Clifford Chance’s graduate recruitment specialist, Yasmina Kone, talks to The Lawyer about how the firm is devising new and innovative ways to attract candidates ahead of her session at The Business Leadership Summit.
How can firms use trainees to drive bottom-up business change?
By empowering them. Trainees can be catalysts for business change, if they’re allowed to be. They’re a fresh set of eyes, without entrenched ways of working (in a legal context), and they’re ready to innovate. That’s why it’s important to provide them with the tools and training that enable them to explore creative solutions to client problems.
One of the ways we do this with our trainees is through a hackathon that we run as part of induction. The idea was conceived as a way to empower trainees to use the technology we have available at the firm to facilitate excellent, efficient and innovative client service.
How is Clifford Chance thinking outside of the box when it comes to recruiting talent?
As a firm, we’re great at devising new and innovative ways to attract candidates, whether that’s designing new flagship events (like ‘Accept’, our LGBTQ+ conference), or launching pioneering programmes.
I lead on two of the programmes we’ve launched that are the first of their kind. ‘Ignite’, our law-tech training contract, has attracted a different type of candidate, which is really exciting. We’ve designed a programme that enables trainees to act as advocates for technology, and to use their tech skills and knowledge to develop new internal and client-facing solutions.
‘Lift’ provides future trainees with access to exclusive internships at partnering organisations and internal business functions. It is a distinguishing part of our training contract offering, and again this helps us to attract ambitious candidates and is a motivating factor in why candidates accept training contracts with us.
What are the integral skills for the future trainee?
I was listening in to a webinar with Richard Susskind the other day, and he answered this very question. He said that some of the key skills were: an understanding of how to use technology in the industry, project management, and how to read a balance sheet. I completely agree. In addition to that I’d say creativity and adaptability. If this situation with Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s that we need to be ready to pivot the way that we deliver exceptional client service in a matter of days.
How can law firms attract and recruit a more diverse cohort of professionals?
When it comes to attraction we focus on: running the right events, working with strategic partners who are specialists in diversity, and ensuring that applicants can see themselves represented in our firm. When it comes to recruiting diverse talent, I think the key is to make sure that you’re defining ‘talent’ in a way that isn’t limiting, and focusing on recognising potential rather than polish. In my previous role I worked at diversity company Rare, and was part of the team that launched the contextual recruitment system, of which Clifford Chance was a founding partner. Using the system helps us to identify high-potential candidates from diverse backgrounds that we otherwise might miss.
What is your favourite book and why?
At the moment, it’s Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. It’s an exceptional book. It follows the lives of 12 women and non-binary people, and is a beautiful exploration of being black, British and feminist. There are characters who feel like me and the people I know, and it was great to see that representation. It’s also written in a very poetic way – there aren’t any full stops!