Face value: law firms ask applicants for photos


Gina Mete

A law firm’s application process, which requires students to include a photograph of themselves, has caused controversy amongst Glasgow University law students.

Simpson & Marwick, a firm with offices all across Scotland as well as in London and Newcastle, have asked graduates to submit a photograph of themselves with job applications.

Requesting photographs as part of an application process is not illegal under the Equality Act 2010, with a number of companies currently making use of the controversial procedure, but the policy has raised concerns that race, sex and even attractiveness could be taken into account when judging applicants.

One third year law student, who wished to remain anonymous, commented: “It’s not altogether unheard of. I know there is one firm, I can’t remember the name, that is renowned for only hiring tall blonde females. It’s not exactly the most moral thing in the world as how someone looks isn’t any indication of how good they will be at their job.”

Another law student, who is in the process of completing her diploma year, applied for a traineeship with Simpson & Marwick. She told Glasgow Guardian: “When I applied I just sent in a CV which has my photo on it anyway, so I can’t remember whether they specifically asked for a picture. I know that there are a few firms who ask for a photo be attached to the application – off the top of my head I think I had to send photos to Turcan Connell and Stronachs. It doesn’t bother me too much as these days employers can easily find out what you look like from LinkedIn or Facebook anyway.”

However, Louise Graham, SRC VP Student Support, was less accepting of the procedure. Graham commented: “It is disappointing to hear that firms are asking for photographs of applicants. Although not illegal, it seems like an unnecessary and potentially discriminatory practice which could be uncomfortable for students.”

She went on to say: “If companies require an image for professional use (for their website/social media etc) we believe it is better that this be provided after the successful applicant is hired.”

Glasgow Guardian contacted Simpson & Marwick’s HR Manager Jennifer Marshall, who offered the following explanation: “The reason we ask our potential summer students to provide a photograph is purely to help us remember who they are. We do interview a high amount of candidates over a short period and this helps us when we have our wash up session. As I am sure you will be aware, the diversity of our trainees over the last few years vouches for our openness to applications from all backgrounds.”

Marshall went to say that Simpson & Marwick will consider concerns about this process in future.