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Using A Subject Access Request for Law Firm Feedback

Hi everyone,

I recently spoke to a future trainee who discussed using a subject access request to request feedback from a law firm. I know this has been discussed a few times on here, and it may be unclear how this actually works, so I asked them to write a detailed account of their experiences.

As you'll see, this candidate used a subject access request as a last resort, after contacting a firm multiple times over several months for feedback. I'm not expecting many TCLA members to start sending these, but I think it's useful for those who are facing an unusual situation and are undecided about whether to go ahead.

If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them below.

--

My experience of using a subject access request to obtain law firm feedback.

Personal Experience

I interviewed at a top-tier firm for a Training Contract and was unfortunately unsuccessful post-interview. I was informed that I would receive feedback within a month after my interview, however this was not provided within that timeframe. After a further six months (and multiple chaser emails to the Graduate Recruitment Team) of not receiving feedback, I resorted to making a Subject Access Request (SAR) to the Graduate Recruitment Team/Firm for all my personal information/data held in their records to be sent to me.

The process was fairly straightforward and involved drafting a letter (delivered via email) addressed to the Graduate Recruitment Team at the Firm explicitly stating that I was making an SAR for copies of all personal data and other relevant information held about me in their files to be sent to me under the relevant provisions of the GDPR. (NB: If you intend to make an SAR, ensure that you are absolutely clear that you are requesting for copies of the information to be sent to you, as in my case, the initial response to my SAR erroneously acknowledged that they had received “my request for the information to be erased” and I immediately corrected this error, failing which the information would have actually been deleted!).

I also specified exactly what information I wished to receive i.e. Interview notes written by [X] Partner on [X] date (make sure you note the names of all the people you meet/interact with throughout the process), submitted applications, all email correspondence between Graduate Recruitment and I / anyone at the Firm concerning my application and interview etc. Finally, I specified the medium via which I wished to receive the information (email).

Outcome and Reflections

By law, SARs must be responded to within one calendar month, calculated from the date of receipt of the request, and I received all the requested information by close of business on the final day of the month after I made the request (i.e. on the 31st day from the date I submitted the SAR). There was no need for ongoing communication with the team while this was underway, save the scenario above where I had to clarify that this was not a request for data erasure. The request was forwarded to the Data/IP team and they were entirely receptive to the request – particularly as there was a legal obligation to respond to the SAR regardless of how tedious it may have been to provide the information, and possibly because it had taken half a year to provide feedback by that stage.

The information was provided in a zip file by email and included the handwritten notes made by the partner and senior associate during the two interviews I had, as well as all email correspondence regarding my application and interview outcome. To comply with data protection regulations/legislation, any sensitive information regarding others (i.e. names, email addresses etc) was redacted. Similarly, the zip file was password protected and I received the password to access the files in a separate email.

The notes included my responses to a number of questions, as well as the comments made by the partner and senior associate on my performance and whether they were inclined to offer me a Training Contract. I learned that I had passed my interview with the senior associate but had apparently not performed as highly in my case study with the partner which ultimately led to my rejection. Though disappointing, given that this was my first ever assessment centre at a law firm, and given how prestigious the firm was, I was still proud of performance, and the experience served me well in later interviews, resulting in an offer from another reputable firm.

On reflection, the process of making an SAR was worth it in my particular circumstances, and it provided the simple outcome I desired – receiving feedback post-interview. However, there are important caveats and factors to consider before making an SAR, and these will be addressed in the next section.

Recommendations/Advice

My advice to candidates would be to only resort to making an SAR after having exhausted all other options of receiving feedback, and to certainly avoid making an SAR immediately after hearing the outcome of an unsuccessful interview. Graduate Recruitment Teams are incredibly busy during peak application seasons and a slight delay in providing feedback is not uncommon and does not automatically suggest that they are unwilling to provide this. In my case, I had requested for feedback on several occasions after my interview over a protracted six-month period to no avail, and only made an SAR as a last resort. Additionally, given that I had fortunately gone on to interview and accept a Training Contract offer from another firm by that stage, I was not overly concerned about the potential ramifications/implications of making an SAR, and merely wished to receive the information both as a matter of courtesy and for my personal and professional development.

I would also advise candidates to consider carefully what the potential impact of making an SAR might be on any future interactions they might have with the Firm/Graduate Recruitment, given that the process is often fairly tedious for the team (they typically have to sift through hundreds of thousands of firmwide data to satisfy the requirements of the SAR), and indeed potentially adversarial, particularly if the information provided might potentially form grounds for contentious proceedings depending on the context, which a candidate may wish to pursue.

Finally, be mindful that there are several objective and subjective elements involved in the decision to make an offer to a candidate, and you therefore may have been rejected for compelling and justifiable reasons. Although you might disagree with the information you eventually receive which formed the basis of the rejection, it is highly unlikely that the recruiters will change their mind at that stage. Therefore, review the feedback with a view to improving on your interview techniques, just as you would have done in a normal post-interview feedback scenario, and leverage the information to your advantage in any future applications/interviews you may have.

Good luck!
 

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Alison C

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  • Nov 27, 2019
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    Hi everyone,

    I recently spoke to a future trainee who discussed using a subject access request to request feedback from a law firm. I know this has been discussed a few times on here, and it may be unclear how this actually works, so I asked them to write a detailed account of their experiences.

