Top Tips on applying for Vacation Schemes

Maria Tafadzwa Mudenda- Law City Student Ambassador,

As you may know, vacation scheme (“vac scheme”) application season is already upon us with firms such as Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Mischon de Reya opening their vacation scheme applications in August. This article will give valuable top tips for applying for vacation schemes.

What are vacation schemes?

A vacation scheme is a period of invaluable work experience (often between a week to a month) offered to students by law firms to give insights into what life as a trainee solicitor is like. This is done by undertaking practical work experience as well as exploring the firm’s key areas of legal practice and client base. It is also one of the easiest ways to show one’s commitment to a career in law.

Vacation schemes should ideally be completed by Law students in the summer of their penultimate year (i.e. before entering their final year of university). Many firms however also accept law students in their final year. It is important to note that vacation schemes are available to both law and non-law students.

Top tips for vac scheme applications:

1. Don’t leave your application to the last minute. It is important to remember that vacation scheme places are limited and extremely competitive, so it’s best to apply early.

2. Do your research

Research is crucial before applying to any firm. Before selecting a prospective firm there are several factors to consider. These include:

a. The size of firm;

b. The firm’s values and ethos;

c. Location of the firm; and

d. Practice areas that interest you.

Research is important as you are likely to be asked by the interviewer why you applied to the firm. It is vital that your answers stand out and you can demonstrate that you have a keen interest in the firm through the due diligence you have carried.

3. Quality over Quantity

It can be very tempting to apply to many firms (with each application requiring a great investment of time and focus). It is better to complete fewer high quality, well researched applications than to have several rushed applications.

4. Convey your Commercial awareness

You will be tested on your commercial knowledge at some point in the application process. Therefore, it is important to stay up to date with current affairs via sources such as The Economist, Financial Times and legal podcasts and be prepared to tell your interviewer what recent articles interested you and why. Think about the legal challenges within the articles you read, and how the firm you are applying for can provide solutions to these challenges.

5. Ensure you proofread your applications

Double check your application form and CV for mistakes. Typos and other grammatical errors could prevent you from being shortlisted, given the competitive nature of the role. Good spelling and grammar will give the firm confidence that you have good attention to detail, which is an essential skill as a solicitor. Ask friends, family and even lecturers to proofread your work as they may see mistakes you have missed.

6. Don’t underestimate the importance of extracurricular activities

Most firms are looking for well-rounded individuals who are bright, keen, and interesting. The ability to do interesting things while obtaining a good degree result is a good indicator of someone who is well-organised and can handle stress. These are both key qualities for a corporate lawyer.

7. Be yourself

Be your authentic self and bring your personality to each answer you give! Do not pretend to be someone you are not to try to impress the interviewer as they will be able to detect this in the interview.

8. Deadlines

Make sure you are aware of deadlines. Create an application tracker or diarise important dates so that you know when application deadlines are approaching.

9. Plan

This may sound obvious but if you are selected for a vac scheme, ensure that you plan your holidays around the dates which the firm offers as these are usually fixed dates

10. Setbacks

If you are not successful this time around, try to see this as a redirection rather than a rejection. It is an incredibly tough and competitive process, so get feedback from the recruiter if you can and use it as a learning experience to try again.

Lastly, Good luck!

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