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Natasha Ford is the graduate recruitment & development officer at Baker McKenzie. She has been with the firm for four months.
How did you end up in law?
I studied law at university and, after many years of jobs within the legal sector as a paralegal and legal secretary in the United Kingdom as well as Australia, I decided to pursue a career in graduate recruitment.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
I love going on campus and meeting new people, as well as visiting different cities. I miss being at university and so it allows me to feel as if I am a student again! However, with it comes late nights and lots of travelling.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
The biggest challenge is telling people that they haven’t been successful at securing a training contract, especially if I’ve spent time with them on a vacation scheme and got to know them quite well.
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
It would probably be visiting Belfast twice last year. We always run campus events and, as well as having a support centre there, it is a great city to visit. It was also my first time there!
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
Yes, it is great to socialise with trainees outside of work either when we are out on campus or during vacation schemes. I think it is really important to get to know people out of the normal office environment.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
I am really trying to tackle any myths about applying for training contracts and also to answer any questions about the training contract (as my role also involves seat allocation). We are often joined by trainees, associates and partners and so, by meeting us, hopefully it gives potential candidates a real insight into what the firm's culture is like.
What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?
I think questions about the training contract itself are the best type of questions. For example, we run our own bespoke LPC course at BPP and all of our trainees are required to do one transactional seat. The majority of the time, we are asked questions about the application process and so it is nice when candidates look ahead of that and start researching what kind of training each firm provides and whether it is the perfect fit for them. Each firm is different and so, as well as us recruiting the best talent, it is also important that you find the right firm for you.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
It is not essential to have completed a vacation scheme with us, but it does put candidates in better stead when preparing for interviews as they have been truly immersed in our environment and can really articulate why they would like to work for Baker McKenzie. That said, you can also meet us on campus and at careers dinners at university, which are also a great opportunity to find out more about us.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making?
I think the most common mistake (aside from the infamous typos or using the wrong firm name) is candidates making blanket applications to firms. If you send off 30 mediocre applications, instead of a handful of well-researched applications, you are less likely to be successful. Having spoken to a variety of firms at law fairs and events, you should be able to make a more manageable shortlist and invest your time in doing those applications well.
In addition, our application states that as well as looking for those with an interest in Baker McKenzie, we are also looking at why you want to work in commercial law. What is it exactly that grasps your attention when looking at a career in law? Again, there is no right or wrong answer as we are looking at your journey from choosing your degree to applying for a vacation scheme or training contract!
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
There’s no Baker McKenzie type – our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds and have had varied experiences, so it’s a very diverse mix. There is a common thread, however, and that’s people who are clear about what they want to do and why. We also want people to be themselves – don’t tell us what you think we want to hear; be honest in your answers as we want to get to know you, and what drives and motivates you. We are also looking for commercial awareness, so an understanding that being a lawyer is about knowing the black-letter law, but also about how you apply that law across different sectors and clients.
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
I would say it is probably making applications to firms as well as studying. While we look for strong academics, we are also looking for candidates who can show they have the ability to think analytically, work in a team and communicate effectively. This is not an exhaustive list, so I would say it is about getting the balance right!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
Research the profession and what the different roles within it involve. For example, do you understand what the different types of solicitor do – eg, family, criminal or commercial – or what a barrister or legal executive does? Look at your own skillset and aspirations. There’s no right or wrong; it’s your career and you'll make better choices the more informed you are.
On a practical basis, try to get some legal work experience or do some pro bono work as a way of learning more. I often get asked if experience outside the legal sector is also valuable, and the answer is yes, absolutely! We are looking for transferable skills, so think about how your experiences can translate to a career as a lawyer. We are looking for people with drive, motivation and a passion for the career, and who are personable and work well in a team.
What are the key facts that you expect candidates to know about your firm?
We are a full-service law firm, so as well as having a large corporate practice, our other practice areas range from tax to intellectual property. In addition, we are often cited as a global firm, but our employees across all our offices are very much local experts in their markets.
What is your dream job (other than this one!)?
I would probably be a gym class instructor. I have not always loved the gym, but working near a gym is definitely helpful (and means I have no excuse!).
What's your guilty pleasure?
Reality TV – I know I shouldn’t watch it, but I can't help but get addicted!
What's your desert island disc?
That is a difficult question. I do have a penchant for 90s pop music as it makes me feel nostalgic.View Baker McKenzie's details