    As you'll see, this candidate used a subject access request as a last resort, after contacting a firm multiple times over several months for feedback. I'm not expecting many TCLA members to start sending these, but I think it's useful for those who are facing an unusual situation and are undecided about whether to go ahead.

    If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them below.

    --

    My experience of using a subject access request to obtain law firm feedback.

    Personal Experience

    I interviewed at a top-tier firm for a Training Contract and was unfortunately unsuccessful post-interview. I was informed that I would receive feedback within a month after my interview, however this was not provided within that timeframe. After a further six months (and multiple chaser emails to the Graduate Recruitment Team) of not receiving feedback, I resorted to making a Subject Access Request (SAR) to the Graduate Recruitment Team/Firm for all my personal information/data held in their records to be sent to me.

    The process was fairly straightforward and involved drafting a letter (delivered via email) addressed to the Graduate Recruitment Team at the Firm explicitly stating that I was making an SAR for copies of all personal data and other relevant information held about me in their files to be sent to me under the relevant provisions of the GDPR. (NB: If you intend to make an SAR, ensure that you are absolutely clear that you are requesting for copies of the information to be sent to you, as in my case, the initial response to my SAR erroneously acknowledged that they had received “my request for the information to be erased” and I immediately corrected this error, failing which the information would have actually been deleted!).

    I also specified exactly what information I wished to receive i.e. Interview notes written by [X] Partner on [X] date (make sure you note the names of all the people you meet/interact with throughout the process), submitted applications, all email correspondence between Graduate Recruitment and I / anyone at the Firm concerning my application and interview etc. Finally, I specified the medium via which I wished to receive the information (email).

    Outcome and Reflections

    By law, SARs must be responded to within one calendar month, calculated from the date of receipt of the request, and I received all the requested information by close of business on the final day of the month after I made the request (i.e. on the 31st day from the date I submitted the SAR). There was no need for ongoing communication with the team while this was underway, save the scenario above where I had to clarify that this was not a request for data erasure. The request was forwarded to the Data/IP team and they were entirely receptive to the request – particularly as there was a legal obligation to respond to the SAR regardless of how tedious it may have been to provide the information, and possibly because it had taken half a year to provide feedback by that stage.

    The information was provided in a zip file by email and included the handwritten notes made by the partner and senior associate during the two interviews I had, as well as all email correspondence regarding my application and interview outcome. To comply with data protection regulations/legislation, any sensitive information regarding others (i.e. names, email addresses etc) was redacted. Similarly, the zip file was password protected and I received the password to access the files in a separate email.

    The notes included my responses to a number of questions, as well as the comments made by the partner and senior associate on my performance and whether they were inclined to offer me a Training Contract. I learned that I had passed my interview with the senior associate but had apparently not performed as highly in my case study with the partner which ultimately led to my rejection. Though disappointing, given that this was my first ever assessment centre at a law firm, and given how prestigious the firm was, I was still proud of performance, and the experience served me well in later interviews, resulting in an offer from another reputable firm.

    On reflection, the process of making an SAR was worth it in my particular circumstances, and it provided the simple outcome I desired – receiving feedback post-interview. However, there are important caveats and factors to consider before making an SAR, and these will be addressed in the next section.

    Recommendations/Advice

    My advice to candidates would be to only resort to making an SAR after having exhausted all other options of receiving feedback, and to certainly avoid making an SAR immediately after hearing the outcome of an unsuccessful interview. Graduate Recruitment Teams are incredibly busy during peak application seasons and a slight delay in providing feedback is not uncommon and does not automatically suggest that they are unwilling to provide this. In my case, I had requested for feedback on several occasions after my interview over a protracted six-month period to no avail, and only made an SAR as a last resort. Additionally, given that I had fortunately gone on to interview and accept a Training Contract offer from another firm by that stage, I was not overly concerned about the potential ramifications/implications of making an SAR, and merely wished to receive the information both as a matter of courtesy and for my personal and professional development.

    I would also advise candidates to consider carefully what the potential impact of making an SAR might be on any future interactions they might have with the Firm/Graduate Recruitment, given that the process is often fairly tedious for the team (they typically have to sift through hundreds of thousands of firmwide data to satisfy the requirements of the SAR), and indeed potentially adversarial, particularly if the information provided might potentially form grounds for contentious proceedings depending on the context, which a candidate may wish to pursue.

    Finally, be mindful that there are several objective and subjective elements involved in the decision to make an offer to a candidate, and you therefore may have been rejected for compelling and justifiable reasons. Although you might disagree with the information you eventually receive which formed the basis of the rejection, it is highly unlikely that the recruiters will change their mind at that stage. Therefore, review the feedback with a view to improving on your interview techniques, just as you would have done in a normal post-interview feedback scenario, and leverage the information to your advantage in any future applications/interviews you may have.

    Good luck!
    This is so interesting, and well done to the anonymous contributor for having the tenacity to go through with it. As clearly stated, the major concern would be future interaction with the firm, but in this circumstance, it wasn't an issue. I completely agree that the 'unfinished business' of no feedback at all is incredibly disconcerting. Let's hope that that GR team tighten up their act as a result of your request. Bravo!
     
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