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From vacation scheme to training contract - the Freshfields perspective 12/01/2018

A vacation scheme followed by a training contract is often seen as the golden route into law. But how exactly does this transition work - and how can a vacation scheme be fundamental to your career further down the line? Alex Collins, a trainee at Freshfields, explains exactly how his vacation scheme shaped his law career. 

Doing something other than law at university doesn’t rule you out as a trainee. I studied French at Bristol University. Everyone I spoke to encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do and the door to law would always be open.

If you do a vacation scheme, try to find out everything you can about the various aspects of the firm. As well as being a chance to show what you can do before training contract interviews, it’s the best way to see what working here might be like – and it’s also really helpful when it comes to answering the inevitable ‘why Freshfields…?’ question at interviews.

I did a vacation scheme at the end of my third year. I had taken a year out so I then had another year at university. I sat in project finance, which is something I knew absolutely nothing about as a second-year French undergraduate. The trainees and associates (who you spend most of your time with on a vacation scheme) were very supportive, so there was a good atmosphere and it was a great place to learn.

During the scheme, we all had to research a topic to present to a partner. For me, that was the most satisfying part of the experience (and still as daunting now as it was then!). There are some other interesting exercises, such as group negotiating, and you experience some of the day-to-day work by getting involved in whatever your supervisor is doing.

There are plenty of social events outside of work. During the three weeks of the scheme, current trainees organise activities. We had a very eclectic mix: a graffiti workshop, climbing the O2 dome, going to a circus show, dinner at a restaurant in Mayfair and a night out in Soho. There were also plenty of informal drinks with the other vacation schemers, who you get to know pretty well. Lots of the people I did the vacation scheme with are now trainees here, so it’s a good way of meeting people before you start.

Between accepting my training contract offer and joining the firm, I did my final year of university. After graduation I did the GDL and LPC, which the firm paid for. Freshfields also contributed to living costs to enable me to focus on studying. I really made the most of a couple of extra years of being a student and did some travelling in the summers in between.

As a trainee, there can be a lot of demands on your time, but you’re always learning. I spent six months in corporate before moving into leveraged finance. My first three months were full on, as I joined at the start of an M&A transaction. There were lots of long days and the occasional late night, but it was clearly a good experience for me because transactional work is what I want to end up doing.

When the people you work with are so nice, it makes the tough times so much better. You also get pretty well looked after with lots of social events. We recently had the corporate-wide summer party, for example, and there’s a leveraged finance ski trip coming up, so there are plenty of perks.

You can find out more about Freshfields and the vacation scheme on offer by visiting the Freshfields website. 

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