Spotting the difference

As we near the end of the on campus season nearly all recruiters will be breathing a sigh of relief. I’ve personally stayed in 16 hotels, taken 31 trains, 2 flights, countless taxis, broken one suitcase (happened on the first day of my travels – typical!), and probably eaten a few too many canapés.

Victoria Wisson

Victoria Wisson

It’s certainly been a busy season, with an ambitious 66 events across 23 universities organised and attended by various members of the Linklaters’ Graduate Recruitment Team. Reflecting back it’s also been a very successful season, and I’ve been very pleased with the calibre and willingness shown by nearly everyone I’ve met. (Regarding ‘willingness’ my thanks goes out to all those who partook in my ‘compulsory fun’ session on our Open Days this season – you know who you are!)

In terms of general trends I’ve noted a few that there’s a good awareness about how competitive vacation schemes and training contracts are. (Although I did hear a story from one recruiter last week that someone actually asked her if they needed to have an interview for a vacation scheme?!) There seems to be an acknowledgement that serious research has to be done, although I know many are still finding it hard to differentiate between firms. And I agree, it can be incredibly hard to differentiate as we do all the same things regarding great work, support, training and opportunities. I think the key to understanding a firm and picking the right one for you probably revolves around three points:

a. Research.

This is incredibly important, and there can be no better starting point than publications like The Lawyer, Lawyer 2B, Chambers Student Guide, Lex 100 etc. From these you can start to understand what opportunities actually exist e.g. are there enough international seats for everyone / how competitive are they? What kind of work will you be exposed to? Will you be given early responsibility? You will also start to be able to differentiate between strategies of firms e.g. growth strategies, tackling the recession etc. All really important as you begin to fathom what kind of firm you want – boutique, city, global, regional etc.

b. Culture and People.

A lot about choosing a workplace comes down to its people and culture. As a law firm we don’t make a product like some of our clients. We don’t sell cars or widgets, or planes or clothes. Our product is our people. Our people give advice to our clients, good advice which keeps them returning. Our people build rapport and relationships with our clients, which establishes loyalty and trust. Finally, the people you work with will be what makes the job enjoyable. So go out and meet as many people from as many firms as you can and make sure you feel comfortable and happy with them.

c. Gut instinct.

Many of you that I’ve met will have heard me say this before but it really is true. Choosing a firm is very much like choosing a university. Some aren’t for everyone and you’ll get a feel as to which ones instinctively call to you. Trust your instincts and take the plunge.

Many of you will now be at the stage of accepting Winter Vacation Schemes and after Christmas the offers for Summer Vacation schemes will be made too. Make sure you are doing as much research as possible into the firms you are applying to, not only will it help with the dreaded “Why our Firm?” question in the interviews but it should ensure that you have a really good experience on your vacation scheme or training contract too. If you really can’t decide between two firms that have offered you, then ask them if you can pop in for a coffee or spend an afternoon shadowing a trainee – after all, if they really want you to join them they’ll want you to be sure you have made the right decision.