How To Make The Most of First Year Opportunities

First year opportunities are increasing and more and more law firms have an offering for the keen law student. Michelle Ruddle, Recruitment Marketing Manager at Hogan Lovells, explains what firms look for in first years and how students can make the most of them.

  • Last updated Feb 11, 2018 9:17:49 AM
  • By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk
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What are the benefits of taking part in a first-year scheme?

They allow first year students to get a taste of commercial law so they can make informed decisions about whether they want to get further experience or indeed make a training contract at the end of their second year.

First year schemes also help students to build relationships in the legal profession through the firm representatives they meet, including the trainee mentors who assist with the Hogan Lovells spring vacation scheme and other vacation scheme students from a wide variety of universities.

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?

For many students who don't have experience of commercial law, we would encourage them to do as much research as possible before completing their application. Joining their university law society alongside reading up about the legal profession, attending law fairs, workshops and skills sessions and taking part in pro-bono clinics are good ways for them to find out more about the law and meet and speak with representatives from various firms. This will not only broaden their legal knowledge but will also enable them to gain a better understanding of the different cultures and the sorts of opportunities on offer at a variety of law firms.

What sort of qualities are recruiters looking for from first-year applicants?

The personal qualities our people possess are as important as their qualifications. Students applying to any of our programmes need to be happy collaborating with a team yet capable of, and used to, independent action. They will need to demonstrate an ability and desire for lateral thinking, possess strong attention to detail, and have the energy, resilience and ambition to succeed in a top global law firm.

Are there any specific ways in which an applicant can really stand out when applying for work experience?

As mentioned above joining the law society at university alongside reading up about the legal profession, attending law fairs, workshops and skills sessions and taking part in pro-bono clinics are good ways for students to find out more about the law and to meet and speak with representatives from various firms. 

Are first-year opportunities available to those from non-law disciplines? 

At Hogan Lovells we run a winter vacation scheme for final year non-law students. However we also take part in a number of skills sessions, workshops and presentations at a variety of UK universities which are open to first to final year law and non-law students.

How well does participating in a first year scheme increase the likelihood of securing a vacation scheme?

Most participants in the first year scheme will apply for a longer summer scheme or a training contract.  However some may similarly decide commercial law is not for them and that is equally fine.  It's all about getting balanced information about working as a commercial lawyer and a first year scheme is a very good opportunity to do this.

How are these programmes structured?

Our first year scheme is designed to introduce first year law students to life in a global law firm and to provide hints and tips on the application and interview process for vacation schemes and training contracts. The scheme consists of work shadowing with trainees in four different practice areas. This is a simplified version of the training programme which consists of four six month 'seats' in different practice areas. Students will take part in group exercises, practice area presentations, networking and social events with representatives from trainee to partner level.

How can students make the most of a first year programme?

Students will have exposure to a number of different departments over the course of the scheme and should approach each of them with equal enthusiasm and interest. A first year scheme is a fantastic opportunity to explore areas of the law that students may not have previously considered or been aware of so it is very important to approach each opportunity with a positive approach and an open mind.

Students should immerse themselves as fully as possible in all of the sessions and extra activities arranged during the scheme. The networking and social events are equally as important and are a good way to make friends and build relationships with potential future colleagues. 

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