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What to do during the Christmas break – my view

What to do during the Christmas break – my view

Matthew Dow

07/01/2020

For prospective applicants, the Christmas break is often used to prepare for a series of upcoming academic obligations. For instance, no matter how much you are enjoying yourself, reminders of exams, dissertations and essays always seem to be just around the corner.

However, along with the associated festive obligations, the winter holidays can also provide opportunities. For example, the time off can be an effective period to enhance your training contract prospects.

Therefore, below are some short recommendations for how to best use these next few weeks.

Consolidate notes

Strong academics are still very important for law firm applications – no matter what university year that you are in. Furthermore, come exam time, everyone always regrets not starting their study attempts earlier.

Therefore, if time permits, I recommend putting some effort into consolidating your notes. The benefits of consolidating early means that you will be able to start actually revising come any revision break, rather than doing the necessary reading or administrative preparation.

This opportunity to revise is valuable time; time that will be in much shorter supply the closer that you get to your summer exams. Moreover, you will be able to identify any gaps in your knowledge or recurring test questions well in advance of any future exam. This early practice can only aid your final results.

Celebrate and enjoy yourself

The fact is that law is a difficult subject. Further, making a strong training contract or pupillage application can often mean evenings spent reading in the library, whilst others are out enjoying themselves.

Therefore enjoy the time off as well. Catch up on that non-academic reading that you delay during term time, go meet up with your friends and watch that film you have been intending to view. University life is ultimately short. So be prepared to make the most of the extended holidays whilst you still have them.

Pro bono and volunteering

This time of year is particularly difficult for many vulnerable individuals. For instance, organisations that help those in distress may be closed for Christmas, understaffed and almost certainly overworked.

Consequently, if you can, try to find a charity or legal advice centre that could use your assistance. I urge you to volunteer even if your value is solely limited to being just another body to organise a charity’s store cupboard. This is because I can guarantee that your support will enable these organisations to help more people. In addition, you will be doing rewarding work, boosting your legal skills and also be adding to your CV in the process.

Applications

Unfortunately, the reality is that January is a dreaded deadline for most law firms’ vacation schemes. Therefore, I would strongly encourage you to start thinking about applications during the break.

Whilst distractions are minimal, spend some time narrowing down the firms that you wish to apply to. Further, do your research on that specific law firm, so that you can distinguish yourself from the other generic ‘copy and paste’ candidates.

Additionally, a considerable proportion of applicants will upload their rushed efforts on the deadline day. Hence, submitting a tailored application in early can only be for your benefit.

Please note that applying early is a good strategy in general. This is the case even for the firms that do not do rolling applications.

I say this because sometimes promising candidates are interviewed before the deadline date. Truthfully, given the limited capacity and the pressures that lawyers can face in city law firms, this early availability can mean that you are more likely to get a limited interview slot.

Commercial awareness

It is important to not switch off your commercial awareness during the break. After all, a week is a long time in politics. Therefore, it would be a shame to suddenly drift out of the loop on current events where you ignored developments over the holidays.

My recommendation would be ad hoc listening to podcasts, watching brief market update videos on YouTube or using apps such as Finimize. These apps and mailing lists give you short daily financial news updates that you can use whilst at the gym or going about your day-to-day activities.

Entrepreneurial activities

For students, time is restricted. Therefore, if there is a side-hustle venture that you wish to start to enhance your student income – now might be a good time to start it. Especially, if your wallet is a little light from buying gifts for all the family.

Alternatively, if there is a society that you feel that you could set up and eventually lead – early next year may be a wise choice. This is because in the summer, you may find yourself having other priorities. Moreover, attendances of any events that you arrange will likely be diminished where people are exam-focused.

Finally, starting a society may be a good demonstration of your leadership, organisation and other relevant competencies ahead of any January job applications.

Virtual internships

Virtual internships from companies such as Inside Sherpa are a godsend for students.

Firstly, many internships are created by leading law firms – think Linklaters, White & Case LLP, Pinsent Masons LLP, Latham & Watkins etc. Secondly, there are also internship offerings from other major professions such as finance, engineering and management consultancy. Thirdly, these internships also offer valuable examples of quality corporate legal work ahead of any other vacation scheme that you will undertake.

These virtual internships are completely free, non-selective and they can be done at your own pace. Further, during a period when it may be tangibly impossible to obtain real-world work experience at an actual office – these internships represent a great opportunity to enrich your CV and to obtain an understanding of the typical trainee tasks.

In addition, if you remain uncertain about a career in the legal sector, completing two or three of these internships from various firms over the holidays may provide you with that closure.

Network

Finally, networking, by which I mean getting to know people and offering them value for their time.

Christmas is a period of good cheer and the season provides lots of fun events. Therefore, it is also a good occasion to tell people what you are doing, where you are in your legal career and possibly what tasks that you enjoy? Further, it is a good opportunity to learn about colleagues’ true interests and to help persons who may be in need of a favour.

After all, you never know who you will run into at these gatherings or even what future avenues of growth any conversation with a stranger may be able to open up.

I state this value of networking as the vast number of lawyers that have told me that their success started with a chance encounter with a client/lawyer at some obscure spectacle, which means that Christmas provides you with no excuse not to ‘network’ either.