Emma O’Rourke is the emerging talent specialist at BLM. She is based in Manchester and joined the firm in 2007.
The assessment day for people applying to our summer vacation scheme is always exciting, as it is my first chance to meet many of the candidates in person, having read a lot about them in their applications. The vacation scheme itself is another highlight as it’s so rewarding to watch people come into the firm and go on to achieve success – especially when you have been with them through every stage of the process.
Our vacation scheme takes place in June and there are four to five places available every year. Candidates gain exposure to live work, including attending court, drafting court documents, sitting in on witness interviews and reviewing medical records under supervision. It is very close to the role of a first-year trainee.
Apart from the assessment centre to get onto the scheme, all work on the vacation scheme itself is unassessed, which enables candidates to focus on getting a sense of the firm and our working environment, and ensures that our application process assesses candidates fairly, whether they have been able to attend a vacation scheme with us or not.
Our vacation scheme is an important of our trainee recruitment, last year we retained over 80% of participants for training contracts across our Manchester, London, Liverpool and Birmingham offices. Its purpose is to provide valuable work experience that helps candidates to decide if this is the right career for them, especially if they haven’t had any exposure to a law firm environment previously.
Our assessment centre is the final stage of the application process and it is exactly the same for vacation schemers, direct applicants and internal candidates – with no further formal assessment at the end of the vacation scheme.
We are not looking to tick off a set list of attributes when we review candidates’ applications. We do not have strict minimum academic requirements, we are more interested in why BLM is the firm where you want to build your legal career. To gain a sense of whether we are right for you, I recommend reading our blogs and following us on social media, in addition to looking at our website. Our trainee blog offers a more personal insight into life at the firm than you will find on a formal graduate recruitment site. Anyone interested in BLM should also keep up with our RED Blog, where the firm’s partners provide updates and analysis of the key issues affecting our clients.
We also want to know more about you, which is why we include an unassessed question in our application form which invites candidates to tell us something we wouldn’t know about them from their CV. It’s a great opportunity to tell us about one of your interests, for example.
Using another firm’s name and other glaring typos are common pitfalls. Sometimes candidates also fail to answer all the questions on the application form – they are all asked for a reason!
The best way to cut out mistakes is to start early and give yourself plenty of time. We are open for applications from now until January, so if you start now, you can build up your application over a few weeks, adding any new achievements and experiences as you go. This will give you the time to polish your application and make sure it is free of errors. We always receive lots of applications in the final 24 hours before the deadline and these are not necessarily of the highest quality, so I recommend starting early and also making sure that you click submit well before the deadline.
There is a question on commercial awareness in our application form. A good way to demonstrate your commercial thinking is to link your knowledge of current affairs back to the firm’s recent successful cases or how BLM is evolving as the legal profession moves forward. For example, the firm is making big investments in technology – how will that change the way we operate and influence your work as a lawyer? Read the RED Blog and learn about the specific technologies BLM is adopting as a major firm in the field of defendant personal injury.
I first met several of last year’s vacation scheme candidates at law fairs. It is always possible to tell when someone at a law fair has researched the firm and that leaves a good impression. It is also easier to connect and start to build a relationship when a student already knows some of the basics about BLM and is clearly interested to find out more. Just a few minutes’ research should tell students that risk and insurance is an important area for the firm and that we also have two large commercial practices offering a wide variety of services beyond personal injury claims.
Come to one of our open evenings which are taking place in the new year. They are a great opportunity to meet partners and trainees and find out more about the firm.
It would have to be wedding planner – what a happy and interesting job that must be!