Drive time at Simmons

Firm aims to shed second-tier stereotype by targeting ambitious trainees

According to Simmons & Simmons graduate recruitment partner Alan Gar, top of most of his fellow partners’ wishlists of trainee qualities is ambition. At first glance, this seems rather anodyne. Like saying ‘we want the best, most enthusiastic candidates’. As opposed to the worst and laziest?

Truth is, Simmons’ focus sums up a problem that affects all mid-tier City firms: balancing the message that you offer an alternative to the magic circle but still want your trainees to work hard and rack up the hours.

One recruiter says: “Very ambitious candidates choose the magic circle, while others choose firms like Simmons precisely because it is not magic circle.”

The nice approach to recruiting does not always equal rocketing revenues, as is evident from Simmons’ performance in the past four years – flatlining at best.

“Market conditions have meant there has been less focus on this aspect but the business of law is getting harder,” admits Simmons managing partner Jeremy Hoyland. “We need people who are motivated and determined.”

Simmons’ predicament, and its aim to drag itself out of the mid-market doldrums, has been mirrored across the City in recent years, with both Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Dentons launching notable drives to recruit more ambitious lawyers. 

BLP’s culminated in a third of its spring 2012 intake consisting of former magic circle partners, while Dentons’ campaigning switched from ‘friendlyfirm.com’ to ‘Can you take the heat?’, complete with chilli-eating trainees.

Signs are Simmons is trying to do the same.