How to get an Osborne Clarke training contract: tips from the graduate recruiter
Zoe Reid, the graduate recruitment manager at Osborne Clarke, gives her advice on how to gain a training contract offer, answering our questions on whether you need to have done a vacation scheme, how to show you really want the job and more.
You can learn something from every experience, be that academic, extracurricular, paid employment or volunteering.
Many candidates first meet you through law fairs. How can somebody make the right impression at careers events?
I would expect candidates to have had a look through our website before they come and speak to us at an event. This helps candidates to feel prepared, focus their questions and get the most out of speaking to us. The candidates who have really impressed me come armed with lots of interesting questions, and clearly want to get a deeper insight into the firm.
Do candidates need to have undertaken a vacation scheme with you to apply for a training contract?
No. We do recruit the majority of our trainees through the vacation scheme as it’s a two-way process – it enable us to see people in action, and also gives candidates the opportunity to get to know us and decide if we are the right firm for them to start their career. However, we appreciate that not everyone is able to spend two weeks at the firm over the summer break for a variety of different reasons, so we also accept applications through the direct training contract route.
How do you assess your vacation scheme students for your training contracts?
We run a variety of different assessments throughout our vacation scheme – this year candidates participated in a group presentation, a written exercise and a partner interview at the end of the scheme.
Throughout all of our assessments we're looking for potential – we don’t expect candidates to come in and know everything about the law on day one. What we do want to see throughout the placement is evidence of problem-solving skills and a commercial outlook. Clear communication skills (both verbal and written) are absolutely essential. Candidates also need to be comfortable working in teams, self-motivated, happy to take on responsibility and, more importantly, are interested in the work that we do.
What about the recruitment process for your other training contract vacancies? How do you manage assessing thousands of applications?
The first stage in our application process is an online application form and a verbal reasoning test. We use these in conjunction to decide who to invite to the assessment centre.
Our assessment centre is made up of a group exercise, Watson Glaser test and a partner interview.
How do you assess applications for vacation schemes and training contracts? What really stands out?
Each form is scored entirely from start to finish and we focus most on the long-answer questions. Candidates should ensure that their answers are very clear and easy to understand; on the first read through we should be able to understand exactly what you are trying to say. It is also important to demonstrate why you want to join Osborne Clarke and show us that you understand our business.
So, how can candidates learn about your business and show their commercial awareness?
Candidates should start by looking on our graduate recruitment and firm websites – there is so much information about the firm, clients and deals, areas of practice, specialisms and much more. Following the firm on social media is another good way of finding out what's new and topical for the firm – we often use LinkedIn and Twitter to talk about deals, clients or other initiatives that we are involved with. It’s a quick and easy way to keep up to date and candidates can reference this information when explaining why they want to work for Osborne Clarke.
What if people have not done work experience at a law firm before applying for a training contract or vacation scheme?
Legal work experience is not a requirement for obtaining a vacation scheme or a training contract at Osborne Clarke; it can be very hard to secure as places are so limited. Throughout our application process we're looking at the transferrable skills that candidates have developed through their work experience or extracurricular activities, and they should focus on demonstrating how these skills are going to make them a successful lawyer.
You can learn something from every experience, be that academic, extracurricular, paid employment or volunteering. We would recommend that candidates take some time to reflect on each of their experiences, focusing on what they've learned and the skills that they've developed, and align these with the key skills of a lawyer.
What kind of extracurricular activities really impress you on an application?
Candidates should pursue activities that they enjoy because they need to be engaged and interested to be able to really learn from them. We recruit a diverse group of trainees who have a wide range of different experiences and interests – there is no ‘Osborne Clarke shaped’ lawyer. Some of our trainees have been active in societies and clubs at university, some have been involved in amateur and professional sports, some are self-taught linguists or musicians, some have been involved in debating or mooting and some are very tech-savvy and have learned to code – they have a huge variety of interests!
How can you tell whether a candidate really wants the job?
You can really tell when a candidate is engaged with the firm as they are well researched and prepared when we meet them. They also ask relevant and interesting questions. Candidates who have just submitted a generic application and skim-read the website before an interview won’t show as much interest or enthusiasm.
What kind of questions should candidates ask at a law firm interview? What shouldn’t they ask?
I wouldn’t advise asking something that you could have easily found out on the firm website. It’s a better idea to demonstrate that you’ve done your research – perhaps there’s a particular deal or sector that we operate in that you’re interested in and want to know more about. Questions should be targeted towards the firm rather than be generic.
And finally… imagine at the end of an assessment day you have a choice of four candidates: a wallflower, a geek, a leader and an entrepreneur. If you could only pick one, who would you choose?
That’s difficult – because we don’t have a particular type of person we look for. We’re looking for people who are creative and innovative, and we’re looking for technical experts who may be perceived as ‘geekier’! We have areas of the business where all four of those candidates would do well; it would just come down to whether they demonstrated their strengths throughout the process.