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10 Tips to Land your Legal Job at a Tech Company

26 Jul 2021
Adrien van den Branden, LL.M.
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Every trained lawyer wants to join a tech company nowadays.

Landing a legal job at a tech company has become an increasingly harder feat to achieve.

So how do you find the right company? How can you be sure the company will be a good fit? And how do you stand out from the crowd?

Don't worry, we got you covered.

Follow these 10 tips to increase your chances of landing your dream job. From the search all the way to the the interview. Let's start!

Search

1/ Go to specialized jobs boards

Jobs boards make it easy for you to source and apply to jobs.

Yet you'll waste hours filtering out the right opportunities on generic websites.

Luckily specialized job boards like Legal Jobs in Tech Companies or Legal Tech Jobs do the hard selection work for you. These niche jobs boards hand-pick highly qualified jobs to promote access to well-informed job seekers. You'll source from a narrower yet more qualified pool of opportunities.

2/ Challenge the required seniority

Companies are usually looking for lawyers with 3-5 years experience as they want new hires to hit the ground running. Yet companies rarely put a lot of thought in the required level of experience. Some companies may be recruiting their very first legal counsel, and have little to no clue about whom to hunt for.

They may not even be aware this, but tech companies are looking for impact. They want you to sustain their growth while staying compliant. Today, the best proxy for impact is experience. Yet it's just a proxy. So always challenge the minimum required level of experience and focus on your past achievements. What have you done in your career that can help the company now? Ask yourself that question.

3/ Check the company's tool stack

Show me the tools you are using and I'll tell you how innovative you are.

Want an easy hack to know whether the company sits at the forefront of technology? Type in their email address extension (e.g. acme.com) in an MX records checker (like this one: https://mxtoolbox.com/). You will instantly know which email provider the company is using. From there, you can make the following assumptions:

  • Companies using Google tend to be younger and more keen on using legal technology to make their life easier
  • Companies using Microsoft tend to be older and less keen on using new technology (outside of the Microsoft Office universe)
  • Companies not using either email provider likely use their own servers, a red flag when it comes to new technology adoption

You can also do some reverse-engineering and visit the customers page of cutting-edge LegalTech software (like Canyon). You'll access a curated list of companies that have resolutely chosen to automate away mundane legal tasks. Put these forward-looking employers on your wish list.

4/ Check the General Counsel's track record

You are early in your career and want to join a team headed by an inspiring General Counsel?

Check the track record of your future boss. Has the GC given any talks? Participated in any webinars? Or posted content on a blog or LinkedIn?

With the proliferation of online content, it's never been easier to get to know your future mentor. Read or listen to as much as you can and ask yourself "would I like to work with that person?"

Your boss, not the content of the job, is the most determining factor at the inception of your career. So look for an inspiring leader to guide you.

Application

5/ Show you've done your research

You've done a lot of hunting and now it's the crucial time to send your cover letter to your dream tech company.

There's great talk about how you should be original in your cover letter and use crazy formatting or design to catch your would-be employer's eye. None of that is essential. Just show that you've done your research. You should have an idea of the tool stack the company is using and know about the General Counsel's vision. Use that incredibly specific material in your cover letter.

6/ Go for impact

Tech companies are looking for impactful lawyers. Not smart academics.

Your cover letter should drive the message home that you (and only you) can deliver on the company's current and future stakes.

When you think about it, there's only a handful of challenges a tech company is facing:

  • Growth
  • Internationalisation
  • Fundraising
  • Regulatory

Those challenges are make-or-break for the company. So how can you help tackle them?

Last tip here: look up the company's last fundraising announcement. You'll know instantly what the CEO says the next priorities are for the company. Use those golden nuggets in your cover letter.

Interview

7/ Be accessible, not technical

So you aced your cover letter and now it's time for the dreaded interview. Or, should I say interviews.

Expect between 3 and 7 interviews, from the screening interview to the reference checks. Don't be caught off guard: ask for a detailed overview of the interview process — it should be available on the company's careers page.

Whatever the stage of interview, don't be technical. These days interviews are 5% about content, and 95% about context. If asked specifically about your expertise, be accessible, not expert-sounding.

8/ Show leadership

Tech companies hire leaders.

Especially when it comes to the position of General Counsel or Head of Legal. As a GC you'll get full ownership on matters that not so long ago were dealt with directly by the CEO, the CFO or other C-level profiles. So you're expected to be proactive, not reactive.

We've written a full piece about the great contrast between the posture of an attorney and that of a in-house legal counsel. If you're an attorney, it will be harder for you to demonstrate leadership, because you've been used to work as a consultant. Yet, although it's not easy to transition, you have to be willing to embrace the role of a leader.

This is why you should be excited to join an in-house legal team. Show you're committed to that idea.

9/ Ask questions

Don't forget that an interview is a courting exercice. You have to fall in love with the company too!

Ask questions like:

  • Who will you report to on legal affairs?
  • Which processes are in place? Is there a way to automate parts of them?
  • Which tools will you be using in your day-to-day work? Is there a budget foreseen for LegalTech tools?
  • What's the company's hiring plan in the next year?

10/ Come up with a plan for your 100 first days

What better way to show impact than to come up with a plan for your 100 days on the job.

It doesn't have to be a detailed plan. Employers don't expect you to come up with a framework or anything like that.

For example, you could devise something like:

  • During the first week, I'll follow the onboarding procedure and reach out to other business functions (sales, HR, finance, operations) to present myself and check how I can help them. I'll also call up the company's current attorneys to present myself and check how they can help me.
  • Then I'll take care of whatever burning fires require my attention — Expect me to be reactive here, not proactive yet. I'll take notes along the way on how to improve ways of working.
  • After two or three months, I'd like to present a plan on how to make the legal function future-proof. I'll make recommendations, making sure I've checked in with the leaders of the concerned business functions. If the adoption of a new tool is part of my recommendation, I'll make sure the tool is plug-and-play with our current tech stack so we minimize change management challenges.

Don't be prescriptive, but sound like someone who know what you're talking about.

Tip: Check out our webinar series "100 first days as General Counsel" and be inspired by what your peers have done during their 100 first days on the job.


That's all for today. I hope you found this piece useful.

With Canyon, we want to help fast-forwarding legal teams hire the best talents out there. That's why we handpick highly qualified legal jobs on our website. The job posting is entirely free. It is our contribution to the LegalTech ecosystem. If you'd like to have your job offer posted here, please reach out to jobsboard@canyonlegal.com.

If you enjoyed this one, join the hundreds of professionals who already subscribed to our newsletter. At Canyon, we help companies automate their legal operations and make contracts better and faster.

Oh, and one last thing, if you like what you read, go ahead and follow us on LinkedIn.

Over and out — Adrien

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