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Meet the recruiter

Laura Hartigan

Laura Hartigan

Laura Hartigan (she/her) is an emerging talent advisor at Shoosmiths. She’s based at the firm’s Birmingham office. 

Does your firm run a vacation scheme?

We run a one-week, in-person vacation scheme that takes place across several offices. The scheme is open to individuals at different points in their education, including students in their penultimate and final year of university (both law and non-law students) and graduates.

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

The vacation scheme is an important part of the recruitment process for us because we want people to experience what life at Shoosmiths is like. However, it’s not essential for aspiring Shoosmiths lawyers to have completed a scheme, at Shoosmiths or elsewhere, in order to secure a training contract with us.

You shouldn’t feel disheartened if you don’t secure a place on the scheme (there are only a limited number of spots available each year) because there are plenty of other opportunities to get to know Shoosmiths, including insight evenings, law fairs and panel discussions that we attend.

What kind of work can candidates expect to experience during the vacation scheme?

We offer a mix of tasks for candidates during the scheme. There’s a business-focused project and opportunities to get involved in legal technical work with a supervisor. I think the best lesson you can take away from a vacation scheme is learning how to work in a legal environment – this means you really need to make the most of the opportunities to learn from other trainees, solicitors and your supervisor. The scheme is a great way to get a feel for the kind of work you could complete as a trainee and the first-hand experience you gain is invaluable.

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

Shoosmiths looks for a variety of skills in candidates such as communication, attention to detail and collaboration. We also want to see your motivations not only for a career in law, but also a career at Shoosmiths specifically. As such, it’s important that you showcase yourself and your strengths within your application. When you have the chance to tell us about your skills, don’t tell us what you think we want to hear – be authentic because this will make for a much better application.

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

Unless you’ve already completed the Legal Practice Course, from 2023 onwards you’ll need to complete the LLM SQE1 and 2 with BPP University Law School, which is now our exclusive legal education partner. It’s a 12-month course that can be completed online or on campus, and it’s fully funded by Shoosmiths. The firm will also fund the SQE assessments for our trainees and provide a living allowance while trainees are completing the SQE.

How important is diversity and inclusion (D&I) to your firm?

As a law firm, we need to be diverse not only for our business, but also for our clients; our clients need a variety of perspectives when dealing with their work and you simply can’t offer that if your business isn’t genuinely diverse.

Our current approach to diversity is based around the following three key areas:

  • accountability;
  • opportunity; and
  • community.

This strategy is pivotal to our success as a business and the success of the people at Shoosmiths.

Our D&I team has many partnerships, including with the Black Solicitors Network and Stonewall, to ensure we have as much outreach as possible.

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

The most common way candidates let themselves down in applications is by not fully showcasing themselves. You need to make the application personal to yourself and the firm you’re applying to – authenticity is great to see in applications but is lost when you’re clearly using a template answer that’s being used to apply to other firms as well. 

To avoid these mistakes, you must take their time with the application – my advice is to split the application into sections that you complete at different points. Rushed applications naturally have a lot more errors and are more difficult to read.

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

Transferable skills can be found in a range of experiences, not just legal work so don’t worry if you haven’t got any legal experience yet. For example, you can talk about any part-time work you’ve had and whether you’re involved in any societies at university. You should provide details of the work you did, the skills you gained and how this applies to the role of a solicitor. 

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?

It’s important that we can see applicants have researched the firm – not only so we can see whether you’d work well at Shoosmiths, but also for you to identify whether we’re the right firm for you. Given the number of firms available, you must be able to explain your decision to apply to a particular firm.

When conducting research, it’s useful to get involved in as much as possible, including insights evenings and panel discussions. Events like these will make your knowledge of the firm much more specific and means you can talk from first-hand experience. A great place to start is with the firm’s values and understanding why they’re important to us as a business.

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

Commercial awareness is extremely important and will remain so throughout a solicitor’s career. The best way you can show you’re commercially aware is by demonstrating an understanding of the impacts that the current legal market has on Shoosmiths and understanding how Shoosmiths reacts.

If you’re looking for a good place to start developing your commercial awareness, the Shoosmiths podcast is great – it’s easy to listen to and provides fantastic insights, which you can then build on with your own independent research.

Does your firm run an assessment centre?

We’ve recently updated our assessment centre to be strengths based, rather than competency based. It focuses more on the individual and where their strengths lie, rather than on a candidate’s experience. The aim is to level the playing field. The assessment centre comprises five different tasks:

  • a small group task;
  • a large group task;
  • an oral presentation;
  • an interview; and
  • a written exercise.

It takes place in person and runs from around 9am to 4pm.

Does your firm attend university law fairs in the autumn term? What is your main objective when you go to a law fair?

We attend a select number of fairs to give students the opportunity to learn more about Shoosmiths and what we offer. Law fairs are a great way for you to meet firms and ask questions with plenty of time to build on your research ahead of application deadlines. As mentioned before, there are plenty of other ways to meet us if we’re not attending the law fair at your university, including online law fairs, insight evenings and LawCareersNetLIVE.

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

My best piece of advice is to be open to opportunities and experiences. For example, being able to hear first hand what it’s like to work at Shoosmiths is extremely valuable. I’d encourage everyone to do as much research as possible and attend events to meet firms before starting applications. As well as providing valuable insights to help you write a good application, attending these types of events will hopefully give you the confidence that a career at Shoosmiths is what you want. As you conduct your research, connect with people too – LinkedIn is a great place to do this. You can connect with the emerging talent team on LinkedIn, you can also follow our Instagram page @shoosmithsgrads, where you can find lots of useful information about the recruitment process and beyond!

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

For a while, I wanted to be a chef but Hell’s Kitchen put me off that idea so my dream job would probably be a baker or cake shop owner.