Social media is not the only way to get a job but it can certainly help. There is an undeniable movement in this direction and I’d urge anyone ignoring it, not to.
From a recruitment perspective, some sectors now ask for your LinkedIn profile rather than CV. Perhaps this is not applicable in the legal sector (just yet) but it may be in the near future. From a networking perspective, it’s absolutely invaluable – lawyer referrals are now often made via Twitter and from a commercial perspective, you can receive instant news updates on the industries relevant to you.
Twitter is one of the more difficult platforms to explain to non-users. It is occasionally described as “a stream of Facebook status updates” and there are users who do use it in a very personal context but for @LegalTrainee, it is a mixture of personal Tweets in a professional context combined with legal news used specifically to engage with, rather than broadcast to, students and professionals that want to talk to Eversheds trainees.
“How about giving trainees a completely public platform to freely engage in real-time with users and micro-blog about their day?” My initial pitch for @LegalTrainee in November 2010 probably sounded like a potential PR nightmare. The idea stemmed from my student experience at law fairs, picking up brochures (some out-of-date) containing information available online and battling through crowds to speak to a few trainees at most. Now working on the other side of law fair stands, the question I’m most frequently asked is “What do you do as a trainee?”. @LegalTrainee provides students regardless of background, university or access to major law fairs, an opportunity for this type of conversation. Lorraine Petheram, Resourcing Advisor at Eversheds, was the first person onboard, helping me develop the idea before pitching it to the external communications team and the firm’s decision makers. Appreciating that not everyone uses Twitter, we launched @LegalTrainee, a tri-platform project using trainee presence Twitter, Facebook and an increasingly popular platform, Brave New Talent. Between these three platforms and our website, we covered most of Graduate recruitment’s target audience: candidates.
A common concern pre-launch was “what if a trainee is having a bad day and rants about the work they are doing?”. My response was that a tweet about a trainee’s day of endless proofreading, a late night in the office or working the odd-weekend, it would be realistic and a true reflection of what could be expected of a trainee at a firm of Eversheds’ size. We created a trainee social media team, undertook basic PR training and the project launched live in June 2011. Tweets were regularly posted describing corporate work in the Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi Trainee Network social events, court visits in Manchester or the weather on a rooftop reception in Paris.
It’s been great fun engaging with candidates around the world. At one point I was running the Twitter account from Abu Dhabi, our Facebook page was managed by a trainee in Shanghai and a trainee on a City client secondment was running Brave New Talent – illustrating the quality of seats and secondments experienced across the firm. It’s challenging keeping things interesting but a key concept to bear in mind is whilst tweets may be seemingly mundane or routine to us, it’s the exact type of information candidates are looking for and ask at law fairs. In the long run it’s an insight into our range of work and the firm’s culture; an insight which can help answer arguably the most difficult question on training contract applications “Why are you applying to us?”.
Despite a few criticisms from individuals in our industry, the overwhelming majority of feedback has been positive. Students seem to appreciate our approachability combined with quick and honest responses. We pass on unanswerable questions to HR and occasionally use @LegalTrainee to host live chats directly with Graduate recruitment, giving students from anywhere in the world direct real-time access from smartphones and laptops. Eversheds allowed trainees to come up with a project concept, name, tagline, flyer and even the logo. Whilst other firms have launched similar accounts, @LegalTrainee marked the first of its kind managed by trainees.
It’s difficult to give HR definitive figures to report the success of @LegalTrainee but we can rely on the following facts:
1. We’ve shot from 0 to 1500 followers within a year with no expenditure;
2. The competitions we run (such as winning a coffee with a Partner or work experience in Hong Kong) have been mentioned in legal blogs and @LegalTrainee was used as a case study in Guy Clapperton’s recently published book “This is Social Commerce” as an innovative use of Twitter for the legal market; and
3. @LegalTrainee won the 2012 Graduate recruitment Social Media Award for “Best Use of Twitter”, being the only law firm up against competition from Barclays and Grant Thornton.
Whilst some may read this and still think of social media as a temporary fad or a waste of time, students clearly think otherwise and as long as they keep talking to us, we’ll keep Tweeting. There is a growing legal network on Twitter made up of students, juniors, seniors from major firms and the legal press who regularly exchange ideas and contacts. Love it or hate it, social media in the legal sector isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Ismat Abidi (@izzyabidi) is a final Seat trainee at Eversheds LLP who was awarded an Eversheds Innovation Award in 2011 for coming up with the concept and turning into a functioning firm project. Talk to the team @LegalTrainee on Twitter <http://twitter.com/#!/legaltrainee> , Facebook <http://www.facebook.com/legaltrainee> or Brave New Talent <http://www.bravenewtalent.com/Eversheds/> and keep following for opportunities to get your #FootInTheDoor. If you have any suggestions, we’re always happy to talk – this is not a brochure, this is conversation.