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How To Get the Most Out of a Vacation Scheme by WFW's Future Trainees

Book open Reading time: 6 mins

We caught up with WFW's future trainees, Jasmine Sayany, Prumjot Soor, Sara Domi, Sam Gunnewicht, and Zac Goodwill, who attended a face-to-face vacation scheme last year, to give you insight into how to get the most out of your vacation scheme.

After a few years of virtual vacation schemes, how did you feel when you found out that the vacation scheme would be face-to-face/in-person?

Sara: I was excited when I found out the vacation scheme would take place in person. The year prior to my vacation scheme at WFW I completed a virtual one at another law firm and although it was a generally positive experience I do think that being in the office and doing real work is the best way to see if a firm is a good match for you.

It was great to be able to meet a range of different people and get a real feeling for the culture. Another positive of the in-person scheme after virtual schemes was meeting the other participants face to face. This made the group tasks a lot easier to coordinate and it was great to know we had each other for support throughout the two weeks. Attending the socials was also fun!

What preparation did you do ahead of the scheme?

Prumjot: My preparation for the scheme began around a month prior to it beginning. This included getting in contact with my trainee buddy (who is a current trainee assigned to help you ease into the firm) and introducing myself. I asked for any tips and as much information as I could, regarding the team and department. My trainee buddy recommended a few Practical Law articles and journals, to help familiarise me with the work of the Project Finance team. This was incredibly useful to understand some of the technicalities that are specific to Projects and understand the work of the department a bit more.

I also did some broader firm research in anticipation of the interview and the more general tasks on the scheme. This included getting an idea of the direction the firm is going in, the type of work that it has recently undertaken, and any changes that WFW has made. I also paid attention to any new commercial or legal developments at the time. During my scheme, the impact on the energy market of the war in Ukraine was the most discussed development in the energy sector. As a result, I ensured that I was able to understand and consider its ramifications commercially and practically for the Project Finance team.

I also prepared to discuss the things that I found most interesting about the department or sector. For instance, I am very interested in the Africa group in the Projects department so prepared to discuss the reasons for my interest. This is important as being able to discuss eloquently why the firm and its sector-specific work appeals to you comes up throughout the scheme.

What aspect of the vacation scheme did you enjoy the most?

Zac: Overall, the WFW vacation scheme was an extremely enjoyable experience which involved various group exercises, attending insightful talks to help get you acquainted with the firm and the certainly not to be overlooked social events (including an evening at London Shuffle Club and a mixed netball tournament!)

However, the aspect of the scheme which I most enjoyed was the dedicated time I spent sitting in one of the firm’s departments. I was based in the Corporate team and I found that being given the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to real work was particularly rewarding because it gave me a genuine sense of life at WFW and some of the tasks which a trainee might be expected to undertake. This time being spread over a 2 week period is really valuable because it lets you build a rapport with some of the people in the department which can lead to fruitful conversations and help you get a better sense of the firm’s culture first-hand.

What aspect of the vacation scheme did you find the most challenging? What did you do, or upon reflection, what would you advise prospective candidates should do to overcome that challenge?

Prumjot: the most challenging aspect of the scheme was balancing a large and varied workload. This was my first experience of working in the city, and I did not fully anticipate the breadth of work that I would be given during the scheme. This included balancing tasks given to me by my supervisor, preparing for the interview at the end of the scheme, and the group task that all vacation scheme participants must do. In dealing with this, I tried to be as methodical and organised as I could. I kept a detailed Excel spreadsheet to log my tasks and the progress I had made in each of the tasks.

I found another important skill in handling a workload like this was being able to accurately balance quality and quantity. I had to sometimes decline tasks from other members of the Project Team to ensure that the essential work I had been given was completed to a high enough standard. Finding the correct balance of the quality and quantity of work I was doing was challenging.

Upon reflection, one of the key things that helped me was asking for templates or examples of work from others in the department when I was unsure about a task or wanted to ensure the quality of my work. I would clarify with my supervisor the tasks that were most important to him and the team to allocate my time accordingly. I was also always trying to be more effective in the work I was given and would suggest alternative methods of accomplishing a task if it was more efficient in achieving the outcomes.

Ultimately, I would advise prospective candidates not to take on more than they can do and to be consistent with keeping a to-do list during the scheme.

Reflecting on your participation in the scheme as a whole, what do you feel is the one thing you did (either before or during the scheme) that helped you make the most of the scheme?

Jasmine: I think making the most of the scheme is about actively engaging with all aspects of it. It is important to do the work you are set and work closely with your supervisor so that you can get a feeling for what you may be doing day-to-day as a trainee. But equally important is finding the time to get to know as many people in the firm as possible and to understand its culture. This is much easier on an in-person scheme than an online one: it was great to be able to knock on doors around the office, introduce myself and ask about what people were working on, or chat to them about why they chose to work for this firm. This may sound daunting, but everyone at WFW was extremely welcoming and happy to make the time to chat. We were particularly fortunate to be on the scheme at the time of the annual netball tournament and getting involved in that was a fantastic way to meet people from across the office in an informal setting.

So, reflecting on the scheme as a whole, what I did to make the most of it was to take advantage of every opportunity to get to know my future colleagues and the firm’s culture, and I would recommend the same to any vacation scheme attendee.

Finally, what other advice would you give to other candidates who are due to participate in a vacation scheme over the coming months?

Sam: the vacation scheme is a great opportunity not just to learn about the firm’s practice areas and workplace culture, but equally to make an impression and show your abilities in a real working environment. On the scheme itself, the buddy system provides a less formal way of learning about how things are done at WFW. The buddies that candidates are assigned generally are trainees, so don’t be afraid to ask questions to which the answers will likely seem obvious by the end of the scheme (I certainly asked many!) We were also encouraged to reach out to our buddy before the scheme started so you’ll go in knowing at least one person in your department.

I’d also recommend spending some time looking into the practice area of the department you’ll be seated in. Go beyond reading the firm’s press releases – read around broad industry and sector trends to help you get the most out of your scheme. The learning curve can be steep in those two weeks, so I’d advise taking frequent notes and reviewing these regularly – there is lots of new information to take on, along with the opportunity to partake in real work. Keeping a record of your days will also help you reflect on things after the scheme has finished.

Finally, I would say try to forge bonds with others on your scheme and help when you can. The atmosphere on my scheme was convivial throughout, which reflects the firm’s own culture well. Focusing uniquely on yourself at the expense of others on the scheme will likely work against you, particularly in the group project. Cohesiveness within your group will maximise your own chances and put you in good stead with your (if all goes to plan!) future colleagues.

Keen to follow in their footsteps? Explore WFW's live opportunities here.