What did you do while on the vacation scheme?
We were placed in departments according to preferences we’d communicated to graduate recruitment ahead of the scheme starting. The scheme took place in person, so we could immerse ourselves not only within our respective teams, but also the firm’s culture. I was placed in the real estate group, where I worked on a variety of tasks ranging from drafting lease reports and rent authority letters to taking minutes within client meetings and conducting pre-deal property due diligence.
The scheme also involved two assessments – a written task and a negotiation exercise – as well as a lunch and social with the current trainees. The scheme overlapped with the firm’s launch of its new brand so we were invited to social events involving the whole firm, providing us with valuable opportunities to build our networks.
What did you learn about the firm while on the placement?
From a professional perspective, being placed in a department for most of the scheme gave a realistic impression of what trainee life would be like. With tasks coming in from different workstreams, I learned how to balance and prioritise competing deadlines.
I also began to understand how proactivity in a law firm, even as a junior colleague, could valuably contribute to the progression of matters. For example, offering to take minutes during a client meeting directly informed my involvement in compiling a schedule of actions for the client’s benefit. Not only demonstrating how isolated tasks fit into the wider, ongoing servicing of clients, this also taught me a lot about the firm’s culture. It was clear the collaborative and team-based values were deeply pervasive in a culture that encouraged the sharing of ideas, even from vacation scheme attendees.
Which were the most enjoyable – and most challenging – aspects of the scheme?
The group negotiation exercise was the most enjoyable and challenging part. It was cleverly devised to test several key competencies, including teamwork, leadership, communication, commercial awareness, oratory and project management skills. This meant that your performance had to be well-rounded, which was challenging when combined with the fact we had to navigate several complex, commercial points to settle a favourable outcome for our fictitious client. However, it was enjoyable in equal measure as it involved working with other attendees. It was an interesting and intellectual challenge to not only embrace individuals’ different approaches to problems, but consolidate them, as a team, into a seamless and effective argument.
Did the scheme end with a training contract interview or some other kind of further recruitment process?
We were assessed by our respective departments, and via the negotiation and written exercises. Those who perform well across all of these parameters can receive an offer without needing to complete an interview. More typically, however, candidates are invited to an interview with two partners after the scheme.
Is there one key thing that you took away from the experience that you would pass on as advice to others?
I think striking a balance in your attitude and communication is important to show you can be successful in the law. A good way to demonstrate this is by showing yourself as engaged while knowing that fewer, high-quality questions are more credible than being overly enthusiastic. It also demonstrates an appreciation for the time of the fee earners around you, and that you’ve thought critically about information you want to obtain. Robust communication skills can also be demonstrated when receiving departmental work. Asking targeted questions relating to a task’s urgency, deadline, desired format, preferred resources, and place in the wider deal, for example, can allow you to obtain key information relevant to the task’s completion while also developing your understanding and commercial awareness.