Top 5 Characteristics Law Firms Look For When Hiring

You’ve know you’ve got the skills but you’re looking for that extra edge to cut through the crowd and make your CV stand out. We understand that the legal industry is an extremely competitive industry for job seekers, so we’ve put together the following guide:

Top 5 characteristics law firms look for when hiring


Working as a lawyer means you will have to regularly put in long hours to achieve your goals, sacrifice is just part of the job. Law firms want to see that you have the right goal driven attitude required to succeed in such a demanding industry. Candidates who have goals and are driven are seen as better applicants as they won’t mind walking that extra mile for their clients to get the results they want.


The legal industry is a complicated industry, so prior experience and understanding of legal practice is a necessity for most legal firms when hiring candidates. Legal firms are having to sift through record numbers of applicants, so employers are looking for a CV that stands out from the rest. Experience demonstrates commitment to the career path, plus a complete understanding of the skills and demands the job entails. Having prior experience so you can hit the ground running will be hugely advantageous when applying for a legal role.


Strong oral and written communication skills are a necessity for most employers looking to hire an employee, regardless of the industry. It is however, especially important for a legal candidate to have highly developed communication skills. Lawyers must be orally articulate, have good written communication skills and also be good listeners. Law firms will be looking for this essential skill in their candidates, so ensuring your communication skills are on point will really help you through the recruitment process.


If you were an employer sifting through hundreds of applications for an advertised role, what would separate the good from the great? The answer is – achievements. To really stand out among your peers, you need to demonstrate that you have that extra quality that makes all the difference to how your team functions. When writing your CV or your cover letter, make sure you include all relevant achievements and times you have outperformed those around you.


Organisations spend a lot of time and money working on their image – developing their brand and producing as many positive signals as possible. As a staff member of the organisation, everything you do is a reflection of the firm you work for. This includes personal presentation! What others see and hear you do will influence their opinion of you and of the firm you work for, so excellent presentation is crucial to success in the legal industry – it is about perception, and having people perceive you positively always.



Powerplayers Tour Recap

Our managing partner, Michelle Sneesby recently returned from a week long intensive Knowledge and Study Tour hosted at Californias’ UCLA. On November 25th, Michelle flew to LA to commence the PowerPlayers tour, alongside 19 other Australian entrepreneurs.

After initial hesitation and nerves, Michelle settled in, met the other entrepreneurs invited to the tour and the Founder and CEO of Business Chicks, Emma Isaacs. After a brief meeting, Michelle and the other guests headed back to their rooms to rest up before beginning the tour.


On the first day of the tour, Michelle explored the UCLA campus and did some networking with other like minded Australian business women. Michelle was blown away by the beauty of the UCLA campus, and so are we! Check out the pictures below.

Official Tour Day 1: Ian Larkin & ‘Growing Your Business’

Day one of the tour and Michelle was lucky enough to be sat next to successful Sydney lawyer Jennifer Bicknell.

Next up was speaker Ian Larkin who discussed growing a business using the Netflix success story as a springboard. Ian challenged the group and gave Michelle a lot of take home points to share with the empire teams.

Day 2: Leading a culture of service excellence

On day 2 Michelle and the team had an exciting day at Disneyland, taking the time to learn what makes each member of the tour special – what are their differences, and what sets them apart? Michelle also learnt about what makes Disneyland so unique. The attention to detail at Disneyland is unparalleled and it’s part of what makes the Disneyland experience so special.

Day 3: Dermalogica & Iris Furstenberg

The third day of the tour was a key day for Michelle. Beginning with a Q&A session with Dermalogica founder and CEO, Jane Wurwand, the morning was informative and thought provoking – but for Michelle, the best was yet to come.

Next up was speaker Dr. Iris Furstenberg. Iris is a professor of psychology and specialises in creative problem speaking and innovative thinking. She spoke about bringing the future to the present, the importance of being present and the psychology of being present. Iris was absolutely a highlight for Michelle and her favourite speaker.


After a week of learning at UCLA, Michelle and the rest of the team graduated.

The Knowledge and Study Tour was a challenging, exhausting, rewarding and an absolutely incredible experience.

Michelle was pushed out of her comfort zone, she made new connections, learnt new skills and developed both professionally and personally. Michelle is returning home with a new outlook on life and plenty of information and exciting new strategies to implement at empire.


