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Candidates for Cobbetts’ vacation scheme were not automatically informed that their applications would not be considered for take-over firm DWF’s vacation scheme until four days before the DWF deadline, it has emerged.
DWF said it had considered combining Cobbetts and DWF vacation scheme application processes but that it would not have been possible to benchmark candidates consistently.
Kate Hasluck, graduate and apprentice programme manager at DWF, said: “The questions on the DWF application form were designed specifically to test certain competencies and we did not feel we would be able to assess candidates fairly if they had completed a different application. Understandably, we also wanted to know why candidates wanted a training contract and vac scheme specifically at DWF - not Cobbetts. This is a key question on the application form.
“A large number of Cobbetts legacy candidates would have also applied to DWF directly. During the integration we received a number of queries from candidates questioning whether their form would automatically be transferred to the DWF system. We always replied honestly and explained they would need to reapply using the DWF form.
“Therefore, any candidate that contacted us directly would have been given plenty of notice, especially as the DWF deadline was two months after the Cobbetts deadline. A courtesy email was also sent to Cobbetts legacy candidates reminding them of the deadline and encouraging them to consider an application to DWF if they hadn’t already applied.
“We’ve made the application process as fair as possible to everyone and have worked hard to make sure that any changes and deadlines were communicated in a clear and timely manner,” she added.
A Cobbetts applicant told Lawyer2B that they were shocked when they received the email just days before the Sunday 31 March deadline telling them that they would need to re-apply to DWF.
DWF announced that it would acquire Cobbetts in a pre-pack deal on 31 January, one day after the firm went into administration.
On 7 February, DWF confirmed it would honour all Cobbetts’ training contracts, both for those trainees already at the firm and those yet to start.
In a statement at the time, DWF’s managing partner Andrew Leaitherland said of the takeover: “DWF’s plans to grow, in a strategic, targeted way have been clearly set out and this move supports that goal. I am confident that the merging of the two firms would bring genuine benefits to both and, importantly, the joint client base. There are many synergies between the two firms in terms of the sectors in which we operate and this collaboration will further strengthen our existing business. I am very much looking forward to welcoming the new team to DWF.”
Read Lawyer2B’s vacation scheme survival guide here (20 June 2011).