Slaughter and May
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Janine Arnold is the trainee recruitment manager at Slaughter and May’s London office.
How did you end up in law?
I studied law at undergraduate level and enjoyed the subject and the legal work experience that I did, but ultimately I realised that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I got a job temping at Slaughter and May straight after university and ended up in the graduate recruitment team. My role grew from there and I’ve now been here over 15 years.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
After all these years, I still really enjoy meeting the students and find it rewarding to see someone I have met on campus get through to a work experience scheme, and later get offered and accept a training contract with us.
Sometimes it can be a bit daunting to come back after Christmas and find 500 applications to review, but it’s part of the job and a very important one at that!
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
We are always planning far ahead and there is never a quiet moment, so the biggest challenge is to effectively juggle our various priorities.
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
There are many to choose from. We were one of the first law firms to put on a graduate recruitment webinar and this was particularly memorable for its live Q&A session. We had no idea how many students would be watching and if we would get any questions through at all. Sitting in a studio with all the lights and cameras while watching your laptop waiting for questions to pop up was nerve-wracking, but thankfully it turned out to be a real success with lots of live viewer engagement and plenty of downloads afterwards.
Do you socialise with your vac scheme students?
We always have a welcome event for the work experience students which the trainee recruitment team attend, and we arrange drop-in breakfast and lunch during the scheme. It is important that we are approachable and that the students feel they can come to us if they have any questions or requests. However, the social events are primarily for them to interact with the lawyers and not to feel like they’re being assessed, which they may do if we attend. It’s all part of allowing them to find out if this is the firm for them.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
Law fairs are a good way for us to meet a large number of students at one time and to check that what we’re doing is still appropriate to them as a group. It’s great to have the chance to talk to people face to face. That’s especially useful when you’re fighting against certain stereotypes and presumptions about the firm. Some students seem surprised to realise we’re actually very friendly and normal!
In the last couple of years I have noticed a lot more first years coming to law fairs. It is impressive to see them engaging so early and it makes sense, as there is a lot of information to take in and there are now more opportunities available to first years. However, I would encourage students to consider their approach at law fairs. To get the most out of meeting law firms, it is necessary to have done some research in advance. This enables you to ask more insightful questions, rather than get information that you could have just learned by browsing our website or reading our brochure.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
While our work experience schemes offer valuable experience and give students a good insight into Slaughter and May and life as a City lawyer, it is certainly not necessary to have completed work experience at the firm in order to secure a training contract with us.
We recruit a large number of trainee solicitors who have not completed work experience with us, including candidates who were not made an offer following a summer scheme interview. Students shouldn’t be put off applying to us for a training contract if they didn’t secure work experience with us.
Our view is that a lot can change between the time a candidate interviews for work experience and when they apply for a training contract. For many, the work experience interview is the first proper interview that they have had, so they do not always perform as well as we would hope at this stage.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
General sloppiness lets candidates down most often – it creates a bad initial impression. It’s usually easy to tell when a candidate has written a generic covering letter to send to multiple firms because the letter is either too general or gets the key facts wrong.
Another thing to avoid is regurgitating the brochure. Don’t just present facts about the firm back to us – we know! It’s a different matter if you’re engaging with those facts to explain why they are important to you specifically and why you think you would be a good match for the firm.
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
We are looking for people with strong academic grades, so that’s a high 2.1. While we look for some consistency with grades, there is no automated filtering process and we understand that candidates may have the occasional blip in their grades and make allowances for this. There is no set type we’re looking for – there are a range of characters within the firm and that’s important to us. However, there are certain common traits; common sense, commercial aptitude, analytical skills, enthusiasm, resilience and initiative.
Have you got examples of candidates citing improbable activities or experiences to demonstrate skills relevant to becoming a lawyer?
Nothing specific springs to mind and I fully believe that all employment experiences can demonstrate valuable skills and qualities, not just those gained in the legal profession. However, while a job in a supermarket, for example, demonstrates various positive qualities including the ability to manage your time between working and studying, my advice is to be realistic about your responsibilities and not to make exaggerated claims.
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
The competitiveness of the process. The standard of applications that we receive is very high, so it can be tough.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
Make sure it’s what you want and that you are passionate about it. Don’t be swept along because that’s what your friends are doing – the reality is that while it’s incredibly rewarding, working as a City solicitor is tough and can demand long hours. If you don’t genuinely enjoy what you do then you will struggle.
What's your desert island disc?
Mr Brightside by The Killers.View Slaughter and May's details