Trainee Blog: Get Vacation Scheme ready

For many prospective solicitors who have toiled over their written applications in recent months, the prospect of going toe to toe with the bright-minded, sharp suited individuals within the legal world is daunting at best.

If you have secured a place on a vacation scheme, congratulations, you have done immensely well to obtain an elusive spot in a highly competitive market!

Turning to the scheme itself, your objective should be clear and simple – walk out of the door at the end of the week leaving behind the best possible impression you are able to.

Below are some handy hints and tips supported by comments from partners, my fellow trainees and the graduate recruitment team.

The Basics – 'You will not win the prize on the first day, but you might lose it'

It sounds simple, but make sure you start off on the right foot. First impressions matter and a positive reaction will instil you with confidence.  

  • Be polite, courteous and make sure you greet everybody that you meet with a smile.
  • Get the dress code right – a quick look at some of the firm's website photos will give you a good idea.
  • Take great care when using social media. Whilst you should rightly be delighted with your achievement, any posts referring to a specific firm should be made with respect.  

Ben Butterworth (Second-year trainee) adds – 'Say hello to as many people as you can, you don’t want to inadvertently ignore the senior partner in the coffee queue...'

Preparation – 'Only when on stage can you see behind the curtain'

A firm's website will only tell you so much and it is important to appreciate that you will not walk through the door on the first day knowing everything you'd like to. In many respects, your ability to absorb as much information over the course of the scheme and subsequently use this knowledge to demonstrate why you really want to work there will be a crucial factor in your success.

  • Make sure you re-read your entire application. Any weaknesses are likely to be discussed at interview, so make sure you have had an objective look at those and are able to offer a response.
  • When you find out what department you will be joining, make sure you do some research - find out what they do, whether there are any prominent cases or important clients they work for and have a look at any recent news stories that may impact the team.
  • You will not be expected to know the law, so do not worry. Any legal tasks are likely to extend to drafting basic legal documents, correspondence and research.

Siobhan Murphy (First-year trainee) adds – 'Something I found helpful was to pick a few topical news stories that I was really interested in and focus on keeping up to date with them. It gave me confidence to discuss those topics in some detail during interviews or general conversation.'

Attitude – 'Get your head in the game'

Get focused from day one. The single quality that applies across all types of vacation scheme, and all types of applicant, is enthusiasm.  

  • Confidence in yourself and being in tune with your own personality will allow you to shine when it matters most. Remember, it is your responsibility to reach the standard set by the firm, so believe that you can get there.
  • Attention to detail is paramount. If you are sending an email, or handing over a piece of work to your supervisor, make sure you are doing so in the knowledge it was as good as you could make it. 
  • Consistency across the duration of the vacation scheme cannot be understated.  The more people you leave with a strong impression of you, the better. You will be tired at the end of the scheme but the final hour will be just as important as the first.

Alex Watson (Partner) adds – 'It’s a real opportunity to show yourself as a bright, ambitious team player who is enthusiastic for the law and for Michelmores, so make the best of the week to showcase that.'

Opportunity – 'Never be too big to ask questions; never know too much to learn something new'

In the moment and under pressure, many applicants forget that the application is a two way process. If you aren't happy working at a firm for a short while, working there full time is unlikely to improve this, so make every effort to ensure you've picked the right firm for you.

  • Take advantage of your trainee buddies. They have recently been through the process and their snippets of information could be crucial in that difficult interview question.
  • Intelligent, well-structured questions will always be well received as it demonstrates someone with ambition. Do try to avoid those that can easily be answered following a quick flick through the graduate brochure.
  • Remember, the firm has already decided that you are a good candidate so be genuine and try to strike a balance in conversation between you as a potential lawyer and your other interests – being a rounded individual is important.

Helen Bray (Second-year trainee) adds – 'Vacation schemes are your opportunity to get under the skin of the firm and see if it’s the right place for you – make the most of the chance to learn as much as you can by asking meaningful questions of as many people as possible.'

All firms make every effort to look after you, so try to enjoy the experience with a good sense of humour.

As a final thought, Gabby Essame (Graduate recruitment) adds – 'Above all, be yourself. Relaxing and letting your personality show will help the graduate recruitment team assess your skills and attributes and will also enable you to make a better assessment of whether the Firm is the right place for you.'

I wish you all the best of luck and look forward to seeing those attending the Michelmores summer vacation scheme.