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Meet the recruiter

Iffat Hussain

Iffat Hussain

Iffat Hussain (she/her/hers) is the early careers advisor at DWF Group Limited. She’s based at the Manchester office. 

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

The vacation scheme is an integral part of the recruitment process at DWF as it’s the main process by which we recruit trainees.

It’s as much about candidates getting to know us as it is for us to get to know the candidates.

What kind of work can candidates expect to experience during the vacation scheme?

The two-week programme provides candidates with invaluable work experience, allowing them to develop an understanding of what work trainee solicitors are involved in. There are also excellent opportunities to work with partners, associates and trainees throughout the scheme.

On the scheme candidates will experience predominantly live legal work and will work on a group project – we’ve even had vacation scheme students attend court before! Those on the scheme will be under the supervision of a qualified member of staff throughout their two weeks.

What key skills does your firm look for in candidates when they apply?

We aim to recruit passionate and forward-thinking people who are also eager to learn and keen to develop themselves professionally.

Candidates should remember the importance of having transferable skills and a growth mindset, showcasing these in a well-structured and comprehensive manner within their application and throughout the recruitment process is key to proving that you're motivated and understand what it takes to qualify as a solicitor.

Any existing work experience, whether it be legal or non-legal, is highly valued at DWF and therefore candidates should draw upon their skill set – just because you’re applying for a role in the legal profession doesn’t mean you need to have had an abundance of legal experience to be successful at this stage.

How is the firm adopting the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)?

We were an early adopter of the SQE. So, in comparison to other firms that are perhaps just getting on their feet with the SQE, we feel quite confident with our progress.

Our trainees spend their first 12 months undertaking a period of study with our training provider to prepare them for the SQE assessments and legal practice. Once they’ve passed SQE1, they’ll join the firm to start the two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE), which follows the traditional training contract structure. During their QWE, candidates will undertake their SQE2 examinations.

How important is diversity and inclusion to your firm?

At DWF, we’re dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive environment.

There’s a plethora of things that demonstrate this, including the implementation of our Ethnic Minority Access Programme which has been developed to provide individuals with mentoring and skills sessions ahead of two weeks of paid work experience. The programme forms part of our training contract recruitment and really does exemplify the work we’re doing to increase diversity in the legal industry.

What is the most common way that candidates let themselves down in their applications?

Generalising answers to questions within their application and not showing any knowledge about the specific firm that they’re applying to can negatively impact candidates’ applications.

Another common mistake candidates make is that they simply list their skills rather than explain how the skills gained in previous work experience apply to the role of a trainee solicitor.

How important is it for candidates to show they have researched the firm? What key things about your firm should any good candidate be able to talk about?

We market ourselves as a legal and business services provider specialising in eight core sectors and, as such, DWF is quite unique since we don’t resemble a traditional law firm. Candidates are encouraged to break down our structure into the different elements during their research because it’s always alluded to throughout the recruitment process.

To support their research, I’d suggest candidates attend one of the firm’s insight days in advance of writing their application (whether for the training contract or the vacation scheme). By attending the insight day, they’ll be exposed to many different areas of the business so they can build awareness into what we do. It’s opportunities like this that’ll help candidates to write successful applications to make them stand out from the more generic applications.

Does your firm run an assessment centre?

Yes. The assessment centre is part of the application process and it's made up of three exercises:

  • a panel interview with a member of the early careers team and a client-facing member of staff;
  • a written exercise whereby candidates are required to undertake a task that we deem to be reflective of what could be expected of a trainee solicitor; and
  • a group exercise where the candidates work in small groups to carry out a task and present the outcomes to the assessors.

Does your firm attend university law fairs in the autumn term? What is your main objective when you go to a law fair?

We have various events taking place in autumn such as law fairs and insight days as mentioned earlier; these events are my favourite part of the recruitment cycle as it's an excellent opportunity to meet interested applicants who want to learn more about the different routes DWF offers through our early career opportunities, as well as answering any questions or queries regarding our application process.

Our current trainee solicitors are also involved in these events, offering a chance for applicants to learn first hand about the processes, experience and knowledge gained on our vacation schemes and training programmes.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Definitely biscuits. Oreos, digestives, custard creams, Jaffa Cakes... the whole lot!