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Sarah Harte is the graduate recruitment officer at Taylor Wessing. She is based in the London office and has been at the firm for nearly three years.
How did you end up in law?
I moved into my career in HR after graduating with a psychology degree. My first taste of HR was on an internship at a bank and since then I have worked in graduate recruitment roles in a range of different industries. Although I’m a relative newbie to law, I’ve always had an interest in the profession and law was one of the first professions suggested when talking to peers about my next career move.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
Graduate recruitment is a really rewarding role because of the great relationships you form. We get to know candidates at very early stages of their careers, some of them on campus or even at school, so it’s especially great to see people get the training contracts that they have wanted for so long and then go on to thrive at the firm.
Probably all graduate recruiters will tell you that it’s never nice to tell candidates that they have missed out – often people have worked hard and done well, but the process is really competitive.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
The graduate recruitment calendar is action packed – we have to get our message and brand across in various ways, and the challenge is to keep on top of everything!
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
I started at Taylor Wessing just as this year’s summer vacation scheme began, so those vac schemers and I went on a bit of a journey together. I formed some good relationships early on – we were all new together and by the end of the two weeks had really integrated into the firm – and it has since been great to offer training contracts to some of those candidates.
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
Taylor Wessing is a very people-focused, social firm – we have a fantastic roof terrace which we get lots of use out of, particularly in the summer. We also put on plenty of social events such as quiz nights and winter parties.
We run four socials over the course of the vacation scheme, two of which are firm wide and two of which are with our current trainees. There is always a lot going on.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
Law fairs are a great opportunity to raise awareness among candidates of what makes us unique. Our firm has a great culture, but websites and recruitment literature are not necessarily the best mediums in which to get that side of things across. That’s why it’s so important to give candidates the opportunity to have proper conversations with people from the firm to understand why we describe ourselves as trail blazing.
It is also an opportunity for us to meet strong candidates and keep in touch with anyone who is really impressive.
What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?
Rather than use a single question as an example, I would simply advise making sure that you familiarise yourself with the employers that are going to be present at the fair before you attend. The number of law firms can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, so it is good to do some prior research and make a checklist of those that particularly interest you. This will also enable you to ask more interesting questions about the firm’s practice areas, clients and so on.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
We do make a good proportion of our training contract offers to those who come through our vacation scheme. It is important to get to know the firm and whether it’s right for you, while your time with us on the vacation scheme also lets you experience the kind of work that you would be doing as a trainee. This obviously helps us to decide, with greater certainty, which candidates should be offered training contracts.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
Some candidates need to think more deeply about what each question on the application form is asking – every question is there for a reason. You also need to make sure that you not only answer the question, but do so in a clear and concise way; bear in mind the word limit!
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
We don’t have a set preconception of what a Taylor Wessing trainee should be. We want to have a range of different personalities and backgrounds at the firm. That said, teamwork skills are obviously very important, so make sure to provide examples that demonstrate this if you apply. Commercial aptitude is also crucial because our solicitors are also business advisers to their clients.
Have you got examples of candidates citing improbable activities or experiences to demonstrate skills relevant to becoming a lawyer?
I’ve seen a whole range of interesting activities being written about in candidates’ applications and I think that’s fantastic. There are all kinds of university societies you can join now – I have even seen quidditch being cited. I would just emphasise the importance of making sure that whatever you put in your application demonstrates your suitability for the role in some way. If you can show how an experience, activity or hobby demonstrates the kind of skills that we are looking for, then brilliant.
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
The number of applications we receive is increasing, so the competition for places and the resultant pressure to make your application stand out is really challenging.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
Be proud of your wider experiences and interests – we are not looking for people who realised they wanted to become lawyers at the age of three. Legal work experience is important, but we want diversity and balance in the individuals we recruit.
Which practice areas are the real core of the firm’s business and will this change?
Taylor Wessing is a full-service firm with a range of award-winning practice areas. We are also a forward-thinking firm and our technology, media and science-based practices particularly reflect that.
What is one key fact that candidates should know about your firm?
Make sure you familiarise yourself with the basics, including our development paths and what about them appeals to you.
What's your desert island disc?
“Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks.View Taylor Wessing's details