Given the broad range of law firms, there are a number of qualities that may render a lawyer attractive to prospective employers in the current market. However, whilst each firm and role offers different requirements, there are two key qualities that firms consistently emphasise – legal acumen and commercial acumen.
Legal acumen refers to the need for lawyers to offer exceptional legal skills within the increasingly competitive Australian market. Firms seek candidates with high quality analytical and problem solving skills, a strong work ethic and outstanding academic achievements. Accordingly, lawyers will benefit from maintaining a detailed deal sheet that summarises their experiences as well as quality references from supervising partners and/or other senior staff. Soft skills that are developed throughout a lawyer’s career are also important. This includes qualities such as leadership and communication skills and an ability to build strong interpersonal relationships with both colleagues and clients.
As lawyers progress through their careers, commercial acumen becomes increasingly important. Lawyers seeking a promotion to Senior Associate and ultimately Special Counsel and Partner level positions must develop strong business development and management skills. A demonstrated ability to manage clients and ultimately build a partial or full practice is becoming more critical at the senior level.
Ultimately, however, the final determining factor is cultural fit. This refers to whether the interviewers believe that an individual will seamlessly integrate into the team. However, it is essential to remember that there are two sides to this coin – the ultimate goal is finding a cultural fit that works for not only the firm, but also the lawyer. Accordingly, we recommend that lawyers also use interviews to assess whether a prospective employer will enable them to achieve their own career goals.