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Meet the recruiter

Becky McLaren

Becky McLaren

Becky McLaren (she/her) is an early careers recruitment advisor in the early careers team at Norton Rose Fulbright. Becky is based in the firm’s Newcastle office and has been at the firm since October 2021. 

Does your firm run a vacation scheme and what kind of work can candidates expect to experience during the vacation scheme?

We run multiple vacation schemes throughout the year and they’re all in person. The schemes are jam-packed full of activities with a mixture of assessments:

  • three written exercises;
  • a group exercise; and
  • a partner interview.

There are also sessions with other departments, including learning and development to help for example with your presentation skills or personal impact, the early careers team  on making the most of the vac scheme and preparing for your training contract interview, and a session with the diversity and inclusion team. There’s a specific commercial awareness session too, the legal tech and innovation branch of the firm, Transform, also hosts a session and there’s a roundtable discussion featuring Peter Scott, our managing partner.

The rest of the time is spent work shadowing. Previous vac schemers have attended court with their supervisor so there are lots of fantastic opportunities. Candidates who are accepted onto the scheme at Norton Rose Fulbright will have the opportunity to select three preferences for their seats. We try to match candidates with one of their choices where we can, but our vac schemers are really encouraged to make the most of their time at the firm regardless of the seat they’re in.

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

We hold multiple schemes a year and really get to know candidates through them, which is important to both the vac schemers and the firm when it comes to the training contract recruitment process. Lots of hard work goes into ensuring the schemes are useful from those working in early careers to the partners supervising the vac schemers at work.

We also use the direct training contract route but we recruit only one intake this way each year.

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

We’re looking for people who have really strong communication skills. As a trainee and qualified lawyer, you’re speaking to people all day every day, including external or internal stakeholders. We want people with good teamwork skills, commercial awareness and a passion for the firm’s work. We’re quite specific in our sector focus so candidates need to be able to demonstrate a genuine interest.

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

Since September 2022, our future trainees have been enrolled onto the City Consortium Solicitor Training Programme (CCP), which follows the SQE route to qualification. The suite of programmes has been designed as a cohesive whole, working together to create an integrated learning journey for each of the CCP students. 

We currently have two cohorts enrolled onto the CCP, the first of the cohorts finishing the CCP in August ready to commence their training contract with us this September.

Students follow the centralised SQE assessments, which will test knowledge across a wide range of law and practice (SQE1) as well as core legal skills (SQE2). In addition to the SQE, we’ve partnered with BPP University Law School to create a unique and market leading Plus Programme designed to prepare our trainees for practice as a city lawyer.

Individuals with a Legal Practice Course (fewer than four years since completion) are exempt from SQE1 and will complete the CCP Diploma Route consisting of the 15 Week Plus Programme and eight week SQE prep/exams.

How important is diversity and inclusion to your firm?

Diversity and inclusion is incredibly important to Norton Rose Fulbright and this comes across in the work we do as part of the early careers recruitment. We have recruitment targets for Black, Asian and ethnic minority trainees that we exceed and an aspirational target of 10% Black trainees. We work with external providers to make sure the recruitment process is inclusive. We also have a separate diversity, equity and inclusion team – they’re amazing and do lots of work for the firm, while also working alongside the internal networks.

The internal networks at the firm are:

  • Advance – social mobility network;
  • Breathe – mental health network;
  • Compass – Islamic faith, culture and business network;
  • Family matters – a network addressing issues affecting parents, grandparents, guardians and carers;
  • Origins – Black, Asian and minority ethnic network;
  • Pride – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allies network;
  • Shine – disability and long-term health conditions network; and
  • WiN – gender parity network.

There’s a huge variety on offer and if employees find a gap then the firm is keen to accommodate and support new networks being created.

Should candidates use examples of non-legal work experience in their applications?

Absolutely – people are often put off from including non-legal work experience on their applications but we’d definitely encourage candidates to outline this experience. The whole point of a vacation scheme is for aspiring lawyers to gain some legal experience so we’re not expecting candidates to have any other legal experience at this stage.

Working in a bar or a shop, for example, provides individuals with transferable skills applicable to a career in law, including communication and teamwork. 

How important is commercial awareness and how can candidates show they have this skill in their applications?

Commercial awareness is a tricky one because it’s spoken about so much and it’s also difficult to know how to demonstrate it. It can come across in cover letters and applications when we can see that candidates have taken extra time to conduct in-depth research into the firm and the work we do, including recent transactions or mergers we’ve worked on. We don’t expect candidates to know the deal inside out, but having an awareness of the firm’s sector focus is a good place to start. We’re a global law firm so candidates should be able to explain how that feeds into the way the firm works as a whole.

More generally, commercial awareness involves having an understanding of the economy and business globally (not just in the UK). While the Financial Times is a useful resource, there are other platforms, including podcasts, that’ll prove beneficial when building your understanding of the commercial scene and how the firm, and its clients fit within that. LawCareers.Net also has weekly commercial news round-ups and podcasts. articles to support your commercial awareness too.

Does your firm run an assessment centre?

We don’t recruit vac schemers on a rolling basis; every application is screened. The strongest applications then complete a Watson Glaser test and an Arctic Shores assessment, which is a behaviour and game-based assessment.

Following the online testing, candidates will have a telephone interview with a member of the early careers team. Successful candidates are put forward to an assessment day; these are run virtually and last all day. We run several assessment centres ahead of the vacation scheme so we can make sure we have the time to see all of the selected candidates; they consist of an individual exercise, group exercise and interview.

Following the assessment centres, we invite candidates to our vacation schemes. The schemes aren’t huge because candidate experience is incredibly important to us, so we have around 20 (or fewer) vac schemers on each placement.

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

Don’t apply to too many law firms – I’d suggest applying to a maximum of five to give yourself the time to properly research each firm. If you can replace one firm name with another and the application still makes sense, what you’ve written isn’t specific enough. It’s very clear when a candidate is genuinely interested in what we do and how we work.

I’d also encourage aspiring lawyers to attend events, including webinars, and speak to trainees or members of the firm to help get a feel for what you want from the training contract. You could also try reaching out to trainees on LinkedIn as they’ll have been in your position very recently so understand the challenges you’re going through at this stage.

What book are you currently reading?

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie. It’s not as sick and scary as it might sound – I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it.