What happens after a vacation scheme?
Vacation schemes are often heralded as a key step down the road to becoming a solicitor. But in the immediate aftermath, what can you expect to happen?
In the short term, you’ll go back to university and finish your degree—but the end of your vacation scheme could be a pivotal moment in your career. Roughly, there are three outcomes you can expect.
Outcome 1: You get a training contract at the firm
For most vacation-scheme students, this will be the preferred outcome. You'll have performed well in workshops and assignments, made a great impression at networking events and asked intelligent questions when shadowing partners, associates and trainees.
The exact process by which you get a training contract will vary depending on the firm. Some firms only recruit trainees from their vacation schemes. Others will grant every single vacation-scheme student an interview for a training contract. In these cases, you’re likely to know that you got onto the training contract pretty soon after finishing the vacation scheme, if not by the end of it.
Other firms may expect you to apply for the training contract in the standard way, like other aspiring trainees who didn't do the vacation scheme. In this instance, there’s no guarantee that you’ll walk onto the training contract, but you’ll be in with a much better chance coming from the vacation scheme, where you’ll hopefully have made a great impression on the graduate-recruitment team.
However you get the news, congratulations! You obviously were very impressive on the vacation scheme and now you can relax a bit, with the knowledge that you’ve secured that elusive training contract.
Outcome 2: You don’t get a training contract at the firm
Of course, the flipside is that you don’t get a training contract as a result of your vacation scheme. The key is not to take it personally. Graduate recruiters have been assessing vacation-scheme students for years: they know when someone is a good fit for their firm. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be a fantastic lawyer at a different firm—it might just be that the culture and practice areas at your vacation-scheme firm weren’t right for you to thrive.
If possible, ask for feedback from your point of contact in graduate recruitment, so you know which areas to work on when applying for future opportunities. Don’t forget, you’ve secured two weeks’ work experience at a law firm: this is an invaluable experience, rich with transferrable skills and situations you can talk about in future training-contract applications.
Try not to be disheartened. A vacation scheme isn’t a guarantee of a training contract, and you’re not unusual or a failure if you don’t secure your training contract directly from your vacation scheme. Do some intense research into the vast array of firms out there: if you secured a vacation scheme, you obviously have a passion for law and strong attributes. It’s just a case of going back to the drawing board to find the right firm for you.
Outcome 3: You realise that law is not for you
You might start your vacation scheme raring to go, thinking that this is the start of your legal career. By the end, however, you might have a very different perspective on law. This is fine, and more common than you think.
It’s hard to understand truly what law involves until you find yourself in an actual law firm, surrounded by the people that make up the sector. Discovering that you don’t actually want to become a solicitor could be the best thing a vacation scheme gives you.
If this happens, try to focus on the elements you did enjoy, if any. This will give you a good idea of how to realign your career ambitions and find a route that suits you better.
Whatever you do, don’t force it: just because you got a vacation scheme doesn’t mean you have to continue down the legal path. There are many different options out there, and it’s better to realise you won’t enjoy life as a solicitor now than ten years down the line.