What are the benefits of taking part in a first-year scheme?
First year schemes give you an insight into legal careers in a way that research and law fairs cannot. This gives you a head start when you're in your second year and your peers are only just beginning to think about different law firms.
For many applicants this will be their first go at work experience, so in what ways can first-year students demonstrate their interest in/aptitude for law?
Do some research, that way you can ask informed questions and really get to the heart of issues, rather than just asking introductory questions. Also, be enthusiastic! This is your chance to show your curiosity and enthusiasm to learn more.
What sort of qualities are recruiters looking for from first-year applicants?
Good academics and a real interest in the commercial world. We don't expect you to know anything technical at this stage and it's ok to be keeping your options open to other firms and even other careers, but you should certainly show willing and a good attitude.
Are there any specific ways in which an applicant can really stand out when applying for work experience?
Be personal – that doesn't mean telling us your deepest, darkest secrets, but tell us the real reason you chose to study law or want to find out more about what solicitors do. This will make you memorable in a good way and it's much easier to talk about your personal motivations and experiences than trying to show off with clichés.
Are first-year opportunities available to those from non-law disciplines?
At Shearman our Head Start programme is currently only for first year law students. However, we are looking to expand to second year non-law students. Students from any year and any degree are welcome to apply to our open days and other events.
How well does participating in a first year scheme increase the likelihood of securing a vacation scheme?
Very well! Lots of our Head Start participants are still in touch with the firm, some have become our Campus Ambassadors and many are currently applying for vacation schemes. When you've spent time with the firm, you really know what we're looking for in candidates and can show your passion for the firm in a believable way. It also shows your commitment to the career path, so other firms will also like the fact that you've been dedicated to learning more about law from such an early stage.
How are these programmes structured (i.e. some appear to function almost as open days, and others are structured more like vacation schemes)?
Head Start is a one day structured programme. With open days we assume you are already set on a career in law and that you are considering Shearman. With Head Start, we start from the beginning so the day is helpful for all your applications. We cover the basics of the industry and the different firms out there; we have talks from partners and associates going into real depth on different deals and the recruitment team provide some candid tips on recruitment processes. However, the most valuable part of the day is a trainee run workshop that goes through some real work with the participants, so you really get to see what it's like being a trainee and what level of knowledge you'll have to have. Last year, some participants found this quite daunting, but we always want students to make informed decisions about their careers, and the first step to that is knowing what's involved.
How can students make the most of a first year programme?
Really throw yourself into it. Ask questions, answer questions, try your hand at whatever's offered, speak to people during the networking opportunities and take notes. After the schemes, refer to them in applications and continue to build on this foundation by staying in touch with people you have met and following deals in the press that you found interesting. Remember that this is a way for the firm to meet great candidates, so if you make a good impression we will be eagerly awaiting your vacation scheme application in second year!