Graduate Interview Series | Olivia Hobill Cole
Why did you choose Swaab?
I chose Swaab because it offered the unique opportunity of working at a mid-tier firm, that was also a full service firm, that also had national and international connections. The fact that Swaab branched across so many of these aspects was very intriguing to me.
Because Swaab is not as large as some other firms but still has a full service practice, it is involved in several interesting and high profile cases. And because of its size, graduates get to be directly involved in the matters they work on, rather than stuck in a big team doing discovery work. This was a large factor for my choice as I wanted to do real legal work, grow my skills, and work somewhere that I could see respected their juniors and gave opportunities for growth.
Another reason I chose Swaab was because of the culture. I was immediately struck by how genuine and nice everyone I met was. I wanted to work somewhere I actually wanted to be for 9 hours a day, and Swaab promised an environment like that.
What was the Swaab selection process like?
Throughout the Swaab selection process I felt like the firm really wanted to know who I was as a person, and not just my work experience or transcript. The period between applying and receiving an interview was longer than other roles I applied for, but it was because they were reading every single application. Swaab did their best to tailor the situation to make me my most comfortable. The partners and senior associates interviewing me were working in areas I was interested in and mirrored my interests outside of law as well. This meant that during my interviews I could really show my personality, express my interests and show my passion for law and the type of workplace I wanted to be a part of. One aspect of the process was writing an article. This seemed daunting at first, but really it was an opportunity to prove my passion in a specific area of law and give the firm another insight into my skills beyond my resume. The firm lunch provided a good opportunity to talk to solicitors in different areas of the firm and at different stages in their career. It also helped me to understand the social atmosphere of the firm and ask specific questions of different practice groups and the work within each team.
What has been your experience to date?
My experience so far has been incredibly positive. I began as a graduate in the commercial litigation team during COVID lockdowns and yet this did not deter inclusion and comradery I felt when joining. The firm created specialised mentor catch ups with young lawyers within the firm as well as afternoon socials to ensure we were meeting new faces and getting to know people within and outside our teams.
Being in the office post-lockdown has been fantastic on not just a social level, but professionally. There has been opportunity to gain incidental work by sitting in on phone calls and client meetings, and to talk in depth with partners and solicitors about tasks and queries about the cases we are working on.
Overall I have felt like there has been great encouragement for me to jump in and have a go at any task, and a genuine interest in giving feedback and seeing me improve.
How would you describe the Swaab culture?
The best way to flourish in Swaab is to simply be your full exciting and multifaceted self. This is a firm where colleagues want to get to know you, build connections and create an environment of kindness and respect. I have felt respected and welcomed every step of the way — even my first few days when I was feeling a bit nervous and shy.
Putting out quality work to be proud of, sharing achievements and collaborating when questions of case strategy or legal research arise are all core elements of what I think the Swaab culture is. The Friday night socials, the impromptu lunches and dinners, the social sport, the monthly meetings where we hear from partners about how they got to where they are today – these are all small examples that make up the friendly and engaging culture.
Given the competitive nature of the market, do you see the possibility of a long-term career at Swaab?
I definitely see the possibility of a long-term career at Swaab. One of the things that drew me to Swaab was being able to see how past graduates had gone on to become senior associates, which I saw as a really positive sign. It showed me Swaab was a firm that nurtured young professionals and encouraged progression within the firm. Having worked at Swaab for almost a year I have already seen how Swaab encourages lawyers to carve out a speciality within teams and there is room to grow your practice in a personalised way, therefore ensuring longevity. Also honestly, post-Swaab, I think I would struggle to find somewhere with a better culture and work/life balance.