A Review of the 2014 Vacation Placement Application Process

Back in March 2011 we wrote a blog post that aimed to help shed some light on the figures that sit behind the application process for vacation placements this was well-received so we thought we would reprise it again in 2014.  In some respects not a lot has changed so you would do well to re-read the original post I will also use the same format for this year’s post to help aid comparison between the two.

Since 2011 the firm has undertake a merger which now sees us recruiting across 8 UK offices and thankfully the Graduate Team has increased in size to reflect the increased workload.  As a firm we still pride ourselves on the feedback we offer to candidates but with over 1000 applications for vacation placements individual feedback is still something we are unable to offer to every candidate who applies to us.


Some Raw Facts

  • Over 1000 applications screened (almost half to the London office)
  • Almost 200 interviews conducted & psychometric tests administered across 10 different locations
  • 106 vacation placement offers made (more than we anticipated but the calibre of candidate was very high)
  • 105 vacation placement offers accepted (a record acceptance rate)

As highlighted in 2011 it is harder to secure an interview in our London office than elsewhere.  This is because while almost half of all applications were made to London only around a third of the 2014 vacation placements will take place in this office. This application trend has continued year-on-year, despite the fact that all our trainees have access to high-quality, multi-jurisdictional work and trainees frequently move office during their training contract and at qualification.  Don’t forget that the number of people we interview reflects the number of placements available in each office location and not the number of people who apply.


Application forms – an imperfect but indispensable tool

The structure of our application form has not changed much since 2011 but there are one or two important difference to note:

  • Our minimum academic requirement has now increased to reflect the increasing demands placed on lawyers and the more complex, multi-jurisdictional work being undertaken at the firm (our requirements are now broadly in line with other leading international law firms).  However we continue to accept application from candidates who fail to meet the minimum requirement where there are mitigating circumstances and evidence of strong intellectual capability in other areas.
  • We now reward candidates with additional language skills, especially when those languages are in high demand at the firm (Arabic, Mandarin, Russian and Turkish).  The degree of proficiency needs to be high enough to be useful at a business level e.g. an ability to translate complex legal documentation and present at meetings.
  • We have reduced the number of questions but given more scope to explain your motivation for a career in commercial law and explain your reasons for applying to Pinsent Masons.  Both of these questions are of crucial importance when determining which candidates we progress to interview with a Partner.
  • Our capability framework has been tweaked but a copy is still available on our website, we want to remain transparent!


Did the selection process throw up any surprises?

Despite our best efforts a significant number of candidates are still failing to:

  • Demonstrate sufficent levels of attention to detail on their applications; progress is being made but those applications that were submitted just before the deadline were in many cases evidently rushed
  • Demonstrate evidence that the possess the full range of skills outlined in the capability framework
  • Adequately research the firm in enough detail to understand our long-term strategy and how this might impact on their own career if they were to join us

A number of successful candidates continue to:

  • Attend at least one Campus Event or Insight Evening, indeed we are now actively tracking candidates who make a positive impression at these events
  • Follow us on social media both Facebook and twitter in order to remain up-to-date with developments at the firm
  • Engage with their university careers service and ask for advice on how to tackle application forms and undertake mock interviews – if you do secure a vacation placement interview (only about 15% of applicants progress to this stage) you don’t want to make any careless mistakes or let your nerves get the better of you
  • Keep a close eye on the time limit when completing psychometric tests so that they pace themselves correctly

I hope this information has proven helpful to you but if there are any questions you would like to ask please do not hesitate to leave a message on the blog as we will respond to every question that is raised.