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.


What To Do When Your Interview Is Like a Bad First Date

My manager recently asked me to write a blog – sigh – I’m not one for blogging, Instagram is about it for me.  I rapidly realised that finding a topic is insanely hard and there were no light bulb moments happening on a Monday afternoon. I pretty quickly ended up on a far more interesting article ‘How To Get Out Of The Date From Hell’. As the author rightly states everyone needs an “undeniably kick-ass exit strategy” for that date when the person is a completely less photo shopped version of themselves in real life… I realise I am well off on a tangent here as I am sure you are asking what the relevance of this is to securing a career progressing job in the legal industry?

Well what do you do if you find yourself in a job interview and for whatever reason, this is NOT the job you signed up for. You completely give up and start thinking where to get a skinny latte at 4pm. How do you then exit that interview whilst maintaining your reputation. This is where the alignment to the disastrous date ends, unfortunately you can’t have your recruiter on speed dial for the “someone needs me” strategy. However, making a professional escape and protecting your reputation in a small market is still possible. Here’s how…

  • Maintain a respectful attitude and keep positive – Often there is more than one position on offer and chances are they might be considering you for more than one position that you aren’t across – Options are your best friend!
  • Treat the interview as an opportunity to network and build relationships – you never know who knows who.
  • Don’t make a snap judgement – You might be pleasantly surprised about the opportunities within the position for your career
  • Never ever walk out – Being uninterested or cutting an interview short can be just as detrimental.

Interviewing really can be like dating: you can’t control the outcome, some turn out great, while some don’t, the best thing to do is to make the most of the opportunity. If the job on offer isn’t a great fit for you, then keep looking for one that does!

Emma Weeber LLB.
Phone:     (03) 8602 7400

Temp Etiquette – How to Pull Out of a Temp Assignment

Whether you’re in between permanent jobs, looking for some casual work while studying, or wanting to make some money before your next overseas trip, the flexibility that temping offers makes it a great option for job seekers in many different situations. But that doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted! In today’s job market, temp staff are a luxury, and businesses only use temps when they have stretched all other resources as far as they’ll go. quit-temp-assignment

So, if you’ve been lucky enough to secure some temp work but find that you’re no longer able to honour your commitment, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure you’re going about it the right way:

  1. Be up front right from the start. Whether you’ve secured an interview for a permanent position, you’ve got some holidays booked, or you have an exam coming up – let your recruiter know before agreeing to the assignment. It might seem insignificant at the time, but they can manage the process best if they have all the information.
  2. Be honest. Recruiters have heard all the excuses in the book – from family emergencies to hitting a kangaroo with your car! You will be more likely to be offered further temp work if you tell the truth about your reasons and own the situation.
  3. Pick up the phone. It might be easier to send through a quick email or text message, but do the right thing and make a phone call to your recruiter to let them know what’s happened.
  4. Give as much notice as possible. You can’t help it if you wake up on the day of your assignment feeling sick, but wherever possible, give your recruiter the opportunity to replace you so the client isn’t left in the lurch. Even if it’s after hours or on the weekend.

Keeping these simple things in mind will ensure you maintain a good relationship with your recruiter and are offered further assignments in the future.

Erin Horan

Why You Need a Recruiter to Get it Right

Why you need a recruiter to get it right by Emma Weeber LLB.

Often we are asked about the benefit of using a recruitment agency. There are loads of recruitment agencies in Australia, which in itself can be confusing. It can be a bit like shopping in that you need to try a few before you find the one (or two) that really ‘get’ you.

With so many jobs being advertised and the horrible feeling of not being considered for the roles you apply directly for; a well-connected agent can be exactly what you need. So, how can your recruiter help you?

  • It’s what we do! We have the active positions across practice areas and industry knowledge about what’s happening in the market and potential opportunities.
  • We have long established market contacts throughout Australia and also further abroad!
  • We can support you with finding a position that is going to be the best fit for you, both career wise and personally.
  • We can help you with tailoring your resume so it has the impact you need it to.
  • We also assist with interview preparation to help you impress in an interview.
  • If you have questions that you don’t feel comfortable to ask directly we can help!
  • We can describe the culture of a firm to you to ensure that you make a fully informed decision.
  • We support you right through the initial days, weeks and months of your new role, you will always have a sounding board with us!

