“We expect all of our trainees to be high achievers in every element” – Interview With A Graduate Recruiter From DLA Piper
Linda Luong is a Graduate Recruitment Advisor at DLA Piper. She spoke to AllAboutLaw.co.uk and outlined the international opportunities at the firm, support and guidance for trainees and what the firm looks for in an applicant.
How many trainees do you take on a year at DLA Piper? Do you take groups on yearly or every six months? What is the retention rate?
At DLA Piper we take on 80-85 trainees every year across our six UK offices. We only have one intake annually. Our retention rate for 2014 was 79%.
Do you offer international and/or client secondments at DLA Piper?
We offer both international and client secondments. Client secondments are an excellent way to hone your commercial skills as they offer the chance to get a real insight into our clients' industries and also how they work. Trainees often return from client secondments with a greater understanding of what our clients expect and with an extensive network of in-house lawyers who they can keep in touch with as they progress through their careers. We offer secondments in a number of different sectors such as banking, media, sports, finance, regulatory bodies and hotel/leisure.
International secondments are a great way for trainees to develop their internal network and for the UK practice to strengthen their international relationships. Living and working in a new location and experiencing a new culture with different ways of working provides fantastic career development opportunities. We believe our approach to secondments fosters a global mind-set and supports knowledge-sharing – enabling our people to work collaboratively across borders. We currently have trainees undertaking an international secondment in Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong, Madrid, Moscow and Sydney.
What does DLA Piper do to support and guide trainees?
All trainees are required to undertake training as dictated by the regulatory body, however DLA Piper go beyond this, providing specific legal training and a development programme alongside on-the-job learning.
Trainees also receive bespoke training in areas which equip them for a long-term career in law, such as networking, business development and finance. Our training is about giving them the information needed to succeed and to enable them to fulfil their potential.
Trainees have regular performance management reviews with their supervisors and with a member of the Graduate Recruitment team. These reviews enable them to monitor their development both in terms of their technical skills, but also transferable skills such as communication and team working, over the course of their training contract. There are also a number of internal mentoring schemes.
What kind of social programmes and facilities are in place with DLA Piper?
The trainees start their training contracts with a week-long residential course which gives them the opportunity to build their cross office networks. They often organise UK wide events, some of which are subsidised by the firm, for example a Burns Night dinner in Edinburgh and Grand National event in Liverpool).
Each office host regular local social events, for example end of month drinks, pub quizzes and pool nights.
How is your work unique, compared to other firms?
Being a leading global law firm means our trainees have the opportunity work on high profile, high quality work for some household names. Our trainee intake size is such that they are all afforded a high level of responsibility and there is an impressive range of national and international work on offer which means workloads are varied.
What the Firm Looks for in an Applicant
How important is a legal background?
About 40% of our trainee intake did not do an undergraduate law degree, which is reflective of the demographic of our applicant group.
What kind of academic record and qualifications does DLA Piper expect from applicants, and are extra languages looked upon favourably?
Our academic requirements are 320 UCAS points, and a 2.1 at undergraduate level. We look for consistency in an applicant's academic record. Additional language capabilities are also becoming increasingly attractive.
Can you state the importance of commercial awareness, and recommend ways to develop it and show it off in an application/interview?
Commercial awareness is about having a genuine interest in business and commerce, and an understanding of how it impacts the world around us. Reading things like the business pages, the FT, BBC News are useful ways to keep on top of what's going on.
In the context of an interview, candidates will be expected to have read the stories and then form some sort of opinion based on their knowledge. Candidates also need to demonstrate an understanding of how businesses operate - using examples of when they had to fund raise or work with clients/customers and how you have approached them. There will also be expectation that candidates will have researched the firm and the legal sector and will have considered what challenges might be facing law firms and their clients.
What personal qualities do you look for in an applicant?
We expect all of our trainees to be high achievers in every element, not just in academics, as being an excellent lawyer requires a lot more than just comprehensive technical knowledge. Every aspect of our service has to be delivered to the highest quality. Our trainees therefore have to be good at lots of things.
For instance excellent communication skills are vital to deal with clients and colleagues. They also must have an abundance of ambition, drive and motivation to move our business and their careers forward. We want you to be entrepreneurial and come up with fresh ideas.
Collaboration skills are central to providing the best service as you will regularly work with others on matters and transactions, and leadership potential is something we look for in our trainees as we want to develop our people to become the future leaders of our firm.
We also look for analytical skills in order to deal with the intellectual challenges of the job. You won’t be an expert in every area of the law, but must be a master of your chosen specialisms and be able to adapt that knowledge for specific circumstances. To maintain our reputation of delivering the highest quality work and the highest level of service to our client and colleagues, attention to detail is an absolute must.
Is extracurricular activity worth mentioning, for instance non-legal work experience?
Absolutely. Candidates should think about their extra-curricular activities in the context of the skills they have developed as a result.
Is there anything else an applicant can do to stand out from the crowd?
Candidates who can demonstrate they are well rounded in terms of the balancing their academic, work and extracurricular lives often stand out as they have the most to talk about on their applications form and in an interview.
What calibre and kind of clients does DLA Piper tend to work with?
DLA Piper works with clients within a range of sectors. Unlike many law firms, we are organised to provide clients with a range of essential business advice, not just on large scale mergers and acquisitions and banking deals, but also on people and employment, commercial dealings, litigation, insurance, real estate, IT, intellectual property and plans for restructuring.
Because we are there for the important everyday issues, not just the big, less frequent deals, our relationships with our clients are extremely important. We have a comprehensive, award winning client relationship management programme. This enables us to listen to and understand what our clients' real needs are, and how we can deliver a client-led service wherever they choose to do business. Our brand is built upon local legal excellence, global capability and long-term full service relationships with our clients.
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