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Vacation scheme insider

Katie Shingler

Katie Shingler


Summer 2021




Durham University

What did you do while on the vacation scheme?

My vacation scheme was a highly valuable experience! Across the two weeks I sat in employment and M&A, both included varied and enjoyable work. My tasks involved researching areas of law, performing due diligence and advising hypothetical clients. One interesting task involved reviewing an employment contract and identifying potentially problematic clauses. This challenged me to see the wider picture and to evaluate the effect of different clauses on both the employer and employees. The intricacy and attention to detail required tested my analytical skills and made completing the task very satisfying. The more complex tasks took longer to complete but I had guidance from my supervisors who always made time for me and helped me to reach a solution rather than just giving me the answer. Macfarlanes is a genuinely supportive firm and places a strong emphasis on training and development.

We also had talks from different practice areas which helped me think more about my training programme seats. I’m particularly interested in completing a seat in private client as this talk really highlighted the pioneering and research-based nature of that area.

What did you learn about the firm while on the placement?

I learnt that Macfarlanes truly manages to get the best out of its employees; maintaining a work ethic that produces the best results for its clients while still retaining a welcoming atmosphere and a sense of camaraderie. Everyone went out of their way to help me make the most of my scheme, which I appreciated. One example of this was when my supervisor (after I’d asked for extra work) gave me a research task and applied my findings to her own work. This made me feel part of the Macfarlanes team, which was not something I’d expected as a vacation scheme participant!

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

Completing the tasks was the most enjoyable part. They required me to think outside the box and push myself to understand what was needed. They helped me further develop my research skills and improve my knowledge in a major area of commercial law. I also enjoyed the socials, as I got to know my fellow vacation schemers and Macfarlanes’ employees in a more informal setting.

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

At the end of the second week, I was assessed for a training programme. The assessment comprised a written exercise, a competency interview and an interview discussing several business case studies that I was given to read beforehand. The assessments were spread out, so we didn’t have one particularly busy day which I appreciated. These assessments were challenging but my interviewers were encouraging and often guided me towards an alternative way of thinking.

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

I’d encourage others to engage with the tasks and the people at the firm as much as possible. After realising I was interested in competition law, I reached out to a trainee and a senior associate in the team and arranged coffee meetings so I could hear about their experiences in the practice area. Talking to as many people as possible is key to finding out what the firm is truly about. It will help you decide whether the firm is right for you – remember it’s not just the firm assessing whether you’re a good fit for them, it’s also you assessing whether they’re a good fit for you!