Could you put your trust in these people? Jennifer Currie meets the faces that launched a thousand training contracts

Advertisers often use ‘faces’ to sell a particular product – think of David Beckham and Police sunglasses or Liz Hurley and Estée Lauder perfume. Law firms are no exception. So are the people who appear in graduate recruitment adverts real-life lawyers or simply models drafted in by an agency and told to look legal? (Or rather, to make the law firm look glamorous.) Lawyer 2B, the sister student magazine of The Lawyer, asked a randomly selected bunch of firms to tell us who is in their adverts, why they are there, what they do in real life and what the advert is really all about. Where possible, we have provided a picture of the trainee as they appear in real life to allow us to see if their images had been doctored during the production process.

We also asked a band of highly-trained law undergraduates to cast an eye over the same images and tell us what the advert said to them. (The names of the students have been concealed to protect their future legal careers.) So are they solicitors or simply a sham? Read on and decide.

Smiling young man looking at something off camera. “We wanted to tell interesting stories about the personalities who work here,” says Clare Harris, head of Lovells’ graduate recruitment, who admits that they have used the same picture for three years due to its immense “popularity”, particularly with the ladeez.

Is he a real lawyer?
That’s easy. The advert tells us he is and also lists all the reasons why Alex de Jongh joined Lovells in the first place. In fact, he was at the College of Law when this picture was taken. But shockingly, the face of Lovells has recently moved to Olswang‘s defence litigation team, taking his features with him – unfortunately for Lovells.

What a swine. What will Lovells do next?
Clare Harris says they were planning to overhaul their adverts anyway. “Hopefully we will find someone equally as good-looking for the next one,” she says. We tried to contact Mr de Jongh but unfortunately he was out of the country for a month.

The students say:
“This advert was well received! But we think he is a model, when we think it is important to show a trainee, so what has the firm got to hide? The T-shirt suggests he is relaxed – but is this really the case? It [the t-shirt] seems a bit artificial to us as the contact we have with law firms is very formal. But the smiling face gave the impression of a welcoming atmosphere and would encourage us to apply there.”

A sharply dressed bloke called Darren stands with his arms crossed and a quizzical look on his face. We are invited to find out more about Darren and his firm.

Is he a real lawyer?
Yes. Darren Thompson, 27, is currently in his fourth and final seat in the firm’s IP/IT department. He also enjoyed his stint with the insurance team because of the level of client contact.

What’s it all about?
Head of graduate recruitment Michelle Mason says the advert is meant to be “refreshing”. She adds: “We have a diverse mix of individuals here. We wanted to show that people are our best assets.”

Does he get fan mail?
No, but he has been recognised in the street. Some people have even told him the ad made them want to apply to the firm.

Does he like being the face of the firm?
Well, he wasn’t too happy when his colleagues copied the advert dozens of times and plastered it around the office, but he likes the picture – as does his wife. “I think it makes us look like quite a progressive firm,” he adds.

What’s he like in real life?
Darren’s passions include his church, where he is a youth leader, cycling, films and New York. Oh, and Michelle Mason claims he is always dressed to kill.

The students say:
“He looks trendy, confident and successful, which is appealing to us as applicants. But there is an element of smugness and he appears slightly cocky.”

Richards Butler doesn’t use a ‘face’ to advertise itself to students – it uses a pair of legs. In the most current advert, we are given a thigh-down view of a man balancing on one leg with the other one tucked behind his knee. A pair of wooden sandals are carefully placed in front of the feet.

Do the legs really belong to a lawyer?
They most certainly do. Laurence Applegate qualified into the firm’s corporate department two years ago but these pictures were taken when he was a trainee at the firm and was on secondment to the firm’s Hong Kong office. “I was told to bring a pair of shorts to the photo shoot but I didn’t. So if you were able to scroll up a bit further you would see me standing in my boxer shorts,” he reveals.

Does he mind that his limbs now promote the firm?
“I have only actually seen the picture once, as by the time it came out I was in corporate and working every hour God sends,” says Applegate, who is currently on a nine-month secondment to the Royal Bank of Scotland. “It was a bit of a contortion having to pose on one leg like that. The thing is that your legs always look so much fatter in photographs than they do in real life,” he adds, jokingly.

What’s the advert all about?
Applegate thinks the image represents the firm’s “creative and thoughtful” approach to the law. Meanwhile, Selina Short, in the firm’s marketing department, says the advert aims to promote Richards Butlers’ international culture.

The students say:
“We think this advert is random and confusing. We couldn’t decipher the message they were trying to get across – is it a comment on dress-down policies? Or is it trying to suggest balance?”

