Vacation schemes at a national firm

National firm Bond Dickinson offer vacation schemes in three of their offices across the UK, and securing one of these is a positive step to securing a training contract with the firm. AllAboutLaw caught up with Joanne Smallwood, a Graduate Recruitment Specialist at the firm, to find out more...

  • Last updated Feb 10, 2018 5:08:27 PM
  • By Joanne Smallwood, Graduate Recruitment Specialist, Bond Dickinson
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Image courtesy of Bond Dickinson

What do you look for in a vacation scheme application? What is the most important quality in a candidate for Bond Dickinson?

One of the qualities we are looking for is drive and enthusiasm. A drive to succeed, ask questions, learn and an enthusiasm of the law and our business.  We can’t instil enthusiasm for the law and our business, but Bond Dickinson can help develop your other skills.

We offer a full service to our clients but specialise in eight specific sectors; Chemicals and Manufacturing, Energy and Natural Resources, Financial Institutions, Insurance, Real Estate, Retail and Consumer Goods, Transport and Infrastructure, and Private Wealth. Candidates should be able to display a natural interest in these areas, and this should be evident in their application.

We look for candidates who can display good teamwork, communication and analytical skills – these are necessary skills for the type of work a solicitor carries out.

What are the benefits of undertaking a vacation scheme?

We believe recruitment is a two way process.  The work placements, which take place in our Newcastle, Bristol and Southampton offices in June and July, allow candidates to experience life as a junior lawyer within Bond Dickinson. 

Students will inevitably gain more of an understanding of our business and our culture, and they undertake real work during the time they are with us. As all our offices up and down the country work together on a day-to-day basis, students may find themselves as part of a video conference with lawyers from our other offices, or as part of a client call.

Work placements should be seen as an opportunity to get a real insight and make an impression, not merely another recruitment hurdle to jump.

What are the typical mistakes that you’ll see in an application? What is the worst mistake you’ve seen?

We have started to see quite a few lazy application.  Use of buzz words, wording from our website or other searches, with no real individual or original thought.  Your application must have substance and evidence to back up your claims of good communication, ambition, teamwork etc.

On the flip side, what really impresses you?

The applications that stand out are the ones where you can really tell work has been put in and answers have been well thought out – there’s substance to what the candidate is saying and they aren’t afraid to put their opinion across.

If a candidate can talk confidently about things they have read about the business, they will come across in a good light. Candidates shouldn’t just rely on our website; whilst we have some fantastic insights from our current trainees, students should be  engaging with the legal market, joining professional networks such as the Junior Lawyers Division.  Take an interest in current affairs.

Additionally, continue researching our firm after you’ve submitted your application. Things move quickly in the legal world and if you mention out of date information at interview and assessment, it shows you’re not up to date with our business.

How much partner involvement is there when assessing applications?

The partnership are heavily involved in the graduate recruitment process from start to finish.

The programme and assessments are discussed at length, with the Graduate Partners and Training Principal.  Partners are involved with interviews and assessment days.  It is important candidates have the opportunity to meet people from within our business, including partners.

What kind of social events are held over the course of the vacation scheme?

As we would like to get to know candidates in both a business and social environment, we take placement students out for lunch and drinks during their time with us.

Additionally, on the first Monday of the placement, all students are provided with an overview from either the Training Principal or Graduate Partner. Students will be provided with an overview of the business and what the training contract is like – this is an integral part of the two-way recruitment process.

Can you explain the different aspects of the assessment process on the actual vacation scheme?

As we hold assessment days as part of the recruitment process before the placements, we have one group exercise during the work placement. The scenario changes every year and is usually a negotiation exercise – it usually serves as a team building exercise too. At Bond Dickinson, we’re keen for students to spend as much time as possible in the working environment, learning what it’s like to be a trainee lawyer.

The training contract interview is also part of the work placement week. Roughly 70% of Bond Dickinson trainees are recruited from the vacation scheme.

What happens after the vacation scheme? Are some candidates offered training contracts?

We like to meet as many candidates as we can before final decisions are made and communicated.  However, we appreciate candidates are going through the process with other firms, we therefore we like to stay in touch with candidates throughout the process.

Trainees who begin their training contract with Bond Dickinson have an induction week, alternating between Newcastle and Bristol, regardless of their base office, and there are quarterly trainee forums and trainee newsletters. A LinkedIn group also offers work and personal advice, such as the best neighbourhoods to rent a property in the city in which they are based.

What is a final piece of advice you give to students applying to a vacation scheme?

Do not be afraid to be yourself throughout the process. You should not feel you need to change your natural personality to fit into the business.

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