The resilience, drive and determination possessed by rough diamonds is underrated, Norton Rose Fulbright trainee recruitment manager Caroline Lindner tells Legal Cheek‘s Alex Aldridge as he visits an ‘Aspiring Solicitors’ lunch hosted by the firm.
Last year three irreverent legal social media sensations gripped the nation’s law students. @LawVicissitudes (a Twitter account), Things Law Students Don’t Say (a Facebook page) and Your Barrister Boyfriend (a Tumblr) emerged out of nowhere to pull in huge numbers of followers with their amusing and irreverent posts. But who will be the legal social media sensation of 2014?
So far there is only one — unlikely — contender: Aspiring Solicitors, a Facebook page and now website that was set up last year by Chris White, a former associate at Norton Rose Fulbright, to help wannabe lawyers from a range of minority backgrounds get better access to top law firms. The site’s viral-levels of popularity — in just five months it has gained a massive 7,500 Facebook likes — illustrates not only non-traditional students’ interest in big law firms, but big law firms’ interest in non-traditional students. Change to long-established patterns of ultra-conservative training contract recruitment is in the air. In particular, there appears to be an increasing willingness to relax ultra-strict A-level requirements which have tended to impact negatively upon students who went to less-than-brilliant schools before finding their feet at university.
“What we are really looking for is people who have that drive and motivation, but also possess resilience. That’s really important in this career,” says Norton Rose Fulbright’s Caroline Lindner. “The other thing to mention is that we don’t have an automatic cut-off or filter with academic grades when we’re screening application forms. We read every application in full. We’re looking at everything. Academics are important to us, but there are always exceptions to the rule.”
Aspiring Solicitors works by organising a series of lunches and other social events at big name law firms, where students outside the mainstream get to eat and schmooze with solicitors, some of whom come from less conventional backgrounds like their own. White summarises the gist of what he is trying to do:
“A student who’s got three Bs and has then pulled their socks up and got a first has shown impressive grit and enthusiasm. A lot of law firms are going to want to meet that person. Giving those students the platform through which they can demonstrate their focus to these firms is the major part of what Aspiring Solicitors does,” he says.
Lindner explains that at the conclusion of the Aspiring Solicitors lunch held by the firm earlier this month (pictured) all attendees names will be noted and then tracked as they go through the trainee recruitment process this summer.
She hopes that opening up the firm to a wider breadth of wannabes will ultimately give it “a greater diversity of perspective which means better ideas and better service for our clients.” She continues: “Maybe they feel access to the profession is unattainable. But actually a lot of people in this firm and other firms around the City are from a variety of different backgrounds — and it’s important that we connect the two together.”
Listen to Legal Cheek‘s Alex Aldridge chat to Lindner and White about the changing mood in graduate recruitment in the podcast below.