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Meet the recruiter

Grace Powell

Grace Powell

Grace Powell is a trainee recruitment adviser at Slaughter and May. She has been at the firm for 13 years, having joined as a legal secretary straight from school.

How has Slaughter and May’s vacation scheme programme adapted to the reality of covid-19?

We usually run a one-week Easter work experience scheme and three week-long schemes throughout the summer. This year’s Easter scheme had to be cancelled as it coincided with the first weeks of lockdown – all our teams were adapting to the new situation and the timeframe was too tight to ensure that candidates would be getting the valuable experience that we want to provide. Fortunately, we were able to offer places on the new virtual summer scheme to all the Easter scheme candidates.

The three virtual schemes have been a real success! The format changed to one week rather than three weeks and the schemes ran using the InsideSherpa platform. There has been involvement from people across the firm acting as supervisors and trainee buddies, recording videos and delivering live training sessions, trainee tasks and feedback. These live sessions are supported by a bank of resources that candidates can access, including videos about different aspects of the firm, from the various practice groups, to the firm’s international approach to client service, to our diversity networks. The aim is to encapsulate as much of the experience of attending an in-person scheme as possible, so there is also a social aspect with lunch sessions with trainees and virtual coffees with partners and associates over Teams, as well as other opportunities to network informally including a virtual escape room, an open forum and networking bingo, which was really fun.

What are the firm’s plans for vacation schemes and open days in 2020-21?

We’ll continue running our winter workshops, first-year open days and Easter and summer work experience schemes. While the winter workshops will run virtually, it is too early to confirm the format of the 2021 programmes. This will, of course, depend on covid-19 and the rules around social distancing.  However, if we do need to run schemes virtually again, we know how to make them a success.

Can candidates apply directly for a training contract or is it necessary to attend the vacation scheme?

You don’t need to complete work experience to secure a training contract with us – lots of our trainees apply directly. We treat candidates the same whether they are applying directly or coming through the scheme. The work experience scheme itself is not assessed – it is all about the experience and ensuring candidates can make the most out of the opportunity to find out about the firm and what lawyers do.

Will Slaughter and May be at virtual law fairs this autumn?

Yes, we are attending the AllAboutLaw and Legal Cheek virtual law fairs, and we are also planning a series of virtual firm presentations which will be open to everyone.

What advice do you have for students who will be attending a virtual vacation scheme or event?

Be sure to approach a virtual event in the same professional manner as you would if it was in-person. That means thinking about what you want to find out about the firm and what you want to get out of the experience, and doing your research. Don’t worry if something goes wrong with your internet connection though – it is bound to happen at some point in this ‘new normal’ that we are all experiencing.

Is the firm changing the size of its trainee cohort in response to covid-19?

It is business as usual in terms of our trainee recruitment. We haven’t reduced the size of our trainee cohort as a result of covid-19. We take a long-term view as our trainees are our future partners!

What should candidates focus on in their applications?

Tailor your application to us; we know you might be making multiple applications, but we want to see that you have taken the time to research the firm and that you genuinely want to work here. Don’t just roll out applications for the sake of it!

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

We don’t have a type here; everyone is different, coming from a range of universities, and with different degrees and personalities. Strong academics are important but, beyond that, we want to see enthusiasm, a commitment to the job, and an ability to get on well with others. Every application will be considered and reviewed on an individual basis. We work with Rare Recruitment and use their contextual recruitment system, which takes into account a candidate’s background and other factors.

What is one key fact that candidates should know about your firm?

There are a few key things that set us apart: our multi-specialism approach, our international strategy, and the fact that we don’t have any billable hours targets, so being aware of those points is important – even if just as a way to start a conversation when you meet us on campus or during an interview.

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

I toyed with the idea of being a primary school teacher many years ago, but more recently, I saw an ad for a gin-taster that involved lots of international travel. That sounded great!