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Vacation schemes: applications

Vacation schemes: applications

John MacKenzie


Reading time: four minutes

In the most recent application window, I was fortunate enough to secure two vacation schemes for summer 2023. With applications opening again soon, I’m sure many of you will be gearing up to apply and might be feeling a little anxious about the process. Fear not, this blog will outline my tips on completing a successful application, along with some important lessons I learned in the process!


A good application starts with research. Even at this stage, firms will expect you to know at least some basic information about them – especially their key practice areas and significant projects – and justify why you’re interested in completing a vacation scheme with them. It can be helpful to create a list or spreadsheet with firms that interest you and expand on this as you learn more about the firms. Attending firm events, online or in-person, can be a great way to develop your knowledge of the firm and its unique features. Note down aspects of the firm that stand out to you, whether it’s their culture, range of work or even just a flashy office – let the firm know you aren’t just copying from their website! You can also consult LawCareers.Net for information on firms and check the vacations scheme deadlines page for information on application windows. 

As for the application itself, the process can differ quite significantly between firms. For example, some firms operate applications through an external company like AllHires, allowing applicants to automatically input their saved details while some require manual entry of information into a proprietary application system and a dwindling number simply require a CV and cover letter (this includes the likes of Slaughter and May). I found it very useful to make a spreadsheet and other documents containing common information and answers (such as grades and degree details), which massively improved the efficiency and standardisation of my applications and helped abate some form of fatigue.


Most application forms will involve questions. These could quiz you on anything from your skills, experiences and past roles to current events, open-ended legal problems and other topics. These exist for the firms to get an idea of who you are, what you know about them and (as redundant as it may sound) how you answer questions. This is often part of the application where your personality and research can shine through. Very common questions include:

  • why law;
  • why commercial law;
  • why [the firm]; and
  • tell us about yourself.

Take your time with these questions and make sure you personalise them to the firm and its work – it’s pretty obvious to recruiters when an answer is a copy-paste job! It’s not uncommon for similar questions to come up in interviews, so preparing a solid answer now can take you far. This is also a good time to get to grips with the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) answer structure. 

I think it’s prudent to acknowledge that applications are, at least in my view, a numbers game. You may have set your sights on a particular firm, but it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket. While the quality of your application should be your first priority, it would be foolhardy to submit just one – though I don’t care to admit how many applications I submitted! I’d recommend aiming for around ten high-quality applications. While it may not be fun to think about before even starting an application, understand that for most, rejection is simply part of the game. Try not to be discouraged by unsuccessful applications firms receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications, and sometimes success/rejection can be a matter of minutiae and not personal. 


Last but certainly not least, keep a close eye on deadlines. While some firms won’t start reviewing applications until after the deadline, it’s always a good idea to get things in sooner. Take it from me, slow and steady wins the race – rushing applications last minute won’t do you any favours and will only stress you. For those firms that do review applications on a rolling basis, you’ll massively increase your chances of success by applying earlier, so don’t leave these to the last day! This comes back to the point of research, if you have a good idea of the firms you want to apply to before application windows open, you won’t be scrambling to find their application portal and deadlines or research things about them. Deadlines can sneak up on you - LCN’s deadline search feature is very helpful to stay on top of them.

Applying for vacation schemes may seem daunting, but it can be a very edifying experience and a great motivator to learn more about the legal industry and the firms within it. The application is, of course, only the first step in the process – so look out for more vacation scheme blogs from me in the future!