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Vacation scheme insider

Dennis Liao

Dennis Liao


May 2022




University of Manchester

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

I sat in the real estate department for the duration of the scheme and was involved in many tasks that a trainee in the real estate department would be expected to work on. For example, I drafted a few real estate documents, including TR1 forms, amended a lease that was approved by my trainee buddy and sent out, which was cool, and helped to amend options agreements for purchases of property.

I also experienced other real estate tasks – even if I wasn’t involved physically, I observed my trainee buddy and asked questions to better understand their role in the department.

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

The most enjoyable aspect of the scheme was getting an insight into the trainee solicitor world. The most challenging part was stepping out of my comfort zone to network with people in other departments. For future vac schemers who are also nervous about this, I’d encourage them to just get stuck in – it can be a nerve-racking experience having to approach people you don’t know to ask for a chat over coffee, but everyone I spoke to was very receptive, even if the chat wasn’t related to the law and was more about just getting to know each other.

By putting myself out there, I managed to have talks with various people – it’s never as scary as it seems, so take the plunge and it’ll likely help to calm any worries you might have!

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

If you’re successful on the scheme, you’re invited to the firm’s assessment centre, which everyone else who applies for a training contract with the firm must go through. My attendance on the scheme definitely supported my performance at the assessment centre because I could use the experiences I’d had and skills I’d developed, as well as demonstrate my knowledge and passion for the firm, and really show the interviewers and assessors during the tasks that I understood the firm. I linked many of the experiences from the vacation scheme – whether that was work I did, chats I attended or individuals I spoke to – to the tasks I had to complete on the assessment day. 

How did the scheme help you to understand the firm better as a business?

Shoosmiths was proactive in ensuring we gained this information from the scheme. The firm hosted plenty of Q&A sessions, which were led by partners and senior associates, with vac schemers able to ask questions – most of which were about the divisions and the practice areas the firm works in.

The Q&As also provided great insights into what the partners and associates were thinking about in terms of their practice and where it was heading. The talks were very different from anything I’d experienced up until then – they were much more business focused than, say, a university lecture. Having the opportunity to ask questions of the people giving the talks was incredibly beneficial to my understanding of the firm and how it operates as a business in general.

Looking back, what advice do you wish you’d received before starting your vacation scheme?

I’d tell myself to get stuck in straight away and enjoy the experience. No matter what scheme you’re on, you’re there for a limited amount of time so it’s important to enjoy the moment and get the most out of the experience. Push yourself out of your comfort zone too, do the things you might not normally do; it’s such a unique experience and opportunity to learn new skills.

Other than attending a vacation scheme, what’s the most relevant experience you’ve had that’s benefited your journey to becoming a lawyer?

Based off the significance of this event in terms of the role it played, I’d say the LawCareersNetLIVE Manchester conference. This event came at the start of my legal journey – I was completing a conversion course at the time and didn’t know much about the legal market, or the process of applying to firms for vacation schemes or training contracts and I had no way of networking effectively with people.

The conference gave me fantastic insights on starting the journey into law and networking. It was the first time I met and interacted with Shoosmiths, and this led me to apply for the firm’s vacation scheme and eventually obtain my training contract.