Law students spend much of their second year at university applying for summer internships, more commonly known in the legal world as ‘vacation schemes’. I was no different, and upon finishing my second year at Oxford in June, I embarked upon two separate vacation schemes to fill my summer.
Vacation schemes are critical for law students. Although not mandatory, enrolling in a scheme is strongly advised if you wish to become a city solicitor. The advantages are twofold- a scheme increases employability, but also benefits you personally.
Firstly, a vacation scheme demonstrates a genuine interest and commitment to the career path, as well as to the chosen firm. The time taken to overcome the many hurdles in the application process, as well as the time working on the scheme itself, proves your tenacity and desire for life as a lawyer. Furthermore, being able to write on your CV that one or more firms offered you a place on the scheme after a gruelling selection process is a ringing endorsement, and is sure to attract other employers.
Personal benefits are numerous. A vacation scheme enables you to be sure that life as a city solicitor is really for you- after all, it can be extremely stressful, and the hours are long. The scheme is also a great way to discover the ‘culture’ of a firm. Law firms can be very different, and signing a contract with one is a huge commitment. For example, one of my vacation scheme firms was an enormous, high-profile outfit with multi-service capability. The other was much smaller, and specialised in certain niche areas. Both were top corporate city firms, but were not in any way analogous. I wanted to experience two radically different operations, and I am very glad I had the opportunity to do so.
A vacation scheme allows you to work on ‘live’ cases- real work which is genuinely interesting. It is rewarding to see the fruit of your labour, and from this it is easy to get a feel for what working at the firm permanently would be like. You learn new skills and have the chance to prove yourself, as well as see the less glamorous and less exciting parts of the job (of which there are many). It is also great to talk to other lawyers and candidates at all stages of their careers, who are more than happy to offer advice. One vacation scheme is never the same as another- there are so many departments in corporate law firms that you are always placed in a different ‘seat’. During my two vacation schemes, I sat in banking litigation, real estate planning, and insurance disputes. It makes you realise that there are a whole host of options available to the aspiring law student.
A nice sweetener from a vacation scheme is that there may well be a job offer at the end of one, and I am pleased to say I have experienced this. After all the hard work, it is fantastic to receive such recognition.
For those of you considering vacation schemes, I urge you to research which firms you wish to target and the areas of law in which you are interested, as generic applications are immediately discounted, and the process is so lengthy it is only possible to apply to so many. There are also considerations regarding your grades and extracurricular activities, as well as open days, campus events to attend, and the all-important application deadline date.
Once the application is submitted, you may face online or written tests, group exercises, interviews, and other bespoke tasks. The process is not standardised, and as such every firm has a different method. Again, it is important to conduct your due diligence to be as prepared as possible.
Applications open in October. If you have any questions, please private message me or post on the forum- I’d be happy to help in any way I can. Good luck!
Tom Fadden, School Captain 2014-2015