply to as many firms as you can and increase your chances of getting an interview!
This is an article in a series of articles called Your Ultimate Guide to Law Student Recruitment. Check back next week for the next article!
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