What law employers actually want from graduates

Employer running interview

Law is a competitive field. Stand out from the crowd with these tips from law firms, collected by The University of Law

If you’re planning on a career in law, you might already be looking ahead to your future and how you can set yourself up to succeed.

As well as impressing law firms with your academic and professional track record, there are some key soft skills that could make you a more desirable candidate. 

The University of Law understands just how important employability is, and they went straight to the people in charge of recruitment at several UK law firms to discover the qualities they want to see in graduates.

The ability to work in a team

Entering the world of work is a big transition – and part of that is being able to work alongside people at various levels of seniority and experience. That’s going to be a bit different from university where you and your fellow students will have had a similar base of knowledge. 
Annabel Hale, graduate recruitment and development manager at Wedlake Bell, says: “When we're recruiting future trainees, I'd say the top three things we're looking for are communication, teamwork and finally enthusiasm.
“All of these are really important for future lawyers and especially at a firm like Wedlake Bell. Here, we've got a great culture, we're very friendly, and we're looking for people who are going to get stuck in right from the start of the training contract and contribute to the firm as a whole.”

Have a think about how you can demonstrate your ability to work as part of a team. One way to develop and demonstrate teamwork skills could be to join a group outside your course where you’re likely to meet a broader range of people, such as a sports team or a part-time or seasonal job. 

Communication skills

It’s crucial that lawyers have good communication skills, whether they’re discussing work with clients or colleagues, writing up legal documents, speaking before the courts or handling negotiations. 
All of this makes good communication a highly desirable quality in potential new hires. 
You’ll be able to use your application to demonstrate your written communication skills. Of course, check this over several times to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes.
And if you’ve ever worked in a customer-facing job – whether paid or voluntary – you can highlight how this has developed your ability to communicate effectively.
Hayden Richards, solicitor at Muckle LLP, says: “Communication skills are vital in a lot of professions, but particularly for what we do. 

“We need to be able to communicate with our clients - and with our colleagues - in a really concise manner.” 

Passion for the law

Law firms want to hire graduates who truly care about what they’re doing: this means being passionate about both the work you’d be doing and the company as a whole. 
One way you could demonstrate your passion is by properly researching the firm and being able to talk about specifics of work they’ve completed and what you find interesting about it.
Patrick Connolly, academy director at Mishcon, says: “We want you to be really interested in Mishcon, know what they do and actually want to work for them. 

“The second thing is we want you to be able to work very well in a team. The third thing we'd want to see is passion, because everybody at Mishcon is passionate about what they do and wants to deliver the highest possible value to the client.”

Adaptability and resilience

When you start work as a trainee lawyer, you can expect to encounter a range of new professional challenges.

You’ll need to adapt to unfamiliar situations all the time. Even when you’re deep into your training contract, as soon as you’re rotated onto a new seat you’ll be learning from scratch again.

You’ll also receive a steady stream of feedback on your work. Given that it’s inevitable that you’ll make some mistakes along the way, it’s crucial that trainee lawyers have the resilience to not take critical feedback too personally or let it affect them negatively.

Sam at Womble Bond Dickinson says: “The things that we prioritise in terms of skills and experience are an ability to build relationships with people, your ability to communicate effectively and clearly. 

“And also, I think an ability to work within a changing environment – so your ability to adapt, to be resilient.”

Building these skills

When you’re looking ahead at a career in law, it’s useful to be aware of the skills that are valued by recruiters. But you should also expect to find plenty of career support and guidance available at your university.

For instance, The University of Law offers its students one-to-one careers appointments, careers workshops, mentoring, employer talks and events and a job vacancy database. 

By making the most of your university’s employability services throughout your degree, you’ll be well placed to develop the skills that law recruiters really want from graduates.

Our partnership with The University of Law

The University of Law

The Student Room is proud to work with The University of Law as the official partner of our law hub, where current and future law students can find the advice and guidance they need.

The University of Law welcomes intelligent, ambitious students interested in the world around them; people who question systems, procedures and behaviours, and are not afraid to challenge convention.

Study at The University of Law and you’ll be equipped with the professional knowledge you need to excel in your chosen career, and supported by an award-winning employability service to help you get there.