Key takeaways from the Powerplayers tour

In November of 2018, our managing partner Michelle Sneesby was invited to join 20 other entrepreneurs from all over Australia in a week long ‘Knowledge and Study PowerPlayers Tour’ held at California’s UCLA.

For Michelle, this was a huge step outside of her comfort zone – not only had she never been to University, she had never travelled on her own, nor had she ever left her children.

After the initial nerves wore off, Michelle and the other guests settled in and got to know one another, before commencing what Michelle called a ‘magical experience’ of new challenges, new learning, new experiences and new growth – both personally and professionally.

Michelle has boiled down a weeks worth of learning to five key takeaway points for those of us not lucky enough to be present at the PowerPlayers tour. Below are Michelle’s top takeaway points from the tour:

Be present – leave technology away when in a meeting.  Don’t allow phones or computers

The reality is, when people are allowed to bring computers or phones into a meeting, they won’t be focusing on the meeting or contributing to it either. Instead they will be emailing, surfing the web or just playing around with their technology.

A scientific study conducted of UCLA students noted that students who took notes by hand rather than using a computer or ipad had an increased understanding of concepts discussed. The study also noticed increased productivity levels among students using good old fashioned pen and paper. So next time you have a meeting, leave the laptop behind and instead opt for taking notes with a pen and paper – you just can’t argue with science!

Get 7 – 8 hours sleep every night – it’s more important than you think!

In some workplace cultures, working long hours and running on little to no sleep is worn as a badge of honor, but new research is proving that lack of sleep has hugely detrimental effects in the workplace. Sleep deprivation reduces alertness, cognition, and reaction time. Fatigue in the workplace can also lead to irritability, absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries and even fatalities.

Culture is everything

Work culture is an intangible ecosystem that makes some workplaces great to work, and other places toxic. In a nutshell, the ideology of a organisation is what constitutes its work culture.

A positive work culture can make or maim an employees performance. No matter how talented or smart someone is, a person can work to the best of their capabilities and creative skills when surrounded by an encouraging environment that values human resource. Humans are fundamentally simple, and a positive workplace culture impacts the way they think, act and reflect.

Don’t discount your pricing – value the service you deliver

When you offer a discount on your product or service, what are you saying to your prospect? You’re saying that you don’t believe enough in what you’re selling to sell it for the standard price. Discounting can give customers the impression that the services offered aren’t worth paying for. Focus instead, on the value of the product you are selling, on the excellent services you deliver.

Have a plan

A plan is a critical tool used not only within a business, but also on a personal level.

Writing a plan forces disciplined thinking. An idea may sound great, but as your write down all the details and the numbers, it may fall apart. Specific, measurable planning is absolutely essential – excellent ideas can be completely useless if you cannot formulate, execute and implement a strategic plan to make your idea work.




Giving honest and constructive feedback to your staff is one of the most important things you can do to develop them. Doing it well really is a skill that you can learn – the day a staff member says ‘thank you for the feedback’ when you have given negative or constructive feedback is the day you know you have done it well. On the other hand, ruling through a letter with a red pen and writing ‘start again’ in large block letters before leaving it on staff member’s chair for them to see first thing in the morning is not optimal.

Woman yelling at people dressed in suits through a megaphone

Here is an easy guide on what to do and what not to do:


Give feedback promptly, as close to the event as possible Put off giving feedback hoping it will get better
Provide negative feedback privately – in an appropriate space. Open plan offices require careful thought Give negative feedback in public or in front of colleagues
Prepare what you are going to say and how Keep a list of problems to give your staff member at the annual performance review
Prepare for objections – most people will automatically want to defend themselves Be in a rush – your employee is bound to have questions
Where possible, start with positive feedback Assume that if there are no questions, the employee has accepted the feedback. This could be a time bomb
Have examples of the issue to give to the employee Discuss the issue with anyone else in the work group
Be specific about the issue Offer your solutions without giving the employee an opportunity to provide a solution
Make sure the feedback is about behaviour, not the person. Be vague or have no example
Describe the impact the behaviour has – either on you, clients or colleagues. Go off on a tangent and start discussing something unrelated
Take your time – show that you have time to discuss the issue Make assumptions about behaviour
Diary note the discussion  
Follow up at a time and date agreed  
Give the employee an opportunity to respond  
Commit to dealing with issues that may be impacting the performance – eg other under performing staff, systems issues  
Be open to receiving feedback yourself  


Giving negative feedback is never easy, but once given, you will be pleased it’s been done.


