Competing with Experience

Q:

Hi newlawyerlanguage – this week I had an email for a Junior Solicitor’s role in a boutique firm specialising in strata management (which I hadn’t heard of but Googled extensively before the interview). I connected well with my would-be employer, she was friendly, professional and seemed to think the same of me. I sent a predictable but friendly email saying ‘nice to meet you today etc etc’ later that afternoon. The next day and to my surprise (I thought I nailed the interview) I received the email I know so well, the ‘Dear Sylvia …. unfortunately….we wish you well in the future.” I was upset and defeated – I wrote back asking why I wasn’t picked and (rubbing salt in the wound) my never-to-be employer said I was great, very presentable and articulate, but someone else had direct experience in building dispute and strata management law (who is this person??).

My question to you is how am I supposed to compete? I’m doing everything I can to make myself employable but it’s not working. I’m anxious whenever I open my email because I know I’ll have at least a couple of “unfortunately” emails. I know the “see how it goes…be patient…accept things you can’t change” kind of advice is sound and I take it on board but I’m interested in why there are 50 legal secretary jobs for every 1 junior solicitor job advertised and how I’m supposed to get myself a job with those odds.” Sylvia 😦

A:

Dear Sylvia,
I remember being overjoyed as a new lawyer to land a job in a small boutique law firm. All went well until I asked the partners one day why they had hired me. To which they casually replied: “there was only one other applicant actually and he annoyed the hell out of us. His whole CV ran for pages. He’d done everything. Who wants someone like that working for them?”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! And here I was running about telling everyone how brilliant I must have been to land the job!

And how annoyed must he have been?

You ask how you can compete with experience. You can compete with experience by being willing to learn.

Some employers want someone who is new and able to be trained to their liking. It really depends on the employer but as a new lawyer you need to work on your strengths. Your strength is being a recent graduate who would be grateful for the work you get and eager to learn how to be a great lawyer. So it didn’t work for this job. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for the next.

You next ask why are there 50 legal secretary jobs for 1 junior solicitor job. Unfortunately, it is a reality of our workplace that there are more lawyers graduating from law school than there are lawyer jobs. It is also a reality of our workplace that for every lawyer there needs to be at least two secretaries. Or, so it seems! At the Bar there is a paucity of secretaries and we manage quite well but it appears that there is not a solicitor in practice who can get by without half a dozen assistants answering their phones, writing their letters and transcribing their musings from a Dictaphone. Goodness gracious! How do legal secretaries put up with it?

If you are ever thinking of applying for one of these jobs come to me first so I can tie you to the clothes-line before you have a chance to send in your application.

Oh, and Sylvia…see how it goes.  Be patient. Accept things you cannot change…Arna 🙂