A Vacation Scheme at a Scottish Office
Chris Lewis-Laverty completed a vacation scheme at DWF’s Edinburgh office. Having started the scheme not entirely sure that he even wanted to pursue a career path as a solicitor, Chris details the application process as well as his experiences and tasks…
What made you decide to do a vacation scheme with a national firm?
I completed my vacation scheme in DWF’s Edinburgh office. I applied to DWF as I was aware it was a rapidly growing firm and had offices nationwide, offering extra opportunities such as extra secondments and training in Manchester.
What sets a vacation scheme with a national firm apart from, for instance, from City firms?
Vacation schemes with national firms offer you the best of both worlds. They have the advantage of smaller firms where you get to know everyone in the office and get plenty of hands on practical experience. For example, I got to go to court and watch DWF represent clients. Work at a national firm also contains aspects usually found at larger City firms, including plenty of socials after work; we went for a meal and a ghost tour in Edinburgh’s famous underground passages.
How did you find out about the vacation scheme at DWF?
I found out about DWF through my university law society as well as word of mouth of the “Biggart Ballie” firm – the former name for the Scottish offices.
What did the application process involve?
The process started with an online application at the start of the year. After this video interviews were held, whereby a kind of “Skype” style video was taken. I was shown a question on screen then had a short amount of time to respond afterwards. The final stage of the process involved an interview at the firm’s office with one of the partners and a member of HR. This interview addressed competency and skills based questions. We were told whether we were successful or not a few days afterwards.
Was there anything you did differently that you think may have helped you to stand out?
In the video interview I tried to be exciting and enthusiastic. As I was currently on my year abroad in France (as I’m doing a joint-honours degree with French), I started the interview speaking French and trying to relate how languages can help potential trainees. Other than this I just tried to be honest and myself at all stages so I could find a firm that fitted perfectly with my personality.
How was the vacation scheme structured at DWF?
The vacation scheme lasted for two weeks and involved a seat in each of the practice groups. Each week was very different with lots of hands on experience. In my Property seat I travelled to the Companies House several times to submit documents, and had to write reports on the new Land Registration Act coming into place in Scotland which would be circulated around the office to help inform staff on new changes coming into practice. We also had presentations from partners from each practice group, skills training for assessment centres, and also one final 20 minute presentation in front of a group of Partners surrounding current affairs.
What kind of responsibilities were you given at DWF?
I had responsibility for completing research tasks and other written assignments for different Partners I was working for. I also journeyed to get documents signed in the Companies House for various administrative documents. Further, I was given hands on experience with ongoing cases – which was nerve-wracking but fulfilling at the same time. Lastly, I was able to attend and, in some cases, participate in practice group meetings, which was encouraging to see people having confidence in me, despite being at an early stage of my career.
How much contact did you have with senior colleagues and with other interns?
Senior colleagues were there throughout the application process from my vacation scheme interview to spending time with us throughout different individual projects, research tasks and presentations. Some of them even took us out for a meal after work which was good for getting to know them, and the firm, further.
What was your most memorable experience at DWF? And what was the most valuable?
My most memorable experience (and daunting) was the final “pitch” to one of DWF’s “clients” (which was really a group of the firm’s partners) at the end of the two weeks. This involved a lot of research, preparation and group work as the pitch was delivered in pairs. The pitch lasted around 20 minutes and we had no prompt cards so there was a lot of pressure. It was fine in the end however, and we managed to answer all of the questions received by the panel so I feel I gained a lot from this experience and grew in confidence from it.
Would you recommend doing a vacation scheme with a Scottish firm to other students?
Definitely. Before doing the vacation scheme I wasn’t entirely sure that wanted to become a trainee. I also didn’t have any preferences as to what area of law would interest me most and wasn’t aware what the atmosphere and work load would be like in such a large firm. These questions were all answered after the vacation scheme and now I feel far more confident in moving forward in the legal profession after such a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
What piece of advice would you give to any budding vacation schemers?
Research what kind of firm suits you best. I felt some firms were focused entirely on academics and didn’t care about the personality of the applicant. DWF stood out for me as they placed so much emphasis on the individual themselves, highlighted by the number of Partners involved in the application process. In other interviews the most important thing were the numerical and verbal reasoning test which I don’t believe truly represents the individual. Finally, be honest in your application and be yourself in the interviews, then you won’t get any unexpected surprises at a later end!
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