Interview with Helen Marr, graduate recruiter at Bond Dickinson

Ever wondered what graduate recruiters look for in your vacation scheme and training contract? Wonder no more! We caught up with Helen Marr, graduate recruiter at Bond Dickinson and got the low-down on what firms expect from applicnts. Hint: they don't want an essay about your relationship!

  • Last updated Feb 10, 2018 4:18:38 PM
  • By Billy Sexton, Editor,

In your experience, how does the recruitment process at a regional law firm differ from that of a City law firm?

Having recently attended a national graduate recruitment conference, it seems that our recruitment process is similar in many ways to those at some of the large City law firms in terms of the various steps in the process.  I cannot speak for City law firms about this but we are certainly keen to see as many candidates as possible on assessment days and work placements.


How many training contract applications does Bond Dickinson receive per intake? How do you even begin to narrow down that number?!

In the last recruitment round we received just over 900 applications for training contracts. All applications are read by the recruitment team and beyond that we have online testing, assessment days and work placement schemes. Our assessment days involve a range of activities including group exercises, interviews and presentation. This allows us to really get to know you and, just as importantly, will allow you to meet lots of people from around the business and really get a feel for the firm.


What is the worst thing you’ve ever seen on a training contract application?

One particularly memorable response was a candidate’s answer to a question about their greatest achievement by reference to his two year relationship with his girlfriend!


On the other end of the scale, what makes a successful training contract application?

We obviously look for graduates with strong academics as a prerequisite, but of equal importance to us is common sense, enthusiasm and strong team-working skills. Finally, the ability to write well and in a succinct way should not be overlooked.


Do you really look at a candidates GCSE grades? How important are A-level grades in your decision-making process?

We do look at GCSE grades but they certainly carry less weight than A-levels and degree classification.  Strong A-level grades are important as is a good class of degree but a candidate’s academic ability is only part of the picture.


What personal qualities do you look for in future trainees?

The first thing to say here is that we do not want clones and deliberately recruit a variety of personalities in each recruitment round. Having said that, solid interpersonal skills including team working, strong communication, enthusiasm and the ability to think creatively and adapt your style are essential.


How important is having relative work experience? What other useful things could aspiring lawyers be getting up to in their free time?

Whilst law-related work experience is helpful, it is by no means essential. To be quite frank other work experience or part-time employment can give you valuable transferable skills and be just as helpful if not more so than a legal placement.


What is your top tip for aspiring lawyers looking to make a real impression on graduate recruiters at law fairs?

Perhaps not surprisingly, we are looking to meet enthusiastic candidates who have got lots to ask about our business! They should take the opportunity to speak to the trainees on the stand and really pick their brains about working at Bond Dickinson and their experience to date.


Commercial awareness is obviously the big buzzword in the legal sector these days! How can training contract applicants make their commercial awareness apparent on their applications and at interview?

Commercial awareness is difficult to assess from an application form alone. So much has been written on this subject and we often see rehearsed answers which can lack individuality. Put simply, we are looking for people with common sense who can apply their academic knowledge to the wider business world and who understand the importance of great client service. This can be demonstrated by talking about experience gained from part-time jobs and other extra-curricular activities.


How important is the graduate recruiter interview on an assessment/interview day? What would impress you most at such an interview?

The interview is, not surprisingly, vitally important.  We are looking for candidates who have thought hard about why they want to join Bond Dickinson (as opposed to another firm) and can demonstrate why they would make a great trainee and future partner here as we recruit for the long term.


What are your top tips for aspiring lawyers looking to secure a training contract with Bond Dickinson?

Preparation, preparation, preparation! Seize any opportunity to meet us whether that is at a law fair or on the campus rounds. Ask as many questions as you can and remember that it is a two-way match. Whether we are right for you is just as important as whether you are right for us. Do not feel that you have to adapt your personality: we want you to be yourself and if you feel that you have to change your natural style then maybe you would be better suited at a different firm.

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