What They Don’t Tell You About Vacation Schemes

April 20, 2017

In our latest blog post, second-year law student Lauren Puttick informs us of the things they don’t tell you on vacation schemes…Having been to many careers events over the last couple of years it has become apparent that although every firm has given advice as to how to apply and what the application process is like, their advice doesn’t generally go beyond that.  Learning from experience, I’m going to give you a heads up on the things you aren’t told for example : the extent of the research required, figuring out what type of firm suits you and where they’re based (there is the world outside London) as well as making the best use of the resources the careers service provide.




The Research
Please don’t underestimate this aspect! Whichever firm you’re applying for will expect you to have done relevant research both into their firm and into the sector as a whole.  This is time-consuming and looking briefly to answer an application question will not produce the quality of answer that’s required. I would suggest doing most of your research in summer on one of the inevitable rainy days.  Then you have months to be prepared before applications reopen for the winter opportunities and don’t have to juggle studies with applications. You’ll have to update your research nearer the time of your application but this will be far simpler now you’ve done most of the preparation.  This will help you with the more difficult questions such as:

“Why do you wish to apply for a vacation scheme with us?”

“Choose an issue that’s in the mainstream media and evaluate how it would affect our firm in the specialisation you are applying for”

These are both examples of questions that I have experienced whilst applying for vacation schemes and they are very difficult to answer if you haven’t done your research in advance.




How to research?
Careers and Networking events provide fantastic opportunities to speak to people who work in the firms you are interested and gain an insight into the type of work the firm carries out, the firm’s culture and what they require in an application. They won’t provide all the necessary details and after a few, you’ll realise each firm will give similar advice but they are a good place to start.

  • The firm’s website usually provides a wealth of information on their current achievements, the work they carry out in particular industries and sectors and the due dates for applications (make a note of this, put it in your diaries and underline it)

  • Now you have an idea of what kind of current affair or issue would be relevant to your firm of choice, look at the news whether that’s online, via the TV or through newspapers. Find an issue that interests you and that you would be able to apply to the firm you’re applying to. See if you can write about it from a new perspective, the chances are if it’s in the mainstream news then they will have already read applications that have incorporated the same issue.



What to research?
Many students focus on the service the firm provides and what areas they specialise in. However, there are also many other aspects that need to be considered before you apply. These include the size of the firm and the culture of the firm.  Researching aspects beyond pay and the type of service they provide will help you establish whether this would be a firm that you would be interested in starting your career with.

What firm?
If you know what you wish to specialise in then this will be easier for you as you can already rule out those firms that don’t cater to your needs. For those of you who feel a little lost in this area look at what modules you’ve enjoyed or what particularly interests you. What articles interest you?  If you find yourself struggling not to fall asleep whilst reading the Financial Times then I suspect Banking wouldn’t be for you. Alternatively, look at the modules you didn’t enjoy and remove those from the equation.

The part I particularly struggled with was what size of firm to apply for. Some students will have already figured out whether they’d work well in a large international firm or whether a high street firm would be better suited to them.  For those of us who haven’t yet decided look at the attributes the firms require and speak to people who work in those firms, many lawyers are happy to be contacted by eager law students via LinkedIn or email. They can give you an indication of the stress levels, the pace of the firm and the workload, all of which can help you determine whether a firm is for you. Vacation schemes aren’t only about gaining valuable experience but also about deciding what type of firm you would want a training contract in and where geographically you wish to be based. Although most large firms will have a London office there are many large law firms all over the country and internationally, so don’t feel that you have to be tied to London! A little uncertainty is expected at this point; just do what’s right for you it will come together in the end.




Submitting the best application
City’s careers department provides countless opportunities for you to brush up on your skills before you submit your application or attend an interview. All of these opportunities can be made by booking an appointment through the City Careers Hub website.
These include:

  • CV, Cover Letter and Application Reviews

  • Internship Advice

  • Careers Planning

  • Mock Interviews

  • Assessment Center and Psychometric Test Advice

Considering these are the main aspects involved in the application service I would strongly recommend booking an appointment so you stand the best possible chance.

Good Luck and we wish you great success!


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