What’s on the minds of early careers leaders in law?

24 May 2023

On 27th April, Henry and Jayne hosted another early careers roundtable breakfast; but this time with 14 senior players in the legal sector. Thank you to all who attended and for all your great contributions.

The disruption being caused by AI

Many employers around the table are seeing evidence of applications being fuelled by Chat GPT with “cover letters and emails getting much better!” said one employer. Another employer cited a recent applicant who forgot to remove the “Regenerate response” from the bottom of their cover letter!

There were definitely two sides to the conversation; on the one hand, employers see it as something that we all have to come to terms with and it could have some really positive implications. Similar to when spell check came in…it is more about how we use it, whether you are using it to construct well-written emails and applications versus finding information that candidates could use to dramatically impact their applications.

Some employers were keen to point out that using tools such as Chat GPT could support those from lower social groups, levelling the playing field for those candidates who may not have the additional support provided by family or network connections. Others were more fearful of the impact and are adding declaration statements into the application process and monitoring whether they have Chat GPT open on their screen at the same time as their video interview for example. The idea that this is tantamount to cheating to get ahead, is an obvious concern for an industry built on integrity.

(106 Comms will be hosting a cross-industry breakfast on 22nd June 9 -11 am in London specifically around this topic so please email to find out more and register)

The cost of living is an omnipresent factor in early careers attraction and selection

How can employers support those students who were already struggling to build their social capital before the Cost of Living crisis and who are now having to compete in an even more unfair jobs market? One conversation centred around the advantage of the “board room/ dining-room table” at home; LSE candidates may never sit down to a meal with their families and experience rich, challenging and thought-provoking conversation in the same way that more privileged students do.

Companies talked about running firm socials in a much more casual way, such as mini golf, as well as holding meals in the office or at less extravagant restaurants as people may feel out of their depth regarding certain situational etiquette. Whilst many firms will reimburse travel costs and have blanket amounts given to cover accommodation, some supply ‘student halls type’ accommodation and one company has even gone as far as to cover the salary for work shifts missed to attend programmes and interviews.

Managing conflicting messages over workplace flexibility and mental health in a high-performing workplace culture

The group talked a lot about the difficulty of managing this generation’s expectations about the world of work. Law firms have one thing to sell and that is their people; the quality of their people and the advice they give. The work is demanding and the hours can be long and managing the reality of this message in a highly competitive candidate-led market is difficult. Being clear in your recruitment communications that we will be flexible, but you must be too, is not what we see on many law firm sites. But the group were all in agreement that the messages can’t always be shiny and candidates need to understand the reality of what they are committing to, otherwise if we are too shiny, too accommodating, it might bite them and us later down the line.

At this session, we shared insights from focus groups we’ve been running at different universities. If you’d like to hear more about what’s on student minds, please get in touch.

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