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Meet the recruiter

Vanessa Harvey

Vanessa Harvey

Vanessa Harvey (she/her) is the recruitment manager at Milbank LLP. She joined the firm in February 2019 and has several years’ experience in the legal graduate recruitment industry.

What has been your most memorable moment in the job?

My most memorable part of the job so far was receiving my offer to join Milbank. I’ve always wanted to work for a US law firm.

Having previously worked in a much larger law firm, I most enjoy the small collegiate environment at Milbank – it’s small enough to get to know people on an individual and personal basis; you understand the different personalities in the teams; and you get to know the partners well. Knowing who you’re working for and how they want to get things done, just makes the job so much easier and more enjoyable!

Does your firm run a vacation scheme? Will it be in person or virtual?

We run one flagship summer vacation scheme each year at the end of June and we are planning for June 2022’s scheme to be in person at our new office, 100 Liverpool Street.

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

At Milbank we favour recruiting trainees via the vacation scheme because it gives us a chance to get to know the prospective trainees. More importantly, however, it gives them an opportunity to get to know the firm and work out whether we are the right fit for them.

By spending a full week or two at a firm, you get to see the work you’ll be doing, meet partners, associates, trainees, HR and business service areas, get a sense of the culture, the working environment, the quality of the work and the firm’s clients. This exposure will enable aspiring lawyers to make a more informed decision when it comes to training contract applications.

It also gives the firm an opportunity to see the vacation schemers in various scenarios. We appreciate that some students will be good at drafting documents but might hate the idea of doing a presentation in a room full of strangers. There are so many different qualities and attributes that make a successful trainee lawyer and a full vacation schemes allows us to see trainees in different environments, which makes the recruitment process a lot  more effective.

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

I am looking for the all-rounders – candidates who have the academic potential but who could also be left in a room full of clients and comfortably hold a conversation.

We want humble, down to earth, exceptionally smart lawyers. There is no room for arrogance or sharp elbows at Milbank. Other factors we look for in our future trainees include collaborative, human and empathetic behaviours; we want people who will contribute to a positive working environment.

What does the firm do to support its lawyers’ professional development?

Milbank is committed to the professional development of its lawyers and trainee solicitors. We have a range of bespoke, in-house programmes, plus external specialist speakers who we bring in to ensure our lawyers are being equipped with the skills they require to become a successful lawyer.

A few years post-qualification, each associate from every Milbank office is invited on a fully-funded trip to Harvard University in Boston, US as part of Milbank’s ‘[email protected]’ programme. They spend a week learning about all the non-law elements that make a good lawyer – for example, economics, finance and leadership skills.

We are really proud of this programme; there is no other firm in the market that offers a programme like it.

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?

It’s incredibly important for students to thoroughly research the firm. This isn’t important just from an application perspective but to also ensure you’re making an informed decision about which firm is right for you.

There are so many law firms in London which are great for different reasons, so it’s essential that aspiring lawyers spend time identifying which firms can offer you the best platform to train and become the best lawyer you can be. This decision will come down to personal interest, personality, the size of the firm and its work, the right culture and finding an environment in which you can thrive.

As a recruiter, it really helps when a candidate references key stats that make Milbank who we are, speaks about strong practice areas, understands the size of the intake, trainee retention and knows about the [email protected] programme, as well as the other things we have on offer. By including this in an application, it shows that a candidate has taken the time to get to know the firm and then decided that this is the right firm for them.

Does your firm run an assessment centre?

Yes, we run an assessment centre. The deadline for applications is 2 January 2022 – after that point, we will invite successful applicants to the assessment centre in February 2022, which will be held in person at our office.

It involves a combination of individual and group exercises, followed by lunch with trainees and an interview with a partner and HR.

How did the firm adapt to covid-19? What’s new?

Milbank was excellent in the way it supported all its lawyers and business services staff throughout the pandemic. As soon as the government advised working from home, everyone was sent an assessment form so they could specify what equipment they would need (eg, printer or ergonomic chair). We are also lucky to have strong IT department who are experts in what they do and have supported us fully over the past 18 months.

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

Attending university law fairs is one of my favourite aspects of the job. We will be present at all our target university law fairs this year. Although they will mostly be online, I am still looking forward to meeting all the students.

In addition to the virtual law fairs, a handful of universities are open to having in-person dinners and campus events, for example, so we are delighted to be sponsoring several in-person events over the coming months.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career at your firm?

Don’t underestimate the importance of early networking and supporting each other. Although it is a competitive process, many of the people you meet are going to be future lawyers and you’ll either be working with or across from them in the future.  

I would also encourage all bright aspiring lawyers to apply – please do not think that just because you didn’t attend a Russell-Group university, you won’t be accepted onto a vacation scheme. Too often students knock themselves down before even trying. Don’t rule yourself out. Milbank is looking for the brightest and best aspiring lawyers – it doesn’t matter where you’re studying. We also have additional contextual recruitment in place to ensure we are not missing out on the bright students.

What’s your favourite way to unwind from work?

I have two young children and I enjoy spending time with them after work. We are quite outdoorsy and like to visit the beautiful parks and farms around the Kent countryside; I also enjoy horse riding.