Firstly, could you briefly describe what White & Case’s virtual work experience programme is?
Together with InsideSherpa, we’ve developed this platform to enable students to gain an insight into the legal sector, and in particular the typical tasks they will be involved with as a trainee solicitor.
Students go online and enrol via InsideSherpa—the application process is minimal and unlike other law work experience placements, there are no selection criteria. We allow anyone to do the virtual work experience placement, including students who are still at school doing their GCSEs—there is no cut-off point.
After watching a video introduction from our training principal, students will work their way through the different modules—or “seat rotations”—which include banking finance, project finance and litigation and arbitration. Videos of supervisors and senior associates will provide instructions on different pieces of work. Once the student has completed the work, an example of what that task should have looked like will appear, allowing them to cross-compare and self-evaluate.
It’s not assessed by us in any way, it’s more of a tool for students to get to know the work that we do at White & Case and also in the wider legal sector. Students who have done the virtual work experience placement have said that it is challenging enough to provide a learning experience with real skills and insight development.
Why did White & Case decide to move in this direction?
We created the virtual work experience placement for two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to reach a wider pool of candidates—people who maybe haven’t had much experience of the legal industry will be able to do the placement and figure out if a law career is for them or not.
Or, the placement can be used for people who do know they want to go down the legal route but haven’t yet had the opportunity to get that essential legal work experience. The placement can be credited as legal work experience on a law application form for anyone applying for vacation schemes and training contracts. It’s a way to demonstrate the strong commitment levels that firms are looking for.
This doesn’t detract from our vacation scheme, but rather is an additional tool that people can use. In terms of attracting candidates for our vacation schemes and training contracts, the more people who can gain insight into White & Case through this virtual placement, the greater the benefit for us in the long run.
What type of work placements do students have the opportunity to take part in—and how does this relate to real work done at White & Case?
All of the tasks within the virtual work experience placement have been trialled by our trainees, who have fed back on the relevance and realism in comparison to their day-to-day role. Candidates will try their hand at drafting minutes for a meeting or a memo for a client, reading different perspectives and providing information based on those—there is a multitude of different tasks, all related to the work carried out by trainees at White & Case.
It’s worth noting that a lot of the deals we do are cross-border and international, which is reflected in the work carried out by students on the virtual placement.
What transferrable skills can be gained by doing the virtual placement?
Firstly, students will gain legal insight into the different practice areas that they are working their way through. They will also practise their ability to take on board information and apply it to tasks which will, in turn, test their attention to detail. Nothing in the placement is too technical, but for the specialist parts of tasks, we do provide a summary of technical terms—which will boost commercial awareness.
How does the virtual work placement promote diversity & inclusion within the legal sector?
From a social mobility perspective, we want to make sure we are recruiting a diverse group of people from all different backgrounds. This virtual work placement offers exposure and insight into the profession irrespective of background as it is open and accessible to all. The placement will give students an understanding of the work that we do here at White & Case as well as the terminology used in the legal sector more broadly, making it perfect for honing interview talking points and technique. It was important for us to create a tool for people who don’t have those connections or networks in order to gain legal work experience. We want to support students in the journey to gaining a training contract, and the virtual placement is one way that we can do this.
A lot of work experience placements can be quite London-centric, or at least only available in large cities. How do you think the virtual placement will alleviate this?
When we look at the back end of the system, we can see that people have signed up for this programme globally—it’s not just UK students who sign up to it, but people from Australia, Africa, all parts of Europe… I think that there is also an appeal to it because English law is such a popular legal system.
In being online, the placement is completely accessible to everyone—all you need is access to a computer.
Will the virtual work experience placement be a consideration factor for students who go on to apply for vacation schemes and training contract places at White & Case?
Absolutely—anyone who does the placement can add it to their application form, crediting it as legal work experience. It’s a way to demonstrate a commitment to—and interest in—the legal sector, and also White & Case specifically.
What advice would you have for anyone hoping to complete the virtual work experience placement?
Take your time with it and see it as a learning opportunity—it gives an insight into what you can expect as a trainee. Really try and take on board what you’re learning, because you can ultimately use it in your application forms and interviews.
At a glance: the White & Case virtual work placement
Deadline? There is no deadline for the placement—you can apply and complete it as and when it suits you.
Duration? The programme takes about five to six hours to complete—but you don’t have to do it all in one go, and can log in and out as and when you want.
Website to sign up with? InsideSherpa
Eligibility? Everyone—from school students right the way up to training contract applicants. Students from law and non-law backgrounds should be able to complete the tasks, regardless of their legal knowledge.