Interview with Rebecca Philpott, Graduate Recruitment Manager at Penningtons Manches

Rebecca Philpott is a Graduate Recruitment Manager at Penningtons Manches. In an exclusive interview with AllAboutLaw.co.uk, she highlights aspects of training at the firm, including the sports and social committees at each office, and also outlines what the firm looks for in an application...

  • Last updated Feb 11, 2018 9:07:36 AM
  • By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk
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Unique Aspects

How many trainees do you take on a year at Penningtons Manches? Do you take groups on yearly or every six months? What is the retention rate?

The number of trainees that we recruit per year varies, but in 2014 we recruited 12 trainees for 2016 – six for London, two for Basingstoke/Reading, two for Godalming/Guildford and two for Oxford. 

Applicants are required to apply for a particular location.  The seat options vary by office, but wherever trainees are based they are likely to sit in a broad range of seats.  The quality of client work is equally high in all offices, and whilst each office has its own character, the ethos of the firm remains the same across all locations – a friendly, open, supportive environment where enthusiasm and hard work is rewarded, and work-life balance is taken seriously.

Our offices are a great place to work and in particular there are lots of opportunities to practice your business development and networking skills with local businesses and young professionals networking groups.

We recruit once a year during the summer.

Our retention rate varies by year – it is normally around 80%. 

Do you offer international and/or client secondments at Penningtons Manches? If so, which other countries can applicants head to for a seat?

We do occasionally offer client secondments, but they would not be international and are not a standard part of a training contract. 

What does Penningtons Manches do to support and guide trainees (feedback, mentoring, supervisors, etc.)?

Trainees have a trainee buddy, who is a trainee a year ahead of them. They also have a mentor, who is a partner or senior associate who is there to give independent advice and guidance outside a trainee’s formal seat and appraisals. During a seat, trainees have a supervisor who helps to manage workload.  Trainees have quarterly training sessions specifically designed for them and have mid-seat and end of seat appraisals.

What kind of social programmes and facilities are in place with Penningtons Manches?

Each office has its own sports and social committee.  The activities organised vary by office, but they usually include theatre trips, meals out, drinks events etc.  In addition, there are usually two firm-wide events every year, including a fabulous Spring Party.  Trainees are also encouraged to attend networking events and are expected to get involved in the firm’s own business development events.

How is your work unique compared to other firms (e.g. high profile, international, impressive client list, etc.)?

What is unique about us is the variety of work that trainees are likely to encounter through a training contract.  During a training contract, a trainee is likely to assist in everything from high value clinical negligence claim, conveyancing, a multimillion pound corporate deal, copyright disputes, contested wills, or a high profile divorce – for a mixture of long-standing high-net-worth clients, major household names, local businesses or international corporations.

We also give our trainees a lot of responsibility and client contact.  Trainees will have regular contact, whether on the phone, in person, or by email, with clients.  This is, however, always with supervision and support.

What the Firm Looks for in an Applicant

How important is a legal background?

We have no preference whether someone has done a law degree or the GDL.  It varies by year, but this year 60% of our recruits did a law degree.

What kind of academic record and qualifications does Penningtons Manches expect from applicants?

We expect at least 2 As and 1 B at A-level, and a good 2:1 degree. However, we do look at the academic picture as a whole rather than discounting anyone on the basis of one grade.

Can you state the importance of commercial awareness, and recommend ways to develop it and show it off in an application/interview?

It is hugely important for us.  We would expect candidates to have experience of working in shops/restaurants/businesses etc. This type of work experience can help raise commercial awareness as can reading the legal and business press. All experience can add value, so it is worth adding everything in an application. Understanding of law firms as businesses – how firms price their services, minimise costs, use their staff and manage their business development in order to maximise profit are very important concepts to understand.

What personal qualities do you look for in an applicant?

We have no particular Penningtons ‘type’ although we do look for people who would cope with the responsibility we are likely to give them. We appreciate enthusiasm, resilience, self-confidence without arrogance, openness with discretion, a good team spirit and integrity.

Is there anything else an applicant can do to stand out from the crowd?

Do your research and explain why you are particularly applying to Penningtons Manches, give us an insight into your character and concentrate on layout, spelling and grammar – it really matters!

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