by four WFW Future Trainees: Chloe Konstantinides, Matthew Buxton, Laura Izquierdo and Peter Clemons
Our vacation scheme is the best way to familiarise yourself with WFW. The two-week placements are at our London office, either at Easter or during the summer. They give you a chance to experience the firm in more depth and us a chance to get to know you.
To appreciate first-hand the kind of work trainees undertake day to day, you will work with associates and partners in one of our core practice groups for the whole period. To complement this focus on one area, you will also participate in a variety of training and social events designed to give you a good feel for the firm.
We spoke to a few of our most recent Vacation Scheme participants to get their insight into what it was like to take part in the scheme virtually.
1. How did you feel when you found out that the vacation scheme would be virtual?
Initially, I felt a bit apprehensive. I was concerned that a virtual scheme might take away from the experience. In particular, I thought it might be more difficult to get a feel for the firm and its culture and to interact with others. However, there was no reason to worry! The variety of sessions and group activities, ranging from practice area talks to quizzes, as well as the opportunity to talk to a number of different people at the firm, all made the scheme feel very interactive and gave a really good insight into the firm’s culture.
2. What worked well with a virtual vacation scheme?
Overall, the virtual vacation scheme at Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) was incredibly well structured by Anthea and Lucie. We were given our schedule in advance of the scheme which contained the presentations from different departments, networking events and virtual “catch-ups” with our trainee buddy.
The departmental presentations themselves were highly interesting and interactive. One of the benefits of having a virtual vacation scheme is that everybody could write down their questions in the Zoom interface, which meant no question went unanswered by the presenters!
The quiz event with current trainees and associates was also really enjoyable. As the quiz took place through zoom, it was a great opportunity to interact with all current trainees at the same time. It was also interesting to see how trainees/associates interacted with one another as a cohort, which is an insight into the firm’s culture you might not have during a normal vacation scheme.
I greatly benefitted from having a trainee buddy. They were always on hand to answer questions about their own experiences at WFW and provide a more personal connection to the firm. It was also a great opportunity to discuss the firm’s highly coveted secondment opportunities!
3. What challenges did you face during the virtual vacation scheme, and how did you tackle these?
The group task was somewhat harder to co-ordinate virtually. We initially conducted independent research, which informed the direction each of us took. Had we been in the same room together, we would have been able to call out our ideas and move forward in the same direction. Having to re-convene intermittently wasn’t as efficient.
It really helped to be flexible and compromise where needed, in order to make enough time for the group project. My advice would be, the earlier you can come to a decision regarding the direction to follow, the better, there’s not much time to overthink things.
4. What aspect of the virtual vacation scheme did you enjoy the most?
The international secondment talk was really interesting, and it made me feel really excited about the opportunities at the firm. It was also a great insight into how the existing trainees have experienced their time at WFW, and a good chance to ask questions. I also particularly enjoyed the group exercise; it was a great way to get to know other future trainees through working together.
The virtual quiz was an excellent way for us to interact with the firm’s current trainees and for them to demonstrate their personalities and highlight their passion for the firm. It was insightful to see how they talked about their experiences at the firm, and it was evident that close friendships had been formed. Ultimately, it helped me witness the human side of the firm.
5. Reflecting on your participation in the virtual vacation scheme, 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?
Scheduling the week and being organised really helped. We were sent an itinerary in advance, so that we could make a note of our scheduled sessions and when we had free time. This was particularly important when it came to organising our time between the individual and group tasks we were given to complete alongside our planned activities. There was a lot to do during the scheme, and it was important to keep on top of time management!
Thoroughly researching the firm’s practice areas in advance of the presentations was really useful. This meant I could actively engage with the presentation and ask questions that broadened my understanding of the firm’s practice. I also found it helpful to ask questions about a partner’s recent work. Not only did this contextualise some points in their presentation but it made me more aware of the commercial difficulties that some clients may face in particular markets.
6. Finally, what other advice would you give to other candidates who are due to participate in a virtual vacation scheme?
I think it’s particularly important when working from home, to treat each day as a normal working day. The days are structured with intermittent video calls, but it’s important to maximise your use of the time in between. There’s quite a lot to do in terms of individual tasks, and the group exercise, and these are things you need to complete ‘in your own time’, when you’re off the calls. So, making time throughout the day to be productive and stay on top of the tasks is key.
Keep a pen and paper to hand too, for any questions you think of throughout the presentations. It’s not always obvious to know when to intervene during a mass zoom call, so writing your questions down can help you remember to raise them at the end.
Also, it probably won’t come as a surprise, but with any online event, internet connectivity issues aren’t uncommon. You can check your internet connection speed for free in a few seconds online, so running this test in a few different areas in your house might give you a better idea of where’s the best place to set-up.
We were given the schedule in advance, so do not worry, you will be aware of when everything is happening. The schedule outlined which department presentations were being held, and when.
I also recommend using the opportunity before the vacation scheme to do some brief research, so you know, generally, what each practice area does, and you can prepare some questions for each presentation. This gives you more time to consider what it is you really want to ask. For example, if aviation is your passion, you might ask whether Covid-19 has crippled the aviation industry financially and what are airlines doing to mitigate the effects of Covid-19?