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What we look for

Our Recruitment Process

We have two application routes – you can apply for a vacation scheme or you can apply directly for a training contract. Our vacation schemes are important to us, and a high proportion of our training contract offers are made to individuals who have completed a vacation scheme with us. Notwithstanding this, we recognise that some individuals will not be able to complete a vacation scheme, so we do still make offers through the direct route.

The recruitment process for vacation schemes and for training contracts is the same. We ask all applicants to firstly complete our online application form. We receive a very high volume of applications for both vacation schemes and training contracts so we encourage you to really tailor your application to us, and to provide detailed examples of the skills and experiences that you have developed that will be relevant to your future legal career. We assess applications on a rolling basis.

The next stage of our recruitment process is an assessment centre, comprising of a written exercise, a group exercise, an interview with Associates and a critical reasoning task.

If you are applying for a vacation scheme you will find out whether you have secured a place on a vacation scheme after the assessment centre. During the vacation scheme you will complete a number of assessed exercise as well as a final round Partner interview for a training contract. You will find out whether you have secured a training contract after the vacation scheme.

If you apply directly for a training contract, the recruitment process is assessment centre followed (if successful) by Partner interview. The Partner interview takes place on a separate date to the assessment centre, usually within 1 week – 10 days of your attendance at the assessment centre.

See below for further details on the different stages of our recruitment process.

The application form

The application form is your opportunity to tell us about your interests and achievements, and your career rationale – why you are interested in law and in HFW/our sectors. 

View the application form as a chance to sell yourself – what skills have you already developed that would help you to hit the ground running as a solicitor? Why would you be suited to life at an international law firm? We receive lots of applications each year, the strongest ones are underpinned by thorough research, plenty of evidence (rather than broad-brush statements), and a genuine passion for law and the work that we do. 

We also use the application form to form a view on your written communication skills (spelling, punctuation and grammar) and your research skills so invest time in researching the firm, and in proof reading your application.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis so to give yourself the best possible chance avoid leaving your application to the last minute, or applying very close to the deadline.

You will need to include: 

  • Details of your academic track record - GCSEs, A Levels (or equivalents)/ IB and a breakdown of your results for your university modules. We consider extenuating circumstances when reviewing your results. If you have studied overseas there is an option to tell us about the exam system that you followed and to provide additional context.
  • Details of your work experience/ part time jobs– legal and non-legal. This enables us to see the skills that you have developed to-date. Every work placement (whether legal or non-legal) is valuable. Be prepared to write about what you learnt through your work experience placement / job, and evidence your skills' development with examples. If you are changing careers, use the work experience section to help us to understand your career rationale and why you are looking to change.
  • Your answer to a short question relating to your extra-curricular activities and achievements. You should try to relate these to the skills needed by a commercial lawyer, and explain why your achievements are relevant to your application. Here we are looking to see if your examples would be transferrable into a legal career, and again for you to provide tangible evidence of how you have developed these skills - the STAR format is a useful structure to follow here.
  • Your answer to questions exploring why you want to be a lawyer in an international firm and why you have applied to HFW. You should aim to give specific reasons for your application. This is all about us seeing that you have a career rationale, and credible reasons behind your application. 
  • Your answer to a short commercial essay question. With this question we are looking at your ability to articulate an argument/viewpoint, as well as at your communication skills, spelling, grammar and punctuation and commercial acumen. Try to write about something that is relevant and recent.

How can I stand out?

  • Do your research on the firm – find out about our practice areas, recent deals, what industry publications say about us. Think about where we are placed in the legal market and how we differ from our competitors.
  • Think about the skills that a commercial lawyer needs. Try to provide evidence of having developed these skills in your academic and extracurricular activities. The most important thing here is that your examples are backed up with evidence. Don't just tell us that you work well in teams – tell us about a successful team you have worked in, what your role was, and actions you took. Build a picture for us of what you do well.
  • Ensure that your answers are free from spelling and grammatical errors. One of the things that we really focus on is your attention to detail - this is a key skill for lawyers, and your application form should show that you can draft clearly, succinctly and accurately.
  • Don't be afraid to show some personality. We want to recruit people who can gel with our clients and who are interesting and interested. Being good with clients is about being able to connect with people and build rapport, so try to provide us with examples of times when you have done this.
  • Think about the international nature of the firm and our clients. Why are you drawn to work at an international firm, or as a solicitor opposed to a barrister (or indeed any other profession). 

