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Vacation scheme insider

Zac Matthews

Zac Matthews


Summer 2019


Law and politics


University of Manchester

What did you do while on the scheme?

I sat in the global loans and real estate departments during the three-week scheme at Ashurst, and I was surprised and pleased to undertake real work in these areas. It felt like I was a fully functioning member of the team from day one. For example, in the global loans department I helped to draft one of the loan facilities from an in-house template and in the real estate department I completed various land registry forms. Throughout the scheme there were numerous presentations on different aspects of the firm, including Ashurst ADVANCE Digital which designs and develops technology-based solutions for clients, the firm’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and a breakdown of how deals work. It all gave me a broader understanding of how I would fit in as a trainee. There were also social events and opportunities to network with fellow vac schemers and trainees, including a pasta-making class and bowling.

What did you feel that you gained from the placement?

The main thing I gained was knowledge of what a commercial lawyer actually does. There is a real knowledge gap between those applying to law firms and those on the inside – you can talk about commercial awareness as a student, but it’s a very steep learning curve once you’re in a law firm! At Ashurst, you’re not expected to know the intricacies of the law and a deal before the scheme, but you are expected to have an interested attitude and demonstrate that you want to learn more. I did lots of watching, listening and note-taking during my time on the scheme.

Which were the most enjoyable – and most challenging – aspects of the scheme?

I enjoyed finding out about the firm and the people within it. I had completed the first-year scheme at Ashurst and was a campus ambassador for the firm at university, but spending three weeks under their roof allowed me to really get to know the people who work there. Everyone had time for me, and I was taken for coffees by trainees and partners. I really felt welcome at the firm. The challenging part was balancing everything – not only the work, but also other opportunities such as pro bono, CSR and sports.

Did the scheme end with a training contract interview or some other kind of further recruitment process?

After the vacation scheme I had an interview with two partners, which was more of a conversation than an interrogation. We spoke about current affairs and how my time was at the firm. I was offered a training contract shortly after.

Is there one key thing that you took away from the experience that you would pass on as advice to others?

It’s really important to have a can-do attitude in everything you do and to be open-minded. I was asked to play cricket twice during the scheme, which was the last thing I had expected to do! I could have said no, but it was a fantastic opportunity to represent the firm and meet their clients. That opportunity made me stand out and demonstrated that I’m reliable and can network well.