Slaughter and May
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Grace Parkinson is a trainee recruitment adviser at Slaughter and May. She has been at the firm for 11 years.
How did you end up in law?
I joined Slaughters when I was 18 years old as a legal secretary, not knowing much about the firm, the magic circle or the profession generally! I moved into the graduate recruitment team about eight years ago and have never looked back. I love meeting people, and planning and organising events.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
The sheer variety, and amount, of people we meet is what I love the most. That includes first year students who have only been at university for a matter of weeks through to career changers – everyone has an interesting story to tell and a unique route to law; there’s no right or wrong path to law. In addition to students, we also work closely with university careers services, law faculties, and external organisations we work with plus partners and business services staff at the firm, so a real range of people!
I also like that things run on a cyclical basis, because you know what’s coming up. Having said that, we often plan very far in advance, so it can be hard to keep track of everything, especially when you’re operating two or three years in advance. Managing the thousands of applications that come in, often whilst we’re out and about on campus, can be daunting – but we always get through them!
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
Over the last couple of years, we’ve been running more diversity focused events together with the diversity and inclusion team. We also recently ran a student event that focused on our Africa practice, which was the first time we’d done that – we weren’t sure how popular it would be, and then received hundreds of responses within hours of publicising it! It went really well and gave us the opportunity to promote an area of the firm that’s not that very well known.
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
We run welcome drinks on the first evening of the vacation scheme and a drop-in breakfast half way through, where the recruitment partners, associates, trainees and the team are invited. The other social events tend to just involve the lawyers, as they’re the people that the students really want to talk to! But we are on hand for anything else they might need throughout the scheme. We’ve also introduced a day trip to the Brussels office, which is a nice opportunity for us to get to know the students in an informal setting, plus do some sightseeing!
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
They are a great opportunity for us to meet a huge range and number of students, and give them an insight into the firm. It’s also a chance to hear about and challenge some of the common misconceptions that students have about Slaughters; most find that when they meet us, we’re actually very friendly and down to earth.
For students, my advice is to do some research before you come along to a fair and have a few good questions, the answers to which you couldn’t find by just looking on our website or in the brochure. There’s nothing worse than people coming along and asking about our family law practice! You need to have a bit of an idea about what we do as a firm, and think about what you want to learn more about.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
We have several different placement opportunities, including open days for first years, formal vacation schemes for second years, and workshops for final year students and graduates. They’re a great way for students to get to know us, and us to know them, but we are also aware that it is competitive, so it’s certainly not the only way to get a training contract with us; it is possible to prove that you’re committed to the firm and the career in other ways.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
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 advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
Do your research and find out exactly what life as a solicitor entails – if your heart’s not in it, you may find the demands of the job hard. Try to get some experience and/or speak to those already in the profession to get an insight into what it’s like day to day. Make sure it is definitely what you want to do before you go further down the route; it is a huge commitment in terms of both time and money.
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!View Slaughter and May's details