Rosie Buckley is the graduate recruitment advisor at Dentons. She is based in London but works across the firm’s UK offices.
Getting to know candidates during our vacation schemes and seeing them grow and develop as they progress through the process, which hopefully ends with joining us as new members of the firm. We run five vacation schemes overall. There is one Easter scheme which takes place at the London office, then four during the summer at each of our UK offices: another scheme in London; a joint Milton Keynes-Watford scheme; one in Aberdeen; and finally a scheme covering the Central Belt of Scotland with two weeks divided between our Glasgow and Edinburgh offices.
We recruit around 70% of our trainees through the five schemes, the main reason being that the vacation scheme is the best route for candidates who don’t yet have much legal experience. The scheme is the first chance for many candidates to ‘try out’ the career and see whether a law firm environment is right for them. In the case of direct applications, we prefer candidates to have already gained some legal work experience, so we know that they are making an informed decision about what they want to do.
There is a two-day induction in which candidates receive training and are given lots of opportunities to network. Candidates then spend a week each in two different practice areas, where they experience first-hand what working in one of our teams is really like. There is also a group client pitching exercise and an assessment day towards the end of the scheme. The final decision on training contract offers incorporates feedback from candidates’ time in each practice area, the group exercise and the assessment day.
One of the main things we look for is evidence that a candidate is proactive and enthusiastic. Once someone secures a place on the vacation scheme, we want to see them making the most of the opportunities on offer, for example, by saying yes to things that may be slightly out of their comfort zone and making an effort to get to know different people at the firm during networking sessions. In terms of work, it is not about getting things right first time so much as your willingness to learn and develop.
Of course, we recommend that applicants list all the jobs and work experience that they have accumulated. All types of non-legal work experience involve transferable skills, but that isn’t all. A record of part-time and holiday work also demonstrates drive, independence and the kind of proactive attitude that we are looking for.
Our application form includes two questions that reveal a lot about how serious candidates are about the career – “why commercial law?” and “why Dentons?” With the second question, we really want applicants to drill down into what interests them about Dentons specifically. That means that if you can take the name ‘Dentons’ out of your answer, substitute it for another firm and it still makes sense, you need to be more specific. Think about factors such as the firm’s culture, its strategy and its position in the market.
Yes – the application process for our vacation scheme begins with the online application form, followed by a Watson Glaser test and a behavioural interview with members of the HR team; the assessment centre then takes place on the last day of the vacation scheme. For direct applicants, the assessment day follows straight after the HR interview.
We are attending 22 law fairs this autumn and are also organising many other events such as dinners and insight days, as well as sponsorship for student law societies and our campus ambassadors. For students attending their university’s law fair, my advice is to bring a notebook so you can keep track of your conversations and learn about the different firms present.
Firms’ marketing campaigns reflect what they want to see in candidates’ applications. We have just launched a new campaign for 2019-20 which students interested in the firm should definitely check out.
I saw a vacancy to work in a villa on a Greek island, looking after 20 cats – how great would that be?