How to deal with vacation scheme applications

  • Last updated Aug 8, 2016 12:22:58 PM
  • By Jennifer Overhaus, Former partner of a US law firm

While you may feel pressure to complete as many vacation scheme applications as possible, remember to focus on quality over quantity. Prior to beginning any application you should have thoroughly researched the firm in question—and I don’t mean merely scanning its website.

Researching vacation schemes

In fact, don’t rely upon law firm websites as your only source of information, as they’re not only basically interchangeable but also focused much more on marketing than giving a true picture of what really makes the firm (and its people) tick. 

It’s much more useful to research online forums and contact people who work there or who have done similar placement programmes before. The more you can show that you are genuinely addressing this particular firm (and the more specific and concrete you can be), the more your application is likely to stand out.  

Writing your application

The second aspect of quality is, of course, demonstrating your writing abilities and attention to detail. I cannot emphasise enough that errors or mistakes in your application will count heavily against you…especially if you’ve chanced to mention how thorough you generally are! I suggest having someone else (a fresh pair of eyes) review your final submission before sending it off, as it’s amazingly hard to view your own writing dispassionately.

Thirdly, don’t pretend to ‘tick every box’ in your application. This may feel like the safest route—an attempt to avoid missing out on an opportunity. However, if you try to sell yourself in this way, you risk looking less distinguishable (not to mention desperate!). When writing your application, think about the strongest points you have to offer, and then demonstrate them throughout the substance of your application. 

What to write in your vacation scheme application

The person reading your application should be able to discern what motivates you and what you’re good at—as revealed by each aspect of your CV. For example, if you are a very creative person then your application should demonstrate how you are motivated by opportunities to be creative and how you use your creativity in unexpected ways. Moreover, when describing your work experience, rather than merely say “gained exposure to X”, you might explain how you used your natural creativity to make the most of this chance, whatever it may have been.

Finally, length isn’t a bonus. Your application must quickly, succinctly, and consistently communicate your value, and, in general, your covering letter should be no longer than one page. This shows that you have a clear knowledge of who you are and what you have to offer, not to mention that you value the time of the judging panel!

For the latest list of vacation scheme deadlines, check out vacation schemes page. 

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