Trainee Blog: Vacation Scheme vs direct training contract applications

For those seeking a career as a solicitor, securing a Training Contract at your desired firm will clearly be top on your list of priorities. This is regardless of whether you are just starting out as an under-graduate student, or have obtained your LPC and are ready to start trainee life.

In the competitive market applicants now find themselves in, something that often isn't so clear is the best route of obtaining a Training Contract.  

From my experience, deciding whether to apply for a vacation scheme or a direct training contract is the first hurdle in the application process, and one that may often be overlooked. Leaving your application to the last minute will often dictate what you are able to apply for as vacation scheme and training contract deadlines will usually be different. Typically, vacation scheme deadlines will be in January and training contract deadlines in June. Therefore, planning your application is imperative to ensure you apply for the route which best suits your circumstances.

In this article, I will discuss some considerations to bear in mind when deciding which route is best for you:

Experiencing the culture of the firm

No matter how much research you do online, a firm's culture is something you have to experience for yourself. For this reason a vacation scheme is obviously beneficial because you have a longer time getting to know the firm. However, depending on your circumstances, you may be lucky enough to experience the ethos of a firm by other means. For instance, Michelmores hold open days across their offices each year for all prospective applicants; another great way to get to know the firm is by attending external events such as the annual Michelmores 5km run in Exeter. Considering that the average person spends more than 80,000 hours in their lifetime at work, it is vital to find the right fit for you.

Understanding the work trainees do

Training contracts differ from firm-to-firm, and a vacation scheme is a great way to fully immerse yourself into the daily routine of a trainee as much as possible. It is worth noting the Michelmores direct training contract application route assessment day does involve carrying out example trainee tasks to give you a feel of the type of work carried out, albeit in a much shorter time frame.

Building up your CV

Vacation schemes are a way to gain some really great experience in a law firm. If nothing else, this will give you more confidence on future application forms and interviews to demonstrate that you understand the demands you will face as a trainee. If you have already have some great work experience opportunities under your belt, or perhaps are currently working in a law firm, you may feel that you don’t have as much to gain from a week-long vacation scheme. Whilst I would remind anyone reading this article that you will gain new skills from different work-placements, whether legal or otherwise, I can appreciate that time isn't always a luxury. Whilst working as a Paralegal, I wasn’t in a position to partake in an endless number of vacation schemes, however, as a student on summer break, I welcomed the opportunity for paid work experience.  

Whilst Michelmores is mindful that all applicants are in different circumstances and works hard to provide a well-rounded and informative assessment day, the vacation scheme presents the best way to decide whether a firm is the right fit you. Usually Michelmores will recruit around 50% of their trainee intake from the vacation scheme. 

For any prospective applicants, the 'Future trainees: five ways to make your application stand out from the rest' blog post is well worth a read.