The idea of working in law sounds both ludicrously hard and extremely glamorous, but is it anything like Suits? Well because we’re obsessed with the show (and also with Meghan Markle after the royal wedding, obvs), and because we really want to help you live the law life of your dreams, we’ve rounded up some life lessons from the show, and contrasted it with advice from an actual lawyer from from global law firm, Reed Smith.
Reed Smith also want YOU to come to their next legal insight day this summer. So after you’ve got the lowdown on what advice to follow, make sure you sign up to secure a place at their amazing offices to hear their advice in person.
The people at Reed Smith will tell you that law life is pretty incredible. And if you’ve seen Suits you’ll have some idea. Not familiar with the show? Well it’s all about a slick, New York City lawyer named Harvey Specter who hires Mike Ross, a whip-smart, diamond-in-the-rough, to be his new associate. The only problem is that Mike never went to law school and can be found out at any time. Cue lots of drama and a whole lot of valuable lessons for career development and office survival.
Back in London, Ravi Pattani, an associate at Reed Smith, has given us tips on how to grab attention and stand-out for all the right reasons (in the real world, that is).
Obviously we’ll let you make up your own mind about which advice to follow when it comes to crafting the perfect law career.
Here are four law lessons from Suits and a real-life lawyer.
Lesson #1: Be analytical with your thinking - especially when you don’t think you have options
In season 1 episode 2, Harvey Specter advises Mike Ross on how to escape from a seemingly impossible scenario whereby someone has a gun to your head (see above). When Mike tells Harvey that there’s “nothing” that can be done, Harvey instructs him to; “take the gun, or…pull out a bigger one. Or call their bluff. Or, you do any one of a hundred and forty six other things.”
Harvey is basically saying that even when it feels like there are no options, remind yourself that there are. Your job as a lawyer is to be analytical, quick thinking, and level-headed under pressure, even when you feel like panicking.
From Reed Smith
When it comes to crafting a cover letter and CV for a law internship, Reed Smith lawyer Ravi Pattani said that the same level of creative thinking needs to be applied. “Show what you’ve done in the legal industry, and specify why you want to work for that specific company” he started off by telling us. “Then, really research the firm, don’t just have generic stock responses to the ‘why this law firm?’ question. Think outside the box.”
Lesson #2: Take risks
A famous quote from the show is; “I don’t play the odds play the man.” (See above). And of course, this worldly-wise gem is from the sharp and calculated Harvey Specter. Translated into everyday-speak, it basically means that you can’t win a game just because you think you know all the rules. In playing by the rules slightly differently, you may get better at the odds, overall. That might mean forgoing traditional logic in favour of doing something a bit more…risky.
From Reed Smith
Obviously Ravi doesn’t recommend blagging it as a lawyer like Mike spends the whole series doing – you seriously need to know your stuff, and that means years of studying. But when we asked him what someone should do if they haven’t got a law undergraduate degree and want to be a lawyer, Ravi spoke about highlighting which skills you have that are transferable. “Draw parallels between your degree or other position and why it would make you a good lawyer. Show how it sets you apart. And remember that you don’t need a law degree – that’s pretty different from actually practising law.”
He also advised getting involved with law-related activities early. “Join the law society, they’re usually really proactive. And you can get involved with things like pro-bono clinics and they have partnerships with law firms which will give you exposure to the type of law you might be doing in the future,” he said. “It will also give you experience advising clients potentially using research skills which will be really helpful for you going forward.”
Lesson #3: Learn how to handle a bit of pressure
As fans of the show will know, Donna is the likeable one in the office. She is the jack-of-all-trades at work, the Chief Operating Officer at the law firm and who originally worked as executive assistant to Harvey Specter for over twelve years. Because of this Donna knows a thing or two about handling pressure and constantly proves herself as a formidable force when it comes to juggling her own workload and that of her co-workers. Want to be more like Donna with your law career? Watch the video above.
From Reed Smith
High pressure environments are often part of the game when it comes to being a lawyer, whether that’s working to tight deadlines, or presenting and communicating with senior legal professionals and high-profile clients – you need to learn how to keep a level head. Ravi also told us: “When you’re a trainee, you work for a while in different departments. So, walking into a new department, knowing absolutely nothing is quite nerve-wracking – it’s like learning everything from scratch again. Also, any time that you’re working on projects that are time-sensitive, it’s quite pressured. One time I worked solidly for 48 hours and then had to look presentable for a client meeting – having had no sleep!”
Lesson #4: Know your stuff really well
The climb to the top of any career is going to be paved with exams, tests, interviews and networking. And law is certainly no different. The entire premise of Suits is based on people being the best at what they know, and showing off in a range of witty debates and nail-biting showdowns. And even if one of them isn’t technically qualified, there’s a lesson to be learned in how being prepared and confident can actually pay off in the office.
(But definitely get qualified, guys).
From Reed Smith
Ravi knows that a law interview requires some serious prep – he’s done a few of them. And to ensure that you look like you really know your stuff during your next interview, Ravi told us these are the following questions you should ask lawyers when they ask if you what you want to know about them:
- Where do you see the firm’s progression in the next five years?
- What’s your favourite part of your job?
- What’s the most interesting matter you’ve worked on?
And what happens if you’ve done all you can, but you freeze during your face to face with top legal eagles? Ravi advised staying calm whenever possible. “Take a minute, take a deep breath. Take a sip of water. And just front up to it – own it. Say ‘can I just have a second?’” he said. “Pause, take your time and just go from there. Everyone understands interviews are nerve-wracking. No one expects you to be perfect and polished at interview – and they will appreciate your honesty.”
This combination of Suits-inspo and Reed Smith advice will definitely have you feeling all fired up for your next law opportunity, all you have to do is apply the right advice at the right time.
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