Law firm perspective: insight days
As aspiring lawyers begin searching for opportunities in law earlier and earlier in their education, a lot of firms have introduced first-year opportunities. Aimed at undergraduates in their first year of study, insight days are part open day, part work experience—a busy combination which gives candidates the chance to make an impression at a top firm whilst deciding if law is for them.
One such opportunity is Macfarlanes’ First Year Insight Day. We spoke to Vicki Wood, Senior Graduate Recruitment Adviser at Macfarlanes, to find out a bit more about what the Insight Day involves.
The day itself
With opportunities in law traditionally being geared towards second and third-year students, an insight day is one of the most productive things you can do as a first year. “We pack a lot into the day”, said Vicki. “The purpose of the day is to give you an insight into City law, not necessarily just at Macfarlanes.”
The morning session consists of a negotiation skills session, where recruiters will be looking at candidates’ commercial awareness, communication and teamwork. It’s a rare opportunity for first years to get professional feedback on an essential skill in law. “The opportunity to participate in the negotiation exercise was particularly enjoyable, enabling me to experience first-hand the type of service a lawyer can offer a client”, said one first-year insight day candidate.
A huge part of Macfarlanes’ First Year Insight Day is meeting people from across the firm. Candidates get the chance to hone their networking skills in a speed networking session, in which they will network with a trainee, a solicitor and a partner. “It’s a chance to talk to them in depth about their careers to date, how they find working at Macfarlanes, and how they have found working in City law”, said Vicki.
In the afternoon, candidates have a rare opportunity to do work shadowing in one of Macfarlanes’ departments. “It could be our corporate and M&A group, our private client group or our litigation group”, Vicki explained.
“Commercial awareness, drive and enthusiasm” – what do firms expect?
If you have already figured out that you want to pursue law in your first year, you’re in good stead to continue your career preparations—and you’re also an excellent candidate for a first-year insight day. Whether you’re at the application stage, the interview, or on the insight day itself, recruiters will want you to be motivated: “We’re looking for candidates with a high level of commercial awareness, as well as drive and enthusiasm”, said Vicki.
In particular, commercial awareness is hugely important for any first-year student hoping to embark on an insight day. You should have a strong understanding of the business world, but also of the firm that you are applying to. “We’ve noticed some candidates struggling with their awareness of who we are and what we do – they’re applying to us, but haven’t really done any research into our practice areas or clients”, said Vicki. “It’s one of the key things that we’re looking for”.
Any Insight Day applicant needs to show strong levels of commercial awareness, and drive and enthusiasm for a career in law. If you’re going to be spending a day at a top law firm, communication skills will also be essential. “We will be looking at this in the negotiation task, and the work shadowing. We want students to be confident enough so that they can ask the right questions, enabling them to get as much out of the day as possible and to help them decide whether City law is the right career choice for them.”
Preparing for next steps
A first-year insight day is a great opportunity to make a first impression on people who could potentially be your future colleagues. An introduction to the world of law, it will put you in good stead to progress into a vacation scheme and then a training contract.
“After lunch with our trainees and partners, first-year insight day candidates have an application skills session with our graduate recruitment team. This focuses on the vacation scheme application—the next step for candidates looking at a career in law”, said Vicki. Insight day candidates will sit with a trainee as part of their work shadowing, to get a sense of what trainee work entails at the firm. So, whilst a first-year insight day is an invaluable opportunity in itself, it also provides strong grounding for further opportunities at a firm.
“I particularly enjoyed the speed networking and work shadowing sessions”, recalled one candidate, who attended the Insight Day in 2017. “They gave me a very good understanding of Macfarlanes' culture and professionalism which I am deeply impressed by. I will definitely apply next year for the firm's vacation scheme.”
It’s clear that first-year opportunities open doors at Macfarlanes; the firm has seen candidates go from the insight day to its vacation scheme, and eventually be offered a training contract. George Mitkov, who will join Macfarlanes as a trainee in 2020, recalls how welcome he felt upon attending the First Year Insight Day. “I was struck by just how candid and down-to-earth people at the firm were – they were happy to answer our questions and were keen to ask questions of us too, even though we were just undergraduates who were there for the day.”
You can find out more about the Insight Day here.
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First Year Opportunities