Rachel Chapman (she/her) is a graduate recruitment and development manager at Trowers and Hamlins LLP. She’s based in Birmingham and has been at the firm for one year.
My favourite part of the role is watching someone’s career progression, particularly after qualification. You know that you’ve done a good job and recruited the right person when you see them as a fully experienced and confident lawyer. I haven't been doing it quite long enough yet, but I’m really looking forward to the day when someone I recruited makes partner.
We run two, two-week schemes during the summer, which typically take place at the end of June and July. The schemes are held in person at each of our UK offices and we see around 50 candidates across the four-week period. At Trowers, participation in our vacation schemes is firm wide, meaning that everyone gets involved and makes a real effort to make themselves as available as possible during this time. The vacation scheme supervisors really value the importance of the scheme, often because they once completed it themselves.
We don’t exclusively hire trainees through our vacation scheme, but it’s certainly a key part of our recruitment process. Around 80% of our training contracts are offered through our summer vacation schemes. However, we recognise that not everybody can complete a vacation scheme, so we also offer a direct route but, as this number is a lot smaller, it’s an incredibly competitive route.
I recommend the vacation scheme because it offers candidates a chance to immerse themselves into the work they’d be completing as a trainee. We completely appreciate how difficult it is to express your passion and interest in law without having had any legal work experience, so the vacation scheme provides candidates with that insight.
Something that we particularly value at Trowers is someone who takes personal responsibility; we want motivated, ambitious and driven candidates who’ll take ownership and accountability of their work.
I think resilience is hugely important for emerging talent across all industries, but especially during training contracts because you’re going to make mistakes and we want people who can pick themselves up, respond well to feedback and learn from their mistakes. This ties in to having a positive attitude and being able to cope with change. You’re essentially starting a new job every six months, so it’s important that you’re flexible and can quickly adapt to working with new teams and clients.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is imperative. It’s led from the top down here; we have a senior equity partner, Sharron Webster, who’s the head of D&I and various very active steering groups whose work is all reported into our strategy board. We launched a formal equity, diversity and inclusion strategy last year which sits alongside our responsible business strategy. D&I is viewed as the responsibility of every single person in the firm and there is recognition for those who actively get involved.
We pride ourselves on having one of the best stats for female partners (44%) in the legal profession and we have both a Gender Action Plan and Race Action Plan to help us achieve our goals. Within our formal D&I strategy, there are seven key priorities, and I’m particularly actively involved in the race action element. We work with organisations such as Aspiring Solicitors and use contextual recruitment methods. For the last few years, we have also partnered with The Stephen James Partnership on their Black vacation scheme programme.
Trowers’ employee networks are also incredibly active; we have nine networks in total, one of which was established and is now chaired by one of our recent trainees.
I see people not answering the questions properly at both application and interview stage. Candidates want to prepare themselves the best they can, but sometimes this turns into them trying to make our questions fit to whatever they’ve prepared, and not answer the actual question asked.
Another common mistake is when people aren’t specific. Generic answers that aren’t backed up with evidence will always let you down – a long list of skills and qualities isn’t what we’re looking for, you’ve got to support your answers with examples and evidence.
Definitely, we recognise legal work experience is hard to obtain, especially if you're someone without connections in law. Transferable skills from non-legal work experience are always relevant, but articulating that is often the more difficult part for candidates. I strongly suggest reflecting on the work you’ve done; think about the skills you’ve developed and consider what it is the firm’s looking for. Demonstrate and articulate!
Commercial awareness is important and I think candidates often worry about what it is and how to demonstrate it. At this stage, we’re not expecting you to be the finished article; we’re looking for potential. Be reflective – you know more than you think. Commercial awareness can be incorporated into applications in different ways but, ultimately, it’s about demonstrating an interest in the business world, putting yourself in the clients’ shoes, recognising their desire for quick and cost-effective solutions and considering wider commercial matters.
In our applications we ask candidates to talk about a news story that they’re interested in, and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of picking something you’re genuinely interested in because we’ll discuss this at your interview. The best answers I’ve seen in this application section are the ones that apply it to our firm and clients, and how the news might be relevant to the work we do.
Get to know us! Attend events, research our work but also know yourself and reflect upon what you enjoy, what you’re good at and where you’re most likely to thrive. You’ll always be asked: why law, why us, and why you? Being reflective is so important in the application process and throughout your career.
Everything's changed since the pandemic and we haven't gone back to lots of individual university law fairs; our focus is on attending fairs and events with a really diverse range of candidates from as wide a range of universities as possible. Therefore, one of the best places to meet us and get to know the firm is LawCareersNetLIVE or one of our in person insight events.
It's so difficult for candidates to get under the skin of firms and understand why it's Trowers in particular that they want to join, so this is our opportunity to help you understand the firm. You can do as much desk-based research as you like, but until you actually start speaking to people and asking questions, it’s incredibly hard to fully get to know a firm. When we go to events like LawCareersNetLIVE, it’s to provide candidates with information about the firm, but also to spot potential, make a connection with a great candidate and hopefully give them insights and tools to make a strong application to us.
At a minimum, everyone should have visited our website, looked at our LCN profile and be following us on social media. We don’t expect you to know loads, but if you know the headlines of the type of firm we are and the key work we do, then you’ll stand out. Saying that, this is your opportunity to learn and get to know us, so come with good questions – really think about what you want to know and use the opportunity to speak to as many people as you can.
The distinction between year groups isn’t something we particularly focus on and we’re especially appreciative of how overwhelming everything can seem when you’re starting out. Ultimately, as a second or third year, I want to see that you’ve become more specific and targeted in your approach, rather than simply knowing you want a career in law.
I’d love to be on the stage! I have a background in the arts, I love music, I did ballet from a young age and I love the West End – I wouldn't want to be the star of the show, but I’d love to be part of the ensemble!