When people put their trust in us to help them with such an important decision in their career, it’s not something that we take lightly. Using an agent shouldn’t feel like an annoying middle person, it should instead feel like a new support network and be an excellent way of understanding the market you are tackling and increasing your chances of success.


Emma Weeber LLB.


10 Answers You Need to Know to Blitz a Legal Interview

10 answers you need to know to blitz a legal interview by Kara Plummer


It’s surprising the amount of feedback we get from clients saying that candidates are underprepared for interviews and really haven’t bothered to do enough research and preparation before the interview.  There is really no excuse now for not having done any preparation. If you’re going to bother to make the application in the first place, you should be bothered to do some preparation.  That involves having a think about some of the more likely questions you’ll be asked and thinking through some answers before you get there.  Here are what we think are the most common questions that lawyers are asked at interview:



  1. Tell us about yourselfTalk us through your background.

Keep it succinct and relevant.  A chronological approach usually works best.


  1. Why are you seeking to leave your current firm?   

Obviously telling the firm you hate the partner you’re currently working with isn’t the best of ideas.  Focus on things like moving to a larger firm (or smaller firm), wanting a different mix of work, different clients, that sort of thing.  Keep things positive and don’t ever slag off your current firm.


  1. Why in particular are you approaching this firm?

Look at the team profile and profiles of the partners prior to the interview and link that information to why you want to work there.  It shows you’ve researched their firm before you get there.


  1. Talk us through the work you’ve done.

Be able to give a good overview of the type of work you do, the type of clients you work for and your involvement in particular matters.  A lot of lawyers find it difficult to do this.  Practice beforehand.  Obviously always keep confidentiality in the back of your mind and be aware that some partners can treat interviews as an information gathering exercise about the competition.


  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

It still comes up in interviews.  A good way to answer it is to refer to a recent appraisal and mention strengths from there.  That’s independent third party backup as well.  Obviously be careful what you mention as a weakness, use something fixable (delegating, time management) and mention you’re working on improving it.


  1. What are your short/medium/long term goals?

Short term – move to another firm which can achieve your current career objectives.  Medium-Long Term goals – develop your own client base, specialise in an area.  Be careful of mentioning partnership if you’re still only quite junior.


  1. Who else have you made applications to? Where else are you interviewing?

You have a few other things on the go but aren’t in a desperate hurry to move.  You don’t need to give them an exact breakdown of every firm you’ve applied to.


  1. What salary are you currently on and what salary are you looking for?

In relation to salary expectations, most firms are really wanting some idea of what you’re after. Saying market rate doesn’t really cut it. When you give a figure though, don’t over inflate it. Firms are well aware of what market rate is and giving a false over inflated figure can certainly harm your chances of securing a role.


  1. General questions in relation to the legal market/current issues.

What’s particularly topical for your practice area or firm?  Have a read through a few websites before you get into the interview.


  1. What do you do outside of work?

You’d be amazed at how many people stumble on this one.   Be prepared to answer questions which aren’t related to law (shock horror!)


Interviewing really isn’t rocket science, but a small amount of preparation will go a long way to getting you an offer.



Kara Plummer LLB Hons

Senior Legal Professional Consultant

empire legal

Connect with Kara at



Establishing rapport is one of the most essential elements to a good job interview. You know it when you feel it – you come away from an interview feeling like you made a connection with the interviewer and that the interview went well.   Rapport doesn’t have to be an accident – you can do your best to create it.  Here’s how:

Do your research

Read as much as you can about the organisation and the person who is interviewing you to see if there is a common connection there.  There are many connections such as the type of work, common connections, matter types, and personal interests, or you might have a friend working in the organisation.

Dress the part

Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the role.  If necessary look at Google Images for pictures of your interviewer to look at their style of dress.  Look  at images of others who work in the organisation.

Use a firm handshake when introduced

Male or female, always extend your right hand on introduction, and make eye contact and smile.

Use people’s names

Repeat the person’s name on introduction, for example saying ‘Nice to meet you, Frank’.  Not only will it help you remember the name but it develops a personal connection. Of course if the interviewer is an older person resist using the first name until you are invited to do so.

Make Eye Contact

Always look into people’s eyes when speaking and if more than one person make sure you direct your attention to both of them.  Your answer to any question should be directed predominantly to the person who asked it, but every now and then look at the other person to include them and make the answer conversational.

