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Navigating Professional Standards: Participating in the Law Firm Recruit Without a Professional Background

3 minute read
Also authored by: Brienna French

Embarking on a career in law without a legal family background or previous exposure to the legal field is a daunting experience. Yet, this is a journey that many law students and aspiring lawyers undertake successfully. I had difficulty navigating this landscape, as I am a first-generation lawyer and have no professional background in this field. However, I do acknowledge that I had some support throughout my experience, as my partner is an internationally trained lawyer. Despite this, I did sometimes feel difficulty navigating the landscape of law school and the recruit, and my intention in writing this blog is to share what I learned throughout this experience to better level the playing field.

The path to practicing law in many firms involves understanding and embodying the professional standards of the legal profession, which are often unspoken. This blog is intended to serve as a brief ‘guide’ to those looking to participate in the law firm recruit who do not have a professional background.

For many students, their first exposure to the legal field occurs during law school. During the recruitment, these students without personal connections to lawyers may find themselves initially overwhelmed without the informal guidance or industry insights that their peers may possess.

Transitioning from law school to a law firm demands an understanding of the professional standards that govern the legal profession. Here are three areas where I noticed a gap between first and second-generation lawyers throughout the law school and recruitment process:

1. Building a Network

Second-generation lawyers might have family members or close contacts who can provide insider insights and guidance. First-generation lawyers might need to seek mentorship externally.

However, it's essential to note that this isn't a hard and fast rule. Some second-generation lawyers might not actively pursue or inherit knowledge about the legal profession from their families and might also need to learn these aspects themselves. Additionally, each individual's experiences and opportunities can vary widely, regardless of generational ties to the legal field.

2. Etiquette and “Dress Code”

A second-generation lawyer might have observed, through family members or close contacts in the legal profession, the typical attire and dress code expected in legal settings. They might have a more intuitive sense of what's appropriate and common in terms of professional attire, simply from exposure within legal circles from an early age.

In contrast, a first-generation lawyer might need to learn about the expected dress code, which often includes wearing suits or formal attire in courtrooms, meetings with clients, or other professional legal settings. They might need to seek advice or observe their peers and mentors to understand the nuances of appropriate professional dressing within the legal profession.

However, fashion and attire can vary based on specific regions, types of law practiced, or even individual preferences. While a second-generation lawyer might have a head start due to exposure, both first and second-generation lawyers might need to adapt their wardrobe to align with the professional expectations of the legal field they're in.

3. Understanding the Legal Profession

This is something that can be learned in law school and throughout your career. Those without a family or pre-existing background in law can excel by embracing their unique perspectives, leveraging their diverse skill sets, and demonstrating a fervent dedication to learning and adapting. You can bring your unique knowledge base to the table in academia and in your practice.

Entering the legal profession as a first-generation lawyer might seem like scaling an uphill battle, but it's a journey that many have conquered. Success lies in a blend of determination, continuous learning, networking, and embodying the professional standards that define the legal field. By embracing these principles and remaining steadfast in their commitment to excellence, aspiring lawyers can carve a fulfilling career with their unique experiences and perspectives.

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