Firms braced for flood of applicants in 2010

Claire Evans

Despite predictions earlier this year that training contract applications would soar as a result of the investment banking industry ­scaling back graduate recruitment programmes, many leading law firms said they received a similar ­number of applications in summer 2009 as in ­previous years, but that they expected a rise next year.

A graduate recruitment partner at a top 15 firm said: “We didn’t get the massive rise in applications we were expecting last year because I think people were put off due to the deferrals and increased competition.

“What we also noticed was many of the weaker candidates just didn’t ­bother applying this year.

“It’s a bit like a pressure cooker at the moment, and next year we’re going to see application numbers shoot up with the big backlog of students who’ve decided to delay their applications.”
A graduate recruitment manager at another firm said there could be a massive ­bottleneck of candidates.

She warned: “Conditions could potentially be a lot worse as gap-year students go head-to-head with ­penultimate- and final-year ­students against the ­backdrop of a contracting training contracts market.”

As a result firms are making students jump through more hoops, with extra ­testing and tougher ­selection procedures.

Herbert Smith is the ­latest firm to add an extra layer to its online application process after piloting a verbal reasoning test on its spring and summer ­vacation scheme candidates ­earlier this year.

Herbert Smith graduate recruitment manager Peter Chater said: “We get so many applications through nowadays that adding this online test will make sure that we’re picking from the best talent pool possible. We want ­quality not ­quantity.”

Berwin Leighton Paisner has added two new exercises to its selection procedure to test for ‘intellectual ­ability’, while LG is in the process of overhauling its entire recruitment process.

DLA Piper has introduced what it calls a “visual ­accuracy test”, whereby students who have successfully completed an assessment day are given a contract to correct for spelling and grammatical errors.

DLA Piper graduate recruitment officer Claire Evans said: “If a candidate’s prepared to jump through hoops like this then you know they’re much more dedicated to a career in the profession.”