As Bill Gates said: “ We all need people who will give us feedback – that’s how we improve”.


In his book “Employee Enragement’ James Adonis turns the concept of Employee Engagement on its head to look at why people don’t want to work for certain employers.

Interestingly, it is not dissatisfaction with salary and benefits or work/life balance that is top of the list, but employers not dealing with lazy or underperforming people is the most common cause of employee enragement.

An “engaged employee” is one who is enthusiastic about their work and committed to the employer’s goals and vision.  It is easy to see an ‘engaged’ employee.  They are the ones with a smile on their faces, are optimistic and who bounce back from setbacks.DISENGAGED EMPLOYEES

But what are the signs of a disengaged employee?  Oftentimes when an employee resigns, it is only with the benefit of hindsight that you can see that they have not been happy.  Here are some of the things to look out for:

Tardiness – always late, even if it’s only a few minutes, to work, to meetings

Leaving early – leaving on the dot of 5 o’clock when they used to work late (this doesn’t apply to administrative staff)

Constant Criticism and Complaints–criticises and complains about everything from the quality of the coffee, to the length of meetings, to management decisions

Rolling eyes – if criticism is not verbalized, it is done with a rolling of the eyes.  A lot.

Silence – stays silent in meetings, then tells everyone how useless the meeting was and what their views are

Gossip – someone who gossips about the business and other people

Withdrawal – the opposite of gossip, someone who sits in their office with the door shut, not talking, or at their desk not talking

Uncommunicative –  stops saying hello or goodbye, or taking an interest in others

Unhelpful – stops helping others who need it (usually with a roll of the eyes)

Absenteeism – starts being sick a lot on Mondays and Fridays

Reduced productivity – a previously high performer suddenly starts not performing to expectations

Lack of Discretionary effort – taking a ‘that’s not my job’ approach to work and the workplace.

Anger – barely able to hide their frustration by boiling over in anger at little things

By the time many of these symptoms are evident it is too late to turn a disengaged to an engaged employee – it is not impossible, of course, but very hard to do.  Remember how the number one irritant for employees is employers not dealing with underperforming colleagues?  This, then, is something that you need to deal with, as a disengaged employee will be like a heavy weight pulling the rest of the team down, and you risk losing your top performers.  If you have an employee behaving like this, it is time for an honest discussion about under performance.

What sort of flexibility suits you?

We have written before about flexible workplaces and its many benefits for both employer and employee.  You can read those articles here (  Formal flexibility is not for every employee, yet informal flexible work arrangements can work for everyone.  With the rush of modern life, we all seem to have more and more responsibilities, pulling us in every direction.  And let’s be honest not all medical specialists take appointments outside of normal office hours!work life balance

In best practice, formal flexible work is covered by a written policy, but informal flexible work is an attitude and approach rather than a formal process requiring forms to be filled out.

In truly flexible workplaces, informal, infrequent requests for flexibility do not require changes to your terms of employment and are arranged between you and your supervisor.   These are usually one-off or irregular occurrences.  Some examples of informal flexibility might include:

  • Starting late to attend a child’s first day of school (employers please note this is a really cool thing to do for your staff)
  • Leaving work early to attend a special school concert or medical appointment
  • Working from home occasionally to complete a project without any distractions
  • Working non-standard hours on occasion  (allowing a later start or earlier finish) to accommodate an external commitment (e.g. specialist medical appointment)
  • Being given time off in lieu for working significant overtime on a project
  • Allowing brief time off to observe significant religious or spiritual festivals
  • For non-parents, emergency veterinary visits
  • Allowing longer lunch breaks for special occasions
  • Early finish times ahead of long weekends or the Christmas break

Where informal flexible work practices are provided to you, it is important to remember the fact that the principle of reciprocity applies – that is, when you have the chance to give back to your employer, or your work colleagues, you should do so.  Some employers may require the time to be made up – if that is the case make sure you do this as soon as practicable, as this will develop trust and respect.

