Recently, we've been fielding a few questions from you on law vacation schemes. Everything from what they are, when you should do them, how you can prepare and so on.
And we fully understand your questions because, to be honest, it's not hugely clear or obvious. So, to help make sense of the whole thing we've pulled together this quick guide with the seven things to know about the what, when, how and why of law vacation schemes.
1. What is a law vacation scheme?
A law vacation scheme is a one or two week internship or work experience placement with a law firm, usually taking place in either the Spring, Summer or Winter. Vacation schemes are used by law firms to seek out new talent. So, if you're interested in applying to a particular firm, completing a vacation scheme is a great way to test them out as well as to get yourself noticed and fast tracked onto a training contract.
On all vacation schemes you can expect to shadow a solicitor in their working day and to support with a number of different activities. You'll be given on the job training and guidance to try and help you get a feel for the role, as well as to demonstrate your potential. You'll also likely have some group work with your vacation scheme peers - usually a project designed to develop and test your research and presentation skills, as well as your ability to work in a team.
So, whether you are dead set on a career in law or just beginning to consider it - a vacation scheme is a great way to assess your fit for law and also for a specific firm. Just don't forget - the firm are assessing you too!
2. Why should I do one?
There are lots of reasons to undertake a vacation scheme if you are considering a career in law:
- Fantastic exposure to legal activities, clients and ways of working in order to better understand whether law and indeed a particular firm is for you
- Get yourself noticed by a top firm and secure a training contract ahead of your peers
- Build some industry contacts and develop your network in the legal sector which will be invaluable if and when it comes to applying for training contracts
- Opportunity to demonstrate your motivation and interest in law. In this highly competitive industry, showing that you have tried to get ahead through a vacation scheme really counts
- Try out different practice areas and get a feel for which area of law you are most interested in
- Earn good money - vacation schemes can pay up to several hundred pounds a week to help cover the costs of your travel and rent (and a bit besides...)
3. Who is eligible to undertake a law vacation scheme?
Vacation schemes are open to both law and non-law students. Each firm's policy varies slightly, however, in general, summer schemes tend to prioritise applications from law students whilst winter schemes are open to law and non-law students alike.
4. When should I complete a vacation scheme?
Law students should ideally aim to complete a vacation scheme in the summer of their penultimate year, i.e. just before going into their final year of university. However, many firms also accept law students in their final year. Successful vacation scheme applicants are typically offered a training contract for two years' time, so final year law students may find they have a year off in between completing their LPC (a one year course following a university law degree). This is not always the case though and it is worth checking an individual firm's website for details of their offering.
Non-law students can complete a vacation scheme in their final year. If you are then successful in being offered a training contract, you will have two years available to complete the GDL (one year law conversion course) and the LPC (one year legal practice course).
5. When should I apply?
Applications for spring and summer vacation schemes open in October and close at the end of January. Applications are often screened on a rolling basis so there is a real advantage to getting your application in early.
Applications for winter vacation schemes open in October and close in November so there is a shorter window to get your application completed.
Clearly, opening and closing dates vary by firm so do make sure you research an individual firm's details as part of your planning and preparation. Read how to turn your vacation scheme into a training contract.
6. How many should I do?
As with all experience, the more you can get the more informed you're likely to be about your career options. However, given the competitive nature of securing a vacation scheme, many applicants just complete one vacation scheme before moving on to a training contract with that firm.
If you do want to gain additional experience then it's worth considering insight days which are single day law firm introductions offered to first and second year students. These can be a great way to meet a cross section of the team from a firm and to ask some questions about practice areas, priorities and culture.
7. What preparation can I do to try and get one?
A law firm is looking for two key things: genuine interest in the law and demonstrable experience of the relevant skills required to be a successful lawyer. Therefore, make sure your CV includes any events or insight days you have attended (including Bright Network Commercial Law or Bright Network First Year Law, as appropriate) as well as any relevant journals you read. Try also to highlight skills from your extra-curricular activities which are relevant to law, such as research, presentations, team work, attention to detail and so on.
Finally, if you have the opportunity to meet with law firm recruiters ahead of an application this can be a great way to help your name ring bells when your form is submitted. Make sure you introduce yourself clearly to recruiters and lawyers that you meet at careers fairs and events and follow up on introductions with an email to say thanks for their time.
Browse the vacation deadlines
Use our application deadline list for the latest commercial law vacation schemes you can apply for today.