Adam Hattersley shares his advice for submitting a successful vacation scheme application.
A few weeks ago, I was asked by a paralegal at my firm whether or not they should be applying for vacation schemes or if they should go straight to the training contract applications.
To be frank it stumped me, as it’s something I’d not given much thought to since qualifying.
It brought to mind the same predicament I had when seeking out that elusive training contract. It played on my mind enough over the next few days that I thought I would look into the figures. How many vacation schemes lead onto people obtaining training contracts at that firm?
In recent years, Lawyer 2B has collected statistics on this exact point and their results shocked me. I had always known vacation schemes were an excellent way of obtaining a training contract, but I hadn’t realised how important they actually were.
Of the firms surveyed, a whopping 64 per cent of them gave at least half of their training contracts to their vacation scheme attendees. In simple terms getting on the vacation scheme was half the battle.
Why are they so important?
In essence a vacation scheme is a legal internship. It provides you with an opportunity to showcase your experience and skills as well as show your ability to work within a team. All the practical stuff a CV just can’t show.
After all, what better way for your prospective employer to see whether you will be a good fit for the firm than to see you in action?
With the applications for vacation schemes opening now, here are five top tips to consider:
1) Get your application in early
I know exactly what it’s like. After a long day at work or studying at university, the last thing you want to do is be chained to a computer again answering questions on why you want to work at a commercial firm. The harsh reality is that it has to be done.
Set yourself a target of an hour a night and by the end of the week you should have two applications proof-read and ready to go.
There is always going to be something more enjoyable to do but the risk is if you leave it too late and close to the firm’s deadline, your application will be rushed and won’t paint a great picture to the reader either.
Get your applications in early then you can relax (until the next window at least).
2) Pick your battles
As you will no doubt know already, applications are a lengthy process.
It’s therefore really important given the amount of time you will be investing to focus on firms where you want to train. There’s no point spending hours on an application at a firm you don’t want to work for.
The key here is to do your homework on the firm in advance. Find out what the key practice areas are and the firm’s history and general culture.
Not only will this allow you to know whether or not this is somewhere you would like to work, but it will also assist you when completing the application, as you will be able to show clearly why you want to work for the firm, given you have had to consider the question already.
3) Be specific
Given the amount of applications you will be completing, there is always a temptation to use standardised answers.
Before you proceed to copy and paste from your previous applications, exercise caution. Unless you take special care to adapt your answer and make them specific to that firm, it will be glaringly obvious to the reader.
Not only will generic answers put off someone reading your application, it also deprives you the chance of injecting a sense of your personality into the application.
4) Make the most of it
If you are lucky enough to bag yourself a vacation scheme, ensure you make the most of it. It’s important you approach it with the right attitude. It will be an excellent opportunity to make a good impression to your potential employer.
During your time at the firm, be sure to take advantage of all the experiences you get the chance to take.
Those vacation schemers who are friendly, keen and enthusiastic are the ones who stand out in people’s minds.
5) Leave your CV on the application form
A common mistake is that people feel they need to tell their new work colleagues of their past experience/degree grade or which university they attended.
Not only will it be of no interest to those getting on with their daily work and more likely annoy them, it’s also not necessary.
The fact that you are already on the vacation scheme means the firm were obviously impressed with your CV. It’s best to leave it on the application and let your willingness to get stuck into the tasks you are set be the reason people remember you.
The ‘cost’ of a vacation scheme
There are, however a number of practical issues to consider before you set off on your frantic long nights of applications.
One of the main issues is your ability to attend the scheme should you be successful. For many applying they will already have part- or full time jobs, often working in a law firm as a paralegal.
The problem here is that your current employer is unlikely to be willing for you to have time off to go and work for a competitor for a fortnight. It will often mean that you will need to use your annual leave for the time off.
Don’t despair, however. As I’ve said before, getting the vacation scheme is often half way to getting the training contract, which is surely better than any week holiday in the sun.
This winter, take the time and get applying.
Adam Hattersley is a real estate finance solicitor at Fieldfisher and currently sits on the Executive Committee of the JLD.
This article was first published on 1 November 2018 by Lawyer2b and is reproduced by kind permission.