Phase 1: laying the groundwork
One of the most underrated mechanisms for getting your foot in the vacation scheme door is your university law fair. A day, I think, that can be easily missed if you’re a bit lazy/busy/hungover, but it’s really worth making the effort to go.
It can honestly make the difference between getting a vacation scheme or not.
Picture yourself in the law firm representatives’ shoes: they have travelled to an unfamiliar place, set up a stall in a massive hall and are stood on their feet all day handing out free pens.
If someone comes up to them and shows genuine interest in their law firm, then they are going to remember that person, especially if they asked for their business card (which the representatives invariably have, if not always in plain view).
It can’t be a coincidence that both vacation schemes I secured a place on were at firms where I had also had a long chat and email correspondence with their trainees from the law fair.
Phase 2: a personal application
The next vital part of the vacation scheme process is the online application. Some of the competency questions may have you scratching your head; for example, describing a position of responsibility you have held and what you learnt from it. Not everyone, including myself, has held a position of responsibility at 19 or 20, so my advice would be to tailor the question to suit you.
If you have got something perfect for that question then use it, but if you don’t, then why not try and adapt something that you want to mention? For example, I wanted to mention I presented a radio show, so I talked about the time management, preparation and quick thinking needed to do live radio.
Another top tip is to name drop anyone at the firm who you spoke to at the law fair. Most law firms are surprisingly connected places, so if you do mention someone then they will most likely be asked their opinion of you.
If your application is successful, you’ll be invited to an interview. The interview is a crucial part in getting a vacation scheme as it allows the firm to get to know the person behind the CV.
Phase 3: making the most of your vacation scheme
If all has gone to plan so far, you will have made friends at the law fair, negotiated the application and the interview, and should now be gearing up for your first day on the vacation scheme. One word is key for those few weeks: networking.
When I was on my vacation schemes, I made a mission of finding Exeter graduates who were working at the firm. It gave me an easy start to a conversation and meant I got to chat one-on-one to several partners who went to my university.
If you can’t find anyone from your university, then make sure you try and find some common ground with your supervisor. An associate I sat with was a massive cricket fan, so a quick chat about The Ashes every day was par for the course.
It may sound like common sense, but it’s surprising how many people go on a vacation scheme and are too intimidated to show that they are the kind of person who colleagues would want to socialise with as well as work with.
My other top tip is don’t get too comfortable. This may sound at odds with my previous advice, but once you have been somewhere a couple of weeks it is easy to relax and start making mistakes. Throughout the vacation scheme make sure you’re always smartly dressed, are in the office early every day and don’t take being at the firm for granted.
In closing, utilise the law fair to make some contacts at the firm, adapt the application and interview questions to suit you, and do your best to impress during the vacation scheme. Finally, remember not to get too down if you don’t get a vacation scheme. I know trainees who are at a firm after missing out on a vacation scheme there, so don’t give up!
Ready to apply? Check out our list of available vacation schemes now!