Samantha Hope is the Graduate Recruitment Manager at leading national law firm, Shoosmiths.
Matt Oliver caught up with Samantha and asked her some of the questions sent in by you guys.
MATT: What would you recommend candidates do over the coming months to ensure their applications are as strong as they can be?
SAMANTHA: The first step to being successful in your application is always research.
The autumn and winter months are crammed full with careers fairs, presentations and other events, which you can attend to research a firm, get to know the people, culture and values, and find out if that is the type of firm you could actually work in.
If you can, have a look at the application questions before you attend the event.
If a firm is ticking all of your boxes after the first and subsequent meetings, then filling in the application should come naturally to you, as your genuine enthusiasm and knowledge will shine through.
MATT: What sort of extra-curricular activities really stand out on an application?
SAMANTHA: Extra-curricular activities are often looked at in terms of ticking a box, but it is more about the skills you gain whilst you are taking part in that activity.
Whatever the activity; being part of the cheerleading squad, running the law society, or fundraising for a charity, you will gain essential transferable skills in communication, team work, positivity, motivation, the list goes on….
Demonstrate all of these skills on your application form whilst discussing the activities you are involved in to show off your personality and skills together.
MATT: Would you be able to have a go at defining what “commercial awareness” means to Shoosmiths?
SAMANTHA: To Shoosmiths, commercial awareness means being alive to opportunities for us and our clients to develop in business.
You should be aware of the competitive context in which Shoosmiths operates and the importance we place on ensuring our actions allow us to provide the best for our clients.
Recognise the potential of expanding your own relationships with existing contacts, and identifying more opportunities to network.
MATT: Many people struggle with the “why law” type of question. What tips could you give them on what to focus on in order to convince you with their answer?
SAMANTHA: I am looking for you to talk knowledgeably about the role of a solicitor within a national law firm and evidence relevant skills that show how you will contribute to Shoosmiths development.
Your answer should demonstrate that you understand the commercial aspects of the role of a trainee solicitor and beyond, and draw upon your recent work experience.
MATT: What sort of paralegal work would you recommend candidates get if they are unsuccessful in getting a training contract before they complete the LPC?
SAMANTHA: Paralegal work or legal work experience is not essential for your application for a training contract or summer vacation placement.
But it can help in providing you with skills in a professional environment, which will assist you to answer the competency based questions on the application form.
Legal work experience will also increase your understanding of how a law firm operates as a business.
If you are looking for legal work, try to secure it in an area which currently interests you, but that you can see yourself working in long-term.
MATT: What would you say the most important competencies are for a potential future trainee?
SAMANTHA: All of our recruitment and development processes are based around the firm’s 4 core values.
The competencies we look for throughout your application and on assessment day fall within these key areas:
- Talking Business Sense – Knowing your own business and that of the client.
- Taking Initiative – Having the confidence to challenge conventional ways of thinking, proactively seeking to improve and grow the business.
- Being within Reach & Responsive – Coping with change, responding effectively to clients and to colleagues and to challenges raised by them.
- Pulling Together – Working together as a team, being aware of each others’ circumstances and promoting an open and honest working environment.
Matt: What do you most like to see included in a good answer to a competency question?
SAMANTHA: Answer these key points in your competency based question and you’ll be scoring high:
- Provide good knowledge of the area
- Provide evidence of your involvement
- Demonstrate a link to your personal experience
- Discuss the benefits to the future of the firm
Matt: After spelling and grammar mistakes, what are the 3 most common application mistakes you see that lead to candidates not being invited for interview?
- Not paragraphing the text. In the same way that a solicitor tailors his communication for the audience and ensures that the client can understand the advice at a glance, candidates should be sure to make their applications easy to read for the recruiter.
- Describing a skill you have, but not evidencing it with an example, or explanation of how it will make you into a successful solicitor in the future. Back up all of your answers with evidence, justification and reasons why. Don’t leave the recruiter guessing.
- Not tailoring the application for the firm. You need to tailor every application to the firm that you are applying to. Every firm is different and unique in some way, find that and use it to your advantage.