Insights for graduates at expo

Erin Walford, Aleksander Holland, Tanya Atwill and Minnie Hannaford on the panel at the QLS Legal Careers Expo.

Call your Nana, be truthful on your resume and sharpen up on your spelling and grammar.

That was a snippet of the advice on offer for students and new graduates during an expert panel on landing your first legal job at the Queensland Law Society’s Legal Careers Expo last Wednesday.

The annual expo, held this year at Victoria Park Function Centre in Brisbane, provided students and graduates the opportunity to explore the diverse pathways a legal career has to offer.

This year’s expo featured 32 exhibitors, including principal partner, College of Law, major partner, Bond University, leading law firms and community legal centres, who offered up practical advice and support to attendees.

The event hosted three panel discussions, including one with tips of how best to present yourself to possible employers and recruiters.

With decades of knowledge and expertise between them, Tanya Atwill, Assistant Professor and Director of Bond University’s Faculty of Law GDLP; Erin Walford, Senior Legal Counsel at Dominos Pizza; and Aleksandra Holland, co-founder and co-director at Kelly Lawyers; gave insights to what employers and recruiters were looking for in new graduates, with a strong focus on going back to the basics.


“Pick up the phone and call your Nana” was the advice from Aleksandra, with the other panellists agreeing that basic verbal communication skills, particularly over the phone, can sometimes be lacking within a generation of new graduates and students who may prefer to send emails and messages.

Calling your relatives, and working on improving your confidence on the phone, would ensure a smooth transition into a legal work environment and put employers at ease with your ability in managing communications with clients, they said.

Tanya said research showed the core skills of strong communication skills, time management, spelling and grammar, were considered the most important to many employers, beyond what a student’s GPA might be.

With years of experience in recruiting lawyers of all levels, Walford agreed, stating graduates needed to focus on getting the basics right.

“It’s the basics that get you in the door,” she said.

Ensuring your resume was accurate, your social media presence was appropriate, and your LinkedIn was updated, would go along way to making progress with an application, she said.


Erin emphasized the importance of showcasing your personality during the hiring process, explaining not only why you believe you are an important fit for the job, but who you are as a person. She encouraged young people to attend as many networking events as possible and not shy away from reaching out to possible mentors for guidance.

“I’m interviewing you as a person, I want to know about you, and how you present as a person, because that’s how you’re going to present to my client,” she said. “I’m looking for you to add something to the team, how you think, problem solve and communicate with the team.”

Aleksandra, providing insights from private practice, emphasised the importance of enthusiasm and genuine interest in the role during interviews, and encouraged graduates to practise answering interview questions at home. She also said candidates should apply for a variety of roles.

“Apply for a job that you don’t think you have the qualifications for – let us decide that. (Whether it’s) trades or skill sets that you’re not sure of, apply anyway and set out why you think you should be considered for the job,” she said.

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