Rebecca McEwan - Taylor Wessing
How did you end up in law?
I was fortunate to secure an HR placement with a large company while still at university. The experience was great and confirmed that HR was a career that I really wanted to pursue. I tailored the rest of my work experiences and education around this goal and, after completing a postgraduate qualification in HR, I went on to work at a bank and then a large, national law firm.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
I really like getting to know the candidates and seeing how delighted they are upon receiving their training contract offers. We also run several events for our future trainees who have yet to commence their TCs, which ensure that we all get to know each other beforehand – it’s rewarding to see people develop as they grow more comfortable with their new colleagues.
The least enjoyable aspect of my role is having to decline candidates’ applications, particularly if we have got to know them through their time on the vacation scheme. However, I always provide full feedback to unsuccessful applicants so that they can develop and learn from the experience.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
Graduate recruitment is always very busy – it can be tough to fit in all the law fairs, vacation schemes and review the mountain of applications that we receive, but it’s a challenge that I really enjoy. All that work seems especially worthwhile when I identify a candidate who is right for us.
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
The open days that we run in November are really enjoyable. We have presentations from our managing partner and other fee earners, while we also get the student attendees involved in a mini commercial challenge, with the winners getting a week’s paid work experience at the firm. The prize is very valuable as two of last year’s winners were actually offered training contracts after completing their week-long placements and attending an assessment day.
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
Taylor Wessing has a really sociable culture and we run a number of firm-wide events throughout the year, such as the quarterly awards which recognise people’s achievements, our quiz night and our Christmas party, plus our future joiner and trainee events.
We also run four social events for our vac schemers during their time with us; two that are firm wide and another two that are attended by trainees. I don’t go to the trainee-only socials, as this is a great opportunity for vac scheme students to talk frankly about the firm with our current trainees and ask questions about what life at Taylor Wessing is really like.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
Law fairs are a really great mutual opportunity for firms and students; we are trying to raise awareness of Taylor Wessing and get our message across, but a law fair also presents the chance for students to ask us what they want to know about the firm, from which they can start to decide if they would like to apply for a training contract or go on our summer placement scheme. A large number of our applicants cite their meetings with solicitors and recruiters at law fairs as a key point at which they started to consider a career with us.
What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?
I was approached by one student at a law fair who had a folder in which he had formulated a list of questions to ask us. He addressed his recruitment questions to me, but he also had strategic questions which he directed to the partner that was also attending the law fair. We were both really impressed by that student’s knowledge and, importantly, the level of research that he had clearly conducted.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
The vacation scheme is such a valuable way for both parties to get to know each other in a realistic working environment, so it’s a really important part of the recruitment process. Diligent candidates find the vac scheme to be a great help in making an informed decision. It’s also great for us – Taylor Wessing has a high acceptance rate on training contract applications from people who have been on the summer placement.
My own experience of starting my career is also part of the reason that I feel summer placement schemes are so important; my time on a summer placement inspired my decision to pursue a career in HR and really helped me on my way.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
The most common mistake that I see is a failure on the part of candidates to fully understand the firm to which they are applying – a weakness that comes down to a lack of thorough research. Some applicants feel that they can use stock phrases – which could apply to any firm – in their applications; this is not advisable. It’s always apparent when a candidate uses these clichés to try to mask a lack of research. When making an application, you should learn about your chosen firm to a good level of detail.
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
We hire people with a range of different personalities and backgrounds, but all our candidates need to have good team-working skills and the ability to use the law to provide strong commercial advice. Most importantly, we look for people who really want to work specifically at Taylor Wessing.
Have you got examples of candidates citing improbable activities or experiences to demonstrate skills relevant to becoming a lawyer?
All work experience is valuable. Obviously legal work experience is very important, but any other experiences that are commercial in nature can also be particularly worthwhile when applying to a firm like Taylor Wessing. A lot of key, transferable skills can be gained from most work experiences; it all depends on how the applicant approached the job and what they did in that period – you need to be able to demonstrate that you have made the most of your time. You can develop commercial awareness, time management and team working skills in a variety of roles.
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
The competition for vacation schemes and training contracts is a real – but not impossible – challenge.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
As I have mentioned, make sure to research the firms to which you might apply and also learn as much as possible about what the life of a solicitor is really like.
Which practice areas are the real core of the firm’s business?
Taylor Wessing is a full-service firm that divides its practice areas and different teams along the lines of our clients’ industries; this allows us to provide highly tailored, practical commercial advice to our clients that reflects the challenges that they face. As a forward-thinking firm, we have directed a lot of focus to emerging industries such as new technologies and media, as well as the sciences and energy.
What is one key fact that candidates should know about your firm?
I would always expect a candidate to have an accurate picture of Taylor Wessing as a full-service international firm with 23 offices worldwide. Applicants will also benefit from knowing the advantages of our training model; we have a small intake, so trainees are aided in their development through great exposure to responsibility and high-quality work.
What is your dream job (other than this one!)?
I actually really enjoy my job and, right now, there is no place I would rather be.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate, definitely – thankfully the firm’s in-house restaurant has a good supply, so I can stock up any time!
What's your desert island disc?
You may think it’s not cool, but I’m a big fan of Pink!View Taylor Wessing's details