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Vacation scheme insider

Sally Westgate

Sally Westgate


July 2023




University of York

What work did you get involved with on the vacation scheme?

I gained practical experience within two different placement areas. Assisting the family department consisted of participating in client meetings and drafting a pre-action letter of advice. I was given an example that I attempted to follow and tailor to the specific client, which helped to improve my ability to apply legal knowledge to the specific client’s situation.

I then worked alongside the private client department and practised drafting a lasting power of attorney and will, as well as participating in a mock client interview. I also became familiar with typical deeds involved in estate planning.

Was the vacation scheme what you expected? Did the vacation scheme live up to your expectations?

I expected the vacation scheme to be quite daunting but as soon as I arrived, I felt at ease and was welcomed warmly by various employees. Icebreaker activities also immediately settled my nerves.

The scheme exceeded my expectations, being immaculately organised and timetabled. This reassured me because I could see clearly how the week would play out and it allowed me to structure my time accordingly.

Each day ended with a feedback and debrief session with the learning and development team and fellow vac scheme candidates, allowing us to share insights and reflect on the day.

Did your attendance on the scheme support your application for a training contract?

Definitely; we had the opportunity to network with various members of the firm every day, so we really had the ‘insider knowledge’ to incorporate into the interview.

Having undergone placement areas, I could share my personal experiences when working within the firm. For instance, I shared what I’d learnt and what I found most challenging with the interview panel, thus I was drawing on examples of my development within the firm itself.

Workshops surrounding skill development touched on effective presentation and communication skills, which I then showcased on the final day of the vacation scheme – the training contract assessment day.

What’s the most important thing you learnt about the firm while on the scheme?

I became aware of the firm’s culture. Despite being commercially successful the firm maintained a compassionate nature. Each vac scheme candidate was appointed a trainee buddy to ensure we had sufficient support in place. We also ended up going for a coffee with the trainees in our spare time!

What’s one piece of advice you’d pass on to future vacation schemers?

Don’t be afraid to speak up. Effective communication is a key skill all firms will recognise and it’s always best to talk to someone if you have any doubts or queries. Asking questions shows that you’re interested in improving your knowledge and wanting to produce work that is to your highest standard.

If you’re unsure of something be honest – how the firm chooses to respond to you can highlight its nature. I found that the team at Brabners were very encouraging and supportive which suited my learning style.

What do you think made your vacation scheme application successful?

I researched the firm in-depth by going beyond the firm's website and using LinkedIn and YouTube. I could then highlight this research within my application answers and link my skills accordingly. This also proved that I had a genuine interest in the firm. Alternatively, this allows you to discover whether the firm is the right fit for you. Law firms want successful candidates just as much as candidates want successful law firms!