Case study

Skye Fenton-Wells — Early talent recruitment manager

Womble Bond Dickinson

Skye is the early talent recruitment manager at Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD). Here she talks us through the firms application process and what you need to do to stand out

How can non-law students show their commitment to a career in law?

There is more to a person than the legal experience they have had and applicants must not underestimate their non-legal work experience. We have a section on our application form that is called ‘life experience’, rather than ‘work experience’. There are lots of things that can shape candidates that could be invaluable to Womble Bond Dickinson, so if you can evidence these then we'd like to hear about them.

If you can demonstrate these skills, and show us that you have an understanding of how commercial firms operate and how what is happening in the current market might be affecting a firm and its clients, you'll set yourself apart from other candidates - whether they are law or non-law students. Commercial awareness is a crucial skill for our lawyers because it enables them to understand what issues are impacting our clients and will help them to become valued business advisers.

What stands out in an application form?

For me it's where you can start to see someone's personality coming through. The examples used might be a bit different from the standard responses that tend to come up a lot. Being able to draw out the relevant transferable skills we are looking for in our ‘life experience’ section by providing answers that are relevant, current and well structured will make you stand out from others.

How can a candidate demonstrate their commercial awareness in an application?

If candidates can demonstrate that they’re aware of current issues, it’s a real advantage. However, candidates can set themselves apart from other applicants even further by taking the issues, contextualising them, and explaining how they might impact the firm and our clients going forward.

What makes the difference between a good application and an excellent one?

A good application will answer all the questions well, with a good variety of examples that can also demonstrate commercial awareness. An excellent one will tailor its answers to the firm as much as possible - demonstrating the all the competencies needed.

What skills and competencies do you look for candidates to demonstrate on assessment days?

Throughout our recruitment process, we measure four competencies. We believe that these encompass the skills and attributes that our colleagues need to in order to be successful in our business. They are collaboration, client focus, creating value and adaptability.

The definitions and indicators that are related to each of these competencies help us to recognise and measure (as best we can) an individual’s potential to develop - we don’t just collect evidence of certain behaviour in the past.

This framework is the starting point of the behaviours and actions that will be valued, recognised and rewarded at the firm - and these behaviours will underpin your career development at WBD.

Talking of assessment days, what skills are you looking for from the group exercise?

We run a paired exercise as part of our recruitment process, because we feel that it gives candidates a better chance at being able to demonstrate their skills and behaviours - and we think it makes them feel a bit more comfortable.

We look for the skills related to the four competencies outlined above, so things like communication skills, relationship building, the ability to make sense of the information provided and the ability to put new ideas forward.

How can those on the WBD vacation scheme show they’ve got what it takes to be a successful solicitor?

I think it really comes down to being curious, and being proactive about that. Ask questions, meet people, get involved in as much as you can. Having a growth mindset is something that is so important to us, so being able to demonstrate that you are willing to learn, be adaptable and embrace change is important too. This skillset is vital when is comes to your training contract and enables us to work with you in a really effective way to unlock your potential.

How do you assess vacation scheme students?

We collect feedback from the team(s) you've been involved with following your time with us, and the final training contract interview will also take place during your vacation scheme. Both are aligned with our competency framework and we use the feedback from both of these to shortlist candidates.

How can candidates make up for the fact that they haven’t done any work experience at a law firm?

Because we focus on potential we aren't necessarily looking for legal work experience. If you're able to show us the transferable skills that we are looking for in our future lawyers, whether that's from experience working in hospitality, playing sport, caring for family - any life experience really - that's what matters.

There are also lots of virtual work experience programmes out there at the moment so if you are interested in gaining legal experience or wanting to better your understanding about certain firms or sectors, then that might be a good place to start.

Find out more