I thoroughly enjoyed my virtual experience at DLA Piper. Obviously it was a shame that we could not complete the three week scheme as originally planned. However, the graduate recruitment team did a fantastic job of making the most of a bad situation. Completing the scheme during the pandemic provided a good opportunity to learn about the firm's real culture. The effort that had gone into the scheme's planning indicated that DLA Piper truly values it current and future staff members. Everyone who spoke to us seemed genuinely kind and friendly. This was impressive given that all these conversations occurred over Zoom!
Even over Zoom, it was clear that everyone at the firm values the recruitment of graduates. Many different people, from trainees to partners, spoke to us throughout the week. If there was not time for me to ask questions during each session, people were happy to take questions over email. As at the assessment centre, partners were heavily involved in the scheme's presentations and Q and A sessions. It is encouraging to know what an active role they take in the recruitment process.
Everybody on the scheme has a designated 'buddy', who is a trainee at the firm. Mine was extremely helpful, giving me advice before, during and after the virtual experience. We had to work in teams to deliver a presentation on the final day of the experience. The firm organised Zoom drop-in sessions for us to talk to trainees about it. These trainees had done similar tasks when they were on the scheme and offered useful advice and encouragement. They helped make a daunting task more manageable.
The scheme was shorter than originally planned due to coronavirus. This was entirely understandable, but it meant that I did not have any time in different departments of the firm. I did not enhance as many skills as I might have done in more normal times. Nevertheless, I now feel like I am a pro on Zoom and I have got more used to what home working might be like. This is useful given that the firm appeared to suggest more flexible working arrangements would be encouraged post-Covid 19.
The virtual experience was structured very well. We were lucky to have an introduction on the first day from Global Co-CEO Simon Levine, who did his best to answer the many questions he received. We learnt about the many different support networks and pro bono initiatives at the firm. These informative sessions were complimented well by time to work on our presentations in the afternoons. This prevented the scheme becoming one continuous and draining Zoom call.
Everyone on the scheme seemed pleasant, but of course it is difficult to truly assess this over Zoom when you are on calls with over 100 people. The trainees put on a Quiz for us all. We were put into teams via Zoom's breakout room function, which offered a great change to meet people from other offices. The firm very kindly gave us Just Eat vouchers so we could all order food and try to replicate what the quiz would have been like had the scheme gone ahead as initially planned, which was a nice touch.
We had feedback from the presentation that we delivered. We are also due to get feedback on a piece of written work, which I am sure will be helpful. At the end of the scheme, Sandra Wallace gave an inspiring talk about her rise up the firm and how she has dealt with balancing work and family pressures. This was reassuring - it was clear that we can have a successful career and still have time with the family in the future.
Obviously, the best way to know what working with colleagues at DLA Piper would have been to sit in different departments. However, this virtual scheme was the next best thing. I had ample opportunity to ask various trainees about their day to day life and how they cope with workloads. I was encouraged to learn that the firm provides taxis for trainees working in the office after a certain time. I also got to talk to the Office Managing Partner of the office I applied to. They seemed very approachable, friendly and committed to the office's social scene.
Completing the scheme during the coronavirus crisis highlighted how well the firm treats it staff. We were told how the recruitment process was not being paused. Partners and trainees took time out of their day to talk to us and answer questions. The graduate recruitment team were very enthusiastic and frequently sought feedback on the scheme. For example, when they discovered that there were not quite enough trainees to meet the demand for presentation preparation drop-in sessions, they greatly increased the number of trainees available the following days.
I had done a lot of research into the work of the firm, which appeared to be varied and interesting. The virtual scheme made it clear that not only is the firm's work interesting, but it's a happy place to work. The partners and trainees were approachable and down to earth. There was a large emphasis on the social and pro bono activities you can get involved in. The trainees and partners clearly got on and worked well in teams, reaffirming my interest in becoming a solicitor rather than a barrister.
I was paid for the experience. The firm even gave me some JustEat vouchers to use when I was participating in the socials.
There were many opportunities to meet and network with trainees of the firm. Everyone was designated a trainee 'buddy' who helped us settle into our roles. The trainees hosted a quiz with each office's trainees taking a round. This was a good opportunity to meet trainees from across DLA Piper's different UK offices. The drop in sessions provided another opportunity to meet trainees. We also had an office specific presentation from various different partners outlining the work they are involved in.
I enjoyed the quiz that was put on by the trainees. It was great to get to know the other members of my team, who were all from different offices. I think it was clear from the quiz that trainees from different offices do get on and the firm is not overly London-centric. Partners were happy to take questions via email if they couldn't get through all of them during the session. I am sure the social activities would be much better in more normal times. Equally I was relieved there was no virtual yoga, which apparently has been offered at other firms!
Yes. We were told about various interesting pro bono initiatives, including helping refugees on the island of Samos claim asylum. We were also told about an interesting initiative helping children born in the UK obtain British citizenship. We learnt about various support networks, including ones for the LGBTQ+ community and for people of ethnic minorities. There are also fun social activities available; I was surprised to find out many offices have their own choirs which compete against each other!
I would definitely recommend this virtual experience to a friend. It was a great way to learn about the culture of the firm and the work on offer.
2nd July 2020