Rethinking recruitment - how holistic and attributes based assessment leads to better outcomes for business

A case study from Mishcon de Reya LLP

Patrick Connolly Academy Director for Mishcon de Reya LLP

At Mishcon de Reya LLP we use an attribute-based framework for recruiting graduates and apprentices through our Early Careers team. This was established more than five years ago to look past formal qualifications alone, and more holistically assess candidates.

We also wanted our recruitment process to be better aligned with our core values, specifically: 

  • Fostering a culture that thrives on diversity, respect for the individual and the expression of talent; one that inspires and empowers individuals to fulfil their potential and the potential of the firm.
  • Being open to new ideas, to think creatively, to look for innovative solutions, neither bound by formality nor constrained by convention.
  • Building a sustainable, well managed and profitable business, which the Partners hold as trustees for every single member of the firm.

We worked with an external consultant who understood our firm and what we wanted from successful candidates. We also listened to a wide variety of stakeholders in the business, benchmarked externally, and considered how these values would practically translate into a recruitment process. We believe that going beyond the traditional approach of CV and grade-based recruitment leads to a better long-term outcome for the firm and the candidate.

Identifying & Assessing Attributes

Clustered into themes, the attributes describe aspects of character, ability, knowledge and motivation that are valued by Mishcon and are predictive of success. Whilst these attributes are not an exhaustive list of everything we are looking for, they guide our thinking and decision-making. They are consistently applied throughout the recruitment process to allow a fair decision.

Our attributes are set out below. They are revisited and, as appropriate, updated each year to ensure they are still relevant. Attributes are assessed in several different ways but provide a grounding for recruitment decisions.

  • Self and social awareness
  • Motivated and agile
  • Inquisitive and agile thinker
  • Engaged, articulate, attentive and influential (communication)
  • Business and common sense approach
  • Confident, resilient and robust

In terms of assessing these attributes, this is woven through the following five stages of our graduate application process, and applicants are asked to demonstrate them in a number of different ways:

  1. Application: An online written application asking candidates to answer Mishcon specific questions alongside details of their academic history, work experience and achievements. The candidate’s name and other protected characteristics are hidden and contextual recruitment software (provided by Rare) puts their achievements in the context of their circumstances.
  2. Video interview: A brief, one-way video interview with a fixed time frame for candidates to respond to a set of questions.
  3. Case study: Candidates are given a non-legal scenario and plan their responses to three requirements. They present their findings to the ‘client’, played by an assessor (who has no prior knowledge of the candidate). The assessor challenges the candidate’s recommendations and provides additional information for the candidate to analyse and discuss.
  4. Interview: Two-way interview with two assessors who are qualified lawyers. Questions are standardised and are a mixture of competency and behavioural-based. 
  5. Vacation scheme: Successful applicants are then invited to work at Mishcon through a vacation scheme. This has recently been online due to COVID-19 but would usually be held in the office. This allows us to assess candidates in a real-work environment and provides them with a full Mishcon experience. 

Impact 

We believe that by adopting an attributes based framework for recruitment, we have more accurately and holistically assessed candidates and made informed and consistent recruitment decisions that benefit the candidate and the firm. To date, this has resulted in a more diverse graduate and school leaver intake (as measured by the Rare contextual recruitment tool), a higher retention rate post qualification and better new joiner alignment to the firm’s culture.

Mishcon Academy

We also prioritise the ongoing learning and skill development of our employees throughout their time with us. The Mishcon Academy delivers university quality education across a wide range of areas including legal, business personal and technology. This broad syllabus aims to produce well-rounded consultants that can work alongside clients on a wide range of issues. For example, the Academy ran a practical coding course for all lawyers where they learnt to code a game of Snake. This was not because we thought our lawyers needed to know how to code, rather than if they could code then they could talk to clients about it in a more informed way.

Alongside our skills-based learning, we also promote debate and share ideas through our New Thinking strand. New Thinking spotlights speakers with an interesting story to tell and in the past year we have welcomed:

  • Jodie Foster talking about her role as a lawyer defending a Guantanamo Bay detainee in the film “The Mauritanian”;
  • Stuart Lawrence, brother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, talking about Black Lives Matter;
  • Piers Morgan talking about free speech and cancel culture alongside his latest book, “Wake Up”; and
  • MP Harriet Harman QC discussing her political career.

The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to invite external participants to select Academy events held on Zoom. For the Jodie Foster event held in April 2020, we had over 300 external attendees. The Academy divides learning into terms and future learning can be viewed and booked here on our Academy website.

Conclusion

I believe the school-based exam framework could benefit from a more holistic approach to assessment, and the breakdown of the traditional exam timetable represents an opportunity for change. We have seen in Mishcon that through using broad attributes that are assessed in a variety of different ways, a more informed decision can be made.

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