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How being a City law firm campus ambassador can get you to the front of the training contract queue

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As the Friday application deadline to become a Hogan Lovells 2015-16 campus ambassador nears, Alex Aldridge meets one of the students who’s held the role this year

Ollie-foudah

At a time of fierce competition for training contracts, and growing pressure on students to start building their CVs at an earlier stage of their university careers, law firm campus ambassador roles are becoming highly coveted.

For time-poor wannabe lawyers, whose workloads tends to be at least double your average arts student, the positions require a level of organisation and commitment not always associated with undergraduates.

But the rewards make up for the burden of the extra responsibility that comes with representing a firm on campus, says Ollie Foudah (pictured above), a second year law student at Bristol University who is one of 14 Hogan Lovells ambassadors at a variety of universities across the country.

Alex Aldridge: How did you land the campus ambassador job?

Ollie Foudah: I had got to know the previous campus ambassador because she had helped me with some questions I’d had while I was in my first year. So when the position came up she encouraged me to apply. The advice she gave has been really valuable, helping me to secure a place on Hogan Lovells’ first year vacation scheme, so the idea of taking that role myself really appealed.

I put in an application, did an online critical thinking test and was invited to an assessment centre and interview at the firm’s office in London with six other students. A few hours later I received a phone call telling me I’d got the job!

Over all, it was very similar to the vac scheme application process, with questions on commercial awareness, for example, and a 45 minute interview with Hogan Lovells partners. But there were also questions on how you would promote the firm, so you have to consider the marketing and events angle too and present your ideas for 15 minutes.

Attending the Hogan Lovells spring vac scheme in my first year also helped me better understand the firm and enabled me to prepare for the assessment centre.

Aldridge: What are the main things you have done as the Bristol University campus ambassador?

Foudah: The position is centered around Hogan Lovells’ recruitment activities on campus. There was a big presentation and networking event in the first term, and it was my responsibility to publicise the event beforehand, organise sign-ups and assist on the evening.

After that I helped run the firm’s ‘best of all lawyers’ competition on campus, again largely through promoting it to students. There is a lot of opportunity to interact with students from different degree subjects, all over the campus, so it’s quite sociable and a way to demonstrate to potential employers that you would get on well with clients. Plus there’s also a social media element, with the campus ambassador being responsible for the Hogan Lovells Bristol Uni Facebook page.

Aldridge: What do you get in return?

Foudah: Perhaps most valuable is the guaranteed penultimate year summer vac scheme which comes with the role. Alongside that and the wider benefits of the experience you gain as a campus ambassador, the firm pays you £600 for the year and covers the cost of travel for various trips which you make to its London office for training and to liaise with ambassadors at other unis.

That training day, which takes place in August, is very thorough, with guidance on the type of questions you’ll be asked by students and how the year will be structured. Plus you meet all the other campus ambassadors at other unis, who you then catch up with at other events, such as the Christmas lunch which the firm puts on for everyone. Having the opportunity to meet one of the graduate recruitment partners and the London regional managing partner highlighted the importance of the programme to the firm.

You also get a trainee buddy, who is a really good source of support and information. I definitely feel that I know the firm very well now. I’ve met so many people at various levels. That certainly gives me confidence at the prospect of doing my summer vac scheme.

Aldridge: What’s the worst thing about being a campus ambassador?

Foudah: There was no worst thing — it’s a really fun thing to do. But there’s no doubt that it can be challenging to fit everything in as a second year student [which is the stage campus ambassadors are at when they commence the job]. You’re juggling your duties to the firm with the typically hectic academic timetable of a law student, plus there’s other extra-curricular stuff.

I’m on the committee for the Bristol University Law Clinic, where I’m training manager, plus I do some mooting, so it has been a busy — but very rewarding — year. It is very good preparation for a workplace where I know I’ll be required to manage multiple tasks at any given time.

Aldridge: Is there anything you’d have done differently?

Foudah: For the firm presentation during the milkround season the level of demand was really high. There were 70 places which were booked up within three hours and a waiting list of 30-40 students. On the day, a few students who had reserved places didn’t attend, which left me regretting not having told all the people on the waiting list to come along.

That was frustrating as it meant there were probably about 15 people who wanted to be there who didn’t get in. So I’d advise future campus ambassadors to be aware of drop-out rates and not to be too rigid about numbers. The graduate recruitment team provide good guidance on these sorts of things and are a great support network with regular if not weekly contact.

Having said that, part of the attraction of the job is learning through experience, and there’ll always be things that are hard to anticipate, so try not to worry too much and just enjoy it.

The application for the Hogan Lovells’ campus ambassador roles — which come with guaranteed 2016 summer vac scheme places, provided you meet the firm’s grade expectations in your 2nd year — closes this Friday 13 March at midnight. The firm is seeking current first year students from each of the universities of Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Durham, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, UCL, Warwick and York, plus King’s College, LSE and UCL. You can apply for the year-long role, which commences in September, here.

Hogan Lovells firm profile [Legal Cheek]

2 Comments

Cynical recent graduate

“I had got to know the previous campus ambassador because she had helped me with some questions I’d had while I was in my first year.”

From my experience what the above actually means is that the firms ask the current brand ambassador to find them a replacement (or at the very least “recommend” someone) and they then pick one of their friends. This destroys any hope of an even playing field. I do not know if Hogan Lovells adopt such an approach or not, but it is certainly an issue I have observed with a number of firms.

Slightly less cynical recent graduate

This is not an approach that Hogan Lovells adopts. Having worked as the ambassador for the firm, I can assure you that the application and interview process take into consideration all candidates on an equal playing field. The varied selection process allows candidates to be assessed on their possession of a number of qualities, and during my time in the role I answered queries from all applicants in an equal and fair manner- whether they were my friends or not. Thus, I do not believe any unfair advantages were awarded to any class of applicant.

What I can say about the benefits of ‘getting to know’ the previous ambassador and asking questions is that in my experience, it is those candidates who show a clear interest in the work that the firm does and subsequently in the ambassador role (through being inquisitive and attending on campus events) who display on their application form and thus in the interview the necessary awareness of the firm’s ethos, and the traits required of the ambassador to stand a chance of being employed.

So although I was asked by the Grad recruitment team if anybody stood out to me throughout the year, I have no doubt that this plays a limited role in the overall selection process.

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