Formerly the ANU Legal Workshop

How to lose a job - Gone in 7 seconds

Lisa Barlin with Ben Aulich, of Aulich Civil Law.
Lisa Barlin with Ben Aulich, of Aulich Civil Law.

Truly, it’s that quick and that easy to blow your opportunity at a good law firm.

Truly, it’s that quick and that easy to blow your opportunity at a good law firm. Let me show you how:

  • Late (even less than a minute). Gone.
  • No tie. Gone.
  • No jacket. Gone.
  • Cardigan. Gone.
  • Unkempt hair. Gone.
  • Creased outfit. Gone.
  • Floppy handshake. Gone.

Sound shallow? I assure you it’s not and you can read countless articles on the importance of first impressions. So, if the litany of errors above are the non-negotiables, it is trite to say – do the exact opposite!

Most law firms have a dress code. Dress to it and look the part. It doesn’t take a genius to guess what that code might require because it is usually modelled on the expectations set by the courts. For women, you can’t go past the matching two piece suit coupled with polished shoes and stockings. It is hard to fault longer hair neatly tied back. For men, a tie with a suit jacket is mandatory. Fasten the top shirt button. I can already hear the complaints about the cost of these outfits. Beg or borrow (don’t steal for obvious reasons!) to find a sophisticated outfit – you will need it if you win the job and so why wait?

Now, assuming you have passed those first seven (irrevocable) seconds, think about what your body language is conveying. Sit up straight, maintain eye contact. At Workshop you are taught to actively listen to clients - so start now and answer the questions asked of you in interview directly and authentically. We’re lawyers – we can spot a phoney and we’re looking for the ‘real’ you.

Typically we will ask, “why do you want to work here?’ or ‘what do you know about our firm?’ If you cannot demonstrate that you’ve taken the time to research the firm or actually really want to work with us – you’re gone.

Ultimately, your goal is to demonstrate what your clients can expect from you as their solicitor. So we’re looking for someone prepared, considered and polished - with confidence. Quiet confidence is ok.  If, however, your confidence wanders into foolish arrogance – (you know what’s coming) - gone.

Also, never pre-judge the people sitting across the table from you. You may be interviewed by a Partner and an HR person. Direct your answers to both of them as usually the Partner will greatly value the other person’s input – that’s why they are in the interview. (Often the person who is not directing the interview is the decision maker and silent assassin). Besides, it’s rude to focus on one person only or engage in gender or occupational bias, which leads to this - your goal is to establish rapport –courtesy and likability go a long way at interview and our aim is to learn who you are and how you might fit into our firm.

Lastly, feel free to follow-up after the interview. It shows your genuine interest in the firm. But don’t become a serial pest – or you’re … gone!

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  Director, GDLP/Page Contact:  Program Coordinator, GDLP