interview blind

Of course, blind assessments aren't always failsafe.


Walker Morris has said it is reviewing its diversity processes after it confirmed it had awarded a training contract to the Managing Partner's child.

The Leeds firm, which has 230 fee-earners, picked Managing Partner Malcolm Simpson's offspring as one of 15 trainees who will be joining the firm in an upcoming cohort. 

Simpson has occupied several senior positions at the firm including heading up Walker Morris’s US practice and chairing its international committee. He was a partner in the firm's commercial team for 17 years before winning the top job in 2018. 

Simpson Jr was lucky enough to obtain a work experience placement at Walker Morris in 2014, and a spot on a vacation scheme this February before securing a sought-after training contract.

Many firms prohibit partners' children from being hired, because it can lead to a perception of bias even if none is present, and can create difficulties for the relation, as well as for other staff working with the individual.

The HR boss at one top City firm which enforces a no-nepotism rule for partners told RollOnFriday, "It's a minefield, which is why we would never go there".

"You've got to think of work allocation, who's going to be responsible for performance reviews, who's going to be responsible for salary reviews - and the smaller the firm, the more difficult it is to disconnect those personal and professional lines", they said.

"As much as people can say they're going to approach it objectively, there is an element of self-preservation, and that unconscious bias is going to be there regardless. It's very difficult to be objective in those kind of situations".

For the child of the partner, as well, "it's a difficult can to be carrying around in terms of people potentially thinking you're only there because of your connections".

Other firms take a different view. Another head of HR at a leading firm told RollOnFriday they did not bar the children of partners or clients from applying for a training contact. "Everyone follows the same process, and if a contact was unsuccessful at one stage, they wouldn't be put forward to the next stage - everyone's treated equally", they said.

A spokesperson for Walker Morris said Simpson was not involved in the firm's graduate or vacation scheme recruitment processes at any stage, with successful candidates "securing placements based on their own performance and merit".

Candidates' CVs and assessments were reviewed on a "completely blind" basis, said the spokesperson, and the firm's assessment team "was not aware of any existing relationship between any candidates and the firm".

Asked whether awarding jobs to senior management's family members aligned with Walker Morris' commitment to diversity and inclusion, the spokesperson said the firm was a signatory to the Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter and had "developed an Equality, Inclusivity and Diversity Policy that explains in detail the Firm's commitment to promoting diversity in the workplace". 

Although the firm declined to disclose the clauses of its policy which dealt with hiring partners' children, it said, "we work very hard to eliminate bias in the treatment of all our employees and potential candidates at all levels".

Other Walker Morris partners may wish to submit their relations' CVs now, before it's too late. The firm told RollOnFriday it had recently launched "a Diversity initiative which is currently re-looking at all our processes because there is always room to improve and we recognise that having a talented and diverse workforce is key to being able to respond effectively to our wide-ranging client base".

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Comments

Soft One 09 April 21 09:27

Much like the Jordan and Qatar dynastic rule at Dentons office 

Anonymous 09 April 21 09:29

I can see how you might - might - be able to make the hiring process blind. But once they're in, it's unavoidable people's treatment of them will be affected by their parent's position.

Anonymous 09 April 21 09:29

We had a trainee who admitted she hadn’t had to interview because her father was a major real estate client.  She was absolutely woeful but kept on at qualification. 

Anonymous 09 April 21 09:29

Some people might even be super-harsh to the kid to appear not bias.

Sumpon 09 April 21 09:31

I don't know why you would ever want to join your parent's firm. It would be my absolute last resort. In fact if that is what it took, I'd probably try my hand at something else. I guess it's a tough market out there, and an 'in' is an 'in'.

Moonshine 09 April 21 09:34

I used to work at a firm which recruited a number of partner’s children.
 

I always wondered what compelled them to apply to their parents’ company. They were smart people but surely it must be refreshing to start somewhere where you don’t have to live under any shadow?! 

Ex WM employee 09 April 21 09:38

Walker Morris have had a long history of recruiting relatives of clients as trainees, with most of them being rather rubbish at their job, so WM taking on Malcolm's lad now comes as no surprise to me

Anonymous 09 April 21 09:47

My previous firm did this, even awarded a 'special' training contract to a partner's child outside of the usual process that was not open to others to apply for. Nepotism remains a real problem in law sadly. 

