Hear it first-hand: Philippa

Philippa Wilson, our Graduate Recruitment Senior Advisor, joined us with a degree in Communications from Northumbria University, with a wealth of legal recruitment experience behind her

Overseeing it all

When I first joined Norton Rose Fulbright I worked in our lateral recruitment team, and spent nearly three years recruiting fee earners into our disputes practice, as well as a mix of business services roles. I also played a key role in building the workforce in our Newcastle Hub, and managed the recruitment for our non-legal graduate schemes. 

Since moving into the graduate recruitment team, I run our First Steps programme, our open days, our Transform graduate scheme, and also help with our vacation schemes. As a team we are very visible so candidates will see us out on campus, and also speak to us throughout the whole assessment process. I also manage all our marketing and PR activity, so I’m constantly talking to current trainees about appearing in articles, in our brochure and at our events.   

I love meeting all the vacation schemers and graduate applicants, seeing them progress from their initial application to a training contract offer, and getting to know them along the way. It’s really rewarding to know as a team we’ve helped them launch their legal careers, and to see how passionate they are and watch their careers flourish. 

Sound advice

There’s lots of advice I can give people who are thinking of applying to us. For starters, visit us on campus, apply for open days, read about us in the press, and speak to as many of our people as you can so you get a good understanding of our culture, our clients, sectors we specialise in and how we work. It takes time to put together a great application, and thorough research can make a huge difference. 

It’s not just a strong academic background that makes a CV stand out, and we aren’t just looking for people with work experience in a law firm or who have been the president of a law society. Any hobbies or interests – sport, charity work, volunteering, tutoring or societies – count towards a strong application. 

On an assessment day, try to engage with everyone you come into contact with. Whether that’s someone from graduate recruitment, a partner, a trainee or fellow attendees, those little interactions can make a big difference. We’re looking for well-rounded people we can imagine working with, so try to let your personality shine through. 

A few bugbears 

We get a lot of applications. That means little errors – a spelling mistake for instance – can quickly rule an application out. So can being generic, instead of doing your research and tailoring your application to the firm. 

One of the biggest bugbears in interviews is that students think they should come up with really intellectual questions to impress the interviewers. For example, asking a question around Brexit, the implication of trade wars, or how the profit share works between partners after a merger, isn’t going to help you decide if you want to work here or not! Ask questions that show you’re interested in the firm, in the interviewers and in things that will give you an insight into what your career here could be like. 

Other things to avoid in an interview include over-elaborating on your experience, not listening properly to the question, and not answering the question fully. It’s also important to get a balance between staying professional but not stiff and formal; and being personable but not too relaxed and over-familiar.

Another tip - don’t feel you have to be loud and talk the most during an assessment day to get our attention. It’s not about dominating, it’s about working well in a team.

What we’re looking for

It’s a common misconception that candidates need to be studying law or have lots of legal work experience on their CV for us to consider an application. Our trainee intake is split roughly 50:50 between law and non-law graduates; and non-legal work experience is just as important as it can demonstrate a lot of transferable skills. 

It’s more important that you speak confidently about why you want to work for a global firm – or at least ask us questions that show a genuine interest in developing your career here.

Secondments, both client and international, are hugely encouraged here as they can really change the direction of a trainee’s career. We have a big international presence, so you should want to travel too, and to work with different cultures, people and clients. If you’re driven and determined to seize all the opportunities we offer – both internally and externally – you’ll go far.

“It’s not just a strong academic background that makes a CV stand out, and we aren’t just looking for people with work experience in a law firm.”

“Ask questions that show you’re interested in the firm, in the interviewers and in things that will give you an insight into what your career here could be like.”

“You should want to travel and be open to working with different cultures, people and clients.”