Five minutes with... Erena Pillitteri, graduate resourcing advisor for Addleshaw Goddard LLP

What really stands out in an application form?

For the good or the bad reasons?! For the good it’s a well laid out, well drafted application. For the bad reasons, one that are riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes and don't spell our firm's name correctly!

What criteria do you mark candidates against in job applications?

It's a variety of things. We look at their academics, their work experience, their commitment to law and to our firm and also their commercial awareness. By measuring each of these we are able to get a sense of who the person is and whether they have really considered and are committed to a career in law. It's not for the faint hearted!

What kind of extracurricular activities really impress you on an application?

I wouldn’t say there was one in particular. I'd rather see someone doing an activity because they love it not because they think it looks good on their CV. At AG we want to recruit individuals not clones, we are interested in who a person is not what they think they should be. I'd encourage applicants to pursue a hobby, not only is it fun but also gives you experience in another area.

What are the main reasons you reject a training contract or vacation scheme application?

It depends really. Often people don’t meet the academic criteria, others might not demonstrate the commitment we are looking for in Addleshaw Goddard and some might have poor commercial awareness. There isn't one thing I can pinpoint as every application is different. It is important applicants complete all aspects of the form to the best of their ability. It's really frustrating when you come across a sloppy application.

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

A good application shows they've researched the firm, thought about a career in law and demonstrates good commercial awareness.

An excellent applicant shows they've research the firm and convinces me why it is the right place for them to train. They explain their reasons for a career in law articulately and use their experience to back this up. Finally their commercial awareness response is not only well drafted but analytical and concise. I don’t want to see an unnecessary lengthy application form; applicants need to remember we have hundreds of applications to read through and those with long applicants run the risk of diluting their message.

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

I think the mistake a lot of applicants make is by being too descriptive in their commercial answer. I think keep the topic simple and about something you are genuinely interested in rather than picking a subject you know not much about because you think it makes you sound intelligent.

I don't want to see the FT regurgitated; I want to see some real analytical thinking about a topic and a demonstration you understand it.

What do the vac schemers who go on to get a training contract at your firm do on the scheme to show they've got what it takes to be a successful solicitor?

There are lots of things we consider, there isn’t just one. Firstly the simple stuff – turn up on time to all sessions, be keen and enthusiastic, be respectful of everyone in the firm and take an interest in the department you are in.

Then we also need to see ability, we run a number of assessments to really test whether someone will make a good lawyer and we need to see them do well in these.

How do you assess vacation scheme students?

We assess them throughout the scheme not just on formal assessments but also on their performance in their departments and also how they interact with others. We are very respectful of our colleagues at AG no matter how junior or senior they are. We want to see this same level of respect coming from our vac scheme students.

How can people make up the fact that they haven't done any work experience at a law firm?

Showing commercial experience is good so if you have had experience in another commercial setting you can call on your experiences here. It is important to get some form of legal experience otherwise it will be difficult for you to articulate why you want to be a lawyer. If you are struggling to get experience in a City firm, try a local high street firm. Otherwise get involved in the law society at university and/or do some pro bono work. All of these experiences will enhance your application.

How can someone make the right impression at a law fair?

Show they know about the firm; it's always impressive when students show they've done their research.

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

Our assessment centres consist of a partner interview, partner briefing and a group exercise. We test a number of competencies throughout the day such as team work, commitment to law and to AG, and technical skills.

Thinking about your assessment day, what skills are you looking for from the group exercise?

We want to see good team working skills, as I mentioned earlier, being respectful of colleagues is very important at AG so we want to see this from an early stage. We also want to see you can assimilate a lot of information in a short space of time and be able to analyse this.

What's your advice to those who don't feel comfortable speaking up in group exercises?

You really need to try to overcome this because assessors will not be able to assess you if you don’t speak up. I know it can be daunting particularly if there are confident characters in there. Just remember that the dominant people aren't always the ones who stand out for the right reasons.

How can you tell whether a candidate really wants a job?

If they have done their research and show their commitment to the firm. They are keen, ask questions and try very hard.

What kind of questions should candidates ask at interview? What shouldn’t they ask?

Anything they are genuinely interested in knowing is good, don't just ask a question for the sake of it if you aren't really interested in the answer.

Law firms tell us that they try hard to encourage STEM students to apply for training contracts. The link between law and science may not be an obvious one. Why do scientists make good lawyers?

Firstly the are trained in a different discipline and can bring a different level of experience to the table. They have a strong analytical mind which is what we need from our lawyers.

How can non-law students show their commitment to a career in law when they haven’t necessarily been exposed to university law societies, law clinics and mooting events?

If they still have an opportunity to be involved in the societies at university then they should absolutely make the most of this. If they have left university then look at getting paralegal work or get involved in some pro bono. As I mentioned earlier, we want to see evidence that applicants have explored the profession and if they have seen it first-hand, this shows us it is a well thought-out decision.

Please note this is not TARGETjobs content and written by the employer.

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