During April, 800 new jobs were created in the legal sector.
But the question law students and lawyers in transition have: Who gets hired for those jobs?
Just about every aspect of job search has changed.
The process no longer consists of absolutes such as “Do This/Don’t Do That” and be assured of an offer.
Some even contend the resume is becoming irrelevant. And, as Law.com reports, “Volatility is the new normal for America’s biggest law firms.”
For fresh perspective, I turned to Dennis Spring of Manhattan-based Spring Associates. He conducts high-level job searches in communications and is an executive and career coach.
Unlike some new-breed experts in the career space, Spring has never subscribed to the notion the applying for employment is an “adventure.”
He tells this anecdote:
“At a social event years ago, and as a fledging search consultant, I couldn’t help but overhear a guest who was ranting loudly about an interview he had with an executive search consultant about a new job. He felt the interview with the search consultant went fine, but no job offers ensued. He urged the other guests to never contact that consultant because he ‘obviously’ was inept.
“I asked this individual when the interview took place. Without hesitation, he responded with the exact day, month and year of that meeting – seven years prior!
“What was obvious was how seminal an experience looking for employment is. That former job hunter had that exact date seared into his memory bank. No, the search for work is not a ‘fun’ experience. Rather it is a very unique, and often times, humbling human experience.”
In addition, Spring has always advised job applicants that the resume isn’t the only thing that will get them hired.
Yes, the resume is a critical piece of data in the process. It contains the facts which employers review to assess if the professional is a fit. Certain accomplishments, niche experience, and education/training must be there.
But, even that isn’t cast in stone. Spring notes:
“From the resume, the professional might not seem to be a perfect fit. But, if along the line, someone whom employers trust recommends that applicant, there could be an interview. Maybe even a job offer.”
Those “surprises” happen because the resume indicates the applicant can provide the employer what more traditional candidates can’t. The classic example is that politically well-connected young lawyer who didn’t graduate from an elite law school. Those contacts can be more useful than what pedigree promises.
The limitations of a resume, explains Spring, are that the document provides what professionals say about themselves. What gets them hired is how others perceive them – and wind up saying about them.
That brings into play all those “soft skills.” It’s become a cliché that employers increasingly value soft skills as much or more than the hard ones such as ability to create effective case management. Among the statistics floating around is that employers put the importance in a hiring decision at 60 percent.
The challenge, however, is to understand which soft skills particular employers in the legal sector demand.
For one kind of law firm they might be endurance, extreme attention to detail, and ability to inspire the confidence of superiors.
For another, it might be provocative thinking and the charisma to attract new business.
In-house lawyers, reports Corporate Counsel, are being encouraged to improve their soft skills in public speaking and projecting confidence. That was hammered recently at the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s annual institute.
Clearly, what soft skills are considered a must-have in the legal sector could vary among the work settings.
Applicants have to research each culture of each organization they apply to. One source is, of course, the horse’s mouth. Ask junior lawyers or staff about the norms. In addition, the input on sites such as Glassdoor provides insight. Also, members of the media, such as Abovethelaw.com, profile the nuances of the legal sector cultures.
Meanwhile, because the landscape keeps changing in the legal sector, so do the cultures. Job applicants have to be in-the-now about what beyond the resume moves the dial to an offer. For instance, when the organization has new leadership, the norms will likely shift.
Dennis Spring of Spring Associates can be contacted at [email protected]