Vacation scheme season: Mayer Brown's perspective on the application process

We spoke to Danielle White, graduate recruitment and development manager at Mayer Brown to gain some insight into how to prepare for vacation scheme deadlines.

  • Last updated Jan 11, 2019 12:09:02 PM
  • Article provided by Mayer Brown
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Can you briefly describe the application form for the Mayer Brown vacation scheme? For example, is it online? Is it essay-based, question-based or a mix of both? 

It’s an online application form with some standard questions regarding personal data, academics and work experience. At the end of the form we ask candidates to write a covering letter to support their application.

At this stage, we want to see evidence of motivation and drive for a career in law. In terms of the application itself, we expect a candidate to demonstrate that they have researched the firm, have a good level of commercial awareness, and have also taken time in writing the application. Spelling, grammar and attention to detail are very important. 

What are the positive elements of an application form that immediately jump out to you? 

Someone who has taken time over their application and understands who we are and what we do as a business. It’s also great when people can demonstrate what differentiates us from other firms, as this has usually involved making contact with people at the firm and making the effort to really understand our culture.

What are the negative elements and errors in an application form that immediately jump out to you?

Copy and pastes! Either from the firm’s website or from one application to another. You wouldn’t believe the number of applications we receive that have information about why a candidate wants to apply for a firm that isn’t Mayer Brown.

How can candidates demonstrate commercial awareness in their vacation-scheme application? 

This is a tricky one and perhaps something that can be more easily demonstrated in an interview/at an assessment day. At application stage knowing about Mayer Brown as a business, the services we provide and the market in which we operate is important. 

Also, being able to articulate why you want to work for us and who our competitors are demonstrates a satisfactory level of commercial awareness at this stage. At the telephone interview and assessment day stages, you will be expected to demonstrate a greater level of commercial awareness.

For candidates without much legal work experience, what kind of experiences/pursuits can they talk about in their vacation-scheme applications?

All work experience (legal and non-legal) is important. If a candidate hasn’t been able to gain legal work experience, they need to think about the skills and competencies they have developed through nonlegal work experience or extra-curricular activities. It’s important for a candidate to be able to demonstrate how the skills and competencies they have developed (through any means) can be applied to the role of a trainee solicitor. 

What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen on a vacation-scheme application?

This is a really hard question as I see so many applications that are impressive for so many different reasons. Some candidates’ academics and level of studies are in themselves impressive, whereas others’ abilities to juggle multiple commitments and overcome personal obstacles are also commendable. We really do see a diverse range of applications and so many candidates impress me with their personal stories of hard work, resilience and commitment. At times, it can be an overwhelming process. 

Will the contents of the application form be used as a basis/referred to in the interview for the vacation scheme?

Yes, this together with online test results.

Your application form: what you’ll need to demonstrate

Commercial awareness 

It's likely there won’t be room to go into huge detail with your commercial awareness at this point, but it’s good to lay some foundations for talking points at an interview. Communicate your knowledge of the firm and where it sits in the market, and why this fits into your own ambitions and interests. This will show that you’ve researched the firm and given serious consideration to what it would be like to work there.

Academic prowess 

Make sure you include your grades in modules so far at university. Firms will want to see that you’re working to a high standard and can balance your studies with other commitments.

Extra-curricular activities

Joining your university law society, as well as attending any law-related talks, workshops or events, are good points to include. In addition, you could mention non-law-related societies or clubs of which you’re a member; particularly if you’ve held a committee position or taken a leading role. This will show your qualities as a well-rounded person. 

Attention to detail

No matter what kind of solicitor you’re hoping to become, attention to detail will be a crucial skill. Rather than simply stating that you’re attentive and thorough in your work, you’ll need to demonstrate these skills by sending off an application free of spelling and grammatical errors. 

Understanding of the firm

In addition to any knowledge you’ve picked up about the firm from your own commercial awareness, it’s important to know the practical details of the firm, its specialties and its training contract. But remember to be as specific as possible: a vague application will only make it look as though you haven’t researched the firm properly! 

Self-awareness

An application form is your chance to communicate your key skills and competencies. What is it about you that makes you a top candidate? What qualities will you bring to the role? It’s important to link your own competencies and characteristics to elements of the job description.

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