How to stand out from the crowd

Today’s legal recruitment market is very competitive, as any associate looking for a new role knows.  You may present well, have good experience, and a strong CV, yet the process of landing a new role is tough. So what can you do to stand out from the crowd? What is it that sets you apart from others?

Candidates are often asked in interviews what makes them different, and it can be quite a hard question to answer, especially if you are put on the spot. As recruiters, it’s also important for us to understand  what makes you a compelling candidate in order for us to be able to effectively promote you to our clients. Here’s a few tips on how you can stand out and maximise your chances of landing your desired role.

Find your USP

In order to help you discover and assess your unique selling proposition, we may ask some questions about your experience that may not immediately seem relevant but help us to differentiate you. These can include:

– Were you offered roles in more than one department upon qualification? How in demand were you compared to others?

– Was the secondment you undertook while quite junior heavily contested internally? Did it replace a previous secondee of a higher PQE?

– At the end of the secondment what was the client feedback? Did they talk about ‘stealing’ you from the firm and consider offering you a permanent role?

– What do the partners you work with think about the work you are doing? How does it compare to others in the team? Is it on a par with someone with a higher PQE than you?

– Have other firms you have worked with on a transaction ever approached you after completion and if you would consider a move to their team?

– Have you consistently achieved the top grades in your annual appraisals and awarded the top bonuses year on year?

– Did any partners leave your team and try to take you with them but you decided to stay?

Gaining an understanding of these elements of your experience can help us highlight areas in which you may stand out from your peers.

Methods of differentiating yourself from your peers

There are a number of ways in which you can strategically position yourself to make yourself more visible and memorable in your firm and that will stand you in good stead when it comes to promotion rounds or you feel it is time to make a move.  The advice below comes directly from successful senior associates and partners we have worked with:

Plan ahead. Be strategic and align yourself with the right partners in the department who will support you and invest in your development.

Focus. Try and concentrate on a couple of key industry sectors and stick to them; being a generalist may make it trickier to stand out from the crowd later down the line when it comes to making a business case for promotion.

Write a business plan. This is a good thing to do at the mid-level. The aim is not to distribute it at this stage, but it helps to focus your mind – and remind you who to align yourself with.

Under-promise and over-deliver. This can be a great way to impress a client and can lead to repeat instructions and direct praise to your boss.

Always appear calm and in control. This is essential during tough negotiations or on a completion – even if you don’t feel that way inside. People will remember the behaviour you displayed in tense situations.

Be helpful. One of the most popular partners within one firm was described by their associate as “being in the trenches with me, asking me questions such as ‘what can I take off your plate?’ The partner also asked the specific sub-team of associates for 360-degree feedback on their ability to do the role, which was particularly unusual in the firm. Both of these behaviours made them stand out from other partners in the team.

Be visible. One star junior partner at his firm made his name internally by reaching out to introduce himself unprompted to senior partners within his overseas offices and on the firm’s executive committee. This demonstrated goodwill and willingness to get ahead in the firm.

Get involved in team social events. A great way for any new joiner to stand out—and help build their internal networks—when things are slightly quieter is by taking the lead on arranging an internal networking event. One associate was memorable in their firm by organising a skiing trip for 50 people which raised his internal profile significantly.

Develop an ownership mindset

When associates are promoted to partner, they are then expected to start behaving like a partner, often with no training.

Partners tend to focus on getting young lawyers to increase their legal skills, but they should also perhaps involve them at every step of the initial client intake and billing processes – conflicts checking, first consultations, discussing the terms of engagement, preparing an engagement letter, and managing invoices.

It’s worth asking the partners you work with if you can get involved in this side of the business as it will help you develop an ‘ownership mindset’ – and differentiate yourself from others in the team. If your firm is not letting you near this it is perhaps time look elsewhere for somewhere that will better support your promotion and partnership ambitions.