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LCN Says

Top 10 tips for your vacation scheme applications

updated on 09 January 2024

Reading time: four minutes

Acing a vacation scheme application comes with time, effort and a lot of research. With the biggest vacation scheme deadline of the year – 31 January – looming (and many firms having their deadline before this), how are you approaching your applications?

Application advice isn’t difficult to find these days. The Internet is a sea of information with thousands of articles aimed at helping you stand out. Don’t forget, LawCareers.Net has 25 years of experience in helping candidates to secure their legal job, so this is a fantastic place to start. Plus, our Application hub is designed to make your life easier, housing all the advice you need to help you prepare for and ace your vacation scheme, training contract and pupillage applications.

See the full list of firms’ January vacation scheme deadlines.

What do law firms want to see?

We speak to many law firm recruiters, all of whom say that your applications must be uniquely tailored to them. This doesn’t mean you need to know everything about the firm you’re applying to, but as Laura Hartigan, Shoosmiths’ emerging talent advisor, explained: “Given the number of firms available, you must be able to explain your decision to apply to a particular firm.”

That said, while your approach to each firm should be different, your method for writing applications should remain the same – take your time, carefully prepare your answers and pay attention to detail.

Here are 10 tips that’ll help you write an excellent vacation scheme application.

  1. Before you start, read through the entire application form and take note of any instructions. It’s also useful to plan where to talk about your main achievements, for example. It’d be a shame to work a skill or experience into one answer when you turn out to be questioned directly on the issue later in the application.
  1. Be consistent and accurate with grammar, layout and style. For example:
    1. avoid silly grammatical mistakes, like using the wrong ‘their’, ‘there’ or ‘they’re’;
    2. don’t complete the form with caps lock on or in all lower-case; and
    3. be consistent with spellings and layout, for example, don’t capitalise a work area in one sentence and then not in another – either way is fine but be consistent (alternatively check how the firm you’re applying to formats the name of a work area and go with that).
  1. Double check the formatting once you’ve finished each section. It might be worth writing the longer answers in a Word document and then copying the text over – check that the formatting (eg, bullet points) has transferred properly.
  1. DON’T copy and paste your answers from another application. This could result in you accidentally using the wrong firm name. It’s a simple tip and one that candidates always nod their head at as if it’s the silliest advice in the world, but you’d be surprised by the number of recruiters we speak to who say they’ve read applications that mention the wrong firm. It’s their most-hated mistake – don’t let it be you!
  1. Be specific – if you can substitute one firm name for another in your applications and it still makes sense then you haven’t made your application specific enough. Applications can look good on the surface, but it soon becomes obvious that the candidate is using generic statements to cover up the lack of firm research. It’s all in the detail!
  1. Keep a record of your application. Save it in an accessible folder so you can easily find it if you’re lucky enough to be invited back for an interview. By having it easily accessible, you can familiarise yourself with the points you made in your application ahead of an interview – what questions might the interviewees want to ask you based on what you wrote?
  1. Don’t abbreviate words – particularly firm names, unless the firm commonly uses an abbreviation. Spell the firm name exactly as it appears on the firm’s website. For example, don’t use ampersands in a firm’s name if they use ‘and’.
  1. Read through your completed application several times before hitting that scary submit button. Try printing it out or changing the font, size and/or colour as this will help to highlight any errors you may be missing. Plus, get someone else to read it for you – they’re much more likely to spot mistakes and omissions that you might overlook.
  1. Use a sensible email address that you can access throughout the recruitment process.
  1. Submit your applications well ahead of the deadline. They’re often reviewed in the order they’re received, and last-minute applications tend to be of a lower quality than those that have been carefully put together ahead of the final day. Plus, recruiters can see exactly what time you submitted your application and will probably view an application submitted at 11:59pm as rushed.

Don’t forget that a lot of firms have deadlines before and after 31 January, so use LCN’s vacation scheme deadlines page to ensure you don’t miss the deadline for a firm that interests you.

It’s not an easy process but be yourself, take your time and do your research. Good luck and stay positive!

For advice from those reading your applications, read LCN’s Meet the Recruiter profiles to find out what makes them tick, the biggest mistake they see applicants making and the skills they want their future lawyers to have.