Diogenes 09 April 21 09:48

Law firms and chambers should not consider applications from the close relatives of senior staff. These individuals are already in a better position than 99.9% of other graduates: they have access to constant mentoring and better connections within the legal field. Permitting them to apply to institutions where relatives are likely to have confidential information on the recruitment process is just unfair to other candidates. 

Perhaps the legal profession should operate a recruitment scheme which avoids the appearance of bias or conflicts of interest. This relates to nepotism, and the hiring of relatives of senior members of the judiciary (which certain sets seem to deliberately do). 
 

 

 

Anonymous 09 April 21 09:53

Am I the only one who finds it rather harsh that ROF has identified the trainee? Surely you could have just said that a child of a partner has been given a TC?
 

Obviously it wouldn't have been that hard to work out which was the relevant trainee if you really did some digging but still...

Anonymous 09 April 21 09:57

9.53 - it’s relevant it’s the MP who’s the dad though. That really ups the ante in terms of the potential for bias/perception of bias. 

Anonymous 09 April 21 10:00

Somone should take a look at Irwin Mitchell for both senior equity partner's chidren being awarded trainee contract and quick promotions along with awarding training contracts to key supplier siblings to secure work sources!

annoymous 09 April 21 11:12

Simmons & Simmons and CMS are full of partners' children and relatives. Doesn't stand up to much scrutiny on the "S" or "G" of ESG.

Anonymous 09 April 21 11:12

Not surprised to see this at such an old fashioned firm - zero diversity and inclusivity, stuck in the past and dull in outlook. Always find it cringe when they are described as a Big 6 firm in Leeds - could not be further from the truth. 

Anon 09 April 21 11:24

As with anyone else who went to uni, you don’t have enough fingers to count the different instances of nepotism. It makes you lose faith with the entire industry when one tearful phone call to a parent is enough to bag a TC which you’d been rejected for hours previously (one such example from springs to mind).

The industry crows on about not having enough class and background diversity but rarely have the decency to admit it happily allows some select individuals a massive advantage. 

Anonymous 09 April 21 11:51

Hogan Lovells lost a brilliant BD exec years back when her dad was promoted to COO. The effect can be harsh and it caused some damage to the events team at the time, but rules is rules and they apply across to board, even to non-lawyers.

Anon 09 April 21 12:22

On the other hand...

Law firms are by and large privately owned businesses with the owners beholden to no-one but themselves.  As a consequence they can indulge nepotic tendencies all they like or tolerate.  There is nothing that says they are bound to do anything different, no matter the external optics.

It may be bad for the business and galling for those making their way on merit, but, hey, what is a family business good for in the UK if not to employ imbecile children?

Anonymous 09 April 21 12:28

Firstly, I think it's really sh1tty to identify a very junior person (incoming trainee) in a RoF article, when he has done nothing wrong. 

Secondly, EPs are the owners of the firm/business and it is completely normal for owners of a business to involve their offspring in that business.  For high profile examples, see e.g. Holly Branson at Virgin, the Murdochs at News Corp. 

I would not award a TC to my own child (or want one at my parent's firm if I was the child), because there are all kinds of reasons around professional credibility and independence and forging one's own career.  However, there is nothing inherently wrong with what's happened at Walker Morris. 

Anonymous 09 April 21 13:06

rof has been shitty? They’ve been remarkably gentle. They haven’t named him, and they’ve given both sides of the argument. This isn’t a kid either - it’s someone in their 20s presumably. If you take a position in your dad’s firm and don’t think that’s relevant then you are insanely naive. 

Shaken_Not_Stirred 09 April 21 13:35

You cannot get a TC at WM unless you drink a shedload and stay out to the very end of the vac scheme events. Simpson Jnr is clearly a decent drinker and likes a night out.

It is irrelevant that his dad is MP - it is in Yorkshire. If junior is shit, he will be told so in a number of colourful ways.

Random dude 09 April 21 14:05

Love the random sexism that assumes this is a guy [...]I worked with a girl who got her tc as her dad was a partner.  Honestly any short term heat is long forgotten after qualification and the kid has a job at a top firm earning 6 figures.  

Anonymous 101 09 April 21 14:05

Why has everyone presumed that it's a he? The first thing I thought of was the celebrations on receiving the Training Contract offer:

dad: "Wow, well done fantastic news child, I was as you know completely blind, and I am completely shocked."

child: "I can't believe it dad, what an achievement".

comedy sketch, or law firm?

Anonymous 10101 09 April 21 14:08

Rupert Murdoch's behaviour is not the bench mark, next we will hear they've been phone tapping and making things up about people. 

