Boutique law firm asks wannabe trainees to sell themselves NOT their grades

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By Will Buckley on

Video killed the 3 As star


Eighteen months ago Adam Morallee founded the boutique intellectual property and sport firm Brandsmiths. He now employs nine people but is taking a less traditional approach to finding his tenth employee. He explains:

I was at Mishcon de Reya for quite a number of years and did a lot of graduate recruitment. And some of my colleagues would claim they were looking for someone who was commercially aware and got on with clients. But if you didn’t have three As and a first then you went straight in the bin.

According to Morallee this can create a challenging environment:

If everyone has three As and a first and everyone has been told by their mum they could be PM and if they are all brought into the same work-place then it can’t help but be dysfunctional.

It is a fair point. Former PM Gordon Brown famously always considered himself the cleverest person in the room. Any room. And a firm full of Gordon Browns might look good on paper but imagine the company team-building days. Softball hell.

The problem is particularly acute with paralegals:

There are some amazing paralegals who were really good and fit in really well but some firms say Freshfields don’t take on paralegals, Clifford Chance don’t take on paralegals. So they don’t do it because they think it makes them look like a second-class firm. Law firms are forever saying things like they want to find a diamond in the rough. But one: that’s a ridiculous project. And two: you have to be a bit of rough with 3 As and a first/2:1.

To shake things up a bit in his search for a new paralegal/trainee, Morallee is not asking candidates to trot out their familiar lists of academic qualifications and achievements but to go online and in a two or three minute video explain why they should be interviewed for the job. He explained:

The job is for 12 months as a paralegal and 18 months as a trainee. There is a space with their name on it waiting for them so long as they don’t mess up.

It is certainly a different approach and it is certain to appeal to different candidates. People can drop a grade for all kinds of reason and often that moment of failure can provide the spark that ensures they make the grade. Morallee agreed:

There are these artificial, stupid, outdated barriers in place. Of course, academic achievement is important — if two candidates are the same and one has As and one Cs I am going for the one with the As — but it is not the be all and end all. It is not even the most important thing.

Their videos should be more entertaining than an extremely dry interview Morallee was told about:

The partner asked the candidate what was his highest mark in an exam. The candidate replied 96%. And the partner replied: ‘I’m not happy with that because it implies 4% negligence.’

That’s really putting the human into human resources.

Check out the firm’s promotional video — which includes testimonials from TV chef Gordon Ramsay and professional boxer David Haye — below: