Norton Rose Fulbright

Gemma Barns
Norton Rose Fulbright

Norton Rose Fulbright

Gemma Barns is a senior graduate recruitment adviser at Norton Rose Fulbright, based in London. She has been at the firm for two years. 

How did you end up in law?

I have now worked in legal graduate recruitment for seven years. My degree was in accountancy; although I realised at the end of it that I didn’t want to be an accountant, I had really enjoyed the HR modules and knew that was where I was headed. I secured an entry-level graduate recruitment role at a law firm, and I haven’t looked back since.

What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?

The most enjoyable aspect is the amount of creativity that I get to use, coming up with new and different ways to ensure we stand out, and attract a broad range of students. I also love having the chance to work with candidates from a huge variety of backgrounds.

The least enjoyable aspect is the number of excellent candidates that we meet, but who we can’t offer opportunities to due to how competitive the industry is. However, we make sure that we provide constructive feedback to those who do not progress beyond our assessment centre. It is key to help them stay motivated and better understand why they may not have been successful with us, and look at how they can develop to ensure success in the future. 

What is the biggest challenge of the job?

Trying to meet as many people as possible; we never have enough time or resources, especially as during the milk round we try to get to as many different universities as we can.

What has been your most memorable moment in the job?

We run a competition called the GP Challenge with McLaren Honda, our global corporate partners. The winning team goes on a visit to the McLaren Honda Technology Centre. Last year I went along with them and it was an incredible opportunity to see what an amazing place it is – as well as celebrate with the winners! 

Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?

We definitely do; it’s so important to get to know the vac scheme students and trainees in an informal setting. Everyone works very hard, from the students on the scheme to the trainees who have both full-time jobs and buddy responsibilities, so it’s nice to just get together and relax.

What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?

We are able to meet a high volume of people in a short space of time, so we want to get our message across to them, as well as help them at an early stage of the process identify their shortlist of firms. A lot of what we want to achieve centres on helping students make an informed decision about where is best suited to them.  

What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?

There’s not a specific question, but any targeted questions that show a candidate knows a bit about us as a firm and wants to know more are well received. We want tailored questions, especially those that are directed appropriately to different members of the team, such as specifically for graduate recruitment or the trainees. I’m also impressed by people who have read something that day about us and want to talk about it. 

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

We recruit about 50% from the scheme, so it’s certainly not compulsory to have done it – everyone has their own route to follow and we are respectful of that. However, for those students on the scheme, it is their opportunity to shine, and show their ambition and commitment to Norton Rose Fulbright – we want them to put their all into it! We have a full support network while they’re here, including a trainee mentor, supervisor and access to the grad rec team. We want each person to come away knowing who we are, why we’re different and whether we’re the right firm for him/her.

What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?

Submitting generic applications – candidates need to show that they’ve done their research, and highlight why they’re interested in a legal career specifically at Norton Rose Fulbright.

What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?

We want commercially focused individuals with international mind sets, who are also strong communicators and able to think differently. Our firm values are quality, unity and integrity, so we will be looking for people to perform well at our assessment centres with those core values in mind.

What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?

The legal profession is constantly changing – it’s a very exciting time for students to be embarking on this career path. Artificial intelligence is a particularly hot topic at the moment, so make sure you’re thinking about related issues and how they might affect the legal sector and your career. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?

Talk to as many different people as possible and start developing your network now – ask questions of everyone you meet at firm drinks, law fairs and open days. It’s an invaluable chance to learn from those who are already in the role you aspire to. 

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

Social worker.

What's your guilty pleasure?

X Factor. Every year I watch the auditions and get hooked! 

What's your desert island disc?

Dire Straits greatest hits album.

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