I was not placed straight out of college. I did not even have a pre-placement offer (PPO) in hand when I graduated law school.

You must be thinking, why and how am I writing about the most needed skills for getting a PPO? Because, I worked in the industry long enough and spoke to the ones who secured a PPO to know what I could have done differently. It sure would have saved me a lot of time. At least now you can save time and not repeat my mistakes.

When I was in law college, I had almost no guidance as to how to do things right, professionally. I did internships to figure out which area of law I liked better. I did not write or publish any articles. I did participate in moot court competitions and some pro-bono work. But I was doing the work all wrong. I was all over the place. If I were to look at my college resume, I would not hire me either!

So what did I do wrong?

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My resume reflected my state of mind – confusion. I had done internships in civil law, criminal law, a litigation firm, a company, and an NGO. I had done one paper presentation on Lokpal Bill, had slightly above average CGPA. There were some extracurricular activities too. But my resume was as incoherent as I was about my career prospects! I landed my first stable job at about 1.5 years after graduation. I had worked with a law firm before that, but my stint with media and entertainment industry is where I found my footing.

I realised what I did wrong once I was doing the job. But then I went back recently to a few of my batch mates and asked them how they got a PPO and how different their career trajectory was from mine. The difference was significant as I had lost significant time trying to figure things on my own.

You don’t need to do that. I will share what I learnt from the different people about the must required skills for getting a PPO.

Writing Research Articles

The most critical skill set for a lawyer is writing. A lawyer needs to write briefs, applications, contracts, opinions and more. But the journey of writing begins in law school, with writing research articles.

Pick up an area of law which interests you as a career. It can be from criminal laws, real estate laws, tax law, media laws, intellectual property laws, cyber laws, etc. Then find a relevant or current topic and start writing a well researched, original, nuanced piece on it. It does not have to be 100 pages long or a dissertation. It just has to be crisp, nuanced enough to demonstrate your interest and knowledge in the domain.

I spoke to batch-mate who had bagged a PPO from a tier-one firm. He said that it was because of his interest in taxation laws and well-researched articles that he got the right internships and eventually a PPO. He clarified further saying that publications should not be random, but nuanced pieces that contribute to the academic discussion on the topic. Having them published in internationally renowned and peer-reviewed journals was the key to bagging his pick of the internship in his chosen field of law. The law firm that hired him found his ideas in the publications intriguing. So writing nuanced pieces in your area of law will set you apart from the crowd in the very beginning.

Contract Drafting

Any young lawyer or law student should learn how to draft a contract. It helps in making a little extra income and improves the knowledge. To know more about it, read this article.

Another peer shared her story about how she got through one of the top banking companies by demonstrating a strong knowledge base in contract drafting.

Most companies and law firms have a lot of contract drafting in their day-to-day work. Be it an M&A profile, or an in-house lawyer, contract drafting is quintessential to the job. You can learn more through contract drafting course to secure the internships or get a better job.

My peer shared her experience by stating that since she had internship experiences where she learnt about contract drafting, her knowledge about contract laws not only showed on her resume but throughout her interview rounds. She believes that is what set her apart from the other candidates. She had excellent grades, internships, publications, etc. just like her peer, but the knowledge of contract laws and SEBI regulations helped nudge things her way.

Know the Industry

It always helps to dip your toe into the water before diving into it. Similarly, knowing about the industry you’re interested in is essential. You can read about their history online, keep up with them in the news, follow legal blogs like Bar&Bench, Live Law, etc. to stay updated about the industry you’re interested in.

I had always looked up the companies I was applying to for internships or jobs to find out more about them. The organisations appreciate someone who did their homework and know their workings over a person who does not. Imagine you’re holding an interview. Which candidate would you pick if the qualifications were at par – the one who knows your company or the one who does not?

You need to know the current news, the company’s current latest performance, if they were in any recent lawsuit, their history and things like that. It not only demonstrates your interest in the company or organisation but also shows that you are willing to go an extra mile.

Interpersonal Skills

Soft skills are as crucial as your publication or assigned work.

I recently spoke to a colleague about his insights for a particular article. I presumed since he is a busy man, he will be pressed for time, so I introduced the topic abruptly to him. He asked me to repeat the question in a soft manner. I failed to understand the reason. Then he patiently explained to me that while asking for insights I should ask him questions in a particular manner, and not be all business-like about it. This way the other person will be able to share more candidly. That’s when it hit me. I need to improve my interpersonal skills!

In most technical rounds of job interviews, there are hypothetical situations and you are required to solve them. If you have interned with an organisation and showed an interest in them beyond the assigned work, it will not go unnoticed.

During internships, you are working with possibly your prospective team members. You must leave a good impression on them both with your work and interpersonal skills. Are you a troubleshooter? Do you go beyond the scope of your assigned work to get things done? The people you interact with, work on a daily basis for a month or two must have something to remember you by. Interns come and go through the organisations, very few are retained. So what are they doing right?

Networking should be done right. It is not the over-eager intern hanging out with the associates. It is the smart, hard-working intern who not only does the assigned work but goes an extra mile when needed. Internships are the best time to analyse if an intern can be a good fit for the organisation. So remember that you are leaving an impression on them irrespective of the fact whether you are trying to or not.

Knowing what not to do is half the battle won. Doing what you must do is the rest of the task. Remember that you’re making way to a career during your internships or through your skill development. You should try to showcase your skills as much as you can, through publications, your knowledge and interpersonal skills.

Good luck!


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