Trowers & Hamlins LLP
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Anup Vithlani is the head of graduate recruitment and development at Trowers & Hamlins LLP, based in the firm’s London office. He has been with the firm for six years.
How did you end up in law?
I actually trained and qualified as a solicitor with a commercial City law firm, before deciding that I wanted to do something different professionally. I wanted a position where no two days were the same; I got to work with a range of individuals at various levels; and I could continue to pursue my interest in the field of employment law. This naturally led me to consider positions in HR. However, having attended career presentations and law fairs; made applications to firms; participated in summer vacation schemes; and gone through a training contract/qualification process myself, I thought it would be great if I could relate my own experiences to graduates looking to enter the legal profession. That's when I concluded that the area of legal graduate recruitment and trainee development would provide me with the job satisfaction I craved in my next professional move - and, as they say, the rest is history.
What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?
The most enjoyable aspect for me is the entirety of the talent attraction, management and retention process. This commences through initially meeting with candidates who you sense are going to be 'stars' within the legal profession, and is followed on by them applying and going through our process to successfully secure a training contract with us. It is then hoped that they subsequently qualify with us and become part of our focus on 'home-grown' talent. Viewing this whole transition is extremely rewarding and provides me with a huge level of contentment.
The least enjoyable aspect without a doubt is telephoning candidates who are not going to be taken forward to the next stage after an assessment centre or an interview. No one likes giving bad news, but this is something that simply can't be avoided - it's part of the job description.
What is the biggest challenge of the job?
The biggest challenge is ensuring that 'star' candidates who have secured training contract offers from other firms end up choosing us. This is where rapport really comes into play, and I do my utmost to ensure that the candidates have all that they require from us to make a well-informed decision and that they fully understand how much they are really wanted by us.
What has been your most memorable moment in the job?
At my previous firm, a graduate sent a DVD of themself to supplement their training contract application, where they produced a five-minute film highlighting why they would make the ideal trainee. The individual certainly got 10 out of 10 for their determination, but unfortunately did not leave the lasting impression on me that they would have liked!
Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?
I most certainly do, especially since I have the credit card and therefore have to stay right until the end in order to foot the bill! No, in all honesty, the social events we hold for our summer vacation scheme students and our trainees are great fun – they all get to see me outside of the work environment and vice versa, which adds to the all-round 'human' element involved in my role.
What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?
From my perspective, law fairs provide an excellent opportunity for us to meet with potential 'star' candidates and speak to them about our firm.
From a graduate's perspective, law fairs are a fantastic way of conducting research as you get to meet with various representatives and ask focused questions to gather further information about the different firms that may not necessarily be ascertainable from their marketing resources.
What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?
I can’t pick out one particular question. However, the best questions I’ve been asked at law fairs are from graduates who have researched the firm well and who understand how we operate nationally and internationally.
How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?
Our UK summer vacation scheme programme is our primary graduate recruitment tool, as it allows us to see candidates over a two-week period (both in and outside of work) and vice versa. In terms of candidates who are successful in our graduate recruitment process, we can make a wholly informed decision about them before making an offer and they can form a rational view on us based on their actual experience before hopefully accepting our offer.
We consistently recruit really well from our summer vacation schemes every year, which goes to demonstrate its importance to us.
What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?
Not taking enough time over their application form - in my view, a decent application takes around 10 hours to produce, which consists of undertaking your research; producing a first draft of your application; proof-reading it; enhancing your first draft further (almost creating a second draft); reviewing your answers comprehensively (and making sure that you have answered the questions posed); giving it a final proof-read; and submitting it. I have lost count of the number of applications I've seen that have either not been proof-read thoroughly or have simply been a 'copy-and-paste' job (ie, the applicant is applying to us , but mentions the name of a different law firm altogether in their answers).
What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?
Excellent academics are a given, although we do give thoughtful consideration to very serious mitigating circumstances. However, we require more than just academic ability from our prospective trainees - we look for individuals who can demonstrate enthusiasm and a drive to succeed; team-working skills; resilience and strength of character; initiative and a sense of responsibility; versatility and an innovative approach; an analytical and logical mind; and excellent communication skills, combined with the ability to adapt them to your audience.
Have you got examples of candidates citing improbable activities or experiences to demonstrate skills relevant to becoming a lawyer?
I don't want to pick out a select few examples as I believe every individual has a unique set of life experiences that helps develop their character and personality. The point I would advise potential applicants on is that if they mention any particular activity/experience on their application form, they need to demonstrate the range of skills they developed/enhanced that they believe would be useful to them as a commercial solicitor.
What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?
As demonstrated in applications I have seen, it is realising that being a commercial lawyer is no longer just about providing fine legal advice. It is about being business advisers, relating to clients commercially and understanding that the law firm you are potentially looking to work for is a business looking to make a profit from the provision of its services.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?
If this is the career path you definitely wish to take, research what practice areas are of interest to you and subsequently determine the type of firm you would like to work in (eg, magic circle, silver circle, mid-sized international or mid-sized domestic).
Once you have established this, draw up a shortlist of firms you wish to apply to and ensure that the applications you submit to them are polished and demonstrate that you have given clear thought to their questions. When you are invited for interview, make sure you prepare well and get as much out of the firms as they get out of you. Remember that if you are made an offer, you need to be in a position to make a well-informed decision, and that is what everything boils down to – can you see yourself at the firm, not only as a trainee, but as a qualified solicitor and potentially a partner? If you can, you will know that you are making the right decision.
What is your dream job (other than this one!)?
I had inspirational teachers and lecturers throughout my education and have always remained appreciative of this. If I decided to do something completely different, I would be a teacher so that I could try to get the best out of students and hopefully inspire them to achieve their 'eureka' moments.
What's your guilty pleasure?
I am a massive, massive fan of Nando's - the idea of having an extra, extra hot beanie wrap with Peri-Peri chips and garlic bread is making my mouth water right now!View Trowers & Hamlins LLP's details