Feb 11, 2022

Written By Helena Kudiabor

Do I need to do a vacation scheme?

Feb 11, 2022

Written By Helena Kudiabor

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when researching the path to qualifying as a solicitor. There are so many different terms used, and so many different routes into the career, that it can be hard to work out exactly what you need to do. Here we’ll explain clearly what a vacation scheme is and how doing one could boost your chances of getting the training contract of your dreams.

What is a vacation scheme?

A vacation scheme is a period of work experience at a law firm, lasting between a week and two weeks. It’s the chance to discover what life is like as a solicitor, and whether law is right for you. 

Specific tasks and responsibilities vary between law firms, but typical vacation scheme activities include: being mentored by a trainee solicitor, attending talks about the firm’s key practice areas, completing legal work like researching and preparing documents, and attending social events.  



What are the benefits of doing a vacation scheme?

Learn more about the firm:

Completing a vacation scheme provides you with the chance to learn about a firm you’re interested in, and to work out whether law is right for you. During your vacation scheme, you’ll attend talks about the firm’s ethos and from trainees about their experience. This allows you to learn more about the place, beyond what’s written on its website. 

By completing legal tasks, you might learn more about what sector of law interests you most. For instance, you might have had your heart set on a corporate law career, but after getting practical experience, find that criminal law interests you more. 

It’s much better to realise this now, and refocus on what really interests you,  as opposed to when you’ve already started a training contract.

A vacation scheme may be required:

Many firms require training contract applicants to have completed a vacation scheme with them. This means that the firm can observe applicants over a longer period of time, and work out whether they would fit well within the firm.

Furthermore, some firms only accept external applicants if they aren’t satisfied with all of their vacation scheme candidates. Doing a vacation scheme allows you access to a wider pool of law firms: those that require a scheme and those that don’t. 

Even if you’re applying for a firm that doesn’t require you to have done a vacation scheme, completing one shows that you are genuinely interested in the firm, and you have comprehensive legal experience.

Networking opportunities:

Vacation schemes aren’t all work: law firms also plan social events and networking opportunities. These provide you with the chance to relax a bit, and get to know everyone. 

By connecting with senior lawyers and fellow vacation scheme candidates, you’ll build relationships that will be invaluable if you go on to do a training contract with the firm and prove that you’ll be a great fit for the team. 

Plus, you never know when you might need these connections later on in your career.


I haven’t done a vacation scheme: can I still get a training contract?

Don’t panic, it’s still possible. Vacation schemes show future employers that you have legal work experience, but there are still many ways you can get similar experience. If you know a lawyer, send them an email and ask to shadow them. Or head to your nearest high street law firm and ask if you could spend a few days volunteering at the firm.

Another way to find legal work experience is via your university. Some universities have pro-bono or mooting (mock trial) societies, which allow you to experience the law in action. You could even apply for a leadership position within one of these societies: this would not only be great experience in itself but would demonstrate real enthusiasm and a proactive attitude on your training contract application. 

It’s also worth noting that legal work experience isn’t the only work experience that law firms value. For instance, your part-time job in the hospitality industry might not be related to law, but it shows you have good communication skills and can cope under pressure. Don’t forget to put all your work experience on your application, and use the personal statement to explain how they have helped hone skills relevant to the training contract.

Vacation schemes are a great way for you to experience what life is like as a solicitor, and to learn more about the culture of the firm. Best of luck on your application!


Vacation Scheme