Amy Ruff is the acting graduate recruitment manager at Shoosmiths. She is based in the Northampton office and joined the firm in 2017.
We are looking forward to hosting our virtual insight evenings in 2021, covering each of the firm’s nine training locations so we are accessible to candidates nationwide. These are a great chance for us to meet candidates, answer their questions about the application process and for them to gain an insight into training at the firm.
We will run a summer vacation placement in 2021, but the changing circumstances of the pandemic mean that we can’t confirm whether it will take place physically or virtually. The placement will follow the same structure in either scenario – candidates will experience real work, have opportunities to network and will be set a non-law project from graduate recruitment.
This year our assessment centres took place virtually, and this is likely to be the case in 2021. Beyond this change, we remain positive about our ongoing recruitment and are hoping to continue onboarding the same number of new trainees to start in 2023.
I have been really impressed with the candidates we have met at virtual law fairs and events – students have generally been highly engaged. Just like speaking to a recruiter in person, making a good impression virtually is mostly down to confidence, so it is important to turn your camera on because you will engage with the recruiter so much more. We completely appreciate that candidates might be in their bedrooms in shared accommodation, so don’t let that put you off.
Definitely calling candidates to tell them the good news that we are offering them a training contract. Hearing people’s reactions is lovely, especially after getting to know them more during one of our assessment centres.
Of course, not everyone who makes it through to the assessment centre can be offered a training contract, so calling applicants with more disappointing news is also part of the job. However, we always set aside 20 minutes for these calls to provide candidates with detailed, constructive feedback about how they can improve, which they will hopefully find useful the next time they apply to a firm – so in a sense, those potentially difficult conversations can also be rewarding in a different way.
It is not compulsory, although I encourage anyone interested in Shoosmiths to apply for our one-week summer vacation scheme if they can, to gain a first-hand insight into life at the firm. We appreciate that some people cannot attend a vacation scheme for a variety of reasons, so we ensure that there are assessment centre places for non-vacation scheme candidates as well. There are approximately 120 places on the assessment centre and 40 on the vacation scheme, and the application form is identical whether you are applying for a place on the scheme or directly for a training contract.
Candidates gain good exposure to real work and experience day-to-day life in one of our teams. Each candidate is assigned a trainee buddy who helps show them the ropes, while partners and associates will offer feedback for each task to help the candidate get the most out of the experience.
There are also a couple of other exercises during the scheme, including a non-legal business development project and an assignment from the graduate recruitment team.
The application form focuses on competency-based questions, so specific examples and a good level of detail are important. Your examples don’t have to be taken from previous legal work experience – the core skills we are looking for can be demonstrated in almost any environment. Remember to be specific, make full use of the word count and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. For more advice about answering competency questions, have a read of my blog.
My biggest piece of advice is to continually think about why your examples are relevant to Shoosmiths. Focus on how the experience you are describing relates to the competency question. Provide details about what your responsibilities involved and tell us what you learned from the experience that would apply to life as a lawyer.
Commercial awareness is very important and we are looking for evidence of candidates’ commerciality throughout the application process, from the competency questions on the application form, to how candidates perform on the vacation scheme, to the assessment centre which is the final stage before a candidate is offered a training contract.
A crucial aspect of commercial awareness is understanding the firm’s strategy and the competitive business environment in which we operate. That means appreciating the commercial aspects of a solicitor’s role, including being on the look-out for development opportunities for the firm and its clients.
Universities provide students with information about which firms are attending law fairs, so my advice is to prepare before you go and think about who you want to speak to in advance. This way, you will be able to delve deeper and have a conversation about the firm’s strategy and culture, rather than cover basic questions which could have been answered easily in advance by spending a few minutes online.
We are very active on social media, so follow us and interact with us – it’s a great way to learn more.
I would love to be a travel writer and see the world.