PT Awards profile: Reed Smith innovates in graduate recruitment

Reed Smith collecting their award in 2013
Reed Smith collecting their Innovation in Recruitment award in 2013

Attracting able graduates into the legal profession is a competitive business, according to Lucy Crittenden, head of graduate recruitment at law firm Reed Smith.

“We wanted to raise our profile among future legal talent and build our brand in the marketplace and on university campuses. So we had to do something innovative, a bit different, that would make us stand out,” she explains.

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Reed Smith’s graduate recruitment campaign – which involved candidates putting together a video of the “law firm of the future” – certainly attracted the attention of the Personnel Today Awards judges, who deemed it last year’s winner in the Innovation in Recruitment category. It was viewed to be “future-focused, engaging, and bang on the money for the community they are trying to reach”.

Communication initiatives

There was a conscious decision to communicate with potential candidates via the media they understood best: namely social networks (“likes” for Reed Smith’s Facebook page increased by 163%) and YouTube-style videos. Students were invited to talk to senior partners at the firm for their videos, and there was an awards evening to judge their entries, with the successful team winning a trip to New York and an opportunity to do work experience.

“There are so many law firms competing for attention on campus so we wanted to be seen as an innovator, and a firm that likes to listen to what people have to say,” adds Crittenden.

It is important for Reed Smith to attract people with commercial skills, so there is a strong emphasis on work experience opportunities. On top of the mandatory legal practice qualification that graduates must take before they can practice law, the firm has created a Business Masters qualification so they can acquire broader commercial knowledge.

“From a learning and development perspective, it was important for us to introduce the MBA elements to the legal practice course to help students develop the commercial awareness which would transition them effectively to the workplace,” says Nigel Spencer, global director of learning and development. “Including a work placement at a client as part of the course helps with this; it makes them apply classroom learning to a real client situation.”

Commercial awareness

With 25 offices globally, the firm is keen to bring on board lawyers with international mindsets and experience. With this in mind, it has developed a partnership with King’s College London to support its Anglo-French degree students at the Sorbonne in Paris, and also runs skills sessions with King’s students to develop commercial awareness.

Future recruitment initiatives will have a closer link to Reed Smith’s corporate social responsibility goals, says Spencer. The firm is already building partnerships with the Black Lawyers Directory and its Legal Launchpad programme, for example.

The team continues to innovate its graduate recruitment approach. In the last recruitment round in autumn 2013, it invited candidates to send in a “mugshot”, incorporating a mug they had received at a graduate recruitment fair. One of the standout entries was the bottom of the Eiffel Tower in Paris drawn onto the mug, with the real tower standing behind.

“By running these competitions we get people talking and sharing pictures and comments on social media. Plus the students feel they’re getting something in return in terms of skills development and contact with the firm. Our talent pipeline is very strong,” Crittenden concludes.

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