In the aspiring lawyers' community, there's naturally a large focus on acquiring a training contract because they are seen as a sure way to gain full-time employment. But vacation schemes are increasingly being utilised by firms to scout out potential candidates for training contracts. So to answer the question, they’re just as important!
So I'll definitely get a training contract after my vacation scheme?
The policy on trainee intake varies from firm to firm. Some firms endeavour to offer a training-contract place to everyone who does a vacation scheme with them. Other firms will recruit in part from the vacation scheme, but will offer just as many places or more to those who didn't do a vacation scheme at the firm.
The long and short of it is, getting onto a vacation scheme certainly puts you in with a chance of securing a training contract—but there are no guarantees. You'll still need to make sure you wow the company with your professionalism and adaptability while you're there.
There's also no exact formula for becoming a lawyer. You should look at a vacation scheme as less of a box-ticking exercise and more of a chance to develop your transferrable skills, increase your commercial awareness and make a positive impression on the graduate-recruitment team at that firm. A vacation scheme is what you make of it—so make it good!
Is a vacation scheme a requirement for a training contract?
No, but it will certainly help you out. To get a training contract, you'll need a good academic record, an interest in law (duh!) and an abundance of commercial awareness—but all of these are prerequisites for a vacation scheme too.
What's more, you'll build on these skills while on your vacation scheme, putting you in a much better position to secure a training contract, either at the firm that offered you a scheme or an alternative firm.
When applying for vacation schemes, it's well worth finding out what the process is after you complete the scheme. Some firms will automatically grant anyone who does a vacation scheme a training-contract interview or attendance at a training-contract assessment centre. Other firms will select the best candidates from the vacation scheme to interview. Others won't have any system in place, so you'll have to apply for the training contract as normal, whether you've done the vacation scheme or not.
It's all about variety
That’s not to say that you’ll have no chance of securing a training contract without having done a vacation scheme. Law is an industry that thrives on variety: famously, its recruits come from widely different backgrounds. Some trainees might have done two vacation schemes, others might have done zero vacation schemes. The key isn't to see a vacation scheme as a box-ticking exercise, but to try and develop the skills showcased on a vacation scheme, whether you do one or not.
Next article: How competitive are vacation schemes?