Ashurst LLP

Sarah Donoghue
Ashurst LLP

Ashurst LLP

Sarah is the HR consultant, early careers at Ashurst. She is based in London and has been at the firm for about two months.

How did you end up in law?

I’ve been in graduate recruitment for about eight years. My first job was in the United States working for an investment bank for about a year, before coming back to the UK and working for a magic circle firm for two years. After that, I worked exclusively in financial services – until now!

What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?

It is an exciting role and you do something different every single day – I’ve never had two days the same. I love meeting people from different backgrounds and universities, and helping them to kickstart their careers. I also follow them throughout, so from attraction events on campus, such as law fairs, workshops and dinners, through the selection process of application and assessment centres, and throughout their training contract, including seat rotations, qualification and secondments. I’m part of the entire trainee life cycle!

Of course, where there is good news, there is also bad news, and it’s never nice telling someone that they haven’t been successful in securing a training contract. However, if you deliver the message in the right way, and provide them with feedback that can help them with further interviews and assessment centres, it hopefully softens the blow.

What has been your most memorable moment in the job?

The job itself is very busy – sometimes when you’re travelling between five different campuses, via a variety of trains and hotels and taxis, just making it through the week can feel like a memorable achievement! Generally speaking though, there is nothing like meeting someone on campus, who is keen on working with the firm, and helping them go on to secure a job at the firm. That’s an unbeatable feeling.

Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?

Yes, absolutely. One of our vac scheme cohorts is here at the moment, and we’ve been pizza-making, hosting networking drinks, and we’re all off to a quiz tomorrow. I consider it part and parcel of my role. For them, being part of a vac scheme or trainee group definitely lends itself to socialising – everyone is in the same boat and has lots of similarities. The firm also helps by having numerous clubs and societies, and opportunities to get involved with people from throughout the firm. For example, 45 of us just did the London Legal Walk, all from different departments and job roles, and all proudly wearing our Ashurst t-shirts!

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

A vacation scheme is a fantastic opportunity for students to assess us as a potential employer and for us to get a sense of them and their abilities as a future trainee. We want to make sure that it’s the right fit for everyone. There is no better way to do that than with first-hand experience, getting to understand the firm’s culture, meet the people who work here and narrow down the type of firm they want to work for.

What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?

We don’t like to have to get the red pen out! Attention to detail is key; letting yourself down on that front is a silly reason not to progress to the next stage. We appreciate that you will be making more than one application of course – but don’t be vague. Tailor each application to the firm you’re applying to. Draw on your research about clients and deals, for example, and reference it. We can definitely tell when something has been copied and pasted – especially so when you include the wrong firm name!.

What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?

The current cohort of trainees all have different strengths, but there are also several that tie them together. Commerciality is key, so an understanding of the commercial world and how it intersects with the legal world. Then there’s attention to detail and teamwork, especially as they will be working with employees at all different levels of their careers, across multiple offices and jurisdictions. Finally, resilience – it is necessary when entering the demanding world of law, in an industry which is constantly changing.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?

Meet as many different people from as many firms as possible, both through formal schemes and on campus. Most firms are good at getting out there, being present and accessible to students, so try to get along to as many events as you can and meet people that you might potentially work with. Try to get a sense of why they work there, what they enjoy, and if the firm’s culture and values are a good match for you. We’re not all the same, honestly!

Also take a moment to make sure this is something that you really want to do; often when you’ve studied a law degree, you naturally think that it’s the field of work you’ll end up in, but it is also possible to get carried away with the idea. Take a moment to really assess whether you love it. Having done that, you will find it easier to work everything else out – for example, you’ll make better applications if you have a clear idea of what you want.

What is one key fact that candidates should know about your firm?

We have just opened an office in Luxembourg, so now have 26 offices in 26 countries. Also, I’d hope they will have heard of Ashurst Advance, which is all about technology in the legal sector, and how the firm is integrating tech into everyday working life.

What is your dream job (other than this one!)?

I have always wanted to be a pilot!

What's your guilty pleasure?

I’m a big baker, and love baking for friends and family, and sometimes for no particular reason at all!

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