Emma Byers is the graduate talent specialist at DWF. She is based at the Manchester office and joined the firm in October 2015.
How did you end up in law?
At university I was offered a place on a graduate scheme at a recruitment company which specialised in supplying technical projects at white collar level for blue chip organisations. I enjoyed the recruitment aspect of the role and decided to pursue this further with an in-house recruitment role at a professional services firm. I then moved to DWF to apply my skills to the legal profession - a move that I have really enjoyed.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
I really enjoy meeting graduates at careers fairs and events, and then seeing their faces in the video interviews and the assessment centres. It’s rewarding to see graduates whom you have recruited progress through the firm and develop as individuals. I really enjoy meeting new people, networking and offering advice and guidance.
Providing feedback to candidates who have been unsuccessful can be tough, when you know just how much effort goes into producing an application and how competitive the market is. As recruiters, it is important that we provide constructive feedback to make sure that you understand how you can improve your application for the future.
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
Yes - we arrange lots of events for vacation scheme students, as it is important that everyone gets to know each other on a social level. We are currently planning the itinerary for the next scheme and have some great ideas which I will leave a mystery for now!
We also socialise as a whole firm. Every last Friday of the month is ‘Friday Fridge’, where the firm provides drinks and everyone has the chance to socialise across departments. I also had lunch with the trainees in our Manchester office last week.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
We want to give people the opportunity to ask questions about the firm in person, and make sure that graduates are aware of the different opportunities that we offer, such as our vacation scheme, open days and brand ambassadorships.
What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?
Speaking to a well-informed student is always a good experience. It is also great when a candidate is not afraid to ask certain questions about the firm, such as about our culture and how we work together in our offices locally.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
Our vacation scheme is an important part of our recruitment process. It is important that we offer graduates the opportunity to find out more about the firm first hand - firm culture is so important! In my opinion it is good to experience the vacation scheme to see what it would be like to be a trainee solicitor at DWF. Due to the success of our vacation scheme over Easter and Summer 2016, we will be recruiting predominantly from our vacation scheme this year, so if you would like to secure a training contract with the firm, I would strongly recommend applying via our vacation scheme route.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
My main bugbear is when candidates write long, otherwise strong answers that don’t actually answer the question on the form. A lot of people fall down by answering the question that they want to find, not the one that is actually there.
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
We are particularly looking for commercially minded people who appreciate how business works and want to use their legal skills in that way. Adaptability is also important if someone is going to thrive at DWF. This is even reflected in our training contract, which is based over six four-month seats rather than the usual four six-month seats, meaning that our trainees experience a wider range of work and have to hit the ground running - it makes good preparation for qualified life at the firm.
Do you welcome candidates citing their non-legal work experiences in applications?
Definitely, all work experience is good - the main requirement is that the candidate can demonstrate commercial awareness, which can be developed by experiences in other sectors as much as on a vacation scheme.
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
There is no avoiding how competitive the jobs market is, so there is a real onus on applicants to polish their applications and to stand out. This is why we have a video interview component to our application process, as this gives people more of a chance to bring their applications to life and get their personalities across.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
I’m going to focus my advice on the video interview stage of an application that I just mentioned, as I know that speaking on camera might not feel natural to some applicants who are not used to it. This is why it is so important to practice in front of the camera until you feel comfortable, and then film the video that you are actually going to submit. You will be surprised how much easier it gets after running through it a few times. In the interests of being able to relax, I would also advise making your video in an environment that you are used to and in which you feel at home. However, do try to be as naturalistic as possible - we are just trying to get a sense of your personality and motivation for the role, and don’t need the video to be incredibly polished.
Which practice areas are the real core of the firm’s business and will this change?
DWF has core strengths in corporate & banking, insurance and litigation, and in-depth industry expertise in sectors including central & local government; energy & industrials; financial services; real estate; retail, food & hospitality; technology; and transport.
What is one key fact that candidates should know about your firm?
I would expect a good candidate to be aware of our recent overseas mergers with firms in Germany, Brussels and Dubai, which provide exciting international opportunities for the firm as well as from a trainee’s perspective.
What's your desert island disc?
A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay.View DWF LLP's details