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Vacation scheme diaries – initial thoughts

Vacation scheme diaries – initial thoughts

Harriet Iles


I feel like I’ve been mentally preparing for my vacation scheme ever since I got the offer back at the beginning of 2021. At that time, the scheme itself seemed as though it couldn’t be further away. I had endless time to prepare – almost too much! However, the months have been passing quickly this year and, all of a sudden, we’re now well into May. 

With the vacation scheme now at the forefront of my mind, what could be better than discussing it in a blog post? In all honesty, it’s been a topic I have intended to write about for a while. Something which I found to be lacking while making my own applications was a view of what life was actually like as a vac schemer. I, therefore, want to provide readers with a more personal, diary-style insight into what a vac scheme is really like at all stages of the process. I hope that these pieces will be useful – so when you come to do your own, you can be more confident in what to expect, how to prepare, or how to avoid making the same mistakes I inevitably do!

I feel the need to make a little disclaimer here that, although I want to provide the most genuine view into the vac scheme process as possible, I will not be revealing details of any of the people, clients, matters or actual work that I complete. Confidentiality is paramount, and the purpose of this blog series is to focus more on my own personal thoughts, feelings and key learning points throughout the process. 

As this will be the first post of a series about my experience, as it happens, it might be useful to convey what my career journey has looked like and what my goals are. I graduated with my non-law undergraduate degree in 2019 and will complete my combined part-time PGDL and LLM course at BPP University Law School in mid-2022. I have secured a vacation scheme with my dream commercial City law firm, and through this, I hope to earn a training contract offer. From the outset, seats in corporate and dispute resolution are where my interests primarily lie. 

The purpose of this first blog is really to get my thoughts down and to set out my plan for initial preparation. My next blog in this series will discuss the progress I’ve made regarding my areas of uncertainty that I will now outline. 

Areas of uncertainty

First and foremost, assessments. Although I already have a grasp of how important assessed work is to the final training contract decision – at this stage, I feel quite unsure about what exactly the assessments may entail. To build confidence in this area, I will be conducting my own research and getting in touch with previous vac schemers to discuss their experiences. I will aim to work out precisely what kinds of activities or skills are tested.

Second, as my vac scheme is virtual, I feel concerned about getting my personality across. Particularly when joining a new team or starting a new job, it can be tough to establish those new connections without the occasional informality of face-to-face interaction. Therefore, what I will focus on in my preparation will be how to best make and maintain these connections. Another point of concern relating to virtual working is effective collaboration to ensure voices aren’t lost. After figuring out how vac schemers are typically assessed, my next aim will be to strategise how to perform well and mitigate against the challenges posed by virtual working.

Third, I will be researching general tips for success beyond the two areas of concern I have identified. In my next post, I hope to be sharing these with you along with any information that I find particularly striking or useful. 

Next steps

The next step in my preparation is wider reading, talking to previous vac schemers and attending masterclasses. I have a vac scheme masterclass booked for next week, and from that, I hope to ask some questions focussed on my areas of concern. I’m excited to update you all on how I find this! Watch out for my next ‘vacation scheme diaries’ post, where I’ll be providing an update on the progress that I’ve made and hopefully giving some answers to help you. 

If you want to have a chat, talk about your worries and thoughts, or just ask some questions – perhaps you’re also undertaking a summer vacation scheme – feel free to reach out to me on my socials!