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Meet the recruiter

Joanna Clark

Joanna Clark

Joanna Clark is the recruitment executive at Winckworth Sherwood. She is based at the London Bridge office and joined the firm in February 2015.

How did you end up in law?

I had been working as a graduate recruiter in consulting and banking, and felt like a change of industry. I was approached about this role and thought it sounded interesting as it was a mix of graduate and lateral recruitment, which is often difficult to find. I had my first interview and was very impressed by the culture of the firm and the high-profile work. The location right on the river by Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market is wonderful too!

What are the most/least enjoyable aspects of recruiting?

I really enjoy interviewing prospective trainees. On paper they all have similar academics and work experience, but in person they are very different. It is fascinating hearing their stories. I have met some real characters!

It is difficult telling candidates that they have not been offered a training contract, especially if you have got to know them during the vacation scheme or if they are an internal candidate.

What is the biggest challenge of the job?

Reading hundreds of applications can be quite challenging, but I like to provide a personal touch. We don’t filter out any applications; I look at each application as a whole. I often get feedback from candidates saying that they like the fact that I take the time to do face-to-face interviews. I think this sets us apart from other firms that do video or telephone interviews at first round, which can be impersonal. We have a very friendly culture and I like candidates to see that!

What has been your most memorable moment in the job?

I interviewed a candidate recently and in answer to one of my questions he told me about how he had saved a man’s life, but then got a call from the police a couple of days later to say he had died.

He then pulled out a letter from his jacket pocket and asked me to read it. It was from the man’s parents thanking him for saving their son’s life, saying they will never forget his kindness and that his parents should be very proud of him. It brought a tear to my eye.

Do you socialise with your trainees/vac scheme students?

I attend the Southwark walking tour (run by our very own guide Daniella) at the end of the vac scheme, which is always a fun afternoon. I tend to let the vac scheme students socialise with the trainees as it is not relaxing for them to have HR ‘assessing’ them all the time!

What are you trying to achieve at law fairs?

We want to engage with candidates and tell them about our diverse practice areas and the high-profile projects we are working on. Not many firms can say they have parliamentary and ecclesiastical practices!

I also like to speak to candidates about the incredible training we can offer – sharing an office with a partner means trainees are given real responsibility from day one and can learn from the best in their field.

What's the best question you’ve been asked at a fair?

One of our trainees was asked at a law fair how he thought social housing would be funded going forwards. This showed very good commercial awareness, as this is one of our key practice areas. Generally, candidates who ask questions about big deals we are working on impress us as they have clearly done their research.

How important is your vacation scheme as part of the recruitment process?

Our vacation scheme is an important part of the trainee recruitment process and candidates are assessed during their time with us and will have a partner interview at the end of their two weeks. Our open day is just as important though, so if you cannot commit to two weeks with us you are just as likely to get a training contract if you perform well during this assessment day.

What is the most common mistake you see candidates making, apart from the obvious typos?

A lot of candidates do not explain why they want to work for Winckworth Sherwood rather than any other law firm. We are a full-service firm with some quirky practice areas, so it is really important to work out why you would be suited to us and what you can bring to the firm.

What are the attributes you look for in a trainee that are particularly suited to your firm?

A lot of our partners (17%) trained at the firm and we are very proud of this fact. We look for trainees who are driven, inquisitive and have an interest in the many different areas of law that we practice, but also a real commitment to furthering their career with us. We also have an extensive CSR programme here, so candidates who show a passion for pro bono work will fit in well.

Have you got examples of candidates citing improbable activities or experiences to demonstrate skills relevant to becoming a lawyer?

Nothing unusual comes to mind, but I would emphasise the fact that we value all kinds of work experience. Last year I interviewed several candidates who had no previous legal work experience at all; provided you have good work experience and can tell me about the skills you have gained and how they are transferable to law, don’t hesitate to apply.

What is the biggest challenge facing would-be lawyers today?

Technological developments both inside and outside the legal industry, and an understanding of how they will affect the way in which legal advice is provided and the nature of roles within the profession.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of joining the legal profession?

Make sure that you really research the firms you are applying to. There are so many different firms out there in terms of size, culture and practice area, so it is important to think about what you want and which firm can give you this. 

Which practice areas are the real core of the firm’s business and will this change?

The core of our business is not so much a particular practice area, but rather our core focus and approach to client relationship management, so in this respect it will not change. We have a very diverse practice, more so than most law firms, including a broad real estate group, leading parliamentary agency, private client and family teams, and not-for-profit and charity focus. However, our clients all receive the same level of service excellence and in-depth market expertise.

What's your desert island disc?

Being Scottish it would have to be “Flower of Scotland” as it reminds me of the excitement of the Six Nations each year!