Even where formal flexible work is provided, it does not have to be permanent – it can be very short term or temporary. For example:

  • Working part-time or flexible hours while undergoing treatment for serious illness – radiation or other treatments may need to be undertaken on a regular basis at the same time every day for a set period of time
  • Working part-time to assist a close relative with a serious illness – eldercare is becoming a more pressing issue for baby boomers
  • Returning to work after serious illness or injury that is not work related – a formal return to work program is required if your injury is work related, but if you have been ill, or have had an accident, you might need to consider reduced hours before returning to work full time.

We all crave the ability to manage our many responsibilities – having a flexible workplace and a commitment to work hard at making it work will ensure we are all able to do this.

Gender Identity in the Workplace

Every-one is talking about Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner). This global conversation has put the spotlight on gender identity and serves as a reminder that it is against the law to discriminate against any-one in the workplace because of their actual or assumed sexual orientation or their gender identity.

Australian law protects all employees from discrimination at all stages of employment including recruitment, workplace terms and conditions and termination of employment.  This protection extends to transgender employees. Transgender means any-one who lives, has lived, or wants to live as a member of the opposite gender (sex) to their birth gender. A person may identify as a member of a particular gender by the way they dress, a name change or medication intervention (e.g. hormone therapy), counselling or sex reassignment surgery.gender identity

Therefore, under Australian law, all employers must treat all employees fairly despite their gender identity. It doesn’t matter whether the employee has had a ‘sex change’, whether they are or are not taking hormones or whether they live as their preferred gender. Essentially, you should treat the employee in the way they wish to be treated vis a vis their gender identity. For example, a transgender may still wish to be addressed as their original gender, or they may wish to be known as their preferred gender. They may even wish to set an official date from which they will always be known as their preferred gender. It depends on the individual and their wishes ought to be respected.

If an employee decides to undertake a ‘change over’ into their preferred gender whilst in your employment, it is best to ask them how they wish to be treated and then abide by their wishes. More importantly, ask the employee how they wish to handle the transition period with their colleagues e.g. some may wish to talk about the ‘change over’ with their colleagues, or they may want management to talk to their colleagues about the ‘change over’ for them. Some employees may want a period of leave before coming back as their preferred gender. The ‘change over’ period must be handled delicately and sensitively, and always in consultation with the transgender employee.

It is management’s legal responsibility to make sure, to the best of their ability, that no-one (including transgender employees) is harassed when working for them. If a colleague refuses, for example, to work with a transgender employee, or refuses to be supervised by a transgender employee, or even refuses to share toilets with a transgender employee, this amounts to transgender harassment and is against the law.

It is imperative that all employers set guidelines as to what is acceptable and professional workplace behavior. Additionally, employers need to implement grievance procedures to deal with all types of harassment and discrimination (including transgender discrimination). All employees need to be advised and educated that transgender harassment is unacceptable in the workplace and is also against the law. Ongoing transgender harassment and discrimination will result in disciplinary action.

First impressions can be lasting impressions – The Employer – Part 2

In the previous blog post we talked about how first impressions are so very important for employees. Similarly for employers, the impression you give to new starters will be a lasting one of you as an employer. Here are some of the things you can do to create a good impression with your employees, and help ensure that they continue to look forward to coming to work:

  • Make sure whoever is on reception knows who is coming and what their name is so they can be welcomed accordingly.
  • A large organisation will have (or should have) a formal orientation program. If you are a smaller organisation, or don’t have an orientation program, a small welcome pack which contains stationery, a list of commonly used phone numbers and a floor plan is a really good start.
  • Have someone show them around the office so they can familiarise themselves with the important things like fire escapes (!), bathrooms, and the chocolate dispensing machine.Thank you!
  • Make sure that whatever desk your employee is sitting at has been cleaned and ready for them to use. There is only one thing more dispiriting for new employees to come into an office and find that the belongings of the previous occupant are still at their desk and that no one has been told they are starting!
  • Make time – make sure your new employee is given time by their immediate supervisor to have the role explained and answer any questions the employee might have.
  • Set calendar appointments for probation reviews so that the employee knows when to expect those meetings and how to prepare for them.
  • Assign a buddy – if the organisation is a large one, assign a buddy for your new employee so that they have a peer they can turn to if they have any questions.
  • Say thank you – nothing brightens the day for a new employee than having the boss say “thank you”, even for the smallest things.
  • Wrap up – at the end of your new employee’s first week make sure you take the time to sit down with them and just ask them how they found it and if they have any questions they need answered.

