Business Services Professionals - What Law Firm Hiring Managers Look For

by Athena Chan in Articles

DatePosted on January 28, 2022 at 11:24 AM
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Ever wondered how you could capture the attention of recruiters and hiring managers in law firms with your CV?

Star Anise recruitment consultant, Athena Chan, reveals her tips on how to appear eye-catching to law firms based on her experience recruiting paralegal, business development, legal secretarial and other business support professionals.

"My first six months working as a recruiter at Star Anise Legal has been an incredible and eye-opening experience for me! Having worked for 5 years with one of the leading offshore international law firms, little did I know or understand the hard work and persistence that is required to learn my new profession, working with international and major domestic commercial law firms to recruit business services staff."

Athena Chan - legal recruiter at Star AniseEach day holds new challenges, surprises, and rewards. One of many things I have valued in this short space of time is how much I have learned to understand what employers and hiring managers at major law firms (primarily in Hong Kong) look for when selecting and hiring business support services professionals. 

So in this piece, I go through the Question Of The Day: What makes a (business support) candidate 'eye-catching'?

1. All rounded knowledge and work experience

For business support roles, law firms generally prefer job applicants who have an all-rounded relevant experience prior to joining their firm, rather than those who are highly specialised in one specific part of expertise. For example, a paralegal who is familiar with the entire IPO process from start to finish would be preferred over a paralegal who is only acquainted with segments of the IPO process (e.g. verification of notes, listing rules, drafting of circulars and announcements, or the due diligence procedure only).

For most business development ("BD") roles, you are required to do a significant amount of pitching - so your prospects in a job move will be enhanced significantly by having all-rounded knowledge and exposure in this area, from planning and strategy, understanding the practice area you are supporting and the industry that the client or target client is operates in, knowing how to respond to a Request For Proposal ("RFP") or an invitation to tender ("ITT"),  being adept at the use of a firm's client relationship management ("CRM") system, the ability to understand pricing structures and coordinating price data and planning from multiple sources, drafting in English and Chinese. And last but not least, being familiar with all these acronyms! This indicates to the law firm that you are a candidate capable of handling a broad range of work in your role.

2. At least one year of relevant work experience per firm (often, more)

It's a given that different jobs require different levels of work experience, but employers like to see candidates who have served at least one year of relevant work experience in the place you are currently working at, especially if you are considering getting a same/similar job in another firm.

This is because: 

a) the longer the time you spend in a firm, the more in-depth your work experience would seem to the recruiter

It is sometimes believed that longer work experience is more desirable than intensive working for a shorter period of time - for instance, it may be easier for someone who is part of a huge team, but with more than one year experience in a firm, to secure a job than someone who worked as a one man band in that particular department but for 3-6 months. Why? The longer the time spent in the firm, the more likely you get to face and tackle different scenarios. Not only is the time spent an indication of depth, it is also a sign of resilience. Think carefully before you resign.

b) you don't want to look 'jumpy'

This is self-explanatory. The longer time you've spent in the previous firm indicates to your new employer that you are a stable employee and they wouldn't have to worry about you leaving so soon.

3. The ability to work independently

This is especially (but not only specifically) applicable to BD roles and anyone who wishes to advance their career.

Why is independence important? Your ability to work independently with high quality output demonstrates that you are adding value to both the role and your organisation, and accordingly means less work for your supervisor or anyone who delegates tasks to you!

For BD roles, firms value your ability to put together a high-quality proposal on your own without the need for multiple corrections from your supervisor. Any supervisor would like someone who could make their job easier.

Independence is also a key trait in leaders - people would be more open to introducing promotion opportunities to you if you are an independent worker as you are capable of leading (as opposed to having the need to be led).

So if you have been working independently in your previous work or have taken up a leadership role, this is a reminder to detail those experiences and achievements in your CV!

These are just some of the observations I have made in my relatively short time to date at Star Anise, and trends may continue to change - but this advice will undoubtedly be useful in your current job applications.

Bearing these tips in mind, you should be able to know which areas you should strive to improve in your current job or which strengths to include in your CV.

I wish you the very best in your job search, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

Athena Chan, Associate Consultant — Private Practice




This article is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute professional advice and does not purport to be comprehensive or current at the time of your viewing.

We do not accept responsibility for any loss that may arise from relying upon the information contained in this article.

About the Author

Athena Chan

Athena Chan is a recruitment consultant in the private practice team at Star Anise. She joined in 2021 and prior to embarking on her career as a recruiter, she worked for five years with major international offshore law firm, Maples, first in their accounting and finance team, before quickly moving to the corporate team as a paralegal. Her articles give a unique perspective of 'working on both sides of the fence'. You can connect with Athena on LinkedIn here.

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