We caught up with Victoria to discover how she secured her impressive training contract with Squire Patton Boggs! Here are her top tips on how you can follow in her footsteps to secure your dream role.
Why did you choose to apply to Squire Patton Boggs?
When researching law firms, Squire Patton Boggs stood out to me as having the international influence of a firm at the forefront of legal innovation, whilst also having the connections of a local firm. With UK offices in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and London, Squires is best placed to draw upon the resources of being a large US firm, but with the more specialised industry expertise that comes with regional offices. Further, Squires offers a six-seat training contract, enabling trainees to build relationships across the firm as well as undertake a client secondment to better understand how the firm can continue to meet the specific needs of its clients.
However, of greatest importance to me was that Squires is a genuinely friendly place to work. Law, in its nature, can be a competitive and sometimes high-stress career. To work around people who inspire and support you is therefore something which I think cannot be underestimated. From speaking to lawyers on the assessment day and during my time on the vacation scheme, I have always been struck by how approachable and collegiate the firm is, with everyone commenting that it was the people that makes the firm such an enjoyable place to work.
How did you find the application process? Were there any stages you particularly enjoyed or found challenging?
Overall, I was very impressed by Squires’ application process. The firm made sure to get back to us as quickly as possible (my assessment day was two weeks after I submitted my application!) and continually kept us informed of what the next stage in the process would be.
The initial application consisted of a cover letter and a CV, before a digital assessment consisting of a video interview and creative writing exercise. My main advice for the video interview is to treat it as you would a face to face interview. When preparing, re-read your application and CV, and think about the type of questions they might ask you and what examples or experience you have which you can include in your answers. For example, if asked a question on a time you had to make a decision quickly, think about recent projects you have undertaken where you have had to suddenly adapt your approach in light of new information. How did you react to the circumstance which required a new approach? What informed your decision? How did/has this situation affected the way you tackle similar situations? The example you give does not have to be complex – it could be as simple as realising you needed to change trains/buses in order to make an appointment on time! The most important thing is that you can demonstrate you have considered your answer. Ideally try and incorporate a key skill that the role requires, such as teamwork, communication or remaining calm under pressure.
We were then invited for an assessment day, completing an interview and an in-tray exercise. The exercise was a bit more challenging as we had three exercises to complete in a fairly short amount of time: placing emails in priority order, proof reading and then writing a memo for a partner summarising our findings from several sources provided. We then had to verbally present the in-tray exercise, explaining our decisions and justifying our outcomes.
My advice for the in-tray exercise is to keep an eye on the time. It is very tempting to work on a particular task until you have completed it, but it may be that you need to move on in order to complete all of the exercises in the time set. In particular, I recall my memo being fairly brief in places, as I was keen to cover all that I had found yet lacked the time to fully unpack all of my points. As such, I ended up using bullet points towards the end of the memo, before writing that I would be ‘happy to personally discuss’ any of the issues mentioned in order to provide further information. In showing I had considered these points (despite the memo being relatively lean on specific detail), I was able to discuss my findings in more detail during the partner meeting, thus indicating that I had found a way to address the relatively short amount of preparation time allocated.
Following the assessment day, I was invited to join Squires’ Winter Placement Scheme. During my week at the firm, we had a group exercise and an individual interview. Our group exercise consisted of presenting a new technological development and how this represented an opportunity for the firm. Not only did this provide an opportunity to further my knowledge, it also gave me the chance to work with some of the other vacation schemers, which I really enjoyed.
Undoubtedly the most challenging part of the application was my final training contract interview with two partners who had not already interviewed or worked with us. During the interview it was clear that the partners wanted to see how we coped under pressure, and as such asked us various tough questions, as well as testing us on our answers to see whether we faltered or changed our perspective. On a few occasions one partner would take the opinion opposing mine, engaging in a friendly, albeit intellectual debate. Naturally this took some getting used to, but once I settled into the interview I started to find it quite satisfying. Giving carefully reasoned answers and being prepared to defend my argument felt like an opportunity for the partners to really get to know me and understand my thought process in different scenarios.
What three tips would you give to BN members looking to follow in your footsteps?
Rejections are (unfortunately) inevitable - crucially, this does not necessarily mean there is anything ‘wrong’ with your application. Of course, there may be things you can improve on and if you are offered feedback it can be really helpful to see how you may approach a future application differently. However, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Had I not been rejected from other law firms I would not have found Squires, which is absolutely the right firm for me. In other words, never give up – it all works out in the end!
Take time to appreciate what you have achieved and use this to focus on where you are heading - It is tempting to think that you must always be looking forward and preparing for the next stage. This is important but it is also useful to pause and reflect upon your achievements and to enjoy what you are doing at present. University, for example, is a fantastic time to apply for internships and career insight opportunities. However, it is also a crucial time to meet people and decide what you enjoy. Having engaged in several extra-curricular activities including volunteering, I recognised how important pro-bono work is to me and leading to me focusing on firms that engage in similar community projects.
Don't rush applications - it's very tempting to race through an application so you can cross it off of your to-do list. However, I would strongly recommend thoroughly researching the employer before you do this. What is it about that firm that you are drawn to? What core values does it have? What is its ethos? Is there something about it which makes it unique or sets it aside from its competitors? If you are able to answer these questions, then you can ensure you really tailor your application to that specific employer. At this stage you might reasonably ask, “How do I tailor an application? What does that mean?”. My advice is to note down the key features of the firm, including its sectors and core values. Try and find parallels between yourself and the employer. If they value teamwork or have a strong emphasis on cooperation, find ways you can demonstrate that you enjoy collaborating with others and that you understand why it is valuable.
Proof read your application - it's easy to misspell a name or have an unnecessary word or comma. If you have checked your application you will know you have done your upmost to submit work you are proud of, ultimately giving yourself the best chance of success.
How did Bright Network help?
Bright Network has been a huge help to me. As a member, you are exposed to such a valuable bank of resources, including written insights and advice on developing vital skills such as commercial awareness. Attending events such as Women in Leadership and the First Year Lawyers Top 100 has given me exposure to different careers and top recruiters, as well as the opportunity to meet other students who I have remained in contact with.
Undoubtedly, these various resources – including the success stories – helped to give me a competitive edge and make me feel more confident when submitting applications. Support in the form of industry insights and the commercial awareness pages have developed my ability to spot key issues in the news and assess their impact, again helping me stand out in interviews.
Finally, what was the toughest interview question you faced
The toughest interview question I have faced concerned a (then recent) employment law decision in the case of Deliveroo riders seeking worker status. In the case, it was held that the riders did not meet the legal definition of worker under the ECHR Article 11 right to freedom of association, and as such they were not entitled to form a trade union (which ultimately renders them unable to use collective bargaining to negotiate terms of their employment). This decision sparked considerable comment from the academic community, particularly from tutors at my university.
Given that the judgement was issued during my time at the firm and that I was studying Employment Law as an optional final year module, the partners were keen to hear my opinion on the case. It is worth noting that they did not expect the precise detail of the judgement nor explanation of the law behind it, however they did want to see that I had an awareness of the issues and that I could discuss whether or not I felt they should be afforded higher protection under the law.
This question was challenging for a number of reasons, but mainly as I was asked to really justify why it is important that we recognise different employment relationships and whether as a consumer I would alter my spending habits in relation to employers who are providing only minimal protection to those working for them. Again, the commercial awareness pages definitely helped me to not only understand current affairs, but also develop my own perspective which I could share and reason.