As social mobility and diversity rise up the agenda, many firms are rethinking the traditional entry routes into the legal profession.
As early careers adviser, Thomas Hogan’s work in making apprenticeships and traineeships more accessible to students and graduates has been instrumental in helping Mishcon de Reya meet its commitments to social mobility.
His passion for early talent and keenness to work with colleagues across different functions to understand their recruitment needs were among the reasons he secured the Best People Professional title, sponsored by our friends at Oakleaf Partnership, at the 2023 People in Law Awards.
Like a growing proportion of people in the legal sector, Hogan decided to skip the traditional university route and started his career as an apprentice. His passion for the people profession was ignited when he undertook a placement in the HR function at a public sector body, supporting the team with recruitment. He later moved into recruitment at a charity, and then transitioned into the legal sphere with a role in the graduate recruitment team at Allen & Overy.
Since then, Hogan has taken early careers roles at Clyde & Co and Baker McKenzie, before starting his current position at Mishcon de Reya in June 2022.
He is fascinated by the opportunities that the legal sector offers those interested in technology. “Firms are moving away from traditional humanities or law student recruitment towards those with a tech background. Some of the knowledge that our graduates have in tech and AI is fascinating. They have the skills to navigate the complexities these technologies bring, but they can also explain this well to clients and partners who may not yet have this level of knowledge. It is such an important skill to have at that stage in their career.” he says.
Hogan’s role is focused on all aspects of early careers recruitment and development. This includes attraction and outreach – including running events, online promotions and answering questions from interested students – to designing assessments and keeping trainees who have been offered a place engaged while they finish their studies.
His remit also includes recruitment for Mishcon de Reya’s solicitor apprenticeships, for which a fourth cohort begins in October.
“One of the team’s biggest achievements since I’ve joined the firm is overhauling our [approach to] solicitor apprentice recruitment and attraction. We’ve moved to a more accessible format, giving potential apprentices much more bespoke and targeted information for their age group.”
One of these new developments is a podcast series aimed at school leavers. The firm produces 10-minute episodes, giving candidates bite-sized chunks of information ranging from the key stages of their legal training to the support available for solicitor apprentices. The episodes were downloaded more than 1,000 times within one month of going live.
The firm has moved away from a reliance on interview-type assessments for apprenticeship roles, instead implementing a work experience-style placement which acts as an assessment.
Hogan says: “They now do a week with us to experience what it is like at the firm and whether they’re the right fit, and we assess their performance to make sure they are the right candidates for us.
“We’ve had such great feedback from the business and from the students. Our most recent programme involved 11 candidates and we offered five places. That was a really big achievement for the team.”
He says the early careers team took inspiration from Mishcon’s vacation schemes for trainee solicitors, which he felt were useful for candidates to get to know the firm and its culture.
“We can also give the students some experience to take away with them, even if they’re not going to be staying with us,” he adds.
Hogan says the firm is continually re-evaluating its approach to early careers recruitment, to ensure law can be an accessible career for all, no matter their social background. A focus for this year will be its graduate scheme, he says.
Hogan says he was delighted to win the People in Law award for Best People Professional.
“It was really nice to have been recognised for all of the work that goes into it. It’s not just about what I do, but it’s also a reflection of what early careers do in general and the importance of the early careers team in a law firm,” he says.