A Vacation Scheme is a great way to learn more about a career in commercial law and discover if a firm is for you. For many, a placement is also integral to securing a graduate Training Contract. Here are our top ten tips on how to impress during your Vacation Scheme.
1. Get the basics right
You need to play the part of a commercial lawyer from day one so get the easy things locked down. Always be on time, look smart and be polite. These may seem obvious but if you don’t tick these boxes, nothing else good that you do will be noticed.
2. Know what to expect
Entering a City firm for two weeks can be understandably intimidating - the best way to calm those nerves is to do your research and know what to expect.
If you already know which departments (seats) you will be spending time in, make sure you learn the key terms from that industry. No one will expect you to know everything but if you walk in with a little knowledge it will be a lot easier to get started.
There are many ways to get up to speed before you start - from online resources, the legal and business press, to professional law guides. If you have personal contacts in the industry, grab a coffee with them before you start.
3. Be organised
You’re unlikely to find yourself making tea on your Vacation Scheme; firms today make an effort to give you real work that will properly test your aptitude for the industry.
On top of the tasks to help your supervisor, you might also be given a long term project that lasts the whole of your placement. Make sure you get the balance right and also make time for social events and getting to know as many of your co-workers as possible.
Keep a daily to do list with time set out for each activity - and try to stick to it. Whenever you are given a task, take a note of the deadline and make sure you get it in on time.
If you need more work, just ask for it. This shows initiative and an eagerness to get ahead.
4. Keep notes as you go
In what will likely be a very busy period, a good old fashioned notebook could be your best friend. Make the most of your time at the firm and note down names of those you meet, the work you’ve completed and challenges you faced for later reference.
5. Ask questions
Even once you’ve done your research, there will still be plenty you don’t understand. Law is a vast and diverse field. This doesn’t mean taking every single question to your supervisor but you’re there to learn so if your own research falls short or you wish to confirm you’re on the right track run it past someone who knows.
Don’t be tempted to try and blag it. It’s very easy to make a mistake during a Vacation Scheme so make sure you fully understand something before you get stuck in.
6. Make friends
Although it might feel competitive, it's always best to make friends with other candidates on the programme.
Many Vacation Schemes feature a group activity at some point where they will be watching how you work with others and how well you get on with your colleagues.
Law is a people-focused industry - you need to be able to communicate properly.
Make an effort to be friendly to everyone, no matter their position. Away from the office, socials are a great opportunity to get a feel for the culture and decide if it’s for you - so get talking. Trainees are a key relationship to work on since they can tell you exactly what it will be like to be in their position if you get a Training Contract.
8. Be positive
Whether it’s drafting a letter or just some basic admin, be enthusiastic and try to enjoy it. Firms want to see that you want to work there and that you will put effort into whatever comes your way, not just the interesting tasks.
9. Make sure they’re right for you
In between trying to impress the firm, remember they’re also trying to impress you. This is your chance to assess whether you actually want to work there long term.
10. Remember all experience counts
Even if you don’t get a Training Contract offer or you decide a firm isn’t for you, this is still valuable experience. If the firm doesn’t appeal to you, use this experience to guide your future choices. If you don’t succeed in securing a graduate position, learn from your mistakes and use it to do better on your next Vacation Scheme or a Training Contract application next year.
Vacation Schemes aren’t the only way to land a Training Contract but they do give you a fantastic opportunity and experience. If you're starting one in the near future, good luck. Browse our list of commercial law internships to find your next opportunity.