Case study

Alison Peyton — Trainee recruitment marketing manager

Employer
Slaughter and May

Alison is the trainee recruitment marketing manager at Slaughter and May. Here, she discusses helpful tips when applying to the firm…

What really stands out in an application?

Our application process is very straightforward - we just ask for a CV and a cover letter, submitted through an online form.

In a good cover letter, the candidate has clearly and succinctly explained why they are interested in law and commercial law, and why they are applying to Slaughter and May. It’s also personal to them - they have provided context to the factual information provided on their CV, and have expanded on different experiences and skills to explain their clear reasons for wanting to apply to us.

A good CV is clear and concise. The academics are in chronological order, with the most recent first, and the CV is divided into different sections, so it’s easy to for the recruiter to find out all the relevant information on academic achievements, work experience, other responsibilities and extra-curricular activities.

We also recommend including both legal and non-legal work experience on your CV, as both can be used to demonstrate your interest and skills for a career in law, and keep the work experience sections factual - tell us about the role and your responsibilities, but you don’t need to explain the skills you gained.

A good CV is also ideally two sides of A4 maximum.

What key skills do you look for in candidates when they apply?

Excellent analytical ability makes up a big part of the key skills we look for in candidates. It’s also important for them to be able to think on their feet and persuasively discuss their ideas and arguments.

We want candidates to demonstrate that they would work well in a team because Slaughter and May has a very collaborative culture. There is no room for competitive personalities. Interpersonal skills are essential - we want to feel confident that we can put our lawyers in front of our clients. This is incredibly important because the clients are essentially our business.

In terms of attitude, we look for resilience, drive and a sense of humour.

How can candidates get across their commercial awareness in an application?

Candidates must show that they have an interest in the commercial world because they will be working with businesses as a commercial lawyer. Candidates can demonstrate their commercial awareness in their cover letter by talking about a deal they found interesting and why that was.

At interview stage, candidates are given a news article 20 minutes prior to the interview and are required to discuss this article with the partners during the interview. Having a general awareness of what is going on in the world and how businesses work is important to demonstrate during the interview.

How do you assess vacation scheme students?

A key aim of our work experience schemes is to give candidates the opportunity to get a taste of life as a lawyer at the firm and use their time with us to find out as much as they can about working here - without feeling the pressure of assessments throughout - so our work experience schemes are not formally assessed by the trainee recruitment team.

During our three-week summer schemes, candidates share an office with an associate in one of our legal groups. The associate involves them as much as possible in their work, so the candidate is able to get involved in real legal work and hands-on legal research. We also want the candidates to have many opportunities to talk with partners, associates and trainees from across the firm, so we organise a range of workshops, interactive case studies and different social activities.

At the end of summer schemes, all candidates are offered the chance to interview for a training contract.

How can people make up for the fact that they haven’t done any legal work experience?

Legal work experience is not a requirement to apply for a training contract with us. Candidates do need to demonstrate an interest in a career in commercial law and an understanding of what this involves, but there are many ways that they can demonstrate this on an application.

Many firms, including us, now offer free virtual internships, which are open to all candidates and can be completed in their own time. Our internship is designed to give candidates an insight into some of the types of work our lawyers and trainees do on a daily basis, so it’s very useful in building up an understanding of what lawyers do.

We also run a series of virtual presentations throughout the year, which focus on a number of different topics from CV and interview skills, to case studies on recent deals the firm has worked on. Attending virtual events is also a good way for candidates to demonstrate their interest in law and a firm, particularly if they mention the event on their application.

How can candidates make the right impression at a law fair or in-person university event?

We are really looking forward to hosting and attending in-person events at a number of universities in the autumn. For us, it’s important that candidates have the opportunity to get a good sense of what it’s like to work at the firm at these events by hearing from different representatives and asking any questions they may have.

It’s not about a candidate making the right impression - what’s more important for us is that candidates come away from our events feeling that they have a more detailed understanding of what working at Slaughter and May is like, and have felt comfortable to ask our representatives any questions they had.

What skills and competencies do you look for candidates to demonstrate during training contract interviews?

We place great value on individuality and diversity at Slaughter and May, and our application process echoes this approach - we want to get to know the candidate and the qualities they can bring to the role.

Our training contract interviews consist of a written exercise, interview with two partners, and a HR interview with a member of the trainee recruitment team.

For the written exercise, we are looking at a candidate’s written communication, ability to persuade, judgement and problem analysis, and innovative ideas and commercial knowledge.

For the partner interview, candidates are given a short current affairs article to read in advance. During the interview, the partners will discuss the article with the candidate and they will be testing whether they can assimilate information quickly, identify the relevant issues and articulate and defend their point of view.

During this interview and the HR interview, we are also looking for candidates to be able to clearly explain their motivations for law and for the firm.