How can social media help you stand out in the crowd?
The number of training places in law firms and barristers’ chambers has continued to fall in the last decade whilst the number of graduates looking for a legal career is on the rise. With higher competition comes the challenge that Obelisk CEO Dana Denis-Smith gets asked about often when speaking at university and graduate events – “what experience would help me stand out and secure my dream career ‘ticket’ – a fully-funded training programme”.
Enter social media platforms! They play a key role in many aspects of our lives. Not only are they a critical part of the way people communicate with friends and family, they also impact our professional lives.
In the legal industry, social media has become a tool used to generate real business results, changing the way we communicate with potential clients, nurture relationships and generate new leads. But it’s not only legal teams that are making the most of society’s infatuation with social media platforms. Recently we’ve seen a new use of social media in the legal industry in the form of legal influencers – these being for the most part junior lawyers and aspiring solicitors who are paving the way through the social landscape of the legal industry, using their online presence to help and inspire others following the same path.
Dana was curious about the advantages having a strong social media following has for the professional career of someone entering the legal profession today. But she also wanted to understand the motivation of anyone who embraces social media with enthusiasm and is willing to share their life and work online. Here’s what she learnt from speaking with four legal professionals who have shared their legal journeys and explained why and how they cultivated their own online presence.
Where are you in your legal journey?
Hannah Bloxom is a final seat trainee solicitor at TLT working towards her qualification.”My next steps are to qualify, work really hard to find a niche and enjoy my career.”
Kaneeka Kapur, is a final year law student at the University of Warwick and future trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance. Kaneeka is also the founder of Pardesi, a global platform designed to celebrate, empower and amplify the voices of South Asian women in the diaspora.”I’ll be commencing my LPC in 2023 after taking a post-graduation gap year.”
Melissa Petty, is an aspiring solicitor and Mental Health Paralegal for Bison Solicitors. Melissa is a trustee for Mama Melissa Foundation, promoting education in rural Kenya and raising awareness of Breast Cancer in Africa. “I have completed my LPC LLM in 2019 and hope to gain a training contract with my firm this year. I am also planning to complete the Law Society Mental Health Accreditation which will develop my expertise in this area and also give me rights of audience to advocate for my clients at First-Tier Tribunals.”
Mia Siddique, is a recent LPC LLM law graduate and future trainee solicitor at Womble Bond Dickinson. Mia founded Legally Possible, an online platform connecting and offering tips, guidance and advice to aspiring lawyers and law students, with a particular focus on underrepresented backgrounds. “I secured my training contract in the summer of 2019 and I begin work this September (2021).”
What was behind your decision to share your journey online?
Says Hannah, “I struggled a lot with law school and vowed that once I got to this position, I was going to give back and help in any way that I could to ensure anyone else suffering had someone to relate to and to see that it is possible to thrive.”
For Kaneeka, it was working as a Careers officer at the Warwick Women’s Careers Society, “I realised that a lot of students were coming to me with the same queries about commercial law. The same inaccessibility I had found in entering commercial law coming from a non-law household was being experienced by students across my university. To demystify a lot of the concepts and pathways into law, I wrote a free e-book with all my tips and tricks that I had gathered through my personal experiences at law firms, and also from attending open days and workshops.
“However, I noted that students were also interested in videos and events – in this way I decided to film some short videos and upload them onto my Instagram to answer the most frequently asked questions that I was receiving. One of the causes I have dedicated myself to is the self-empowerment of women of colour. I already have an established presence in this space through my advocacy work. So providing free-access commercial law career advice on social media also helps me equip other women of colour with the tools they need to succeed in a career path in which we are traditionally underrepresented.”
Melissa shares, ”When I started University in 2014 there was a gap in the presence of legal bloggers online. I particularly found it hard to follow individuals who are taking a non-commercial route and exploring other areas of law such as human rights. By sharing my journey I knew that it will show others that you can explore so many different areas of law that are not company or commercial. In addition, I wished to show that law is an amazing career for anyone passionate about human rights and advocating for those in need, and that it does not matter your social-economic background. With hard work you can be a lawyer.”
Mia told us, “I started Legally Possible when I started the LPC and a couple of months after I had secured my training contract. I know what it’s like first-hand to come from a disadvantaged background and the challenges you face on your legal journey as a result of this, and I wanted to start a page where I could share tips, advice and my experience to show people that anything really is possible. I pride myself on being honest, transparent and open about my legal journey, so I do also share the struggles I have faced. I think it’s incredibly reassuring and motivating for others to see someone succeed who may have come from a similar background to themselves, and I’m really lucky I get to do that.”
“I think it’s incredibly reassuring and motivating for others to see someone succeed who may have come from a similar background to themselves.”
How do you think your online presence has benefited your legal career? Has it helped you secure a training contract?
“I landed my training contract before my online presence”, says Hannah, “Being online has really helped build my network, connect with the industry on a much deeper level and view other routes in law, or wider career areas.”
Kaneeka’s primary online presence is in relation to her work on South Asian female empowerment through the platform she founded, Pardesi. “I manage a team of twenty women from across seven different time zones and I am in charge of the marketing, operations and strategy development of Pardesi. Though social media and marketing may seem like a different world to commercial law, I have developed a number of key transferable skills that have been vital in my success of securing a training contract, such as entrepreneurship and initiative, leadership and project management.
“In one of my vacation scheme interviews at a major global law firm (which I had been successful in converting into a Training Contract), the majority of our conversation was shaped by my work at Pardesi. The interviewers found the work I did incredibly interesting and unique and in the feedback they flagged that my discussion of my social media work fulfilled all of the characteristics they were looking for in their future trainees.”
