Keith Mitchelhill

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What really stands out in an application form?

The application form will often be the your first point of contact with a Law firm so it is important to make your application stand out. One of the main mistakes that we see is that when applicants discuss their work experience, they will quite often just list a series of bullet points that will be lifted form their job description. The problem with this is that this doesn’t actually tell us anything about who you are. We know what a Paralegal or a retail worker does on a day to day basis. We want to see not just what you have done, but how you have done this. What were your successes? What mistakes have you been able to learn from? What are you most proud of? This will allow us to build up a picture of who you are and how you work, helping to bring your application to life.

What criteria do you mark candidates against in job applications?

We use a scoring matrix throughout the entire recruitment process looking at six main behaviours; Thinking, Communication, Drive and Enthusiasm, Resilience, Teamwork and Commitment to our business and our clients. A key thing to be mindful of is self-awareness, we don’t expect you to be the finished  article, this is what the Training Contract is for. We need to know that you are just as invested in being the best that you can be as we are.

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

There is no stand out activity that we are looking for. Having interests outside of Law and Academia can make some great talking points and help you to become 'well rounded'. We like to work with interesting people and so do our clients, being able to talk about these interests can create personal and cohesive relationships. But also, if you've had caring responsibilities, for example, then please tell us about the transferable skills you have .

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

Lack of effort, we mark a lot of applications and it is incredibly obvious when an applicant as rushed their application. Take your time to research and put together an application that represents you. We review all applications manually (almost 2600 this year) to ensure that  we pay respect to the time that you have taken. Most importantly, make reference to the law firm that you are applying for, we still see applications that are clearly aimed towards another law firm or refer to us by the wrong name.

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

Personality, this can be demonstrated by giving examples of successes in your work or extracurricular activities, tell us what you have learnt, how you have overcome challenges. This allows us to build a picture of you in the workplace. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, we genuinely want to get to know you. It's not about the opportunities that you have, it's about what you have been able to do with those opportunities.

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

By demonstrating that you are not just performing a function in your job role, that you understand the goals that your team and employer are working towards.

Showing that you have an understanding of us as a business, how the client relationship works, there's more than just delivering legal advice as we want to help our clients achieve their long term goals. If you are asked a question that is based around commercial awareness then try to avoid the headline news i.e. Brexit, Covid and Blockchain. Try and find a subject that you are passionate about but that also lines up with the firm you are applying for.

How do you assess vacation scheme students?

We want to see enthusiastic and engaged participation throughout. Your mentor will spend time with you to understand the right level of work that you should be given so please don’t shy away if you are worried that others have more legal experience than you. We look at feedback from your mentor, the team that you have been assigned to, the Training Contract interview and feedback from across the business. How you treat the support staff is just as important. Take the opportunity to learn about the firm and the culture by being pro-active.

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

We don’t expect all applicants to have legal work experience, there are lots of transferable skills that can be gained from any experience. Retail workers will utilise great communication skills, fast food workers need great time management skills. There is always something to be gained from an experience so by being self-aware, you can highlight the great skill sets that you have used to allow you to be successful in whatever role you have been in.

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

Avoid questions that can be found easily on our website or by a quick google search - when do applications open? how many offices do you have? If someone asks an interesting question then it can demonstrate that you have researched well and have a genuine interest in joining us. Understand the sectors the firm works within as talking about an area that they don’t specialise in highlights a lack of research.

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

As with the application the behaviours we would like to see during the assessment day are; Thinking; Communication, Teamwork, Drive and Enthusiasm, Resilience and a Commitment to our business and our clients.

Our assessment days comprise of an individual exercise, a group exercise and an interview that covers a variety of skill sets so that there is an opportunity for everyone to be able to demonstrate their strengths.

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

We are not just looking for extroverts and leaders, there is still a lot that you can bring to a group even if you are naturally a quiet person. We do expect you to engage and participate, this can be in the form of a timekeeper, the group scribe etc. Be confident in yourself, it is very clear when someone is trying to be someone they are not and can be very draining for you to keep this up. Quite often it is the quiet ones that have taken the time to really consider what the exercise is asking that are able to 'unlock' the problems and push the group forward.

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

This can be increasingly difficult as there is so much information online, if you came to the interview with questions that have been answered through the conversations that you have had, it is absolutely fine to say so. Consider the research you have done, what have you found interesting that you would like the interviewers own personal opinion on, is there any work that we have done that you are particulary interested in and would like to know more about?

Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a quick google search or will likely be in the website as this will demonstrate a lack of research and interest.

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?

All non-law students (not just STEM) can make great lawyers. They bring something different to the table. We work with a diverse group of people and therefore need a diverse team to succeed. For example scientists are inquisitive, analytical thinkers. Law offers opportunities to work with emerging technology, pharmaceutical companies, intellectual property, chemical manufacturing and healthcare, to name but a few of our sectors. If you are passionate about technology, then a client would love to work with someone that can not only deliver sound legal advice, but also has a genuine interest and passion in their sector or product.

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?

There are lots of ways to demonstrate an interest in law.  Try and immerse yourself in the legal world by attending legal events. Follow high profile work and try to predict what will happen in 3, 6 or 12 months' time. Were you correct? What did you get wrong? What variables were you not aware of that have had a major impact on the outcome. Internships and open days are open for non-law students so get involved and ask questions.