Trainee Blog: Top tips - Vacation scheme and assessment day application deadlines

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The deadline to apply for a Vacation Scheme and/or Assessment Day with Michelmores is fast approaching. These openings may lead to candidates securing a Training Contract which is the first step in becoming a solicitor.

What is the difference between a vacation scheme and an assessment day

Michelmores run two, one week, vacation schemes every summer. Attendees will have the opportunity to join one department for the week and complete work for some of the firm's clients.  These schemes give attendees a valuable insight into the firm's culture and what it is like to work and train at Michelmores. Attendees will also be given a number of tasks to complete throughout the week. This will include, amongst others, a written exercise and a group exercise, replicating those given to Assessment Day attendees. At the end of the Vacation Scheme the firm may offer some of its attendees a Training Contract.

An Assessment Day is what it says on the tin – a day full of assessments! Attendees will be assessed on a number of tasks with the hope of securing a Training Contract. Attendees are given the opportunity to showcase their skills and prove that they are the right fit for Michelmores. However, the Assessment Day is not all work and no play! Attendees will still have plenty of opportunities to network and meet trainees, partners and lawyers who work in various parts of the firm.

Although attendees are assessed during both Vacation Schemes and Assessment Days they are also an opportunity for candidates to decide whether the firm is indeed the one for them. For instance, I applied for, and participated in, a Vacation Scheme in both a High Street firm and a national firm. These experiences enabled me to decide what I was looking for in a firm, and that Michelmores as a leading regional law firm with a large international reach was the one for me.

Application tips 

Vacation Scheme and Assessment Day applications are very similar. They often consist of completing a form with details surrounding your education and work experience as well as answering a number of skills based questions. Applicants may then be asked to complete a virtual video interview, and if successful they will be invited to attend a Vacation Scheme or an Assessment Day. The remainder of this article sets out some top tips to consider when applying for Vacation Schemes and Assessment Days.

  1. Choosing a firm

It is a mistake to presume that all firms are the same and that there is nothing wrong in applying to them all so long as this results in you being offered a Training Contract. Like every person, each firm is distinct with its own knowledge and expertise, client database, and core values. Consequently, you must consider the firm's different characteristics when deciding if it is the one for you, such as:

  • Does the firm's work interest you? There is no point in applying to a firm that heavily specialises in crime if you dislike criminal law (even though you may gain valuable skills from your experience there). If you are interested in numerous areas of law then you may be better suited to an all service law firm like Michelmores. However, remember that there is nothing wrong with not knowing what kind of law you are interested in. During my Training Contract I have found some areas of law much more interesting than I did during my studies and have had the chance to discover a whole new legal sector that is Education law.
  • Location. Like me you may have grown up in the countryside and have an itch to experience life in a big city. Michelmores was the perfect firm for me when it came to location as I have been able to experience work in the firm's London office whilst also enjoying the beautiful countryside surrounding our Exeter office.
  • Size. If you are drawn towards working on large corporate mergers for international companies then a small High Street firm will unlikely be able to offer you the work you are looking for. However, if this example is something that you are interested in do not make the mistake of thinking that only Magic Circle firms get involved in such matters. Michelmores advises a large number of international clients. By way of an example, Michelmores' Corporate team has recently advised TechMet on its USD 25 million investment from the United States International Development Finance Corporation.
  1. Dates, dates, dates

You must consider a number of dates when applying for a Vacation Scheme and / or Assessment Day. This includes checking and making a note of the following:

  • The application deadline. The application deadline for Michelmores' Summer Vacation Scheme and Spring Assessment Day is 31 January 2021.
  • Whether the firm recruits on a first come first serve basis. If this is the case make sure that you do not leave your application to the last minute.
  • Are you available? You must make sure that you would be available to attend the Vacation Scheme and / or Assessment Day you are applying for.
  • Does the intake day work for you? If your end goal is to secure a Training Contract with that firm, you need to be sure that you are happy to start on the intake day. Many firms recruit a couple of years in advance, so if you are wanting to start your Training Contract this September 2021 then you should avoid applying to firms with later start dates (unless you have discussed an earlier start date with the firm). Michelmores is currently recruiting for trainee solicitors to join in 2022 and 2023.
  1. Preparation is key 

The application form is your first chance to sell yourself to the firm. It is the key to your future career and you must therefore make sure it fits the door (being the firm figuratively speaking).

  • Take your time completing the application form. Make sure that it is tailored to the firm instead of a 'copy and paste' of a previous application form to a rival firm.
  • Know the firm. Research the firm's values and recent cases. This will demonstrate your interest in the firm as well as give you the opportunity to confirm to yourself that you like what the firm stands for and the work it does.
  • My "so what?" rule. When completing the application form, you must not simply write to tell the firm how good they are. There is no point in telling them that they are the leaders in a specific sector as they already know this. Instead, you should demonstrate why this attracts you to the firm – it may be that you have previous work experience in that sector or that you have been personally affected by a matter (such as a landlord / tenant dispute). You should always read each sentence of your application form aloud and ask yourself "so what?". If you are unable to justify the importance of that sentence then delete it straight away and make better use of the word count.
  • Why you? The application form is essentially a tool that you can use to sell yourself to the firm. Rather than telling the firm why it is good for you, you should focus on why you would be a good fit.
  • Be you. You must always be true to yourself. If you pretend to be something you're not just to get a job, this might result in repercussions later down the line.
  • No legal work experience? Although legal work experience is helpful on an application form, it is not the be-all and end-all of your chance to secure a Vacation Scheme or Assessment Day. Everyone can get some legal work experience by attending court in the public gallery – this is free, insightful and you do not have to go through an application process! However, it is important to note that skills can be demonstrated through non-legal work experience. For instance, before applying to Michelmores I worked at an activity centre where schools went on holiday. I used this experience when completing my application form to demonstrate how I developed my communication skills when speaking with teachers, students and colleagues.
  • Avoid repetitions. You may find that you had a really good summer job that gives you examples to use in response to questions on team work, communication and challenges. Your answers may all be good but ultimately they only showcase one of your experiences. To avoid this when applying to Michelmores I created a list of all my different experiences and would cross each one of these out once I had used it on my application form. This enabled me to showcase a range of skills and experiences.

The same tips above apply when you are asked to complete a virtual video interview and attend the Vacation Scheme or Assessment Day. Time will have elapsed from when you first sent your application form, therefore you should ensure you are up to date with any important developments that have happened within the firm or which may affect the firm.

Good luck!