Body language

Your body language is very important in developing rapport.  Use ‘open’ body language – avoid crossing your arms, and keep a relaxed but upright posture.  Subtly mirror the interviewer’s body language where possible.

Be sincere

Notwithstanding all of the above, it is, of course, necessary to be sincere.  Rehearsed rapport will not create rapport, but may inhibit it.



The Diversity Council of Australia has launched a new campaign to encourage more inclusive language in the workplace.  There is a new campaign, #WordsAtWork which is going viral for all the wrong reasons, and as usual, the focus in discussions about this very important subject have been hijacked because of one thing uttered by the Chair, David Morrison AO.

Mr Morrison said that language plays a critical role in shaping workplace cultures, in particular in how people are able to reach their potential regardless of age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.  You can see his video here.

It is true that language can impact how people feel – if a male supervisor uses the term ‘girls’ in a disparaging way when referring to a group of women at work (or men for that matter!), it can be disrespectful, especially if it is repetitious.

The campaign is about people carefully using their language to ensure that it is respectful and accurate and does not demean or exclude anyone.

Mr Morrison said that personally he had decided not to use the word ‘guys’ when greeting work colleagues and this is what has social media, as well as main stream media in uproar, and unfortunately has derailed the important message of basically being respectful to your work colleagues.  It is true that ‘guys’ has come to be a generic term referring to both men and women.  I work in an almost exclusively female environment and we often greet each other with ‘Hi guys’ or ‘Hey guys’.  The point is of course that our work culture is one of respect to start with, so that even if someone was offended by the use of this word, they are empowered to say something about it.  Not all workplaces are like that.

The important message from this is straight from the DCA website, and this is the message that we should be remembering:

Why language matters:

Language is a powerful tool for building inclusion at work. It can be used to create a sense of being valued, respected and one of the team (included) or of being under-valued, disrespected, and an ‘outsider’ (excluded).

Research demonstrates that inclusive cultures are high performing cultures – they deliver greater performance and productivity.  How we speak to and about each other influences how we treat each other, and this builds our workplace cultures. Studies show that:

  • Non-inclusive language contributes to and continues stereotyping
  • Non-inclusive language harms people who witness it as well as the intended targets
  • When used in job interviews, non-inclusive language results in applicants from excluded groups finding the position less attractive, and experiencing less motivation and identification with the position than those who are exposed to inclusive language
  • Non-inclusive comments in the workplace can have an insidious effect on individuals from the excluded groups, impeding their advancement at work by presenting them as incompetent and not suitable for leadership roles
  • Frequent non-inclusive experiences at work have just as harmful effects as more intense but less frequent experiences (e.g. sexual coercion and harassment)
  • Non-inclusive jokes can lead to tolerance of hostile feelings and discrimination against people from excluded groups.

This has made me think about how I speak to others in the workplace and how unconsciously my language may impact others. How can you make sure your language is inclusive and not demeaning to others?




I had a fascinating conversation with a former work colleague recently who has had a varied career – she started out as a legal secretary, then moved to a personal assistant, then an executive assistant to the CEO of a listed company, to then owning her own small business providing EAs to executives in large corporations.


Her business started from a desire to see others succeed; and because she felt that secretaries often thought they should be designated as executive assistants when they were not really fulfilling that role. I asked her what she thought the difference was between a secretary and an executive assistant.


She said to put it simply, an executive assistant does all the things that a secretary does, but has much more responsibility with many, very senior level responsibilities. Some of which including research, personal contact with clients and suppliers, client database management, travel and conference planning, along with a host of other things she never imagined doing, such as organising a surprise birthday party for her boss’ husband.


She paused at this point and said that the fundamental thing an executive assistant must do is to understand why her boss does what he or she does. Understanding the person you are working for and what their goals are, both personally and professionally, as well as the values of the organisation, is of paramount importance for an executive assistant. That will give them a very clear understanding of what their responsibilities are to help the boss achieve those goals.


