22/02/2019 Applying for first-year schemes

Applying for first-year schemes

When I transitioned from a distance learning course to a brick university, I had to start my degree again from the first year. This gave me the tremendous advantage of knowing about first-year schemes and how to draft applications for these. 

What are first-year schemes? 

These are one or two-day workshops which are run by law firms for people in their first year (or second year on a four-year degree). They are run by most of the big city firms (and some national firms too). They generally involve finding out about life at a firm, getting insights into the type of work that the firm does and networking opportunities. There is no expectation to know everything about a commercial legal environment, but they are a good taster for what is to come if you do a vacation scheme or ultimately a training contract. 

Why should you apply? 

These are great opportunities to narrow your focus for vacation scheme applications next year. There are an overwhelming amount of law firms, and you cannot apply to them all! I have found that by doing research now for the applications to these schemes, I have already started to narrow down where I would like to apply next year. Also, if you get onto a scheme, you have an excellent opportunity to network and learn more about the firm. It will also look favourably on an application for a vacation scheme if you have previously attended an event at the firm, as it will show you have been proactive about finding out about the firm. It will also show that you know a little bit about what type of work the specific firm does, as you will have first-hand experience. Some schemes even offer vacation scheme interviews at the end of them, and vacation schemes can lead to training contract interviews! 

When should you apply? 

Some deadlines have already passed for first-year schemes. However, there is still time to apply to many! Check out ‘lawcareers.net’ for a handy table to see opportunities or check a specific firm’s graduate recruitment page. Deadlines are coming up from now until March, and the schemes are held throughout Easter and into the summer, depending on the firm. 

Application tips

Finally, I’ll leave you with a few tips when filling out your applications:

  • Just like any application, make sure it is grammatically flawless.
  • Don’t assume that just because it’s a first-year scheme that the quality of applications will change; fill out the application as you would for a training contract or vacation scheme. 
  • I have found that with the shorter forms there isn’t always enough space to explain my alternative qualifications. I always send an email either before or with my application to graduate recruitment to clarify why I haven’t input standard grades.
  • Tailor your application. The finer details may seem unnecessary for a one or two-day event, but there is a lot of competition and fewer places on these schemes (they tend to run only once a year).
  • Do research. No one is expecting you to know exactly what area you would like to work in; however, knowing the general specialisms of the firm will help you to talk knowledgeably about the firm. Also, you can pick a few different firms to try and get a taster of what each one is like and whether you would like to work there.

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