We spoke to Janine Arnold, trainee recruitment manager at Slaughter and May, to get the scoop on the vacation scheme process.
What do Slaughter and May look for in an application?
"Our application process is a CV and cover letter; candidates therefore choose how they present themselves. We look for strong academics (not necessarily a first) and people who have made the most of opportunities. Although we look for good 2.1s, we understand there may be the odd blip, or that someone may not have done as well in their first year but has pulled their grades up. We consider the bigger picture and look for potential."
There are no specific extra-curricular activities or legal work experience we expect. You should be involved in things that genuinely interest you. If, for example, you needed to work in a supermarket to support yourself through your studies, that's important to include. It shows commitment, time-management skills and that you're a hard worker. When it comes to CVs, keep them clear, wellstructured, concise and factual. Tell us what you did, where and when you did it. The skills you learnt tend to be fairly obvious and are something we could explore at interview. Equally, keep cover letters brief and only explain things that are not obvious from your CV."
What are the typical mistakes that you’ll see?
"Candidates referring to how much they want to work for another firm, or to a fact which clearly relates to another firm – for example, mentioning a transaction we weren't involved in! Although we wouldn't necessarily rule out a candidate because of this, it doesn't create a great first impression and makes us worry about their attention to detail. We understand mistakes happen, but encourage candidates to minimise this risk by asking someone to look over their application before submitting it."
How much partner involvement is there?
"One of the factors that distinguishes Slaughter and May's application process is how heavily involved partners are. A team of four partners reviews most applications. For vacation schemes you are interviewed by a partner and an associate. Afterwards, a partner presents your application at a meeting of interviewing partners before deciding whether to make an offer. The partners consider trainee solicitor recruitment to be an important part of their role – trainee solicitors are the future of the firm after all!"
Are social events held during the vacation scheme?
"Social events enable the students to bond and to give them opportunities to talk with trainees, associates, partners and the trainee recruitment team on an informal basis. There is a drop-in breakfast, lunches, dinners, a trip to our Brussels office, a 'Masterchef' competition and a communications workshop at the Young Vic Theatre."
How are students assessed on the vacation scheme?
"We don't have a formal assessment process. The focus of the scheme is to enable students to find out what City law is about and if Slaughter and May is right for them. We aren't continually assessing students; we want them to be able to ask questions and get a real understanding of the firm without worrying about how they're perceived. Each student sits with an associate and will be involved in the work of that associate, who will write a few lines about the student - if they turned up on time, seemed interested, asked sensible questions etc. That's it though."
What happens after the vacation scheme?
"All work experience students are offered the opportunity to interview. As there are no assessments during the scheme, students go through the same training contract interview process as any other applicant: a written exercise, interview with two partners including a discussion on a newspaper article and a short HR interview. The real benefit of undertaking a vacation scheme is to be able to more fully develop the logic and narrative around why you want to do commercial law and why Slaughter and May."
What is a final piece of advice you'd give to students?
"Research and spend time on each application. Submit fewer if it allows you to give your best to each. Good luck, and don't be disheartened if you are unsuccessful – it is absolutely worth applying again. These interviews are great practice for training contract interviews. We've recruited many trainees who were unsuccessful at this stage."