In a nutshell, the skills you need to move from being a secretary to an executive assistant include:


  • exceptional typing skills;
  • attention to detail;
  • perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation;
  • superior skills in most Office products;
  • time management and the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities at once;
  • confidentiality – not just discretion;
  • sound judgment;
  • problem solving skills;
  • the ability to stay calm under pressure; and
  • resilience


An executive assistant to a CEO, for example, is in effect representing that CEO, both within the workplace and outside. Appropriate dress standards, a confident manner, and a respectful persona are all necessary.


It is not an easy job, she said, but it is one that is incredibly rewarding. So think about your career – do you have what it takes to be an Executive Assistant?

Top tips to be a Linkedin all star

Top tips to be a Linkedin all star

I am still surprised by the number of people I meet you do not have a Linkedin profile. I meet these people often for the first time when doing a preliminary interview for a role, and it is one of the first things I tell them to do.

No matter what you personally think of Linkedin, it is a truth universally acknowledged that all recruiters and most employers use Linkedin as a recruiting tool, and if you are serious about your career you will need to have a Linkedin profile, and use it effectively.

  1. Make sure you have a professional looking profile photo. Don’t use glamour shots, photos where you can see someone has been cropped out, or a photo of yourself in a social situation. The photo should be simple, clear, and professional. It doesn’t have to be a mug shot, though! Did you know that if you have a professional photo you are 14 times more likely to be found on Linkedin?
  1. Personalise your url. To do this, click ‘edit profile’, then on the wheel next to your Linkedin public link below your profile picture. This will bring up a box that says:

Your public profile URL

Enhance your personal brand by creating a custom URL for your Linkedin public profile.

Edit the Linkedin URL automatically created to shorten it to your own name – this will ensure your name is one that comes up first in any search for someone with your name. If your name is already taken, add a ‘1’ to the end of it.

  1. ALWAYS add a personal message when connecting with people – for example ‘Dear Bronwyn, it was lovely to meet you at the xyz event. I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin’.
  1. Your headline is what you DO, not where you WORK.
  1. Your summary should be written in the first person, not as if someone else is writing about you.
  1. Follow organisations that interest you (hot tip – other law firms publish content that may be educational).
  1. Join groups in your area of interests.
  1. Participate in group conversations.
  1. Follow thought leaders.
  1. Publish content – whether your own, or shared content from other Linkedin members, thought leaders, or published articles.

Most people spend approximately 17 minutes per month on Linkedin, with 13% of people using it on a daily basis.

Are you a Linkedin all star?



The Internet is full of advice on how to succeed – whole libraries of books have been written giving sage advice on climbing the career ladder, dealing with difficult people, having difficult conversations, how to get that promotion, ask for that pay rise.

There are several things you need to succeed, and none of them require any particular expertise. But if you use them, your expertise will grow, in line with the trust afforded to you. Use the simple gifts you already have, probably instilled in you as a child, by your parents and at school.


Show up

Be on time. Attend firm functions or learning and development activities if you have said you will. Being there, and being seen, is essential. Not turning up when you’ve said you will is just rude.


Manners matter

Manners never go out of style. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are still magic words, especially in the workplace. Acknowledge the help of others, say please when asking for assistance.


Be a scout and be prepared

Never go to a meeting, either with a client or colleague without being prepared – read the file, know what the latest is on the file, and what you think the next steps are. Prepare for presentations by practising your speech. Prepare for the next day the night before. Personal organisation is essential in a business that charges for time.


Accept feedback

Be open to the fact that you can improve and that criticism or constructive feedback is given with the intention of helping you improve your skills. Don’t get defensive. Can you imagine an elite sports person arguing with their coach? No they don’t – they get on with it.


Be curious

Don’t assume you know everything or that when you have mastered one thing you can rest on your laurels. If you have some down time, look at previous files or transactions to see if there is something you can learn. Read a recent case. Offer to write something for a blog, and research the topic.


Go the extra mile

Always be prepared to put in some extra effort or stay back to help others if they need it. This will be noticed and appreciated. Effort is never wasted and always appreciated. Doing a good job is its own reward.


Have a positive attitude

No one wants to be around constantly negative people. It is so draining, and can be contagious. Having a smile rather than a frown when someone comes into the room, will not just make you feel better but also the person in front of you.

A difficult matter can be seen as a challenge rather than a daunting impossibility. Adopting the right attitude, reframing the way you think about those challenges, will set you on the right path to success

What other innate gifts or character traits do you think you can use to your advantage?