Tuesday, 13th December 2011 12 Comments
In September of this year, I was asked by a journalist to answer some questions on the use of social media in my fledgling legal career. He had been very excited when I told him of my training contract offer back in February, because “the storyteller in him liked the idea of a training contract obtained via the internet”. I was aware of this when I agreed to be interviewed, and thought that I might get the chance to shatter this particular illusion.
We chatted for a while, and I explained that despite my being quite proud of being published on one occasion prior to receiving my offer, most of my blogging had been done post-offer and in any case, my interviewers were not in the least bit interested in my writing. I explained that they were far keener to explore the personality-based parts of my CV, particularly leadership roles such as being the captain of a cricket club. During this part of the conversation, he reminded me that the focus of the article was social media; apparently, the truth was not on-message enough.
I felt happy to have set the record straight, and was therefore slightly taken aback, but admittedly not entirely shocked, when this article appeared following our discussion. I will not go into the fuss that followed – others, particularly the highly-respected legal blogger Charon QC, have dealt with the issue far better than I could or would. I want to deal with the problems that this falsehood might cause for prospective trainees.
Recently I received the following question on Twitter:
I responded that of course this was not the case, saying that unfortunately there is no shortcut available for those of us who want to become solicitors with any type of firm, particularly city firms with strict recruitment procedures and cycles. Where might the questioner get such an idea?
Students need to know that blogging or tweeting WILL NOT directly get them a training contract. How could it possibly do so? It is not something that is measurable or quantifiable, nor is it something that one can easily put on a CV. If you walk into an interview and are desperate to rely on the fact that you have X number of Twitter followers in order to land yourself a training contract, you might as well not be there. Not even people who are actually on Twitter would be impressed by that, never mind a partner in a big firm who believes it to be a timewasting enterprise only meant for narcissistic celebrities.
When the journalist repeats his mistaken belief that somehow it’s possible that anyone, let alone me, can obtain a city training contract just by their online activities, it encourages people to devote time into an area that simply will not pay dividends for them in the way they hope it will. Of course, there are auxiliary benefits to an online presence, such as the confidence that being taken seriously by the ever-expanding list of extremely impressive tweeters can give an applicant (as was the case with me), but saying that writing a blog is a route to a training contract is simply wrong. Repeating this claim to people who are looking for advice on what to do is actually irresponsible, as they will divert their time and energy away from building a CV that will be worthy of the offer they dream of.
Students – please do not place all of your eggs in the wrong basket. And magazines, Law Societies, newspapers – please do not repeat these claims.
And as for the journalist in question: stop writing this nonsense. You have been told countless times by numerous people, and I am telling you again. Your words are false. Your ‘spin’ is incorrect. You clearly do not understand trainee recruitment. I am flattered that you think that my blog is worthy of a training contract, but you are the only one who believes this to be the case. I am not even close to being the best exponent of this particular medium. When you write ridiculous paragraphs like this one:
But do these blogs actually get students training contracts and pupillages? To date, the only example I know of a student landing a job through their blog is Ashley Connick, a GDL student who, after failing in previous application rounds, built a re-vamped CV around his online writing activities – and netted a TC at a magic circle law firm. Surely, though, at a time when law firms are anxious to improve their engagement with blogging and tweeting – and bring in recruits with expertise in this area – there’ll be more Connick-style successes in the future.
you serve only to show yourself to be out of touch. Until you have seen my CV, you cannot allege that I have built it “around my online writing activities” – I did not. I hate to break it to you, but a “Connick-style” success is the same as anyone else’s success in this endeavour – one through the standard channels of city law firm recruitment.