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Vacation schemes

updated on 18 March 2022

Find out which firms offer vacation schemes (also known as work placements) using our Training contract search and keep on top of approaching deadlines on our Vacation scheme deadlines page. Visit our Vacation scheme insiders section to get a sense of different firms’ vacation schemes and office cultures.


Gaining exposure to the day-to-day reality of working in a law firm is essential for making an informed decision about your career.

Vacation schemes (also known as work placements) are formal programmes designed by recruiters and partners to give you an idea of what a law firm is really like, while assessing your suitability for a training contract.

What to expect on a vacation scheme

Vacation schemes are an incredibly competitive part of the recruitment process. Many firms will offer you an automatic training contract interview during your placement. As well as work and interviews, there are always opportunities to socialise.

Most firms plan social events for placements from informal drinks to meals out or activities. It’s worth noting that you are always in competition with your fellow interns and recruiters are continuously assessing your abilities, but you should still be polite, friendly and a team player.

You will still want to be on point when you’re socialising, so don’t over-indulge if there are drinks, for example.

Many schemes will involve opportunities to experience real work as part of one or more of the firm’s teams. This may be supplemented with other activities, for example, a mock client pitch or presentation, or a project you have to work on throughout the placement.

Learn more about firms’ vacation schemes from the very people who have experienced them in our Vacation Scheme Insiders and Meet the Lawyer sections.

Vacation schemes are usually rotational, in that you’ll probably spend your two weeks in two to four different departments. During that time, you’re likely to be engaged in various tasks. Vacation schemers at major UK law firm Mills & Reeve LLP, for example, describe the scheme as a “mini training contract”.

Candidates will sit in four seats and carry out the following:

  • review contracts;
  • conduct research;
  • attend training sessions;
  • sit-in on meetings; and
  • create first drafts of advice (in some cases).

With the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, many law firms moved their vacation schemes online in 2020 and 2021 year. Despite the government having recently lifted all restrictions, it is still unclear whether this year’s schemes will be face-to-face, virtual or hybrid – this will depend on the firms themselves.

When to apply

Summer is the main placement season, but many firms also run schemes during the winter and spring. Firms that try to separate non-law students may organise a dedicated non-law scheme during the winter holiday. This ensures that all prospective trainees are on an equal playing field.

The majority of application deadlines for summer and spring schemes tend to be between the end of January and the end of February, with many firms also sharing a deadline at the end of March, but it’s best to apply early. If you’re a non-law student, you’ll need to apply for most winter schemes by the end of October.

Check out our Non-law student hub, sponsored by Shoosmiths.

Head to our Vacation Scheme Insiders section for first-hand accounts of what it's like to be part of a scheme.

Find out which firms offer vacation schemes by using our Training contract search and see approaching deadlines on our vacation scheme deadlines page.