Can I obtain feedback on my application?

Due to the volume of applications that we receive we are unable to provide specific feedback on your application form.

The assessment centre

The second stage of our recruitment process for vacation schemes and training contracts is an assessment centre at our London office. 

The assessment centres typically last for 5 hours and we invite up to 8 candidates to each assessment centre. During the assessment centre you will take part in the following:

  • A written exercise: In the written exercise, we test your communication skills and your analytical skills. You are given a short document to analyse, and are tasked with writing a short letter of advice to a fictitious client. We are not testing your legal knowledge in this exercise, rather we are looking at your skills of comprehension, close reading and at your attention to detail and your clarity of expression. There is no specific preparation required for this exercise.
  • A group exercise: In this exercise, we are looking at your ability to build rapport with your colleagues, at your oral communication skills, teamwork and at your listening skills. The group exercise is a commercial scenario, with a problem to solve. As a group, it is your job to work together to discuss ideas and suggestions and to come up with a solution that you all agree with. In the group exercise you should try to contribute evenly throughout, to listen and take on board others' ideas and also to come up with your own ideas and opinions. Naturally different people have different style and we completely recognise this. You should aim to be yourself.
  • An online ability test: We use a test called the Watson Glaser because this is test that is shown to have "predictive validity"; that means that there is evidence to show that applicants that perform well in the test also perform well in an on-the-job environment.
  • A 45 minute competency-based interview: either with 2 Associates, or a member of HR and an Associate. We use your application form as the basis for this interview. You should expect to answer questions about your interest in commercial law, why you have applied to HFW and your transferable skills and interests. We will ask some competency-based questions – these are questions where we ask you to draw on your previous experiences to provide examples of how you dealt with a situation in the past or displayed a particular skill/ competency. This is because evidence shows that past behaviour is the best predictor of future performance. We will also ask some questions around your understanding of the commercial environment/ current affairs. We're not trying to trip you up so we're looking for an interest and enthusiasm for the commercial world rather than a technical understanding of our sectors. We're definitely not expecting you to quote the latest share prices to us, or to have a deep understanding of the financial markets! Prepare by reviewing your application form, keeping up to date on current affairs, and have plenty of examples to hand for the competency-based questions. Also ensure that you research the firm in detail and think about why you would be suited to us and our sectors.

On the day try to be yourself. Listen to the questions you are actually being asked and not the questions you might have prepared for and want to hear. Have questions to ask the interviewers too – it's a two way process.

Can I obtain feedback on my performance?

We are happy to provide feedback to all assessment centre attendees, and ask that you email to arrange a suitable time for a feedback call. We are unable to provide written feedback.

The Partner interview

The Partner interview is the final stage of our recruitment process for Trainees . 

This interview is with two different Partners from two different industry groups – for example one Partner from Shipping and one Partner from Insurance and Reinsurance. 

The interviewers will have a copy of your application form, so do make sure you familiarise yourself with your application before you come to the interview. The Partner interview is the final opportunity for us to check that the law and HFW are for you, so expect more questions around your career rationale and reason for applying to us.

You should expect a more commercial interview than the assessment centre interview – make sure that you are abreast of current news stories and that you are thinking about how any recent world events might impact HFW and our clients. The interview will also include some questions designed to test your analysis and problem-solving skills, as well as some professional ethics questions. Again be yourself, try to back up your answers with evidence and be prepared to show your thought process. There may not be a "right" answer to some of the questions, instead the Partners will want to see how you think and arrive at a logical answer, exactly as you would need to when working on a new problem for a client, or in a new area of law. 

Can I obtain feedback on my performance?

We provide detailed interview feedback to all final round interview attendees, and strongly encourage you to obtain this. We ask that you email to arrange a suitable time for a feedback call. We are unable to provide written feedback.

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