Earlier this month, Law School Dean Timothy Fisher gave a talk to the law school community on the 20 most important things that law firms take into consideration when making hiring decisions, based on his own experience in practice. This article summarizes some of the main points of that talk.
Fisher explained that being passionate about the work one does is crucial to success in a legal career. Lawyers are less effective if they dislike the work that they are doing. Figure out what kind of people you are happy being around and find a practice area and firm that matches your style. A happy lawyer is an effective lawyer.
Of particular relevance to the law school generation, Fisher stressed the importance of effective verbal communication. He stressed never to use words that hedge accuracy in verbal communication. Lawyers are hired to form and communicate precise answers. Saying “like” or “kind of” when communicating with an employer conveys an impression of laziness. Speak in complete sentences. Convey ideas clearly and succinctly. Know what you are going to say before you speak. This inspires trust in the employee by the employer, as it shows that the employee has thoroughly prepared. Display the proper amount of respect. Be formal initially, and relax the formality as the employer does. Always be slightly more formal than your counterpart. An employer who notices an employee that does this will trust that employee to know how to act with clients and in other unfamiliar situations.
Written communication is equally as important. Avoid the use of adverbs, it is poor style. Writing that something is “clearly” conveys the impression that the author was too lazy to find support for the proposition. Writing is one of the most important skills a law school graduate needs to perfect in order to be competitive in the current legal employment market. Fisher stressed that students should make every attempt they can to improve their writing. Journal membership, faculty advice, and clerking post-graduation are all excellent ways to improve your writing.
Fisher added that networking is crucial for students seeking employment in the legal community. Be excited about the person with whom you are talking, his firm, his work, and the opportunity for which you are applying. This gratifies the potential employer by affirming their life choices and ties in with the first point Fisher made about being passionate about your work. Perfect small talk. It serves a function in business relationships that a candidate would be ill advised to ignore. Have an elevator speech detailing the highlights of your credentials – the reasons an employer might hire you as opposed to another candidate. Have variations on this speech targeted at individuals of different status. Distinguish yourself during conversations and on your resume. What from your background differentiates you? Do your homework on the employer prior to interviews. Schools can get reputations for having students that are unprepared. Similarly, it is key to form relationships throughout one’s career. Connecticut is a small community and every lawyer is a prospective client or employer. Your reputation in the community is one of your most important assets.
Fisher wrapped up his lecture by addressing two issues on which clients focus. Be responsive to their communications and requests. Promptness in communication is the largest consideration of most clients when hiring a law firm. Finally, do not say “no” to the client. If the law does not support what a client is trying to accomplish, work with them on modifying the idea until it fits within the law. Businesspeople come to lawyers to accomplish something, not to find reasons that it cannot work.
video via UConn Law’s YouTube channel: