The incredible recent growth rate of Disney+ has surpassed even their own original expectations.
Disney originally set an ambitious target of having 60-90 million paying subscribers for their new streaming service by the end of the fiscal year of 2024. By comparison, Netflix currently has somewhere in the region of 180 million subscribers. It’s certainly an ambitious target to try and scale a new service to a direct competitor on that scale. It’s especially the case when that plan almost certainly involves trying to win over business from that market-dominant competitor as well as having to compete with other comparable services such as YouTube.
However, in the space of just five months, Disney+ has racked up over 50 million subscribers and is well on its way to reaching its 2024 targets before the year is over. This is before the service has even launched in a number of populous regions and areas that could skyrocket this growth even further, such as Japan and South America.
So, what happened?
Firstly, Disney is obviously a well-known household name and one of the most recognisable brands in the world. In its near 100 years of existence, the company has built an (arguably) unrivalled array of intellectual property and original brands across a plethora of media forms – TV, film, live-action plays/tours/performances and more.
More recently, it sought the rights to other big-ticket names such as National Geographic, Marvel, Fox and Star Wars to add to its already impressive collection. Those names alone could have their own articles documenting their impressive growth over the last few decades and now all of them reside (in some capacity) under Disney’s influence.
It was clear from the outset that Disney+ was going to launch with a huge potential viewership base given the popularity of these franchises and threaten competitors such as Netflix. It’s still not yet clear how many subscribers might ‘jump ship’ from one service to the other as a result of these exclusivity deals, or if users will instead decide to subscribe to both services (if at all) in order to have full access to their favourite shows and content. However, the exclusivity arrangements Disney have in place with regard to the above franchises in the streaming world have clearly attracted customers and will almost certainly help retain them.
In addition, the impact of COVID-19 cannot be overlooked. Although the circumstances surrounding it are obviously troublesome and worrying, there are few better scenarios to launch an on-demand streaming service than when governments are mandating everyone stay at home. This is bolstered by the fact that, with schools closed and parents being forced to work from home with kids, Disney+’s obvious appeal to younger/family audiences have placed it right at the forefront of customer’s needs and interests at this time.
Disney were also smart enough to capitalise on this by bundling Disney+ with a number of bundles, affiliations, free trials, price plans and subscription lengths in a similar fashion to many other streaming services. This helped give those who had heard of the service and who were hesitant to sign up for it – either as paying customers for other streaming services or more frugally-minded sceptics – what it was all about.
Finally, unlike Netflix, Disney is obviously much more than just a streaming company. Either directly as part of their business, or through their many partners and subsidiaries, Disney are involved with almost every version of (multimedia or otherwise) entertainment, consumer touch-points and publishing thinkable. Their ability to project and market the service across their many channels and partners gives them a huge competitive advantage to leverage the above factors.
The big question is: is this going to last?
The short answer is most likely no – it would be an extreme feat for Disney to continue this breathtaking rate of growth (almost doubling its subscribers every few months) ad infinitum. It’s also going to take considerable amounts of time for Disney to come close to challenging Netflix’s dominant market position to the point where it might surpass them in subscriber count (if at all).
In addition, Disney will have to worry about making sure all of this short-term growth – generated for some of the reasons outlined above – actually translates to long-term business in the same way it has for Netflix. It’ll certainly be interesting to note how Disney’s subscriber base changes as mandated lockdowns are eased and the current pandemic comes to some form of conclusion – whatever that may look like and whenever that may be. Original content, new series ideas and perhaps further licensing/collaborations may hold the key.
At least for now, Disney can enjoy it’s astounding achievements to date – and perhaps start drawing up some slightly amended goals for 2024 and beyond…
I recently surveyed 400+ aspiring and practicing junior lawyers on their thoughts and concerns in light of COVID-19. With ongoing disruptions to education, employment and more, it’s critical that their views are accounted for.
The following 26-page report aims to summarise the findings of the survey through both statistics (quantitative) and quotes directly from respondents (qualitative) on topics such as:
The job market
Working from home
And more. You can view the full 26-page report below.
If you’d like to access the full unedited spreadsheet which collated all answers, you can do so at the end of the report. Please feel free to share the report and its findings with appropriate attribution.
So given that these digital-first impressions are so important, how can you go about optimising your digital presence to be as attractive as possible to potential recruiters? It’s clear that there is a big difference between making an impression in person than making one through a screen. Here are a few tips to bear in mind.
Get the basics right first
There are a number of go-to basics to get right when it comes to building a digital impression on LinkedIn. For example,
Profile picture – keep it professional, easy to view and welcoming. Investing in a professional headshot will do wonders for your personal branding, as opposed to doing the opposite by relying on a blurry group photo that is out-of-date.
Headline – getting this right is essential when it comes to showing up in the search algorithms of LinkedIn’s many recruiters. Recruiters often search for specific job titles, locations, skills or experience, so making sure you’ve covered the majority of these in your headline will help get your profile seen by those who want to see it.
Cover photo – a vast majority of LinkedIn users fail to effectively utilise a cover photo. They can be great places to direct the visitor of your profile to any relevant websites, social media platforms or other notable awards/achievements you may have in an easy-to-read, visually appealing and simple format.
Summary/bio – the bio section of your profile is a perfect opportunity to answer the typical interview question ‘Tell me about yourself’. It should blend elements of a covering letter and short biography, essentially encompassing an elevator pitch as to who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for from a career.
Job/education history – ensuring these sections are up to date are again critical to making sure search algorithms can effectively mine your profile for keywords and any notable qualifications, positions or academics you may have. Revisit this frequently and describe not just your responsibilities, but how you went above and beyond them, as well.
Internet searches are driven by keywords and search engine optimisation techniques (SEO). Searches by recruiters are not different and rely on very similar principles. Accurately describing your positions, skills or experiences by using commonly-searched phrases can be the difference between your profile being higher ranked in searches and failing to generate much traction. It’s important to review your headline and job title to ensure you’ve adequately used keywords, as they carry significant weight in the search algorithm.
An easy way to leverage keywords is through the Skills section of your profile. Try to add a few that are relevant to your job experience and ask those you’ve worked with to endorse your proficiencies in those skills. Doing so will again boost your profile views and increase the likelihood that recruiters will both view your profile favourably and message you with potential opportunities.
Finalise the little things
Once you’ve covered the basic and optimised your profile for appearing in searches, there are a number of small optional tweaks you can do to make your profile look just that little bit better:
Get a custom profile URL – especially if you are concerned with personal branding or attempting to appear in search engines for projects/companies/content you are known for. It is also much more visually appealing when forwarding on your profile to others.
Review and reorder your recommendations – try to prioritise those with the most experience or impressive standing at the top of your recommendations list, rather than having them burrowed away under others you may have. It’s also important to ensure they’re not only accurate, but also genuinely favourable to your profile!
Utilise articles – if you’re looking to demonstrate expertise in an area, then utilising LinkedIn’s article feature can be a great way to boost engagement with your profile and to curate content based on your industry knowledge. They also appear right at the top of your profile when recruiters view them, meaning that you can showcase your abilities as soon as they view your profile.
Creating and curating a digital impression are extremely important in the digital age. If you’re looking to get noticed by recruiters, try employing some of the tips outlined above and reviewing them every few months. Let your profile do the work for you!
“Everybody and their mother has a book and a podcast these days.”
– Loren Weisman.
The surge in the consumption of podcasts over the last few years has been unrelenting. To put its historical growth into perspective, Apple introduced podcasts as a part of iTunes back in 2005. In under 10 years, iTunes grossed the phenomenal milestone of 1 billion podcast subscriptions. I added my own contribution to that pile a few months ago and have enjoyed every minute. That growth isn’t looking to slow anytime soon, with predictions that the industry will create $1 billion in annual revenue by 2021. So what’s behind this explosion of interest?
Unlike many other media outlets, such as live TV, podcasts offer an unmatched level of flexibility when it comes to both topic and time. You, the listener, decide what and who to listen to, the amount of time you commit to listening and when it suits you best. Audio formats have become equal to, if not surpassed, their written equivalent for this very reason. Time spent cooking, commuting, in traffic or doing laundry are now opportune moments to learn and upskill. Changes in habits and an increased appetite for on-demand content have been met with this technological remedy.
Ask yourself this – would you rather sit down and read a 100-page report, or hear the researcher surmise it and answer follow-up questions in a 15-minute discussion? Whilst a good read can’t be beaten now and then, our increasingly time-pressured lives demand we get to the bottom of understanding and discussion in the most efficient way possible. Podcasts are certainly one of the most viable media formats in that regard, ranging from 5-minute chunks of information through to in-depth discussions lasting an hour or more. They can consistently produce content for that length as their audiences are engaged in that topic and often have a free or cheap mode of access to it. That content can be shared across a huge multitude of networks rather than just being restricted to one.
It’s very rare to see news anchor present with copious amounts of personality. Everyone watching at home knows there’s a teleprompter in front of them directing what to say and what will happen next. Podcasting, however, is vastly different – it’s personal! In short, you can get content through podcasting that you can’t get anywhere else. Presenters are free to design a show in any way they want and inject their personality into their shows. They know that those listening will at least have some vested level of interest in what they’re talking about, given how most podcasts are divided into their respective topics. It’s therefore easy for those making podcasts to hear from their community what they want next and meet that need.
In light of the current lockdowns in place in response to COVID-19, it’s extremely likely that podcasting – alongside other on-demand, topic-central formats – will be seen as a go-to for information, recreation and education for many. Beyond that, long term, it’s hard to see this revolutionary media format going anywhere anytime soon.
If you’re looking to give podcasting a go yourself, click here to use my referral code for my podcasting software, Cast. If you’re just looking to listen, you can find details about mine here.
The future of technology has always provoked speculation and excitement as to how it will change our lives. For lawyers, however, tackling new developments in technology can often be both confusing and stressful, as they will be responsible for keeping up to date with changing regulations (or even help shape them themselves!).
For this week’s post, I spoke with Héloïse Vertadier, who recently completed a research position for NASA exploring the legal world of all things tech, including robotics, AI, blockchain and much more! Fascinated (and very jealous), I asked her a number of questions about the future world of technology, how the legal industry will respond, as well as what NASA have to say about it all.
What was your recent experience at NASA like? How does something as stereotypically ‘mundane’ as the law manifest itself in the stereotypically awe-inspiring world of space?
HV: “My experience at NASA was both incredible and unexpected. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to be sure it wasn’t all a dream!
I worked at Ames as a Research Scholar/Intern for three months this summer, on a paper named “Legal and Ethical Framework for Robots and AI”. I had worked in the blockchain and the space industry before during my year at the International Space University (Strasbourg, France). I was thankful that ISU gave me this amazing opportunity to go to Ames in order to keep working on the implication of these new technologies on the law and our society in general.
Law can often be seen and perceived as restrictive – especially when it comes to innovative fields like space. At the moment, space law is quite old. The “Corpus Juris Spatialis” was created between 1967 and 1979 and is composed of five main treaties that were negotiated in the UN:
The Outer Space Treaty
The Rescue Agreement
The Liability Convention
The Registration Convention
The Moon Agreement
When we see how space exploration has evolved – even during the last decade alone – it is no surprise that these treaties, signed during the Cold War, are having trouble being enforced today. This is especially true considering the absence of any recognised international regulatory body. Having said that, the international context we find ourselves in today makes it impossible to create new treaties or even to modify the existing ones. Instead, we have to see them more as guidelines that establish principles of behaviour for the signatory parties rather than a codified set of vigorous, boundary laws.”
Many have speculated that we are on the verge of another industrial revolution with the potential rise of technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and next-level robotics. What are your thoughts on this and how do you think this affects the legal sector?
“AI and blockchain technology will surely be game-changers in the future. Law, as well as many other disciplines, will have to evolve in order to keep up. As for AI and the use of robots, the main legal area that will be impacted will be the question of liability: who exactly will be liable if an AI damages something or breaches a contractual arrangement? That is a really big question because, for now, no one knows where AI will lead us. Some experts have speculated that there is a 50% chance that AI will overrun human intelligence by 2045.
AI presents great opportunities, but also some great threats, so the idea is to create a framework that is precise enough to handle these changes, but also flexible enough to not asphyxiate technological development. In my opinion, it is fundamental that lawyers, policymakers and engineers collectively engage in conversation in order to create an evolving legal framework that can accompany any change.”
The continuing development of this technology has also raised several moral questions – say, our co-existence with a superintelligent AI. How do you think humans and AI will, or must, ethically co-exist in future?
“I think that studying how AI will interact with humans can be done in three particularly interesting scenarios:
The psychological aspect: humans project a lot their emotions with their devices. Such involvements, whether they are positive or negative, can be dangerous because they will be unilateral. The real danger is that humans could easily personify and anthropomorphize machines and create a unilateral relationship with them.
AI as an inventor or an artist: here, the infamous case of the “Monkey Selfie” is interesting, because it demonstrates the legal difficulty to attribute ownership to a work of art created by a non-human entity.
AI for medical uses: a robot surgeon can operate remotely, either in the same room with a machine or as an intermediary. The surgeon controls the gestures that are made by the machine and he/she sees on a screen what is happening, or even from a very distant place. In addition, a team from the Chinese Tsinghua University and iFlyTek AI created a robot driven by an AI named Xiaoyi – “little doctor” in English – that passed a medical entry exam in August 2017, exceeding the average performance of (human) students.
All of these points raise a lot of questions, be they ethical, legal or otherwise, and to me that’s fascinating.”
For many solicitors beginning their career in the legal sector, the further incorporation of advanced technology within the legal sector can present itself as both an opportunity and a challenge. What do you think the lawyers of tomorrow will be expected to know about LegalTech? What about how they will use it?
“I think it is fundamental that the lawyers in training today are trained to understand these challenges. Today, we lack professionals that are specialized in these areas. We need new blood, new ideas and we most certainly need hard-working, focused and rigorous lawyers that understand the need to develop this area of the law.
Today, people often laugh or smile when we talk about AI and robots. It’s normal and expected, because there is a lack of common knowledge about these technologies aside from common media portrayals. The lawyers of tomorrow that will want to explore this area of law must be aware that their challenge is in two parts:
They will need to promote the global knowledge of these topics;
They will need to create a new set of rules and laws to fit the particular legal questions raised by AI and robots”
I’d like to extend a big thank you to Héloïse for speaking with me and granting an insight into the world of law, space, AI and tech. You can visit her LinkedIn profile here.
I’ve spent the last two months or so working on a little side project alongside my work and studies. I’m delighted to say it’s finally ready for release!
Firstly, thank you for visiting my blog and for your interest in downloading my new e-book to understanding, developing and utilising your commercial awareness. You can download a PDF of it, for free, at the link below:
I wrote this book to try and distill everything I knew about commercial awareness, that I had learnt both in my studies and going through the Training Contract application process for legal jobs. I’ve done my best to keep the advice given as broadly useful as possible so that anyone, from any industry, can take some actionable steps to try and improve this vital skill.
In the book, I cover:
What commercial awareness actually is
How to best develop it as a skillset
How to utilise it in interviews, or in your day-to-day practice
I’ve also authored and created a number of other resources alongside my blog which you can access here.
If you liked, or didn’t like, the book and would like to give feedback, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on social media. I would be extremely thankful for any recommendations or endorsements you may want to give on my profile with regards to my understanding of commercial awareness as a skill, or if you found my mentoring helpful. I’d also greatly appreciate any reviews you’d like to leave over on Amazon. Thank you!
“We are led to believe that the route is ultimately LLB>LPC>TC consecutively and anything that goes against the grain is not to be given a thought. I disagree.”
The typical stereotype of a paralegal can conjure some unfortunate, negative imagery – a solely administrative role, acting as a yes-man to junior lawyers with little-to-no hopes of future career progression. As the legal sector has evolved, so have the responsibilities of a typical Paralegal. Many now complete work that is at least on a level with trainee solicitors, if not far greater, with the opportunity to work with clients directly and take on more personal responsibility. Despite such changes, traditional and historically-outdated myths have still persisted, primarily due to the views of more ‘traditional’ legal professionals and a lack of education or promotion of the role at university.
The Paralegal profession deserves better (and is better) than such misconceptions. The role is worthy of proper recognition in its own right, rather than continuous comparisons to other career routes or roles in the profession. To try and break such stereotypes, I collaborated with over 20 Paralegals from a vast variety of backgrounds to sort the fact from the fiction about what a Paralegal really is in today’s legal industry.
What made you want to become a Paralegal?
The Paralegal role is appealing for a wide variety of reasons. It is one of the few legal roles that is flexible enough to allow for part-time study of a legal course, such as the LPC or GDL, as well as often being open to anyone regardless of their degree or previous experience.
“We all know how much of a long road it is to qualify and I didn’t want to take a year out before the LPC, nor did I want to graduate and go back to my mundane waitressing job. It was right before graduation that I decided to apply for a paralegal position to fund my masters, which I then switched for the part-time LPC. I would recommend becoming a paralegal or at least having a few months of paralegalling experience before applying for TCs, to anyone. I receive a lot of “wow how on earth do you do it all?!” comments but it’s definitely doable!” – Abi Simpson
“Following graduation, I did not think twice before I applied for paralegal positions as I wanted to continue working in the legal field. I was only picky about specifics of my future job – I was really keen on in-house, preferably with international companies and in the tech industry. Funnily enough, it took me merely two weeks to receive an offer that ticked off all the above boxes.” – Dominika Westfal
“I wanted to pursue an alternative route by building my experience as a paralegal to then use that to apply for opportunities later on. I also wanted to put the skills I had learnt from the LPC into practice, so paralegalling was a great way of doing this.” – Zainab Hassan
“Firstly, I felt that this was one of the useful ways I would be able to develop a variety of legal transferable skills required for a career in Law. Secondly, I foresaw that the nature of the role would help prepare me for the type of challenges I will be expected to handle in future or that I may encounter as a trainee lawyer. Acquiring paralegal experience has allowed me to make mistakes earlier on and test out the type of work or duties I may have to undertake whilst on the VS and/or TC. I feel that this experience could be beneficial for people who have a neuro-diverse condition such as myself, as it allows one to build confidence and improve on where the condition lacks.” – Sarah Bamidele
What do you think is the best perk about working as a Paralegal, either in your current role or for how it may impact your future career trajectory?
Given the ability to work in a wide variety of legal sectors, Paralegal roles grant an immense insight into the industry. This is vital for allowing individuals to discover their preferred practice areas, as well as develop a broad, adaptable skillset to use throughout their career.
“The experience! I have learnt so much and it has more than prepared me for life as a trainee. I have also made many contacts along the way from a number of different law firms who have helped me in so many different ways.” – Ellie Llyod
“It’s the best way to actually test if being a solicitor is actually for you. It gives a chance to verify if you are okay with the pace of work, whether commonly cited ‘intellectual-stimulation’ is what you genuinely crave or is it too much at times, what areas of the law interest you, the list goes on forever. Being a paralegal you get to develop pretty much the same skills that firms require from its trainees, which puts you in great stead when that time actually comes. It equally helps with the application process itself too. I can’t recommend it enough.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“I am not limited to one area – I can work on employment, commercial contracts, corporate finance, intellectual property on the same day. Additionally, working for a company that has a significant international footprint, I get to experience the realities of working with colleagues and professionals from overseas on issues which cross different jurisdictions.” – Dominika Westfal
“Definitely learning on the job. Studying and working is a lot for anyone to handle, but it’s great to be able to put knowledge into practice and apply what you’ve learnt for your exams and assessments! I’d like to think my job has put me in good stead for when it comes to applying for TCs as hopefully, they would see that I know the ropes and would hit the ground running. It shows a lot about your dedication to the profession and your future career.” – Abi Simpson
“You are forced to learn and constantly be challenged. This is an invaluable skill that will help my future pursuits to becoming qualified. You experience a variety of legal practice areas as well.” – Sarah Bamidele
“You basically get the experience of a trainee! So, if you do then start a Training Contract, you are able to continue working hard and excel at your work.” – Zainab Hassan
What are the biggest misconceptions about working as a Paralegal?
“I am often met with two polar-opposite misconceptions. On the one hand, lay people usually assume that I am a qualified lawyer already which results in long explanations as to why it is not really the case. On the other hand, however, some people think that my role is purely administrative. Of course, there are administrative tasks that I am handling on a day to day basis, but I also get involved in a lot of legal projects.” – Dominika Westfal
“That it’s only for people who failed to get a TC. This might be partially true for some, but considering the frantic competition in the legal market, it really helps to approach this process not with self-hate and doubt (which I did for a while), but rather by thoroughly thinking through your strengths and goals to plan ahead.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“One misconception is that you don’t get given the good work. I think that you need to be proactive and make the associates you are working for aware of what you would like more involvement with. Another misconception is that you aren’t going to progress with the firm you work for but this is all down to you and how you fit with the firm.” – Ellie Lloyd
“That a paralegal is another name for a legal PA or the photocopier of the firm. Whilst there are some admin aspects to the role, this is not always the case! In smaller firms, you’re given more responsibilities and opportunities to undertake a variety of tasks which would usually be reserved for trainees and associates in larger firms. In my previous paralegal role, I was nominated to be an in-house company secretary and in charge of shareholders agreements! Moreover, I cannot exaggerate it enough that securing a paralegal role is not a cop-out to qualifying! It’s actually incredibly useful and can discount you up to 6 months off of your TC (upon application and submission of the relevant documents to the SRA) known as ‘time to count’ or ‘period of recognised training’.” – Abi Simpson
“Some people state that paralegals are for people that are ‘yes men’, only capable of getting the work done and falling short on the other qualities that makes a great lawyer. I totally disagree as I feel I am a creative thinker and a problem solver. I have come to appreciate that I will probably be working three times as hard to break into the legal profession at a global city firm given my background, disability and university grade. This is why I have had no choice but to opt into the paralegal route, to acquire more legal knowledge and experience that will enhance my skills and allow me to understand commercial law better, as I never knew what it involved until I started working as a paralegal at a US Law firm and attending commercial law-related events.” – Sarah Bamidele
What’s the best way to try and secure Paralegal opportunities?
Much is made of the traditional solicitor or barrister routes to qualification at university. Paralegals, however, are now starting to draw some more attention for the flexibility and benefits the role can bring – especially when it comes to future career progression.
“Try and get some work experience and then make several applications for paralegal roles. Law firms will see something in you if you are passionate about the work! Legal recruitment agencies are really helpful too.” – Zainab Hassan
“Begin looking in the run-up to summer and Christmas when individuals may be leaving their post to embark upon their TC or LPC.” – Abi Simpson
“It is paramount that paralegals have an understanding of the key issues, even if they lack direct experience. If you can talk about it and show that you are capable to learn quickly you could be hired despite a lack of direct experience. I was able to land my first paralegal job having shown a keen interest in law, demonstrable determination and how I would be committed as well as add value to the firm and this resulted in being hired without having the LPC or previous paralegal experience.” – Sarah Bamidele
“Try to connect with people directly through LinkedIn. This is much more efficient than trying some general number/email networking and potentially never hearing back.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“Check out F-LEX to gain some work experience, attend networking events and apply to as many paralegal roles as possible. I always wanted to start in a Corporate role, but I still applied for roles in personal injury, catastrophic injury and commercial insurance as well.” – Ellie Lloyd
How do you think the role of Paralegals may change in the future?
Much has been made of how the Paralegal role will function in the future of the legal industry. With the advent of innovative Legal Tech solutions, as well as shifting qualification routes under the SQE, it seems the role is now open to more opportunities and responsibilities than ever before.
“A lot of people believe that the role of the paralegal will be overtaken by the likes of AI and machine learning. Whilst that sector is growing, I think that the paralegal is paramount to supporting fee earners with their workload. It goes without saying that AI and machine learning inevitably poses accountability concerns and a lack of humanity in the workplace. However, I think many people will be turning to (and a large number already have) this alternative route to qualification. Taking time out as a paralegal before embarking on your TC is not a diversion from the goal, it’s simply the scenic route! We are led to believe that the route is ultimately LLB>LPC>TC consecutively and anything that goes against the grain is not to be given a thought. I disagree. What employer is going to turn down a paralegal who needs little training and can demonstrate dedication in their commitment to the profession?” – Abi Simpson
“It is definitely going to be impacted by the SQE and the wider reform of the qualification process. How exactly? I’m not so sure. I think no-one knows yet, but we are likely to see many more people going into paralegalling once the stigma of the ‘TC-fall outs’ slowly dies out. – Aleksandra Owczarska
“With the SRA making changes to the routes of qualifying, I think there will be room for more paralegals to qualify through the equivalent means of qualifying. The law industry is extremely competitive and as there are more applicants than roles available, this may continue in the future. Whether this actually deters applicants or not is an interesting thing to watch out for.” – Zainab Hassan
“The introduction of the SQE will surely have a significant impact on how paralegals are perceived. Since “the period of recognised training” totaling 2 years will open the doors to qualification, many paralegals will be able to qualify without completing training contracts. I could write a whole essay on this issue, but for now, I will just say that indeed big changes are coming!” – Dominika Westfal
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring solicitors, particularly those considering applying for Paralegal opportunities?
“Give it a go and consider paralegalling on an equal footing with any other job application. It’ll be an important step on your way through your career and opens many doors.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“Do it! Being a paralegal straight after university was the best thing I did for my development. I would say make sure you really take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.” – Ellie Lloyd
“Spending time as a paralegal most definitely trumps numerous work experience stints. Vacation schemes are good for making yourself known to big firms, however paralegal experience is invaluable and is always something you can pull out of the bag during application questions and interviews to demonstrate your practical knowledge and understanding of the workplace.” – Abi Simpson
“There are plenty of great, professional-looking resume templates on Etsy which you can buy just for a few pounds. I found that I received plenty of responses from recruiters once I invested in a nice looking CV – many of them admitted that my applications stood out for that reason.” – Dominika Westfal
“To go for it! They need you just as much as you want the job. Be yourself and genuinely consider the questions in the application and interview process. Imagine the job/life you want and work your hardest to get it. Most of all, don’t give up and be sure to ask for help – there is plenty around.” – Zainab Hassan
“Be proactive, sociable and make the most of every opportunity you can. Put yourself forward for as much as possible and try and mimic the professional qualities of your supervisors and the lawyers around you. And most importantly, don’t give up – keep applying for paralegal jobs, training contracts, vac schemes and constantly look for areas to develop, progress. Don’t let rejection or negative feedback set you back but use it as a springboard to develop. Ignore anything that seems personal and twist it into something you can use for self progression.” – Anonymous
“Absolutely apply for that paralegal job. You will gain invaluable experience from solicitors and lawyers at the tops of their friends and learn practical skills that cannot be taught in a classroom, and enjoy a challenging, fast paced but compassionate role. The experience, skills and networking gained will make all the difference when it comes to securing a training contract (or equivalent) in the future.” – Anonymous
This article would not have been possible without the collaboration of a great many people. Their insight and commentary on the Paralegal role was truly eye-opening and I hope it inspires aspiring lawyers to appreciate the role for what it is – an inimitable opportunity to develop your skills and garner real experience for your career. At the end of the day, all members of a firm have to collaborate in order to work towards the main goal of any legal service provider – serving clients’ needs. It’s time outdated misconceptions made way for a true appreciation of how important the work Paralegals undertake truly is.
I’d like to thank the follow people for their contribution to this article:
“I chose to go to law school because I thought that someday, somehow I’d make a difference.”
Studying law at university can be an invigorating intellectual challenge at times and a mentally taxing workload at others. Being able to balance the demands of your studies and social life is difficult, especially whilst also trying to be considerate of your future career plans and employability. Countless websites, blogs, podcasts and posts all offer their own advice for making the most of your university degree and I hope these law-specific ones will be of use to you regardless of what year you are currently in. Whilst not exhaustive, here are some key tips to help you manage the valuable commodity of time throughout your studies of law in the most optimal manner.
It’s no surprise that throughout your law degree you’ll be inundated with a plethora of reading, coursework, essays and paperwork. Keeping on top of all of these documents should be a top priority. Everyone works in different ways – be it on paper, a laptop, or through other means – and as such you will need to organise your work in the most effective way that accounts for:
Security: How secure are your files and notes? What would happen should you lose them? Do you have a backup or recovery option should that happen? How can you make sure you only allow access to your files to those you want to share them with?
Accessibility: Can you access your files from anywhere, or at any time? Can you access them across a variety of formats (mobile, desktop, smartboard)? Is your access reliant on any one network or device that could fail or break?
Shareability: Should you need to collaborate with others, how easy is it for you to share or develop your notes? Can you do so in realtime? Is this reliant on having a physical device, such as a memory stick, or access to a specific digital user account?
Usability: Once made, can you easily navigate through your notes, particularly by searching for key terms or cases? Can you utilise colour coding or highlighting to categorise your notes? Can you amend, comment or erase sections of your notes as necessary?
Go Beyond Your Textbook
A law degree is packed full of intellectually stimulating reading, cases and arguments – but law is increasingly starting to offer so much more than that. With a new wave of legal tech investment, alternate service provisions and a blending of the legal sector with a multitude of others, the average career path in the world of law is starting to fluctuate. Be sure to make time to network, attend keynote events and do some of your own research on what it is you want to specialise in. That way, you can augment what you learn in a textbook with some of your own passion-driven interests and further reading. When it then comes to applying for graduate roles, you’ll have a wide variety of experience and insight that can help demonstrate your interest in a particular field, firm or company.
First Year DOES Count
There’s always been somewhat of an urban myth that your first year of university doesn’t count and is therefore not a priority in the long-term. Whilst it is technically true that your first-year results won’t contribute toward your final degree classification, it will certainly contribute to your efforts to secure work experience or vacation scheme opportunities at university. Such first and second-year opportunities can be vital in helping you kick-start your career. Extremely poor first-year grades (for the sole reason that you did not take the year seriously, free of mitigating circumstances) will not only be a potential drawback on your initial applications, but will also not allow you to properly develop your writing and exam skills that will be vital throughout the later stages of your degree. The fundamental, basic concepts you will learn throughout your first year will also underpin everything you look at later on in your studies. Hit the ground running as best you can!
Think About Post-Degree Paths
Following on from the previous point, law is a unique industry that can start recruiting for your post-law-school graduate role as early as your second year at university. The fact that opportunities can open up so early means its vital to keep on top of application deadlines and what recruiters are looking for from their candidates. Schedule a meeting with your careers advisor to learn more about what pathways a law degree can offer, or try it yourself by attending law and non-law career fairs and events. Networking early is never a bad thing to try!
Keep It Short
Given the mass volume of information and paperwork you’ll have to process during your degree, you need to make sure your notes are up to scratch come revision time. Make sure to revisit key topics and build a concise set of notes you can quickly reference to understand the key points from any concepts or modules you’ll be tested on. Having easy-to-find, resourceful notes – be they digital or physical – will save you countless hours of unnecessary re-administration and research come the exam period, when you’ll most need your time. Making sure you’re as set up as you can be now by avoiding procrastination will help you tackle any tough deadlines or workloads later on.
If you don’t know something or are unsure of it – say so! Law juggles a lot of new concepts that you will likely not have learnt about before commencing your degree and it can easily feel overwhelming at times. There is no shame in using every single resource the uni can throw at you as and when you need it – it will be nothing but beneficial in the long-term, both for your mental wellbeing and (hopefully!) your final degree classification.
Be A Student
Law is an intensive course and you may have lots of lectures, reading lists or seminars to tend to (hopefully not too many of all three!). Make sure to make time for extracurricular clubs and activities, law-related or not. Not only will they help you manage your stress and improve your social circles, but also be great additional experiences to later talk about on an application or in an interview.
Build A Routine
Perhaps the most important and vital tip til last – build a routine! It will be nigh-impossible to even attempt the above tips without a solid foundation of a routine which must account for:
To do this most effectively, hack your habits! Take an honest assessment of which 10 negative habits you want to try and work out of your day-to-day routine (poor sleep, skipping meals etc.), as well as 10 positive habits (going to the gym, reading for 10 minutes etc.) that you want to encourage. Take 5 minutes to consider what you would like your life during your degree to look like across every axiom of your life – friends, family, health, studies etc. Then, spend 5 minutes thinking about what will happen if you allow your negative habits to spiral out of control and take hold of your progression through uni. Doing so will help you visualise where you feel you can focus on most to help you move toward that first plan for yourself and away from the latter. This is an example of future authoring, which I would heavily recommend to anyone, as it really helped me plot a pathway through how I wanted to approach my time at university.
I hope the above tips help you, regardless of what stage you’re currently at in your degree. If you’ve got any questions or want to learn more, feel free to get in touch with me.
“Everybody and their mother has a book and a podcast these days.”
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Jaysen Sutton, founder of The Corporate Law Academy, in his ‘Trainee Talk’ podcast series.
TCLA aims to assist aspiring commercial solicitors in their journey towards a Training Contract, providing a number of guides, resources and mentoring contacts. The online learning platform is full of really useful information that is invaluable to helping you through the application process for commercial firms – from online applications right through to assessment centres and interviews. TCLA also runs a number of networking conferences and events, designed to help you learn more about what a trainee’s responsibilities are, learn more about a certain sector of commercial law, or to simply develop your professional network.
Their podcast series, ‘Trainee Talk’, interviews current and future trainee solicitors at various law firms on a broad variety of topics. During my podcast episode, entitled “Leveraging your Unique Selling Points”, I spoke about:
My journey into the world of Law and securing a Training Contract
The development of this blog and my plans for it in the future
Mental health and wellbeing within the legal sector
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness – especially for Law students
My advice regarding networking, drafting an application and interviewing
…and much more! You can find links to the podcast episode and TCLA below.
“…I refuse to tolerate lists. They’re lazy. And listy.”
― Greg Gutfeld.
The competition for Training Contracts (TCs) has always been fiercely intense. Thousands of applicants apply every year for only a limited number of places. It’s important to make sure that your applications demonstrate your strengths and interests as clearly as possible to any recruiter in order to stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, here are my in-depth, top 10 tips to help you try and secure a coveted Training Contract.
1) Choose your route
Firstly, it’s important to take into consideration the many ways you can secure a TC offer. The most commonly referred to ‘conventional’ route would probably look something like this:
Of course, this is a very narrow view of how TC applications function. There are, in fact, a wide variety of routes to securing a TC. A revised diagram of just some of them (not including Paralegal opportunities among many others) might look something like this:
It’s worth taking into consideration which route is most applicable to you based on your levels of experience and education and researching the first steps to starting them.
2) Tailor your application
One of the most important things to keep in mind while drafting your TC application is to make sure you tailor your applications to the firm you’re applying to. Whilst firms can be similar, no two are the same – each have their own culture, clients, strengths and what they’re looking for from their Trainees. Your application should demonstrate specifically why you want to join that firm rather than being a generic and ambiguous copy-paste answer. Recruiters want to see clear motivations as to why their firm appeals to you, as well as how well you would fit in within that kind of firm.
Evidencing these interests can be done in a number of ways, including (but not limited to):
Highlighting your attendance at events such as open days, law fairs, careers dinners and conferences
Identifying a specific department/TC seat that you are interested in and referencing the firm’s strengths or recent deals in that area
Using your academic background (perhaps your module choices, dissertation, or other similar achievement) as evidence of your interest in the firm’s practice areas
Evidencing your skill set through your attendance at firm-sponsored workshops and courses
3) Be aware of commercial awareness
Commercial awareness is becoming an increasingly expected skill of aspiring solicitors today, alongside many other commercially-focused sectors such as finance or marketing. At its most basic level, commercial awareness is an ability to keep up with the developments of the business world. Why you should have it and how you can develop it further, however, are just as important to know.
Clients need to have faith in their solicitors that they understand the needs of their business. For example, if a client states that they wish to setup a new business in a foreign country, then you (as their solicitor) need to be at least a few steps ahead when it comes to thinking about any relevant and recent changes to the business world which might impact their decision. Has there been a change in regulation, or currency rates, or geopolitical relationships? How will these affect the decision-making of your client?
Alongside this ‘externally’-focused approach to commercial awareness, it is just as important to be ‘internally’-focused as well – i.e., what might impact the operation of the firm you are working for? How do you, as a trainee, fit in the broader picture of a law firm? What are firms doing differently now then they did, say, 20 years ago? What should they be considerate of in the future?
It’s nigh impossible to be able to have a perfect answer memorised for every variation of these questions – but the reality of commercial awareness is almost the exact opposite. It is much more useful to have a developed mindset as to how to view and approach a problem then it is to be able to regurgitate a handful of wildly impractical facts or news articles. Firms will frequently test this at the interview stage of TC applications, so don’t rely on knowing one article word-for-word to get you through – it is much better to be well-rounded across a variety of topics.
If you’re looking to learn more about commercial awareness, you can check out my posts on it here. I also wrote a free e-book which you can access at my resources page, here.
4) Identify your Unique Selling Points (USPs)
Whilst typically ‘USPs’ is considered a term for Economics textbooks, thinking of your application as a showcase of them can be a great way to outline what your application needs to say. USPs demonstrate to recruiters what makes you, well, you! USPs could include, but are not limited to:
Noteworthy academic achievements – essay prizes; final placement in graduation class; notable dissertation topic and grade etc.
Extra-curricular accomplishments – positions of responsibility in a University society, College or sports team; mentoring; running or coordinating an event or performance with others etc.
Legal experience – work experience or placements; open days; scholarships etc.
Non-legal work experience – working in retail, part-time jobs, right through to years of professional experience outside of the legal sector
Your USPs should ideally communicate your ability to:
Work well with others, in a variety of roles
Produce effective and consistent results relative to your role
Seek out challenge with a willingness to learn
Excellent communication skills, with an ability to adapt to the situation at hand
Handle responsibility and (if applicable) an ability to delegate it to others effectively
Go above and beyond what is expected of you
The above are just some recommendations as to how to both identify and outline your USPs. Go back through your CV and see what unique combinations of experience, education, personality and work ethic you can evidence to your employer. Writing down what you believe your USPs to be before you begin your first draft can really help give your application direction.
If you’re wanting to learn more about the ‘USPs’ concept, check out my podcast episode on ‘Trainee Talk’ with The Corporate Law Academy here.
5) Do your homework
As I previously mentioned, it’s important to tailor your applications to the firm you’re applying to through thorough research and planning. Should you be successful in moving on from the initial application stages, its likely you’ll face a combination of aptitude tests, interviews and assessment centres. Whilst firms will update the specifics of what a candidate is tested on – the questions asked in a video interview, or task given for group exercises at assessment centres, for example – you can often find articles or forums online in which previous candidates have described their experiences. These can be invaluable in calming any nerves before your assessment, or give a clue as to what to expect.
6) Network (effectively)
Events such as law fairs, legal conferences, open days and careers dinners offer an inimitable opportunity to network with recruiters and trainees face-to-face. Whilst LinkedIn is an invaluable resource for connecting with individuals, these face-to-face opportunities are much more effective. They present the perfect chance to ask firms your burning questions and get an instant, personal response. Do your best to outline which firms you want to know more about before you go, as well as a rough idea of the questions you want to ask them.
Networking opportunities are not the one-stop shop for securing a TC – recruiters won’t be looking to hand them out on the day to the ‘best-dressed’ or ‘most-keen’ person they talk to that instead. Be presentable, of course, and try to demonstrate your enthusiasm through meaningful questions that you couldn’t obviously Google the answer to. Aim instead, however, to find out what the firm is all about, as well as what they are looking for from their applicants.
Should a recruiter, trainee or other notable contact offer to keep in touch with you following a conversation, take it! So, so many candidates fail to follow up on these opportunities out of fear of embarrassment or lack of interest. Make a note of their email address or name and send a personalised connection request via LinkedIn in the following days with reference to your conversation a few days prior. It demonstrates initiative and interest, as well as being a fantastic contact to have should you need some guidance in future.
If you want to get some more tips on networking, check outmy podcast episodes on it here and my LawCareers.net episode on LinkedIn here.
7) Recognise TC applications are a two-way process
Speaking to the above points re: networking, it’s important to remember that you might end up working for your firm a long time after your TC is done. When looking into firms to apply for, it’s a good idea to have questions like these at the forefront of your research:
Is the firm located in where I want to work, and if applicable does it have international offices in cities I’d like to collaborate with?
What are the firm’s strongest departments/seats? Does it matter to me if they are not leading in the area of law I want to specialise in?
What is the firm’s working culture like – collaborative, ‘dog eat dog’, diverse, relaxed, or perhaps more traditional?
What makes me want to work at this firm over any of its competitors?
Does the firm provide adequate secondment opportunities for what I’m interested in, be they international or client-focused?
Who are the firm’s major clients?
Where does the firm want to be in 10 years time? How is it going to get there? What role would I play?
These are also excellent types of questions to ask at the end of any face-to-face interview, just like any internally-commercially-aware questions. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to make sure the firm sell themselves to you as you have to them, but by the same token don’t be assuming of your TC success in your tone before you’ve actually got it!
8) Be your-(authentic)-self
It is surprisingly easy to come across as an ‘overly robotic professional’ throughout the application process, especially given the need to highlight your academic and professional achievements. Firms will also, however, be looking for candidates who will be a good cultural fit outside of the office walls – especially during networking events, or perhaps during lunches/social with trainees and the Graduate Recruitment team. Firms will want someone who will work hard, yes, but also be able to contribute to the social side of working life both inside and outside the office. Make sure you’re able to recognise the difference to respond accordingly between a Partner panel interview quizzing you on your legal knowledge and a casual chat with trainees about the extra-curricular activities they may have been up to whilst working there.
9) Don’t leave it to the last minute
Firms can vary massively in how they conduct their search for their future trainees. Usually, they will set a hard deadline for initial online applications to be in, with a view to then whittle down to the final candidates through a combination of tests, interviews and assessment centres. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that some firms sift through candidates on a rolling basis as opposed to waiting until after the deadline. This makes the timing of your application critical – sending it too late or near to the deadline might mean other candidates secure interviews or assessment centres before yours is even read by a recruiter. Firms also receive an overwhelming majority of their applications in the days leading up to the deadline, as many students will often work they way down a list of TC application deadlines in order of ‘urgency’ rather than ‘importance’ (i.e. not applying to their favourite firm first but rather the one whose deadline is next). Getting your application in before these increased windows of activity might increase the likelihood that the firm will have more time to thoroughly analyse your application – which sounds scary, but is actually a good thing!
10) Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever give up
Perhaps leaving the most important tip until last, but persevere. Training Contracts are coveted, therefore competitive, with thousands of applicants every year. They aren’t the only way in to the legal profession. In other words… https://tinyurl.com/keep-going-tc
I hope the above tips help you throughout the application process. If you want to get in touch with me to ask any questions, you can do so here.