So you know what makes Simmons & Simmons tick in applications and interviews

It's impossible to talk about the firm without mentioning its sector-specific approach.

An obligatory part of the recruitment process at any law firm is being able to justify why you’re applying to that organisation in particular. Simmons & Simmons seems to place a particular emphasis on candidates knowing what makes it ‘tick’. Partners have said that they like candidates to demonstrate that they have an insight into the ‘mind’ of the firm in their applications.

Whether you’re applying for a training contract or a place on a vacation scheme, here are some points to consider when discussing your interest in Simmons & Simmons in applications and interviews:

Simmons & Simmons’ practice areas and approach

Simmons & Simmons had a change of strategy a few years ago and now concentrates its practice on five key sectors: asset management and investment funds; energy and infrastructure; life sciences and technology, media and telecommunications (TMT); and financial institutions. As you can see from the firm’s choice of sectors, one area you should talk about is finance – think about how you can demonstrate this in applications and interviews. Have you held treasurer positions in university societies or been involved in fundraising? Perhaps you read the financial press, follow the shares index and could mention a recent financial deal that you found fascinating. This is all relevant stuff, because the financial markets department is central to the firm’s identity (and income) and it’s compulsory for trainees to complete a finance seat.

It’s virtually impossible to talk about why you’re interested in Simmons & Simmons without mentioning its sector-specific approach. Why do you think the firm has chosen to differentiate itself through this approach (what are its advantages?) and what attracts you to it? Are you particularly interested in one or more of these sectors? It’s been reported that Simmons & Simmons recruiters like to see candidates who have a strong sense of where they want to go as professional lawyers and your department preferences should reflect this.

Specialised, but not ‘niche’

A partner said in an interview with an industry publication that, in the long term, they would like to see all their solicitors specialise in one or two of their five key sectors. However, this does not mean that their lawyers should become too niche; it’s all about having strata of knowledge.

The firm certainly wouldn’t describe itself as ‘niche’ per se but it does perform highly in several more specific areas such as employment law, intellectual property and litigation, as well as competing for the big deals in its five main sectors. It’s worth researching recent developments and name-checking deals in the firm’s ‘niche’ areas as well as its five key sectors to show that you appreciate all aspects of the firm’s work. Details of recent deals and successes are announced on the firm’s Twitter feed.

Simmons & Simmons’ training and development

Calling prospective trainees: think about the secondment opportunities the firm offers (and, indeed, encourages trainees to take up). Why do these appeal to you? They include client secondments as well as international placements at one of the firm’s 23 overseas offices. What are the advantages of a client secondment and why do you think the firm invests in them for trainees? Think about the firm’s recent international expansion too eg why set up office in Munich, when there are already two other offices in Germany? The fact that the city is a centre for patent work might have something to with it, given Simmons & Simmon’s flourishing IP work. The firm’s website has a news blog with interesting titbits about what their international offices are up to – it’s worth a read.

Consider the MBA that all trainees have the option of completing during the course of the legal practice course and the training contract. Does this appeal to you? What’s in it for the firm? Why would they wish their trainees to have this kind of qualification? Think about why doing an MBA would be relevant to your training as a commercial solicitor at Simmons & Simmons.

Holistic aspects

Bear in mind the firm’s sense of identity and its more holistic aspects. For example, the firm is famed for having an impressive collection of Young British Artists or YAB art and was recently named the most gay-friendly firm in the Stonewall 2013 workplace equality index. While facts like these shouldn’t form the substance of your answer to the question ‘Why have you applied to Simmons & Simmons?’ they might provide talking points in interviews.

Tips for interviews: which firms have you applied to?

In interviews, it’s apparently common for candidates to be asked which other firms they have applied to for training contracts or vacation schemes. Don’t be alarmed by this, but think about how you can show evidence of a rational approach and consistency, eg have you applied to firms that specialise in similar areas of practice, are of a similar size, and are not too ‘niche’?

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