Remember – It’s the little things that count.

When It’s Time to Let Someone Go

I overheard a woman speaking to a friend in a coffee shop about the breakdown of her marriage. She said that she realised when her husband was going on a business trip and that she hoped the plane crashed, that it was time to end her marriage herself rather than hoping an additional 200 people might die in the process. As managers, we sometimes have a feeling that it is time for an employee to leave the organisation but we are reluctant to take that step, or avoid it, for a variety of reasons.

A few weeks ago on the 1st of June 2015, I read an interesting article in the Australian Financial Review titled “When it’s time to fire an employee who is ‘good enough’”. The title is quite confronting for anyone, both employer and employee, but it’s a subject that is not talked about very often openly.Hire-and-Fire-ID-10095091

There are many times when as a manager, you feel that an employee has reached the limit of their growth potential, or having been with your organisation for some time, their performance has dropped.

The article highlights three occasions where a manager might consider it’s time to move someone on. The article was originally published in the Harvard Business Review, so the term ‘fire’ is used in an environment where terminating the employment of employees is much easier. You can read the full article here.

The three occasions listed in the article are:

  • Is the employee meeting the responsibilities listed on their job description?
    • There can be many reasons why this might happen including boredom but it’s an important question to ask. Managers might be blinded to the truth of the fact that long-term employees are no longer performing.
  • Can the market offer you a better employee for the same price?
    • In addition to the example given in the article, I suggest that as hard as it can be, the market might be able to offer you a better employee at a reduced cost.
  • If the employee resigned would you fight to keep him or her?
    • This is the ultimate litmus test. If you receive a resignation from someone and you’re relieved it’s a sign that this should have been attended to some time ago. So honestly think about that person in this way and decide what to do about it.

To these three things I would add the following:

  • The employee is causing team disruption
  • The employee starts saying ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’
  • When they start saying ‘no’ a lot and finding reasons why things can’t be done

Does this blog post strike a chord with you? What do you need to do about it?

The Supervisor as a Coach

Aristotle once said that good supervision is “the art of getting average people to do superior work”, but it is much more than that.

Supervisors have many responsibilities including the allocation of work, supervision of work, delegation of work as well as a myriad of other things not related to work including conflict resolution, team building as well as their own work and business development.leaders

One of the most important jobs of a supervisor is that of a coach.  Supervisors are in a perfect place to coach employees, whether that be for growth and development or correction of performance issues.  In relation to development, as a supervisor, you have primary responsibility for assisting your staff to grow and acquire new skills.  This will require the skills of a coach.

As a coach, your role is to give support, provide constructive and honest feedback, challenge your employees and give advice on career options and preparation for the next steps.

In order to coach effectively it is important to do and be some things.  Coaching is coaching, but in a work environment the coach is also the supervisor. There are some things that need to be done differently than they would be done with an external coach.  There is not the objectivity that there would be with an external coach, and the supervisor as coach has more than the usual interest in making the employee succeed.  It is much more personal for the supervisor.

It is very easy to try and ‘fix’ things for the employee by telling them what to do or rescuing them; a coach however has to have the skills to  help the employee work that out for themselves, by using questioning techniques and helping your employee to work it out for themselves.

For coaching to be effective:

  • ‘meet people where they are’ – not where you are in terms of career or skill, or others in the group
  • Genuinely want to see employees succeed
  • Communicate that this is a positive process not a punishment
  • Know what needs to change
  • Agree how often to meet and when you are going to review things
  • Listen – listen carefully and reframe what the employee is saying if needs be
  • Have a solutions focus – if there is a problem, what is the solution?
  • Leave the need to ‘fix’ and control things behind – the coach’s role is to guide, challenge, question and reflect – leaving the employee with the responsibility for changing to achieve results
  • Look for opportunities for the employee to be challenged
  • Be available and accept that there might be some things you can do to change

Coaching is incredibly powerful – both for the supervisor and the employee.