Interested in a future career as a lawyer? Use The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law to get started
Find out about the various legal apprenticeships on offer and browse vacancies with The Law Apprenticeships Guide
Information on qualifying through the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, including preparation courses, study resources, QWE and more
Discover everything you need to know about developing your knowledge of the business world and its impact on the law
The latest news and updates on the actions being taken to improve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession
Discover advice to help you prepare for and ace your vacation scheme, training contract and pupillage applications
Your first-year guide to a career in law – find out how to kickstart your legal career at this early stage
Your non-law guide to a career in law – everything you need to know about converting to law
Toby Tompkins (he/him) is the talent attraction assistant at Ashfords LLP. He’s based in the Exeter office having joined the firm in April 2022.
My favourite part of the recruitment calendar is delivering the summer vacation schemes to prospective trainees. I really enjoy getting in the mix and meeting new people. One aspect of the vacation schemes that I particularly enjoy is putting a face to a name; I read a lot of applications so it’s nice to get a chance to meet the candidates in person.
That said, the highlight of the whole process is calling the successful applicants to make offers because you can see how much candidates value the opportunity, and how passionate they are. It’s a great feeling knowing you’re making someone’s day with the call; some of the reactions are priceless, and it’s great to be a part of that moment.
Ashfords runs three vacation schemes in total, two in Exeter and one in Bristol. The schemes all take place in June and are in person so we can properly meet the candidates. Our vacation schemes are specifically targeted towards second-year students upwards, both law and non-law. You can find the dates of our vacation schemes on either the Ashfords’ website or via LawCareers.Net.
In the future, we hope to run insight and open days for first-year students in order to give more students the opportunity to find out about training with us – watch this space!
Our vacation schemes are vital to the recruitment process. We have a mixture of vacation schemes and assessment centres that run in June each year; however, I’d strongly recommend those looking for a career at Ashfords to apply through our vacation scheme. The vacation scheme shows candidates how our firm works, how a career in law works, and it’s also a great opportunity to get involved in networking and to interact with like-minded peers. We run the schemes in groups of eight, giving candidates a chance to be among those who share their interests and ambitions.
We’ll be asking all our future trainees to take the SQE route to qualification. We’ve really seized this as an opportunity to broaden our routes into the profession by offering multiple course options, including the LLM with SQE1 and SQE2, the graduate solicitor apprenticeship and for non-law graduates, the MA Law with SQE1. Anyone offered a training contract with Ashfords going forward will have the opportunity to sit down with a member of our graduate recruitment team to discuss which pathway is best for them.
We’re also very pleased to accommodate alternative routes to qualification such as the solicitor apprenticeship scheme for school leavers. This route has numerous positives; not only do our apprentices earn a salary from day one, but we also fully cover their course fees, and they receive hands-on experience, which will be invaluable to the success of their future careers.
At Ashfords D&I is very important. We have a lot of great initiatives, but we also recognise that there’s always more we can do so we’re constantly developing as a firm. We have a newly appointed diversity lead who has overseen the set-up of affiliation groups such as LGBTQ+ and Single Parents and Carers. We strongly encourage trainees to get involved with D&I initiatives from the beginning of their training contract. We also have a new HR director who’s really helping us to make progress in this area. It’s important to us that employees make suggestions and get as involved as they can. We recently set up multiple focus groups for our people (including trainees) to voice their thoughts on firm initiatives and make suggestions so that we can continuously develop an inclusive workplace.
In terms of recruitment, the entire process is completely objective. We use scoring mechanisms that ensure candidates are assessed solely by their abilities. We also include several diversity and inclusivity questions that remain anonymised until the end of the process. We’re happy to publish our D&I data and share it across our website. We’re proud of our firm’s D&I initiatives and are always open to further development to continue driving the firm forward.
The most obvious way candidates let themselves down is by copying and pasting their application answers. We appreciate Ashfords is unlikely to be the only firm candidates apply to (although in my opinion it should be!) but copying and pasting applications is a huge mistake. Occasionally candidates have written the wrong firm's name on their application form, which immediately demonstrates a lack of commitment and a lack of attention to detail.
Another common way applicants let themselves down is by not doing their research. Our website is just one of the many places you can find important information about the firm and it’s key that candidates expand their scope. We publish information on a multitude of sites, so I’d urge candidates to identify more niche publications that their peers might not have found. We post a lot on LinkedIn too, so it’s worth looking through our publications and researching the specific practice areas you’re interested in. Don’t just note down the first couple of generic articles or cases as this will show that the research isn’t particularly in depth. Candidates can really make themselves stand out by conducting extensive research into the firm.
Yes, our assessment centres take place over a single day and are made up of three stages. The first stage is an interview with a partner and a member of our HR team (eg me). Following this, candidates will be asked to complete a written task, which isn’t necessarily legal so there’s no pressure to know legal jargon. The final stage is a presentation. Candidates will be required to present their written task to a senior lawyer – most likely a senior associate and another member of our HR team. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about our assessment centres – I’d describe them as challenging but also enjoyable!
I do love being a recruiter but, if I didn’t have two left feet, my dream job would be a footballer. I wouldn’t mind spending months in the sunshine earning millions of pounds kicking a ball around. And, of course, I’d play for Chelsea – the best team in the world.