Melissa added, “Sharing my achievements online has allowed me to take part in different opportunities and events. I do not feel it has specifically contributed towards securing work, however I also use Linkedin to my benefit by presenting my CV and going into detail about my experiences for recruiters to access. This has led me to have a few interviews in the past from recruiters directly messaging me on the platform.”
Like Hannah, Mia secured her training contract before she started Legally Possible. “Since starting Legally Possible, I’ve been exposed to and offered so many amazing opportunities, such as receiving exclusive invites to events, asking to be a speaker on panels with other amazing lawyers, legal figures and influencers, work on exciting projects, takeovers, and much more”, she shared, “Therefore, this page has definitely benefited my legal career, especially as I have also built up some amazing connections and really widened my network.
“I believe starting legal platforms can definitely be beneficial to your legal career, especially if you have a specific message or purpose behind it. They can also be amazing for your personal brand, which is something really important to have as a lawyer.
“When you have a legal platform, you do need to maintain an element of professionalism – finding a great balance between professionalism, sharing your life’s struggles and being yourself is key.”
“Being online has really helped build my network, connect with the industry on a much deeper level and view other routes in law, or wider career areas.”
Have you found any drawbacks to being an influencer?
“One of the biggest drawbacks to providing career advice online is that you become inundated with requests for specific application advice and application reviews”, points out Kaneeka, “Though in the beginning, I really enjoyed reviewing people’s applications and conducting two-hour long mock interviews on a weekly basis, increasingly this demand has become difficult to manage alongside my other responsibilities. I found myself burning out at a much faster rate than before and feeling pressure to deliver to every individual who requested help. In this way, I’ve been forced to draw boundaries in order to protect my energy and mental health.”
“Personally I have not found any drawbacks from sharing my journey online” says Melissa. “I always do keep in mind that my employers or any future employer will be able to see my posts. In my experience my positive sharing on social media has only been praised by employers.”
“I absolutely love running my platform,” Mia tells me, “All the amazing benefits and positives definitely outweigh any drawbacks or negatives. But a real drawback I would say is the pressure I sometimes feel when my inbox gets full or when I get behind on some projects. I always put a lot of time and effort into my replies and content, so I do think people are usually happy to wait for a reply. I’m a huge advocate for ‘filling up your cup first’, so however busy it all may get sometimes, I always make time for myself.”
“I always do keep in mind that my employers or any future employer will be able to see my posts. In my experience my positive sharing on social media has only been praised by employers.”
How do you think your online presence has benefited your legal career? Has it helped you secure a training contract?
Hannah is clear, “I think law will need to move with the times. New ways of networking, building relationships and gaining business.”
“I don’t know if my experience has changed my view on the future of law itself, but it has changed my view on the future of lawyers,” Kaneeka shares, “There are so many unique ways to gain the transferable skills that are necessary to be a successful lawyer. You don’t need to dedicate yourself to pro bono or vacation schemes to demonstrate that you are a worthy candidate. The five years you spent as a waitress, the summers you spent helping your dad at his business or your mum with her accounts – all of these experiences equip you with unique skills and offerings that you can provide to the legal profession.
“As people begin to realise this, and pursue other avenues of work experience, or projects which they genuinely enjoy, we will naturally create a much more diverse group of lawyers and break away from the potential of groupthink. In this way, I think the lawyers of the future are going to be a much more intuitive, well rounded group of people who will provide a much-needed burst of energy to the profession.”
“From my experience law is becoming much more digitalised”, says Melissa, “Even in the sector of Mental Health, Tribunals and other hearings have now shifted online. I feel it is very important to have an online presence and be educated on digital platforms as it is becoming much more used in our day-to-day life”
Mia comments, “I truly believe that social media is changing the ways lawyers work. Whether that be law firms improving their social media presence and running Instagram Lives for their followers to create more awareness of their firm and what they offer, or creating TikTok accounts. Although an element of professionalism must of course be maintained online, it’s comforting and welcoming to see law firms, and even lawyers, be themselves online and not be afraid to act less serious.
“In this way, lawyers and law firms can have more success at originating business if they act less seriously and connect with prospective clients, and prospective employees, on a more personal level. At the end of the day, lawyers are real people, and it’s great that social media has the power to bring that side out of them!”
“There are so many unique ways to gain the transferable skills that are necessary to be a successful lawyer – you don’t need to dedicate yourself to pro bono or vacation schemes to demonstrate that you are a worthy candidate..”
So what have we learnt?
The legal industry is changing – we need to keep up!
Technology and digitisation are more prevalent than ever, and the way that online platforms are being used by law firms, in-house teams and legal professionals alike is one more demonstration of how the legal industry is adapting to the changes. From our conversations with these young women, it’s clear that a part of the story is happening through online platforms, and in an industry where information is everything, we don’t want to miss out!
Social networking works
With the numerous lockdowns, social distancing rules and the shift to remote working, the traditional ways of in-person networking disappeared and many worried that young professionals would see their legal careers suffer because of this. While there is no doubt that it has been harder, it’s clear that the new ways of online networking work. LinkedIn. Instagram. Twitter. Online platforms have filled the gap and given people a chance to stand out.
One-size does not fit all
We couldn’t have said it better than Melissa did: “Your legal path is not a race but a journey.” There is no ‘right way’ to start a legal career, or any career for that matter. Life is not a straight road, it’s complex, full of twists and turns, but every turn comes with it’s own experience and every twist has a lesson to teach. Comparing yourself to others is fruitless in many ways because no two people are the same. Conserve your mental health and make the most of your own journey!
Social media helps diversity and inclusion
Social media is making the legal industry more accessible. Through their own initiatives and online agendas, by sharing their experiences and connecting with people of all different backgrounds, these young women are proving that it doesn’t take a village to make a difference.