Bloke (who looks like he’s wearing a shirt and tie) grinning at something off camera. The advert tells us to “just be yourself”.

What’s it all about?
Head of graduate recruitment Vickie Chamberlain says the image was picked for the ad because it shows someone “really enjoying himself” at work. “It is fun and reflects the human side of the firm,” she adds.

So is he real?
Yep. Donald Man has just started on a dispute resolution seat in the firm’s Hong Kong office after a stint in London. He was one of a group of trainees who were wheeled into the firm’s canteen to star in an informal photo shoot last year. Man, who hopes to practice in Hong Kong on a permanent basis in the future, agrees that the advert depicts the firm’s “human face”. He adds: “I volunteered for the advert (not just for the free coffee) because I thought it would be good fun and also wanted to catch up with friends who were also taking part during office hours.”

The students say:
“The advert conveys quite a casual attitude and appeared to be much more natural than other firms. It combined the idea of teamwork with the idea that you will be recognised as an individual with your own special qualities. Although ‘be yourself’ sounds quite artificial.”

Pictures of four lawyers’ faces next to four quotes about how great it is to work and train at the firm.

What’s it all about?
Kate Gregg, head of graduate recruitment, says their relatively new advertising campaign is meant to reflect the “support and responsibility” the firm provides.

So why did they change their advert?
RPC’s previous ad carried a picture of a blond chap with a scruffy haircut and earring and featured the strapline ‘Where you can be exceptional’. Gregg says: “We felt, after two years, that our surfer guy had had a long enough run and we needed to do something new.”

However, Lawyer 2B was sent a copy of an interesting email from a Pinsent Curtis Biddle employee in May that showed that the ad was sending out mixed messages.

“I would be very interested to know if this young man works for the firm and indeed whether a large proportion of your male trainees have facial hair and earrings?” the emailer asked.”My brother has a very similar image to the young man featured in your ad and I want to be able to reassure him that, if he were to apply for a training contract with RPC, you would not be at all fazed if he were to turn up (looking as he does) to an interview with you.”

But Gregg insists this “tongue-in-cheek” inquiry had nothing at all to do with the recent change of artwork.

So who’s in the new advert?
Ben Marshall was a second-year trainee when his picture was taken but he’s now qualified into the firm’s health department. Marshall, who quietly supports Sheffield United in his spare time, says he did not know the picture was going to appear “everywhere” but is quite happy in his new role as the face of RPC.

Eve Dyson, a second year trainee who appears in the advert with Marshall, is also working in RPC’s health department at the moment. Dyson, who is “pleased and proud” to be in the advert, admits that she has been teased by the other trainees in the firm. But the real test will be in a few weeks time, when she has to stand in front of a blown-up picture of herself at a law fair.

The students say:
“The advert is bright and eye-catching, but we think there is too much information. The range of employees included is a good idea as you see your whole future there. But the characters appeared a bit dull, with only one focus in life.”


1. Mills & Reeve
This advert features a picture of a young man who appears to own the longest legs in the world and is skipping up in the air at quite an extraordinary angle. Mills & Reeve marketing officer Daniel Smith says: “We selected this image as it portrays a modern energetic professionalism, which we feel not only represents Mills & Reeve as a firm but also our training programme specifically.” But unfortunately he is not a lawyer, otherwise we could have launched a ‘who has the longest legs in the law?’ competition.

Did it fool the students?
“We weren’t sure if this advert was encouraging us to become lawyers at all. The bloke is definitely a model but he does look as if he’s having fun.”

2. Norton Rose
The firm’s current range of ads feature an assortment of people of various ages, and we are asked to guess which one is the partner/client etc in each one. Our personal favourite is the version that looks rather like an advert for a chatline and features three sweaty looking individuals leaning against some changing room lockers – in this case we are asked to guess which one is the partner. The trick answer is that none of them are partners or even lawyers at all, as a spokesperson admits that the pictures are of models.

Did it fool the students?
“Some of us thought the people looked as though they were enjoying life and managing to mix business with pleasure. However, others thought the people looked very intense and intimidating. The photo looks staged and the artificial pose put us off.”

3. Olswang
Olswang’s adverts could be set for a face-lift now that they have poached the face of Lovells. The current pair feature a rather un-lawyerly looking young lady on rollerskates and a young man who is accurately described by the firm’s head of graduate recruitment as “looking a bit like your dad dancing”.

Did it fool the students?
“[The bloke] is probably a real lawyer – he looks like one! They look like a funky firm to work for, modern and in touch although we think ‘more to life than law’ is a bit corny.”