In our increasingly complex and litigious society, demand for legal services remains strong. The recruitment market in commercial law is tough and competitive, but for bright and dynamic minds there are plenty of opportunities to forge a brilliant career.
To ensure they attract and select the very best of the aspiring lawyers, leading law firms have well developed and extensive undergraduate recruitment programmes.
Following the pattern of open day, vacation scheme, and then training contract, these programmes offer you excellent opportunities to discover more about life as a commercial lawyer, along with the chance to get to know the working culture, focus and specialisms of particular law firms to help you decide whether they are the right fit for you.
The more work experience you can gain along the way, the better your chances will be of securing a training contract from your favourite firm, and then, of course, of having a stunning career unfold in front of you.
Specific opportunities for undergraduates can be broken down into two distinct offerings
- Open Days
- Vacation schemes
Due to the competitive nature of the legal profession, firms are relying more and more on open days and vacation schemes as part of the wider recruitment process for training contracts.
Commercial Law is a very competitive route for graduates, but with the right academics and preparation you can succeed. Here Bright Network members chat with the highly-regarded Commercial Law firm and Bright Network partner firm Slaughter and May.
1. Open Days
Open days provide an in-depth insight into the real work of a firm's legal practice, working environment and career opportunities. Involving a range of work shadowing, networking and presentations, such events give you the chance to meet, listen to and question partners, associates and trainees across a variety of departments.
They also give you a formal training session on the skills you will need to excel at to win a vacation scheme and ultimately a training contract from that firm.
Open days run throughout the year, and are open to graduates and undergraduates from all degree disciplines. It is worth noting, however, that many firms also run specific open days in the summer just for first-year undergraduates who are keen to gain experience at an earlier stage. Attending an early open day is an incredibly powerful way to show your ambition from the outset.
2. Vacation Schemes
Vacation schemes are formal periods of work experience within a law firm, lasting between one and three weeks, with the added bonus of a pay cheque or paid expenses.
Unbeatable in the opportunity they provide for you to get to know a firm, its clients and the real nature of their day-to-day work, vacation schemes also help you develop new skills, start to build up a professional network and gain real legal experience to enhance your training contract applications. Ultimately, the more that you know about the world and the city, the better you will do in applications and the early stages of your career.
From a firm perspective, vacation schemes allow recruiters to see potential trainees in action over the course of a few weeks. So it is important to remember throughout your time in a firm that this represents an extended job interview - this cannot be stressed enough.
Most firms offer vacation schemes to second-year law students and final-year non-law students, but there are some exceptions to this. In general, schemes run in the summer and Christmas break (with a few running in the Easter break as well).
Spaces are limited and competition is fierce so it is necessary to demonstrate your aptitude and interest in commercial law and the specific firm, via a covering letter / online application and interview.
On the whole, these schemes are used as a pipeline for graduate training contracts - you may even find yourself being interviewed for a training contract during your time at a firm. It is possible to gain a training contract without having done a placement at a particular firm, but you will need to show other strong evidence/experience and motivation to be a solicitor.
Discover commercial law graduate opportunities
See an up-to-date list of vacation schemes for commercial law today.