Samantha Hope (she/her) is head of attraction and recruitment for trainee solicitors at Shoosmiths.
My most memorable moments have been accepting several awards, in particular the LawCareers.Net awards. We received the LawCareers.Net Training & Recruitment award for ‘best recruiter – national/large regional firm’ in 2020 and 2019. It is rewarding to mark the work that the whole team and firm is doing to provide an excellent training experience.
The firm runs a summer vacation scheme, which we’re hoping will be in-person during the 2021-22 recruitment year. We think it’s important for candidates to experience in-person schemes where they can to ensure they are getting the most out of the experience and are being exposed to the office environment. However, virtual meetings, webinars and working will feature more prominently in all our working lives from now on, so it’s important that virtual working is also a skill you develop early in your career.
Vacation schemes are important for candidates to confirm that a career in a commercial law firm is the right path for them. Our training contract offers are made to a mixture of vacation schemers and direct training contract applicants. We don’t have a target in terms of how many places we offer to vacation schemers. Instead, both sets of candidates come through the same assessment centre process, and those who perform the best, and show the most potential are the ones who will receive the job offers.
We want candidates to do as much real-life work as possible. This might involve researching, extracting information and writing summary notes which will then be used by a partner during their discussions with a client. There might also be opportunities to learn something new, and deliver as a short training session to the team – something we expect our trainee solicitors to do on an ongoing basis anyway.
There is also some project work, which offers candidates the chance to show off their creative skills, business acumen and marketing ideas, as these are skills that feature heavily in a lawyer’s role in a forward-thinking firm like Shoosmiths.
It’s important that candidates can show that they’re driven. We want trainee solicitors who can complete work competently themselves to a deadline, but also who have the desire and inquisitive nature to want more work (and more complicated work) to develop quickly both professionally and personally. Confidently taking responsibility for your own learning is something you should be prepared to do but much of this confidence will come with practise over time.
If you’re applying for a training contract, it is important that you apply yourself 100% to the application. We often see candidates trying to submit last-minute applications, which means they’re unable to provide enough information or demonstrate that they’ve done their research.
However, even top candidates who have completed the appropriate research and are applying themselves can let themselves down, this is usually because they don’t apply what they’re talking about to how that’s going to make them a better solicitor in the future. Break answers down to include what happened, what your role was, what things you learnt, and how that experience and skills gained will apply to your future role of a trainee solicitor (and make you a great one!).
We want to see all examples of work experience – legal, non-legal and volunteering. Candidates should talk about any experience they have had that will shape them as a person, their experiences and skills, and enable them to become a better solicitor in the future.
As a UK-based firm with so many offices, candidates must know which office location they’re interested in and the areas of law that are practised within that office. This will be quite personal to each candidate – there is no right or wrong answer – but candidates must be confident in the decisions they’re making.
Candidates should also have an idea of a few practice areas they are interested in and a real understanding of what happens within those areas. But don’t worry, the training experience is all about finding out exactly which area of law you want to practise in long term.
Understanding how a law firm operates as a business and how it interacts with other businesses and clients is crucial. If a candidate hasn’t dedicated any time to thinking about the business side of being a lawyer and the ways that lawyers can be innovative to retain and bring in clients, their application is unlikely to be successful.
A lot of this understanding will come from research, experience, including vacation schemes and more recently engaging with videos and webinars.
Events like LawCareersNetLIVE are excellent for candidates who want to develop their commercial awareness, and ensure they can talk confidently about current topics.
The firm was already working in an incredibly flexible way. We already had the ability for home working so when the government advised working from home, we were in a really good position to adapt.
In terms of the graduate recruitment team, all of our events moved online, including our assessment centre and vacation scheme. We already had a big presence on social media and online which meant we could quickly adapt to the changes brought about by the pandemic. It does feel like things are starting to go back to normal with people popping in and out of the office. That said, the firm is committed to the flexible way of working and we are being encouraged to work from home and only go in where it’s a requirement (eg, for themselves or for work).
It’s great to be part of a team that is continuing to see the benefits of a more flexible way of working.
Our diary is full of events over the next couple of months and they’re all virtual so far, apart from LawCareersNetLIVE Manchester on Friday 26 November which we’re excited to attend in person! It is important for us to attend these events to meet future lawyers and give them a chance to learn more about Shoosmiths.
Our main objective when attending a law fair is to provide knowledge and educate candidates on what Shoosmiths can offer candidates.
I would encourage candidates to effectively use the information that they can find online. Since covid-19, there is so much more information available – whether that’s in the form of a video, webinar, podcast or online profile. Insights into the firm are very accessible, so soak up the knowledge and think about which direction you want to take your career. Once a candidate has chosen a firm, the decision making doesn’t stop there; they need to think about office locations, practice areas and the type of lawyer they want to be. For example, how can your personal interests lend themselves into a career at your chosen firm? There’s nothing better than finding a career where your side interests can play a part.
I recently signed up to a subscription box called ‘Oh Hello Maker’. Each month you receive a different craft to learn, so recently I received a box to make a macramé plant hanger, some autumn candles, and most recently I’m making patterns using lino to print onto linen. It’s nice to have something to do for myself but it’s particularly fulfilling because I get a product at the end which I can then use in the home.