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Often when we think of a law firm, we imagine lawyers in suits, clients walking in and out of meeting rooms and stacks upon stacks of paperwork. We do not put much thought into what goes on behind the scenes. Like any well-functioning business, administration and operations are also a key part of the success of a law firm.
This summer, I decided to get some exposure to the legal industry and managing a law firm, by doing a STEM internship at Ravenscroft & Schmierer.
During my time with the firm, I got to take on a wide variety of tasks, from IT-related work to digital marketing and digital accounting to the digitisation of administrative and operational tasks as well as assisting lawyers.
Wires, screws and chips
One of the most hands-on experiences I had was with IT manager Willy. As the firm was getting new devices and replacing old ones, Willy wiped all the old devices as I assisted. While the loading screen on the monitor looped itself repeatedly, Willy shared about his experience working in the IT industry and studying engineering. We realised he was my senior (although decades apart) and he recalled many memories of his time studying at HKU (University of Hong Kong). I also got to “play” with some cables, chips, screws and wires as Willy explained to me how security systems worked.
Reverse engineering a door lock.
Killing Trees? The legal industry is highly paper-based
Sometimes I helped the lawyers and paralegals with legal work such as going to court, preparing bundles, and doing research. It allowed me to get an insight into what it’s like working in the legal profession. You might have already read articles by other interns who described what a repetitive yet rewarding task bundling is (if you haven’t, please click here), so I will not go into much detail. And bundling is indeed extremely satisfying, especially when you get all the papers into neat and tidy stacks.
One time, right before I was going to leave for a lunch break, Saaj, the trainee solicitor, asked for a set of bundles… which was required immediately. Vanisha, a paralegal, and Ronnie, the legal manager, and I searched through the hard drives to find documents and rushed to get everything printed, hole-punched, filed, and tabbed as soon as possible. By the end of it, I binge ate my lunch as I was so hungry and exhausted from the preceding race against time.
A set of accounting documents
Butterflies, interviews and interesting CVs
One of the least expected but most intriguing parts of my time at Ravenscroft & Schmierer was assisting in interviewing potential candidates for job positions. During my two-month internship, I helped interview about 20 candidates, ranging from fresh graduates to experienced lawyers.
I joined Zoom meetings as I waited for the interviewees to join the calls. It was nerve-wracking interviewing people who were older and more experienced than me. Often, the interviewees were extremely friendly, and we had a good chat. Occasionally, I came across rather condescending or somewhat rude responses from candidates though which I thought was odd for an interview, but I guess this is a regular occurrence for the seasoned HR recruiter.
Outside the interviews, going through various CVs and cover letters was an interesting experience. I saw a lot of amazing CVs as well as various quirks from some of the candidates.
Based on my experience, here are some observations I made that seem to distinguish stronger candidates from the rest:
- Call before you apply
- Call after you apply
- Call to follow up
- Show relevant work experience first on your CV
- Format your CV well
- Show relevant awards and accomplishments
- Use specific terms to describe language ability
o E.g., native/bilingual, fluent, full professional proficiency, limited working proficiency, conversational, elementary
- Keep your CV to one or two pages (unless it is an academic or senior position)
- Send your CV and cover letter, if any, as a PDF file
- Have a complete and active LinkedIn profile, and Ensure the name on your CV and on LinkedIn matches, or put the link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV
Don’t (unless required):
- Include your Zodiac sign on your CV
- Include exams you failed or did poorly in (instead, only show specific scores if required, relevant or impressive)
- Include your typing speed
- Include your religion, sex, marital status, gender, nationality, number of children and date of birth
- Submit your CV as a Word document
My time at Ravenscroft & Schmierer has been rewarding. I learned that what we, as individuals, can do and contribute is not limited to our title but what we are willing to reach out and do.
Nicole is a year 2 BASc(FinTech) student at the University of Hong Kong and completed her internship with Ravenscroft & Schmierer in August 2021.