Robert Camp is Managing Partner at Stephens Scown, one of the largest law firms in Devon and Cornwall and a firm that’s ranked 12th in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. He studied at The University of Law Guildford and worked for major law firms including Berwin Leighton and Simmons and Simmons both here and abroad before relocating to the south of England. The firm takes on about ten trainees a year; here Robert gives the inside track on how you can impress with your CV and in interviews.
When I started studying, I had no connections to law. Many people in those days had family connections; I didn’t. It was a steep learning curve and it gave me a lot of confidence. Students like me who don’t know anyone in the law should have the confidence that they can do it too.
It’s all about getting work experience. It doesn’t have to be blue-chip experience. At Stephens Scown we’ll look at all kinds of experience because it shows that someone is willing to get out and do something. Don’t just put your law internships on your CV. If you’ve done a job stacking shelves, put that on too. We want to see candidates who’ve rolled up their sleeves, put themselves out there and mixed with different people.
When you’re a trainee, having open and honest conversations with your principals is key. I was always willing to talk to them about what I hoped to do. When I was interviewed by Simmons and Simmons I was clear that I’d love to work abroad and they eventually sent me to Hong Kong and Sydney. If you can’t talk to your training partner, find someone else. There are ways of finding people to speak to, no matter what level you’re at.
We choose our trainees on personality because we need people who can speak to our clients. Young people are more used to messaging than talking on the phone, but speaking on the phone is an essential part of our work. I’d say to any student on a work placement or starting their training contract – ask to sit next to your principal for a week so that you can learn from them, especially how they are on the phone. At our firm, the training partners get trainees to listen in on client calls.
In an interview, ask what the firm is doing about the future. Have they thought about artificial intelligence or their online competitors? If you’re young, you want to go into a firm that’s forward-thinking. Make sure you do your research on the firm. We ask – what do you know about us? What recent awards have we won? What blog did you last read on our site?
Find a firm that fits you. Each firm has its own culture and you can work out what that is from looking at its website and Lex100 and talking to people through your alumni network. You really want to go somewhere where you’ll enjoy the work.
Graduates have so much to offer on the technology side. Offer to help here wherever you can. Even little things like showing a partner a shortcut on their device create a lot of credit in those working relationships.