Vicki Wisson - Weil, Gotshal & Manges
What is your job title?
Graduate recruitment adviser.
Where do you work (geographically speaking)?
I'm based in London.
How did you end up in law?
I fell into law, frankly! I graduated with a history and politics degree which left me with far too many options. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong one - a graduate scheme to become a tax accountant which, in hindsight, wasn’t the right decision for me. But my company was great about it; they kept me on in their graduate recruitment team and it was after this that I moved into legal graduate recruitment. It was a useful experience and I certainly wouldn’t change what happened as I learnt a lot about being a fee earner throughout those two years.
What are your main responsibilities?
I recruit the best trainees that I can and handle the whole process from attracting candidates to offering training contracts. This includes taking charge of all the paperwork behind the scenes to make sure that all of our recruiting complies with the SRA, as well as looking after our trainees throughout the GDL, LPC and training contract. This year I’m also overseeing a rebrand of our graduate recruitment campaign.
Who is in your team?
There are five of us in HR, and I lead the graduate recruitment function. Weil is a unique firm in that it is very partner-led and we have a supportive team of graduate recruitment partners who are heavily involved in the process and conduct interviews and on-campus visits with me. In my experience, it's unusual for a firm's partners to be so hands-on with graduate recruitment and Weil is all the better for it.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
I've always liked the attraction and campaigning side of graduate recruitment and I've had a lot of marketing experience through my time at CMS Cameron McKenna and Linklaters before now. I really enjoy speaking to students on campus and seeing their eyes light up when they realise what we're looking for and that they've found the right firm for them. However, I moved to Weil so that I could see the whole recruitment cycle from start to finish, and that's what I'm really looking forward to now.
Screening isn't fun, I must admit. Students may still think that we automatically screen applications but at each of the three law firms I have worked, every single application gets read and carefully considered. Whittling down hundreds of applications for 30 vac scheme places is gruelling, as you can imagine.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
I think it's finding the right people for the firm. Every firm has different strengths and a different atmosphere, which is difficult to get across in a recruitment campaign. Students need to carefully research the firms to find the ones that resonate the most with them.
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
I get to know our trainees quite well through taking them out to law fairs. I've been to a couple of vac scheme socials this summer but, unfortunately, I have a lot on at the moment so the trainees are looking after many of their social events.
Do you attend law fairs? Why is it important for students to attend?
Some law fairs, are so big that I don't know how students are supposed to identify suitable firms among the crowd. That said, students can get a real insight into the different cultures at firms by approaching law fairs in the right way - you can learn a lot about a firm by speaking to the trainees present, who exemplify the kind of people that the firm looks to recruit. Speaking to people from the firms is an important part of the research process. You need to make sure that a firm's personality will suit your own.
What's the most annoying question you're asked by students?
Broad questions which clearly show a lack of research should be avoided. Don't ask, "How can I get into your firm?" or demand that I "sell" Weil to you.
What do you look for in a candidate?
We have a very small trainee intake - only up to 14 per year. For that reason, we can't take on people who shy away from the limelight. A Weil trainee has to be a go-to person who is prepared to get involved with important work and be proactive. We’re looking for bright, articulate, entrepreneurial team players.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making?
All recruitment teams will say the same - problems with language and spelling come up time and time again. Don't just cut and paste without proofing and do make sure that you spell the firm's name correctly. In terms of language, emails from candidates can often be informal and colloquial, even if their applications are perfectly professional It's important to remember that every time you interact with a firm you are being assessed and all communication should always be professional.
What has a candidate done that has most impressed you?
Good candidates will have researched the firm thoroughly and will also display an evident enthusiasm for the work and ethos of Weil. You'd be surprised at how many candidates are just looking for a training contract, any training contract, with no regard to their final destination. We want people who genuinely want to work at Weil.
How should candidates approach you for feedback after an interview?
Feedback is very important and we certainly encourage candidates to ask for it. A candidate should do so by email and we'll then provide feedback over the phone. Remember to be patient though; we're often very busy and have to provide feedback to many other candidates. Rest assured however that we will get back to you. If a week to 10 days passes with no response, just remind us with a follow-up email.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
I think people should be aware that there are so many more options and pathways to get into law these days, so there's no need to despair if a candidate doesn't get a training contract - often it's just because they are not suited to commercial law. The Co-op, for example, is employing 3,000 people to provide general legal services to the public, while in-house legal departments are also on the rise. Don't follow the crowd or feel that you just have to take the traditional route, instead conduct research to work out what kind of legal environment is best for you.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
Weil is massive in the States, but its London office only employs around 200 people, including just 14 trainees per year. Despite our size our work is cutting edge and we often lead on the very highest profile deals. To that end, we offer work of the highest calibre in a more familial environment, which I think is pretty impressive.
If you could do something completely different, what would it be?
I like event management, so I wouldn’t mind having a go at wedding and party planning! My zany side would also like to write children's' books as I could really let my creativity take over!
What's your guilty pleasure?
We always have a stack of HR biscuits for our meetings and I'm also a bit of a gym bunny - not that I'm addicted or anything!View Weil, Gotshal & Manges's details