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Miriam Dunlop is the HR and recruitment adviser at Hogan Lovells, based in London.
How did you end up in law?
I have always worked within the legal sector and started my career at The University of Law. Since then, I have worked for various law firms looking after both graduate recruitment and trainee development, before finally joining Hogan Lovells in May 2016.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
It’s the people side of things – building relationships with students from campus events all the way through to their recruitment. I am also responsible for trainee development, supporting trainees through their training contract and on to qualification. I appreciate how important and valued recruitment is to the firm; it’s such a key part of the firm's future and I like being a part of that.
Less enjoyable is having to provide feedback to those who are unsuccessful in securing an offer. It can feel like you’re letting them down. However, providing them with constructive feedback definitely helps, especially if it means that they can work on particular aspects to help them secure a training contract here or elsewhere. We’ve all had knockbacks; being able to deal with that is important and part of your development.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
Recruiting the best future talent for the firm and ensuring that once they join, they will flourish and stay committed to us for the long term. It’s about being able to identify the potential in people and whether they’ll be a good fit for the firm. It is a competitive market and it can be challenging to attract the best talent, so we need to ensure that we differentiate ourselves from other firms in the right way.
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
When I left my last firm, a few of the trainees told me that I had played a personal part in their decision to join the firm. I was really touched and it made me appreciate the role that graduate recruitment have in helping students make informed decisions about their future.
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
Yes, absolutely – it’s an integral part of my role and I really enjoy it! We organise quite a few social events for the students where they can socialise with the trainees in a relaxed and informal way. This provides them with opportunities to get to know the firm on a more personal basis and to start building relationships. It also gives the students a chance to ask questions they might not want to ask in a big group.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
This year, we are going to about 30 law fairs, as well as hosting events at universities. The aim is to get our name out there and meet students in person so that they can learn more about the firm. By meeting us face to face, they can then ask themselves whether they can envision working at the firm with people like us. It’s important for students to do their research, think about the specific firms they want to know more about and talk to their representatives – a good conversation can make a lasting impression.
What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?
Well, the worst question is, ‘So, what do you do?’ Students sometimes assume that recruiters and lawyers will do all the talking, but it is a two-way process. If you have done your research and can engage, then we will be impressed, especially if you have some insightful questions to ask. For example, about international growth, the strategic direction of the firm or what makes a good trainee – they all show that the student is actually thinking about what he or she can offer the firm and the future of the firm.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
The majority of our trainees will have done a vacation scheme here or elsewhere, so it is a very important part of the process. For the firm, it allows us to get a better sense of the students and it’s an opportunity for the students to get a better sense of the firm. They have done well to get onto the scheme, so that three-week period is crucial – don’t fall at the final hurdle! Students get to meet a variety of people during the scheme – trainees, associates and partners – and have access to high-level work, as well as an insight into what life as a trainee is really like. There is a fun, social element to the scheme, but the most important part is the time each student spends in a department. We want them to leave with an understanding of what they are signing up for; it’s the best way to see how firms work, what life as a lawyer is like and offer experience they can reflect on.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
On the vacation scheme, sometimes you see people who have got a bit too comfortable and think they’ve got it in the bag; that can trip them up, as they’ve forgotten that they are still taking part in an interview process. On the application form, it is a bad idea to get the firm name wrong – or even shorten it or use an acronym. Another bad mistake is to write in text language or use text abbreviations for the firm name.
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
They need to be motivated by a career in law, proactive, ambitious and keen to take on responsibility. Beyond that, they need to be resilient – this is a challenging career and there are high expectations at all City firms. Sometimes, high achievers won’t have had developmental feedback, so being able to take this on board and learn from it, is an important part of a trainee's development. They should also demonstrate their interest in wanting to work in a high-performance culture!
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
The legal profession is ever changing; students should be thinking about what issues could impact firms, such as artificial intelligence or Brexit and how firms are adapting to these changes. Being commercially aware is a key part of the role; lawyers offer their clients much more than legal advice and it's important that students are able to demonstrate these skills.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
Make sure you thoroughly research the firms that you are interested in applying to and take every opportunity to meet with the firm's representatives; this will help you to understand the differences between the firms. There are a number of resources available to you both online and in-person, including your careers advisers, who are a great source of information and can help you to focus on your applications.
What is one key fact that candidates should know about your firm?
There’s not really one key fact, it’s more a combination of things – such as our international reach; no other firm has our trans-Atlantic profile and general strength and depth. The breadth of practice we have across our five practice areas is also very special. Then there is the culture of the firm; the work we do is complex and challenging, but we work as one team and respect each other's differences. This is a place where you can be yourself and where diversity is respected and welcomed.
What is your dream job (other than this one!)?
Working with horses somewhere with sunshine, a beach and a bar!
What's your guilty pleasure?
The Daily Mail Showbiz section online. I check it every morning!
What's your desert island disc?
Anything by Beyoncé.View Hogan Lovells's details