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Skye Fenton-Wells (she/her) is the early talent recruitment manager at Womble Bond Dickinson. She is based in the Bristol office.
My favourite part of the recruitment calendar is meeting the candidates at assessment days and then the process that follows. After spending so much time reviewing applications, it’s great to see the faces behind them and talk to the firm’s potential future lawyers.
It’s also incredibly rewarding watching successful candidates on their journey – making offers to these applicants is the greatest feeling.
As a firm, providing feedback to unsuccessful candidates is important too. Being able to engage with these candidates and offer them valuable, developmental feedback is extremely worthwhile – particularly when we see them again in future recruitment rounds.
At Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) we offer a work placement week that follows the virtual assessment day, so it’s part of the recruitment process. These usually take place in summer.
Candidates are invited into our offices for part of their work placement, but we run a hybrid week with both virtual and in-person experiences. This not only makes our process more environmentally friendly, but it also gives candidates a true reflection of what our hybrid working environment feels like.
The work placement week is part of the recruitment process, which follows:
Following the virtual assessment day, we shortlist candidates for the work placement week. During the work placement week, candidates will have the chance to meet WBD colleagues and gain real insight into what it's like to work at the firm. The final stage interview will also be conducted in person during this week.
We believe that the variety of stages and methods we use increases our chance of recruiting top talent. We’ve designed our assessments in a way that enables candidates to demonstrate a range of behaviours in a variety of ways. As a result, we gain a more holistic understanding of each applicant.
Our recruitment process also allows us to showcase the firm in different ways and gives candidates a chance to assess whether WBD is the right fit for them, which is equally as important.
Throughout our recruitment process, we measure four competencies. We believe that these encompass the skills and attributes that our colleagues need to in order to be successful in our business. They are:
As part of our early talent recruitment, we typically measure the potential to develop these skills. The definitions and indicators that are related to each of these competencies help us to recognise and measure (as best we can) an individual’s potential to develop – we don’t just collect evidence of a certain behaviour in the past.
Our early talent recruitment competency framework is the starting point of the behaviours and actions that will be valued, recognised and rewarded at the firm – and these behaviours will underpin your career development at WBD.
We’re in the process of finalising the official details of this and will be launching our new programme very soon. We’ve recognised that the changing landscape gives us a chance to do something different when it comes to educating and training our lawyers.
In that sense, we’re viewing it as an opportunity to make sure we’re giving our trainees the skills they need to be successful in the profession and our business.
Aligning with our competency framework, we’ll be putting a bigger focus on other areas, including legal tech, project management and client relationships. Our aim is to incorporate a period of work experience with the firm in these areas prior to our trainees starting the formal qualifying work experience (QWE) aspect of the SQE.
We believe this model allows us to take the most innovative approach to developing our future lawyers. We’ll be able to embed our trainees within the business before they start their QWE, which will prepare them for practice in a way that other approaches might not.
Diversity and Inclusion sits at the heart of our firm’s values. A diverse and inclusive workplace, full of the richness of different perspectives, creates better ways of working.
Our clients and colleagues benefit from a more rounded, informed culture, making us a more innovative, resilient and sustainable business.
Our approach is to make sure that we have policies that are fit for purpose, and then to work hard on bringing them to life throughout the firm. This filters through at every level – we nurture a spirit of equality, fairness and respect and we challenge non-inclusive behaviour. We want everyone to reach their full potential, by being themselves whilst encouraging each other to achieve their goals with courage, determination and enthusiasm.
We work hard to ensure that difference is visibly valued and welcomed, and that our people understand there’s so much to diversity and inclusion and it's not about a set of paper policies. Everything from our award-winning apprenticeship scheme, our Investors in people accreditation, our focus on health and wellbeing, to our #BeYourself campaign, underlines the importance of a visibly proactive and diverse and inclusive culture.
Yes, absolutely! We have a section on our application form that’s called ‘life experience’, rather than ‘work experience’. There’s more to a person than the legal experience they have had and applicants must not underestimate their non-legal work experience. There are a lot of things that can shape and help candidates to develop important transferable skills that could be invaluable to WBD, so if you can evidence these then we want to hear about it!
Commercial awareness is an important skill for our lawyers because it enables them to understand what issues are impacting our clients and will help them to become valued business advisers.
Combined with the competencies mentioned earlier, commercial awareness means our lawyers can go further than just providing technical legal advice. This skill will enable them to identify and create new sources of value for our clients.
If candidates can demonstrate that they’re aware of current issues, it’s a real advantage. However, candidates can set themselves apart from other applicants even further by taking the issues, contextualising them, and explaining how they might impact the firm and our clients going forward.
A night in with a bottle of wine and a tub of Ben & Jerry's!