Back to overview

Meet the recruiter

Toby Tompkins

Toby Tompkins

Toby Tompkins (he/him) is the talent attraction specialist at Ashfords LLP. He’s based in the Exeter office having joined the firm in April 2022.  

Does your firm run a vacation scheme?

Ashfords runs three vacation schemes in total, two in Exeter and one in Bristol. The schemes all take place in June, the exact dates for which can be found on LawCareers.Net or our website. All our vacation schemes take place in person so we can properly meet the candidates and give them the chance to really get to know Ashfords and our culture.

Our vacation schemes are open to second-year law students, and third year and above non-law students. The programme has been specifically shaped around the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route to ensure consistent start dates across our cohorts. Mature students and career changers are also welcome!

Next year for the first time we’ll be offering first-year student insight days, which will take place in March. These will involve panel sessions, networking and applications tips, so watch this space! 

What kind of work do candidates experience during the vacation scheme?

Our vacation schemes run over five days – during which, you’ll be fully immersed into life at Ashfords. You’ll get a taste of three different departments, and you’ll participate in both live work and set tasks.

Also included within the week is the assessment centre, which will take place in the middle of the week. This frees up Friday to run workshops, panel sessions, and a networking lunch – partners and board members come along so it’s a fantastic networking opportunity to meet people at all levels of the firm.

You don’t have to take it from me you can read our Vacation Scheme Insider with LawCareers.Net by Billy, who gave a great overview of his week at Ashfords.

How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?

Ultimately, the vacation scheme is vital to the recruitment process. All firms do this differently but with Ashfords, if you’re applying for a vacation scheme, you’re applying for a training contract. We also offer stand-alone assessment days because we understand not everybody can complete a vacation scheme. However, if you can make the time, I can’t recommend the experience enough.


What key skills does your firm look for in candidates when they apply?

The million-dollar question! There’s no magic recipe – it’s not necessarily about being the finished article – it’s about embodying our values and showcasing your potential.

The one piece of advice I’d offer when thinking about your application, is to identify how you can apply those classic skills to real-life examples. The best applications I read are the ones that detail situations that demonstrate these effectively, rather than listing skills with no evidence to back them up! Anyone can say they’re a team player but proving it through your experiences is far more important.

What is the most common way that candidates let themselves down in their applications?

The main reason is when candidates don’t tailor their applications to the firm they’re applying for. As a recruiter, I understand Ashfords isn’t going to be your only choice, but you need to tell us why you want to work at Ashfords specifically, rather than copying and pasting your answers from one application to another.

If you write something along the lines of “Ashfords is an international law firm” (we’re not) or express an interest in becoming a barrister or studying criminal law (which we don’t offer), I’ll instantly know you haven’t done your research.

Tell us why you love us! We want to know why we’re one of your top choices.

Should candidates include their non-legal work experience in applications?

Absolutely! I can’t stress this enough – if you take nothing else from this interview know that non-law work experience is seriously valuable. It’s not all about legal placements or virtual internships. ‘Real-life’ work experience provides practical skills (eg, retail or hospitality provides customer service experience).

How important is it for candidates to show they have researched the firm before they apply?

“Why this firm?” is the one question you can guarantee you’ll have to answer in every application, so there’s no excuse not to be prepared. Beyond just skimming the website, what have you read or discovered about us that has sparked your interest? Is there anything that resonates with you and your career aspirations?

We also like to see clear commitment to the areas our offices are based, so it’s a good idea to tell us why you’re keen to remain in/move to the South West or Bristol.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career at your firm?

We have various events both online and in person that you can find us at, including university law fairs and specific networking evenings. We pride ourselves on being approachable and always happy to speak to anyone who’s interested in Ashfords, so please feel free to reach out to us on LinkedIn, or to one of our trainees as they know what you’re going through.

How important is diversity and inclusion to your firm?

As a firm we know that D&I is vital to Ashfords’ success. One of our partners spearheads our diversity programme but we especially encourage trainees to get involved in our D&I initiatives from the outset.

In the past 12 months we’ve set up various affiliation groups, including Working Carers and Women’s Networking Groups. We’re also always open to new groups and people coming in with new suggestions and ideas.

 As a firm we’re really big on social mobility, and we’ve worked hard to broaden access to the profession through offering graduate and solicitor apprenticeship programmes, and targeted work experience placements. At application stage, all candidates are assessed solely on their ability through our scoring mechanisms, which ensure recruitment remains objective. We also use contextual recruitment throughout the entire recruitment process, which identifies social mobility criteria to create a more level playing field.

I think we’re doing a lot of meaningful work in this space, but as a firm we recognise there’s always more to be done and we’re always striving to move our efforts forward.

What’s your favourite way to unwind from work?

In lockdown I started running and I’ve kept up with it ever since. I also have a dog called Barclay; he’s a Jack Russel who I take out on walks (not runs as I couldn’t keep up with him) and I’ll always happily watch whatever sport is on TV at the time.