In interview with...

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Clare Stokes, Graduate Recruiter
Eversheds Sutherland

Eversheds Sutherland receive around 1500+ applications every year for training contracts. The process to secure a training contract with any firm is extremely competitive so how do you become the success story? Read our interview with Clare Stokes, Graduate Recruitment Advisor at Eversheds Sutherland to find out!

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So, 1500 applications a year! Do you actually read every single application?

Yes every application is read thoroughly and considered in full. We do start to review applications from the 1st October with the assistance of our HR Operations team due to the sheer volume of applications we receive. Once our deadline passes we are then in a great place to move forward with the recruitment process and invite successful applicants to the next stage of the process or, unfortunately, reject the unsuccessful ones.

What are the academic requirements? Is a law degree a necessity?

We don’t have any specific degree requirements other than we ask for a 2.1 classification, we certainly do not prioritise a law degree for instance. As long as you have ABB for A Levels or 128 UCAS points and a 2.1 for your degree, you’ll meet our academic requirements.

Do you not consider mitigating circumstances when it comes to academics?

We most certainly do! There is a section on the application form to allow candidates to add anything that they consider to be a mitigating circumstance. This can be anything that the candidate would like us to take into consideration so we encourage them to be as open as they can be. Although we do appreciate that some situations can be very sensitive and difficult to share. The initial filter of the application process will review this section if academic requirements are not met so if you’re applying to us this year, make sure you complete this section as fully and as honestly as you can!

We need to ask the age old question, how important are Russell Group universities? So many candidates assume that certain law firms will immediately reject them if they are not from a Russell Group. What is Eversheds Sutherland’s position on this?

We consider each application on its own merit permitting the applicant has met our minimum academic requirements, the university isn’t a consideration to us. As well as our academic requirements, we ask for details of any work experience (legal or non-legal), whether they have held any positions of responsibility and then there are three strengths based questions to answer. It’s important that we are able to establish from the application that the applicant has a genuine passion for law, the firm and a career as a lawyer, not just what University they attended.

Okay so grades are important but how much weight goes to previous legal experience (i.e. is it a requirement to have at least done a vac scheme at another firm (or at Eversheds Sutherland))?

Previous legal experience is always great to have, it provides individuals with a sense of commerciality which is a key skill many law firms look for in their future trainees. However, any work experience can shape an individual’s commerciality, it doesn’t have to be in legal. Any type of work experience can provide them with an understanding of the importance of client/customer relationships, which
help shape transferrable skills.

We also ask our applicants to provide information of any positions of responsibility they have held, such as roles within sports teams, societies etc, it’s not solely about work experience. This is an important element when you recruit using a strengths based assessment like we do and it also enables the individual to really highlight their passions and strengths in their applications.

What is the current recruitment process at Eversheds Sutherland and how can candidates make sure they’re not ‘eliminated’ at the application stage?


Our process consists of an online application, video interview (which is pre-recorded) and an assessment centre.

My top tip would be to take the time to complete the application, we can tell if an application has been rushed and not thought through. We don’t fill any of our openings until after the deadline has passed so there is plenty of time to put it together and submit it. We look for applicants that are passionate about working for us, that have similar or the same values we do as a firm and bringing that passion through into your application is really key to standing out.

We moved to a strengths based assessment so being able to identify your strengths and passions will bolster your application. Also make sure you have researched and are comfortable with the skills and aptitudes to be considered for the scheme you are applying for i.e. academic requirements, commerciality etc. Every firm has different requirements so make sure you at least meet those before applying.

Do you have any general advice for candidates on how to answer some of the questions in the application?


When answering any questions within the application, make sure you are relating your response to the firm.

When applying for training contracts, you’re not just applying for one, you’re applying for a few. Therefore, to show that you’ve really considered our firm, your application has to be bespoke to us. It has to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of what we do, our values, our areas of practice etc.

You can take it further and even mention a news item that our firm was involved in that interested you. If you can pinpoint where your interest in our firm has come from then that will make your application really stand out. It shows that you’ve really researched us, what we do and understand what we’re all about. It is a strengths based assessment after all so your passion needs to shine through.

Are you able to share some of the common mistakes that you see during the recruitment process that future candidates can avoid for the best chance of success?


I think when the applicant hasn’t answered the question they are being asked or their answers are not concise enough. If you take your time and save your application and come back to it after a couple days you may find that your answer will be different to what you answered initially so really do dedicate your time to your application and take your time. Spelling and grammatical errors are also common so I would suggest having another person review it before it’s submitted.

What are the key qualities that Eversheds Sutherland look for in future trainees?


Our trainees, lawyers and our people are incredibly diverse individuals. As a firm we have certain values that guide our behaviour and shape our culture and we look for individuals that uphold the same values we do which in turn then shapes our purpose and allows us to help our clients, people and communities to thrive.

How would you describe the culture at Eversheds Sutherland amongst the trainees and more widely across the firm?


As a firm we have five values that shape our purpose. However, for me I feel the two that stand out about our culture are how inclusive & collaborative as a firm we are. Our trainees and more widely our people, are given the support and guidance both in their career and own personal development to thrive and to be included in various initiatives across the firm, which feeds directly into our purpose. Our practice groups, national and international offices all work collaboratively together to service our clients in the best way possible which in turn unifies our culture on a global scale.

What’s the best thing about working at Eversheds Sutherland?


The people. I have worked at Eversheds Sutherland for just over six years; seven years ago in a completely different role. When the opportunity came up to return to the firm, I didn’t hesitate in applying. Eversheds Sutherland has always been a culture of openness and inclusivity and this has only grown over the years.

How are Eversheds Sutherland dealing with the SQE and will the approach be similar to the current
training contract recruitment process?


We have been closely following SQE developments over recent years and have an internal working group who are leading on the firm’s approach. Final decisions have not been made but it is likely we will move to the new SQE model for trainees joining the firm from 2024 onwards.

Member question: Does being qualified in another country affect employability much?


No but we would need to consider VISA requirements and sponsorship for each application. If you have qualified in a different country and are interested in applying for our Vacation Scheme or Training Contract please still apply. We will convert the education grades automatically for you. The QLTS (qualified lawyer transfer scheme) is also an option but unfortunately we don’t offer sponsorship for that.

Thank you so much for your time today! Do you have any final words of advice for anyone reading this looking for tips on application drafting?


Make sure you’re researching the firm in detail. You can find a lot of information about a firm on their website and various other publications. There’s so much information out there so use it. Understanding the values and ethos of a law firm will help you demonstrate your passion for that firm which is extremely important, particularly with Eversheds Sutherland.

Take your time with the application and make sure you always relate your answers back to the firm and yourself – this will help emphasise your passion and highlight that you have the same values as we do.

Finally, get someone to read it before you submit it! Spelling and grammar will ruin even a great application!