- On January 24, 2021
My job is to find lawyers for my clients, and these companies are picky! What are the top reasons they reject people?
- Not having on-point experience. If a SaaS company is looking to fill a commercial counsel role, then it wants someone who already has been negotiating and drafting software agreements, ideally in-house (the reason is firm lawyers have to adjust to leaving the ivory tower for the fast and loose world of in-house life, and companies want people who have already done that). So now you know you have to get experience doing as close to the job as possible to be considered. (How? Volunteer for extra projects, hold on to relevant work that you could pass on, pick up jobs outside of your day job, study for any certifications in that space, etc.) And if you are doing the job but at a firm, try to get a secondment (rotation in-house), which will put you at the top of the list of firm lawyers considered.
- Not being a cultural fit. This sounds more amorphous than it is. Companies want approachable lawyers who are easy to work with, someone who responds quickly, speaks plainly (not in legalese), and solves problems. Have examples lined up so you can show you are all that. Research each company to see what other specific traits it values, like being entrepreneurial or high energy or collaborative. Don’t try to stuff your answers with all the info you have prepared; otherwise, you will be dinged for talking too much/not reading the audience.
- Not showing sufficient interest. Even if your resume is clear you have the right skills and experience, you need to say you are interested and why. The hiring manager doesn’t want to chase down people and convince them to join, especially if there are others who obviously want the job.
- Too many moves. Law is still quite conservative, so if you have multiple jobs on your resume, companies are concerned you are a job hopper. To dispel that image, explain your moves, each in one sentence, e.g., the company moved HQ and you didn’t want to leave the area, your old boss/colleague/client recruited you to join the new company, you were pivoting from one area of law to another or were able to pick up new areas. Explain how all the moves line up to this job.
- Not having big firm experience. This one is not as big a deal as when I started 12+ years ago. There are a lot more opportunities to go straight in-house from law school. The issue is showing you have sufficient training and know when to get outside help. You can explain how your mentors/managers trained at top companies/firms and gave you an excellent education, for example. Some companies are known for their systems and playbooks like IBM or Oracle. Definitely point out any training programs you’ve gone through.
Remember: The one way you can overcome any objection is to have a great spokesperson. If someone is trusted by the employer and encourages a meeting with you, you will likely get that interview. Don’t blow it! And start building relationships now so people are happy to vouch for you when the time comes.