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COMMERCIAL AWARENESS: 'REMOTE' WORKING AND THE LAW - GETTING THAT PLACEMENT/JOB (B1+/B2)

As we approach the spring, students usually start to think about things such as exams and, of course, the end of the academic year. Some students will be thinking about placements with law firms, international organisations and so on, as they try to gain vital experience for their career after they leave university. For other students, it will be their last year and they may be thinking about professional training and/or trying to find a job.


If you are in any of these categories, you will also be thinking about interviews: for an internship, a placement, or a permanent job. As we say, consistently, when you are in this process, you need to ‘stand out from the crowd’ and show potential recruiters that you have something different. Your ‘commercial awareness’ (as we explored in our November 2020 series of Web Workshops) will help you do this.


One of the major issues over the past (almost) 12 months is obvious – the public health situation with Covid-19. No employer, or potential employer, is going to be able to ignore or avoid this subject – and, therefore, nor should you. The question here is: how can you ‘stand out from the crowd’ when the subject is – inevitably – raised?


You can look at this subject from several perspectives. One is to simply give information – but most students will be able to do this. Another is to look at legal implications, such as the real or potential legal effects of a public health crisis like Covid-19. If you do this, you will definitely be thinking more widely than many students.


For the legal profession, however, one real and practical impact of the health situation has been the massive ‘shift’ in the way lawyers (and, of course, many others) work. It really reflects the way you have probably been working for most of the past 12 months. There has been a huge shift toward what we call ‘remote working’ – using the internet and technology to keep studying and working.


Questions such as, ‘How has the current global health situation changed the way we work?’ will, we are sure, be answered with things like, ‘It’s not as good as ‘real life’ lectures and seminars’, ‘It’s boring,’ and ‘You need more discipline to learn.’ All of these things may be true. But most of those doing the interview are living in a slightly different world, and you need to try to move your mind to where they are – if you want to stand out.


If you are a practising lawyer, the shift to remote working is more than just a matter of ‘inconvenience’ or ‘feelings’. It is about practical issues that are faced in trying to adapt to a very new and different situation. If you can start to understand what these practical issues are, you will – I assure you – ‘stand out from the crowd'.


What are some of these practical issues?


Let us give just one or two examples.


· The huge move – certainly for any lawyer doing litigation work – from ‘paper trial bundles’ to ‘electronic bundles’. You may think this is just a matter of uploading documents in an e-format that would otherwise be placed in lever arch files, but you would be wrong. You would be missing that lawyers often – for many reasons – prefer using ‘hard copy’ bundles of trial papers to those in an e-format. For example, some prefer that they are easier to mark, flag, and work your way around than e-bundles. Maybe you can think about these issues – why this is, how these issues can be made easier for those who are ‘e-bundle reluctant’, and so on. These are the kind of responses that will really get you noticed.


· The cybersecurity aspects of working remotely. This is a huge issue for lawyers (and others) who are having to do most of their work via the internet. Issues such as, ‘how do you protect confidential, and privileged, information?’, ‘how do you deal with the widened 'attack surface' – for example, lawyers using their own devices to do remote work?’, and ‘how do you protect third-parties (such as clients) in a world where ‘hacking’ can happen and (given that hackers know increasing numbers of people are working remotely) will happen increasingly?’


Thinking about these issues – and others - practically, will get you noticed in an interview. If you anticipate the questions that those in the world of legal practice actually face (which are ‘real life’ problems that need addressing) you are going to stand out. This is simply understanding that lawyers in the 21st century need more than legal knowledge, but also need ‘hard headed’, practical commercial awareness.


© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2021

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