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Meet the recruiter

Philippa Wilson

Philippa Wilson

Philippa Wilson is a graduate recruitment senior adviser at Norton Rose Fulbright. She is based in the London office and has been at the firm for three years.

Does your firm run a vacation scheme?

We run vacation schemes in winter, spring and two in summer. The winter and spring schemes each last seven days working days, and the summer schemes takes place over 10 working days. We also run a week-long summer work experience programme for first-year students, First Step.

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

We make a lot of our training contract offers to candidates who have taken part in a vacation scheme and who have impressed us, but not all – we also welcome direct applications. However, if a student is interested in training at Norton Rose Fulbright, I would advise applying for the vacation scheme if possible. I enjoy getting to know the vacation schemers during their time with us – interpersonal skills and teamwork are just as important as technical ability - and the vacation schemes give candidates opportunities to shine in different situations.

What can candidates expect during the vacation scheme?

You do activities that a real trainee would be doing – working with your supervising partner and trainee “buddy”, attending client meetings, sitting in on conference calls and drafting transaction documents. There are also roundtables with our managing partner and heads of different departments so that vacation schemers can ask questions and gain as much insight into the firm as possible. In addition, our learning and development team runs skills sessions covering tasks such as negotiation and drafting.

How are vacation scheme participants assessed?

Feedback on candidates from partner supervisors and other colleagues is key when we are deciding on training contract offers. Candidates take part in a group exercise which they are assessed on, and the week culminates with an interview for a training contract with two partners.  

First Step, our scheme for first years is a great chance for candidates to come in and experience working in the firm at an early stage, and for us to make a note of students who do well so that we remember them if they apply in future.

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

In an application, good writing skills are always essentials. Clear, concise, well written and typo-free answers demonstrating excellent communication skills and attention to detail that trainees need. We are also looking for evidence of commercial awareness, drive and determination, and experience of teamwork.

Should candidates include their non-legal work experience in applications?

Definitely. We won’t discriminate on what type of work experience you have. I would give as much consideration to a vacation scheme applicant who worked in a restaurant to that of someone who had some legal work experience, as it all comes down to the transferable and interpersonal skills you’ve gained in each role. The key is being able to demonstrate how the skills you’ve gained are relevant to the role you are applying for, and essentially, why they would make you a good lawyer.

Legal work experience is more important for direct training contract applicants, rather than those applying for the vacation scheme, as we want to see that you have explored the legal industry and decided this is the career you definitely want to pursue.

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

Answers that have been copied and pasted, and that are really generic – it’s such a shame! It takes a lot of time to get an application to the standard it needs to be to stand out. We receive 2,500–3,000 applications a year, so it is very competitive.

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?

Researching the firm and tailoring your application are why it takes so much time to submit something good enough. That doesn’t mean regurgitating information about the firm back to us; instead, look at the sectors we focus in and research our partners and clients. What interests you about Norton Rose Fulbright and how does that apply to you? Tell us why you want build your career here, not what we do.

Will you still be attending university law fairs in the autumn term?

The graduate recruitment team, plus our trainees and associates, will be visiting around 20 universities to attend law fairs over the autumn. We will also be holding skills sessions on campus on topics such as applications and networking, as well as events such as dinners and drinks receptions with our partners, so students get to know us and ask questions. Early social interactions can make a real difference, as we remember the candidates we’ve met – especially those who make a great impression.

Before speaking to you at a law fair, how much should a candidate have researched the firm? Is it different for first years compared to second and third years?

It depends what you want to get out of the conversation. Second and third-year students looking to apply for our vacation schemes should do some preparation so that they can gain more valuable insights that may improve their applications and confirm whether Norton Rose Fulbright is right for them. We give first years who are starting out a bit more of the benefit of the doubt!

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career at Norton Rose Fulbright?

It bears repeating – it is essential to learn as much as you can about the firm before  you apply. Any candidate making an application should know that we are a growing global firm with high expectations of our lawyers. That said, this is a rewarding place to work and we value the fact that our people have lives outside of work. While you work hard, you will also be encouraged to pursue your wider interests.

What is your dream job (other than this one!)?

It’s a bit random, but I would be a high-end special effects and stage makeup artist working in either the theatrical or TV and film industry. That or a dermatologist – I am very interested in people’s faces and the science behind good skincare!