Job hunting as a 0 - 2 PAE commercial lawyer can seem overwhelming, especially in a saturated market. Here are our top 5 tips for finding your next job.
Tip # 1: Know the current job market.
Start by speaking with a legal recruiter. They should have a good sense of the market and the types of firms (and departments within firms) who are looking. There is usually a fairly strong demand for well trained, high quality junior commercial lawyers.
Having an idea of the demand for junior commercial lawyers and your value in the market will help you develop a search strategy. It will also assist you with updating your CV so you can make yourself as attractive as possible to prospective employers.
Within the bigger firms, there is usually not much opportunity at the 0-2 PAE level. This is typically because junior lawyers are locked into graduate contracts for the first couple of years and firms tend to hire from their existing clerk pool.
This makes things difficult if you're a 0-2 year lawyer and you're looking to move into another mid or top tier firm.
However, outside the big firms, things tend to be less rigid. Smaller firms can be a great source of opportunity for junior lawyers, as they can offer plenty of the things the big firms can't. Indeed there are plenty of benefits of working in a small law firm that you may not be aware of (unless, of course, you're already working in one).
Tip # 2: Don't dismiss jobs that you may be under or over qualified for.
Sometimes it's worth considering roles that are advertised as more junior than your current level. This is for several reasons:
- Although it might be a more junior role, it might be a better place to work (and you may be happier working there).
- Different firms will give their lawyers different levels of responsibility. Some firms will give 0-2 year lawyers the type of work and responsibility reserved for more senior lawyers.
- Just because a firm pitches their advertisement at one level doesn't mean that they won't consider something slightly more senior.
- Don't assume that a lower position will necessarily involve a pay cut. Different firms will pay different amounts for the same position, and indeed this is one of the reasons why you should be wary of legal salary guides.
Alternatively, you might be in a position to apply for roles above your PAE band.
Most firms start advertising for junior commercial lawyers at the 2 – 4 PAE level as they are relatively inexpensive (in terms of salary) and tend to require less supervision.
Some firms might advertise for a 2-4 year PAE role but be willing to consider you if you have a strong academic background and can demonstrate have excellent pre and post admission experience.
Before applying, you could ask the firm whether they are flexible with their PAE requirement. If you're a strong candidate, most firms will be interested to make contact with you even you don't quite fit the role they're currently trying to fill.
Tip # 3: Look at the best websites for legal jobs.
Start browsing these websites frequently:
- LinkedIn– make sure your profile is up to date. If there is a particular firm you are interested in, follow them so you will receive a notification once they have advertised a role. If the firm isn't on LinkedIn, check out the careers page of its website as you may be able to subscribe for job alerts that way.
- Glassdoor – for in house and government roles as well as private practice roles. It also has employee reviews and salary data.
- BeyondLaw – for jobs outside the traditional private practice sphere. It also offers a CV review service.
- The Footnotes- for early career based advice and an interactive job finder.
- Lawyers Weekly - for jobs across a variety of practice areas.
- College of Law - for PLT placements and graduate/junior lawyer roles.
Most job search websites have corresponding apps you can download onto your phone.
Tip # 4: Don't be afraid to approach a firm directly.
If you are interested to learn more about a firm, or an area of law that firm specialises in, don't be afraid to contact them directly. You never know where it might take you.
You will usually find an 'expression of interest' form (or similar) in the careers section of a firm's website. You can find an example on our careers page.
Alternatively, do some research and find a specific individual to reach out to. It might be someone in the firm's HR team, it might be a lawyer who works there, or (in the case of small firms) it might even be one of the partners.
Even if a firm is not advertising at your level, they will always be interested to learn about potential candidates for roles that may become available in the future.
Tip # 5: Make an effort to discover the firm’s true culture.
It's virtually impossible to evaluate a firm's true culture from its website. Most firms (and firm websites) will leave a positive initial impression. Often that impression does not match the reality of working there.
Before going to an interview, think carefully about what a great job looks like for you, and then be ready to ask specific questions based on your criteria. By asking the right questions in the interview you'll leave with a better sense of whether the firm's values align with your own. You should be aiming to find a place to work where you would be happy to work indefinitely.
Request a coffee or lunch with one of the junior lawyers in the team. Use this opportunity to find out what their general work hours are, what it’s like to work for the senior team members, how work is delegated and the kind of feedback you can expect to receive.
The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to make the decision that is best for you.