Samantha Hope - Shoosmiths
What is your job title?
Graduate recruitment officer.
Where do you work (geographically speaking)?
I'm based in the Northampton office, but we also have offices in Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Milton Keynes, Reading, Solent and, having recently merged with ACH, also in Edinburgh. It is handy to be based in the geographical centre of all our office locations.
How did you end up in law?
I studied law at university, but I also had experience of junior doctor recruitment and graduate recruitment, so it's great to be able to use both my legal knowledge and recruitment skills now.
What are your main responsibilities?
I manage the entire trainee programme, right from attraction through to qualification - an average of four years for most recruits. It includes attending law fairs, creating a brand, screening applications, organising assessment days and telephone interviewing. I also look after the trainees who've been recruited but haven't yet joined, as well as the current trainees - their seat moves and seat reviews, and anything social! It can be a big responsibility overseeing so many people’s careers (often 120 students and trainees at once) but it all adds to why I love what I do.
How long have you been in the job?
I've been in my current role here at Shoosmiths for over two years, but have had experience in recruiting graduates for just over five!
Who is in your team?
There is a head of recruitment who also deals with experienced hires, while I deal solely with students, graduates and trainees.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
I love the variety of recruiting and meeting lots of different types of people. I think it's really important to consult people about what they want from their career and for them to have an input which creates a lasting impact. Trainees are encouraged to be innovative with ideas in how we can improve processes, and it's great to see these getting implemented.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
You have to plan recruitment a couple of years in advance and need to know what's going on in the future. Without a crystal ball, this can be a big challenge!
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
I do enjoy going out for meals and drinks with them. I think it is important to socialise - we all work closely together, so it's nice to have a social side to things as well as a professional one. We recently took our first-year trainees on a residential trip to Northampton for their PSC training, and I joined in with the bowling and a few evening meals.
We also run spring and summer socials at each office location, where we invite our current and future trainees, placement students, NQs and a variety of partners from each office. This is a great chance for the future trainees to get to know us better and meet future colleagues. It's always a fun night.
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
The assessment days in August are pretty memorable, as the entire recruitment cycle works up to them; it is an incredibly pressurised and exhausting time for me to organise. However, the phone calls to the successful candidates are some of the best moments I've had. One candidate in particular screamed and cried a little; I think she had to pass the phone over to a colleague because she was so ecstatic! And as a recruiter, it's those little moments that stick with you.
Do you attend law fairs? Why is it important for students to attend?
It's really important for me to attend law fairs and other university and college events, and for students it's an unbeatable opportunity. You get to meet people and get a feel for the firm - there's only so much you can learn from a website. I take along trainees, NQs and a training principal or partner, so there is a good range of people to chat to. As an aspiring solicitor, if you miss a law fair, you could be missing the opportunity of a training contract.
What's the most annoying question you're asked by students?
I am often asked about grades and mitigating circumstances. We publish minimum grades and do take into account mitigating circumstances, but I would urge you to think carefully about what exactly a mitigating circumstance is.
Well thought out, pre-prepared questions about things that can't be found on the website are the best. Candidates who are able to elicit information from me at a law fair by just having an enjoyable conversation are always stand-out candidates.
What do you look for in a candidate?
Academics are a given for any aspiring solicitor. Candidates should be bright and able to think and work independently, but we also want someone who is personable, who we can be put in front of clients early on and who we’d like to work with ourselves. All our offices are open plan, so being friendly and sociable as well as professional is important. We’re also looking for people who go the extra mile, put in the hard work and have a passion for what they're doing. We run an employee recognition scheme called 'Above & Beyond', which rewards just that!
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making?
Candidates who don't use paragraphs and don't structure their answers correctly can make screening applications very tedious. My advice is to treat each application like an exam paper, and always aim to get five solid points into each of your answers. Remember to back up your points with reasons and justification.
How should candidates approach you for feedback after an interview?
For those who've attended an assessment day, we're always happy to provide formal feedback as soon as we are able after the assessment day, so they can use it straightaway.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
Speak to everybody you possibly can about a career in the law and get as much experience as possible. It’s not just legal experience; all work experience is valuable, even if it's just on the checkout at a local supermarket. We often have people apply who've never had a job at all, and while they might be bright, I'd question how well they'd fit into a working environment. Overall, the best advice I can give is to persevere - James Dyson sums it up well: "It might take 5,127 failures before you find a success, but enjoy failure and learn from it."
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
We offer City calibre work and clients, based in the regions. Everyone at Shoosmiths is very friendly and approachable, and the open-plan office encourages trainees to ask questions and creates a more fulfilling training process. I often read feedback about how partners and other colleagues are genuinely interested in ensuring that trainees and students have a great training experience with the firm, and it surprises me that this may not be the case everywhere.
We are also very proactive on work-life balance, so we're keen to get staff involved in fundraising, charitable events and extracurricular activities generally. On the trainee induction week we set a fundraising challenge – not only is it for a good cause, but the trainees get to meet a lot more people in their offices. Who could turn down buying a cupcake for charity from a fresh-faced trainee? You can read more about this on our firm blog.
If you could do something completely different, what would it be?
I would love to live in another country for a while. I spent New Year in Berlin which was amazing. I love learning about the culture in different countries, and trying out all the local delicacies, although that mainly consisted of glühwein this time around!
What's your guilty pleasure?
My colleagues are delighted that I enjoy baking (much to the disgust of my waistline!). My new year's resolution is to cook a new recipe each week, either a main dish or dessert. So far the best one has been banana, walnut and Nutella loaf. Delicious!
What's your desert island disc?
I love a variety of music, but at the moment have both The Lumineers and The XX albums in my car. Kodaline also has some great songs, which I can't get out of my head.View Shoosmiths's details