Anonymous 09 April 21 14:21

Deal with it. 
 

I’ve a surname that some Jewish people have. I went to a city firm open day a few years ago and just after lunch it was announced we were going into a room for some religious ceremony. I pointed out that I wasn’t Jewish, they looked sheepish and I was left on my own for half an hour.
 

It was pretty obvious that they had particular trainees in mind that day.  My face didn’t fit.
 

So be it.  Ultimately you can be aggrieved or go to a firm that wants you.  The chances are the best firms don’t have a predetermined idea of which trainees they want. 

 

Lydia 09 April 21 14:28

It's not against the law and in fact if you have a rule  barring someone because of who their parents are or their skin colour or religion you get into trouble. Loads of local plumbing businesses are father and son.

Anonymous 09 April 21 16:14

Classic ROF 

I love the messages feeling sorry for the child who got someone else’s training contract.  They are definitely the victim in this situation. 

Anonymous 09 April 21 17:12

Easy solution. Just resign and get a TC with a different firm to the one your father runs. 

Anonymousalso 09 April 21 18:52

I don't want to work for a family firm again. One cockney woman partner I have worked for recently hired her cousin who was made redundant before making other unrelated fee earners redundant. Then she hired some other people she likes. She cannot deal with a case independently, but she can get builder clients from her circle and bought off some shares of the firm from the retiring founding partner. So now she's also pretending to be the shining example of successful female lawyers, buying a job title of partner and some shares of a company. 

Nepotism is quite looked down everywhere. You can always buy a firm when you are experienced which should be gained without equity influence or support. Otherwise, that lawyer is guaranteed to be shit.

Anonymous WM 09 April 21 20:11

Funny everyone assumes it’s a son when it’s actually a daughter. 

Brummie 09 April 21 22:58

This used to happen quite a bit at the old Wragge & Co

Ham 10 April 21 02:19

We had a trainee who we all thought was a daughter of a senior partner (they had the same name). As it turned out she wasn't. But we only learned this after she slept with a newly made partner who was married and then emailed the entire dispute resolution department to say that she felt she was manipulated. The partner was asked to resign and she is on independent finite gardening leave (after two years). Funny world. 

Dorthe 10 April 21 02:32

I fail to see any problems with nepotism. If you own a share in a business you should be able to direct how it is operated including hiring. The only people who cry out that it is bad are those with no skin in the game, and no right to criticise the system which they so badly want to join. We're not living in a socialist dystopia yet. 

Anon 10 April 21 08:16

Fairly or unfairly firms can’t allow this to happen.  

Heh 10 April 21 15:10

Well. Fits in with one of their perma-tan NQs that only got a TC because a few of the partners fancied her. 

Another ex-WM employee 10 April 21 15:43

WM is notorious for this and its not just the kids, nephews and nieces of partners, but also the kids of important clients who get handed TCs. Echo the comment above, that few, if any were very good, but the nepotism that got them there, keeps them there and helps them at every level. 

Laughing so hard at the "completely blind" assessment!

 

Anonymous 10 April 21 15:49

Not just Walker Morris who are terrible for this. Had an previous boss who had been at Pannone and freely and openly admitted the partners had made an agreement that they would hand out training contracts to their kids. It is how his own lacklustre offspring managed to secure one. 

If you are good enough, you don't need daddy's law firm to give you a training contract and should have the integrity to apply elsewhere. If, you aren't, you fully deserve to be despised for taking the opportunity from a better candidate. It makes an absolute mockery of the idea that we live in a meritocracy (we don't). 

 

Anonymous 10 April 21 15:53

@Lydia and other saying its not against the law, possibly not for the children of partners, but if you are given TCs to the children of major clients, in the hope of continuing to attract business, you are sailing dangerously close to being the wrong side of the Bribery Act. 

Greg 10 April 21 21:05

I had never heard of Walker Morris until now. Why are the recruitment policies of a high street firm in Leeds worthy of comment?

Moonshine 10 April 21 23:36

@Lydia are you actually comparing barring someone on the basis of their colour to doing so on the basis of their name? I know law firms that don’t let relations work together.
 

So what are you saying exactly about that being against the law? I’m confused. 

Anonymous 11 April 21 08:11

@Dorthe Whereas sleeping with the partner is completely the opposite of socialism. That's true. 

Anonymous 11 April 21 08:15

How the SRA has not made a rule against TC nepotism given the competitiveness is quite telling. 

Anonymous 11 April 21 08:33

We are not the unelected peers full of council scums. We are the elected MPs who believe in elitism. If you want your staff and clients to respect you, avoid all kinds of family hires, including your little girlfriend who once worked as your paralegal, now an equity partner with an ugly LV bag. 

Anon 11 April 21 09:34

bad idea but not everything is a diversity issue...

Blind 11 April 21 20:29

From a quick look at the board and partners, although this may not be a diversity issue, the firm clearly looks to have one. Anyway, is it the graduate recruitment partners and HR that are blind? 

Anonymous 10 12 April 21 06:30

Rof you are a disgrace to print this. Messing with a young persons life. You should be ashamed. 

ginger1 12 April 21 09:57

'Messing' - what about the person who missed out on a TC because their dad wasn't in charge? I wonder if they feel 'messed' with, jumping through all the hoops for nowt.

'young person' - they're an adult in at least their mid 20s, not a child, stop infantilising them in an appeal to outrage. 

If you go for a job in dad's firm, fine, you do you, but don't be so blinkered as to think it's not relevant to be reported on. Goodness, they're lucky they didn't get their name and picture published. It's supposed to be a professional law firm, not a family business.

Anon 12 April 21 11:48

The WM application form asks potential trainees if they have any connection to anyone at the firm so it's absolute b*llocks that HR didnt know who she was. 

Anonymous 12 April 21 16:48

@Greg, Walker Morris is not a high street firm - it’s got the shambolic recruitment practices though. 
 

 

Anon 12 April 21 17:53

Anonymous 12 April 21 16:48: it looks like a large High Street firm to me. These big, single-office firms in the regions can accurately be desribed in that way,

Anonymous 12 April 21 23:11

Apparently the only special privilege he's been granted is permission to wear the Birthday Crown to work every day.

And a special red velvet chair.

And a PA.

And two paralegals.

But given the extra pressure he'll be under that makes sense.

Je Suis Monty Don l’Autobus 13 April 21 04:12

ginger1 “what about the person who missed out on a TC because their dad wasn’t in charge” - do me a favour. Do you have any evidence such person actually exists? 

It’s perfectly feasible no nepotism was involved in the selection. There’s no proof of bias. So cry us a river for your the imaginary victimhood of your orphan pauper.

Nepotism’s not illegal anyway. Lydia’s right that blanket bars to hiring relatives probably are. To be honest, what’s the point of working hard to be successful in life if you can’t then give your child a leg up?

Anonymous 14 April 21 08:27

The Training Contract route of entering the profession is solely controlled by the firm, whereas the SQE gives that power to the hard working individuals and a centralised assessment by the SRA. It is self-evident which is fairer.

The firm has an interest of giving a TC to a skilled paralegal only when the paralegal threatens to leave, whereas the firm's TC programme (if any) is designed for training the next generation managers of a firm, more than anything else. It is always coincidental that the firm's interest should align with the young legal professional's interest to become qualified. 

Firms award managerial roles in two situations, based on the managerial principles adopted.

If the partners believe in meritocracy, or Peter's principle, they will award TC to a skilled paralegal or law graduate, who once qualified will be managing a team of paralegals as well as deal with their own cases – the risk here is they will get bored and leave the firm. Obviously that would be a waste of resources.

If the partners believe in Dilbert's principle, they will award TC to anyone who can get along with the equity partners no matter how incompetent they are. This principle is designed to get the incompetent workers out of the competent workers' way and day-to-day work flow to limit damage (eg a very young partner had their daddy buy the firm, as soon as s/he works on something they get sued for professional negligence). So, in this situation, the natural choice would be the spitting image of the money bags, and who can be more like them than a relative. Good people will leave this kind of establishment eventually. 

Law firms can offer valuable work experience, but they should not control who comes into the profession. 

Anonymous 14 April 21 08:32

Family business=/=professionalism

Anonymous12345 15 April 21 08:28

Gone are the days of a family business because other bitter rejected candidates want someone to blame other than themselves. 

These law firms are private entities, they can hire who they want. 

Anonymous 15 April 21 09:00

To those decrying the SQE and moaning that the new system will allow just anybody to enter the profession, this is an example of why the training contract is not the great gatekeeper you all seem to think it is.

Anonymous 15 April 21 16:27

@Anonymous12345

What you said is simply the premise of the discussion that nobody has disputed. 

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