Matt Akin - DWF LLP
How did you end up in law?
I’ve been in graduate recruitment for a few years, including in retail and financial services, but this is my first role within a law firm. It has been a huge learning curve – law is a unique industry to recruit for and is very different to other sectors.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
The most enjoyable part is helping people to kick-start their careers. It’s not easy to secure a training contract and it requires a lot of effort on their part, so it is great to help them along at the early stage of their professional lives.
The least enjoyable aspect is dealing with those students who don’t take advantage of all the help and advice out there, and think that it’s enough to just turn up with a good degree. They don’t seem to realise how competitive the market really is.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
Finding the time to get out on campus as much as I’d like to. I love meeting students and explaining what it is DWF has to offer, but don’t always get the chance to visit every university.
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
The introduction of video interviews into our trainee recruitment process - as far as I’m aware, we are the first law firm to do so. The students are sent a link online, they have just 30 seconds to review each question, and then it automatically starts recording their answers. The video is then sent to us to review.
I think it demonstrates where things are going, with the introduction of much more technology into recruitment processes and looking at things in a more innovative way. Our main driver was to progress more people at the application stage, so those people who may not look that good on paper, but who are strong candidates, are given a chance to shine.
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
Yes - in fact, I’m out tonight with our current vac schemers, and we’re making pizzas and cocktails. I also recently went on a ghost tour with a group of them in Edinburgh. More generally, I’m in constant contact with the trainees, including regularly visiting the different offices and checking everyone’s doing OK. We also hold a trainee/partner dinner twice a year, where all the trainees from round the country come to one of our locations and get to discuss the future plans of the firm with our CEO.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
It is a two-way process. Students can read about firms on their own websites and on LawCareers.Net of course, but the best way to get true insight into a firm is to interact with its representatives and see who it recruits. It’s also a good opportunity for us to spot talent early.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
Again, it’s a two-way process. We are very interested in students coming in and immersing themselves in the DWF brand, getting their hands on the sort of work that we do. As such, we treat them as trainees for the two weeks that they’re here, in that they do trainee-level work, are supervised by a senior associate and have high exposure to partners. It gives them lots of great experience and a true insight into life at DWF. We think that we are unique in what we offer our trainees and vac schemers, so it is better to come and get some first-hand experience of what that really means.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
Some students aren’t sure what is ‘relevant experience’ when it comes to their application forms and immediately discount their weekend and part-time jobs in retail or hospitality, for example. But that sort of work gives good insight into different industries and clients, so it’s definitely worth mentioning. We don’t just want people who are technically good lawyers – they also need to be commercially minded. DWF is a business, not just a legal services provider.
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
Academics are important, but they’re not everything. We look at every application that comes in, even if it doesn’t meet our minimum criteria (a 2.1 degree and ABB at A level). Commercial focus and being values-led are also very important, as they’re what define us as an organisation.
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
The competition that’s out there; there are lots of students and not nearly as many training contracts, so you need to make sure you’re considering your career from a very early stage – at least first year, if not at A level.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
Try and understand your own motivations for why you want to work in law, do your research, target specific firms and make solid applications. Don’t take a blanket approach, sending out generic applications to everyone. Note – we are not DLA Piper!
What is one key fact that candidates should know about your firm?
The firm in its new form – we’ve gone through a number of mergers recently, and have changed from a regional firm to a large national player that can offer a unique experience with our six-seat training contract. That in particular gives you the opportunity to get a flavour of many different areas. Some people come in with a clear idea of what they want to do, but having had the chance to try out others, soon discover that they like something else altogether.
What is your dream job (other than this one!)?
The royal food taster – someone’s got to do it!
What's your guilty pleasure?
Not my finest admission, but I think it would have to be reality TV programmes such as Made in Chelsea.
What's your desert island disc?
The soundtrack from any cheesy 80s movie – or would that be my guilty pleasure?View DWF LLP's details