Ade was being interviewed at the law firm of his dreams. During the interview, he was commended on his impressive resume and was asked the below final question:
“Briefly tell us what you like to do during your free time?”
Ade told the interviewer that he enjoys leading mock trials, reading, writing and any other “intellectually stimulating activity”. He also mentioned that he prefers to devote all his time to preparing for his examinations.
The interview abruptly and Ade did not get the job despite having excellent grades and an impressive resume.
Are you wondering why Ade did not get the job or why the interviewer asked the above question? Continue reading this article and discover why employers prefer to recruit versatile and well-rounded legal professionals and why it is important for young and aspiring lawyers to have a “life” outside of the courtroom and office. .
What does being “well rounded” really mean?
Being “well rounded” basically means being:
- skilled, capable or knowledgeable in a lot of different things in life, or
- knowledgeable in different areas or subjects including different areas of law.
Why is it important to be a well rounded lawyer?
Being a great lawyer in today’s market requires more than having excellent legal knowledge. Lawyers in and out of Nigeria are now required to socialise constantly, within and outside their organization throughout their career. The ability to relate to people is now key to a lawyer’s employability prospects.
The whole point of being well rounded is to broaden your knowledge in order to relate to more people and find new interests. The more people you relate to, the more you can make new friends or add more depth to existing relationships. One of the easiest ways to develop a relationship with clients and colleagues is to be able to have meaningful discussions on subjects which they are interested in or passionate about i.e. movies, books, news, political or historical events.
Well-rounded lawyers are also able to do the following:
- contribute to the development of their employer’s business by attracting clients (this includes law firms). This increases your chances of getting a high performance appraisal score;
- easily gain the trust of clients and colleagues and develop meaningful professional relationships;
- get promotions and similar incentives ahead of their peers; and
- offer practical and comprehensive legal advice to clients.
How to show an interviewer that you are a well-rounded lawyer
- Use your interests and hobbies as a selling point during interviews, as this gives you an opportunity to showcase your personality.
- When answering questions, try showing the interviewer that you are not afraid to be yourself or, express your opinions firmly. This should however be done in a tactful and polite manner.
- During the interview, weave in stories of your experience where you have merged extra-curricular activities from other areas of your life. (It could be a brief narration of an experience during a prison visit, or mock trials in your university).
The ability to demonstrate the way you spend your free-time adds value to your academic credentials during an interview. This also shows how you manage your time, your leadership qualities and that you are an interesting and fun person to work with.
Being a lawyer means working long hours, so your colleagues will appreciate working with someone whose personality helps to keep spirits high and boost the morale of the team.
How to become a well-rounded lawyer
Becoming well-rounded or improving your versatility can be done in the following ways:
- Go outside your comfort zone. Always ask questions and be curious. If curious about a particular topic, feel free to reach out to an expert or colleague with a specific question. Try to meet new people and learn about new things. The world is full of surprises; all you have to do is keep your eyes open.
- Make your TV and “You Tube” time more productive: Try watching movies which portray major historical events. If you have access to cable, watch the discovery channel, national geographic and cultural programs on NTA and Channels TV.
- Learn basic finance concepts and different practice areas. Read articles or take courses to have an understanding of basic accounting and finance principles. You can also read articles on varied legal practice areas on law firm’s websites. If possible, try working in a different practice area or department or ask colleagues in a different team about their daily tasks.
- Read for 25 minutes a day.Set a daily alarm and pick up one or two books (both fiction and non-fiction) on an interesting subject you know very little about. If you have a very busy schedule, read first thing in the morning or over your lunch break.
- Set up daily news alerts.Set up news alerts and reminders on your smartphone and mailbox. You can also read newspapers at your employer or school’s library. Read newspapers from other parts of the world online. Reading the news daily gives you an opportunity to spur conversation with clients, colleagues and friends.
- Multi-task during commutes.Useful radio programmes, podcasts and audiobooks can help you pass the time in traffic or on the bus and teach you something little at the same time. Pick a weekly topic you would like to learn more about and research for available content. Read reviews and download a few to your smartphone. Even a short commute will give you enough time to learn new things.
- Listen and learn.Do not walk away from a group conversation when unfamiliar topics are being discussed. Instead, stick around and listen. Ask questions and offer any insight you have based on your unique experience and perspective.
- Sign up for a class or MOOC course.There are various online classes and videos on BBC Skillwise, EdX, Coursera, or Udemy on a variety of topics from creative writing, graphic design, coding to foreign languages. These classes are typically free or inexpensive and will give you the opportunity to develop or explore an area of interest or potential interest.
- Attend social and professional events. Attend events focusing on or affecting the legal profession, a particular culture or a shared interest. This could be a study group meeting, age grade meeting, NBA or NBA Section on Business Law events (if called to the Bar). Attending events gives you an opportunity to make new connections and learn something new.
Be curious! Be resilient! Learn something new every day. Like gardening, being and remaining a well-rounded person needs cultivating and daily tending and paying a little bit of attention to learning something new every day works wonders over time.
Gabriella Ndu is a corporate, energy and projects lawyer with experience advising on traditional and renewable energy projects, facility management services, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, project finance and corporate transactions across Africa, Middle East, GCC, and South Asia. She is a law graduate of the University of Nigeria and was called to the bar in 2014.
She is currently a candidate of the Career Development Program at Middle East, South Asia & Turkey office of ENGIE, a CAC40 company with her first role in the legal team