Vacation schemes: not the really clever stuff, but not all photocopying

时间:2019-11-08 责任编辑:齐秕衔 来源:澳门赌博网址导航 点击:33 次

The approach of the end of autumn term for hundreds of students hoping to become lawyers brings with it the mad scramble to apply for law firm vacation schemes – paid work experience that many hope will help to secure that elusive training contract.

City and commercial law firms run schemes during the summer, Easter and Christmas holidays, varying in length from two to four weeks. They are open to second year law students and non-law students in their final year.

are paid at least £250 a week during placements and many firms provide help with finding accommodation.

During placements you will be given a taste of life as a trainee. While all law firms may look alike to the outsider, there are wide variations, and placements allow you to get a feel for the particular culture and people, helping you decide the right place for you.

Remember though, it's a two way process and during placements firms will also be sussing you to see if you are right for them.

All firms do the schemes slightly differently, but generally students are assigned to a trainee or qualified lawyer and work with them on whatever they are doing.

You obviously won't get to do the really clever stuff, but it won't all be photocopying either. As well as doing research and taking notes in client meetings, vac students will often be given assessed exercises. Students doing a placement with Allen & Overy, for example, will take part in a client-pitch exercise. "Many initially find this nerve-wracking, but for most it's the event they value the most," says graduate recruitment partner Richard Hough.

Students will get opportunities to meet and learn about the different teams within a firm and will also be invited to attend a number of social events. "We're looking for people with client-winning potential," says Hough, "so it's important to see how they interact socially".

The deadlines for application vary, but some are approaching for the next year's summer placements at the end of October and early November. A useful guide to the timetables can be found on the site.

The importance placed by firms on vacation schemes varies. For some, like (HSF), they are an important tool in recruiting some of their trainees. While others, such as Slaughter and May, see them as simply providing useful work experience and insight into the reality of the work of a lawyer, rather than as a two-week interview.

A&O's Hough observes: "They were designed for work experience, but have morphed into something different in the eyes of students, who view them as a means to an end – they hope they will end up with a training contract."

All firms however, approach vac schemes seriously, and for most, the process of application and selection is as rigorous as it is for training contracts.

Application is generally done online. Some firms expect candidates to complete online verbal and critical reasoning tests, as well as a face to face interview and practical assessment. Slaughters, on the other hand, which does not recruit trainees via its vac scheme, simply requires students to submit a CV and covering letter.

Those applying to HSF go though exactly the same demanding process as they would to apply for a training contract, culminating in a six-hour assessment day.

"We like to recruit as many trainees as possible from those who have done the vacation placement. It's a stepping stone on the way to a training contract," says graduate recruitment partner Matthew White.

Of the 85 trainees that HSF has recruited this year, half, he says, have done a vacation placement with the firm.

"I'd like it to be higher because it's a better way of recruiting — giving students a good look at us and us a good look at them," he says. However, he stresses that not having done a placement with the firm is not a barrier to applying or being selected for a training contract.

Competition for vacation placements is even more fierce than it is for training contracts, because some students accept places on several, whereas you can only accept one training contract.

For example A&O gets around 3,000 applications for vacation placements, according to Hough, compared to 2,000 for training contracts. The firm takes on around 60 vac students per year.

The firm's graduate recruitment advisor Sarah Cockburn suggests that "media hysteria" over the level of competition means that many good students are "deselecting" themselves before they have even had a go. "It is really disheartening to see," she says.

But, she says students should not be put off by the numbers, because the quality of applications can often be a really mixed bag. "Many are littered with spelling errors and mistakes that are easy to avoid, and this varying quality, combined with an increasing number of good candidates wrongly deselecting themselves, can at times make it harder to fill placement schemes."

She encourages candidates to focus on making their own application as good as possible, by doing their research properly and spending time tailoring it the individual firm.

One reason for the low standard, suggests Hough, is the high number of applications that some students are making – on average between eight and 12.

"I question whether it is possible to do so many applications on an individual bespoke basis. It would be better if everyone was a bit more focused," he says.

All firms are keen to stress that they are looking to recruit the best talent wherever that might be found, and to allay fears that any groups or individuals might be treated more favourably than others.

Twenty of thirty years ago, says White, things may have been different, with the children of clients or partners given preferential treatment, but he insists, those days are long gone.

Like others, White says he does not want to see candidates put off by perceptions that they need to have gone to a particular school or university in order to apply, or that they will be disadvantaged to their ethnicity, sex or socio-economic background.

When applications are initially considered, partners cannot see the name or sex of an applicant, or their school or university, he reassures, stressing that the application process is objective, judging candidates only on merit.

"Some people assume that we are looking for a particular type of person, but we aren't," says White.

"I went to a comprehensive school and was the first person in my family to go to university, but I came here and felt like I fitted in," he adds.

One misconception that firms particularly want to scotch, is the notion that they are only interested in Oxford and Cambridge graduates, and therefore it is not worth others applying.

Hough says he finds the Oxbridge "fixation" frustrating. "The perception is that in a downturn recruiters narrow their focus and look at a few select places." He says that is not the case. A&O, he counters, goes to 18 universities in the milk round, works actively with 47 and has 50 represented among its current London trainee population.

"Quality is everywhere," he insists.

But what of you don't get a placement? The firm message not to despair – they are not the be all and end all. Hough points out that half of the training contracts at A&O are held back for those applying through the external recruitment scheme. He stresses: "It's wrong for vacation placements to become the focal point — they are not the only way of getting a training contract."

What matters, he says, is that students have shown a "hunger" to learn about the law and get some work experience. "If they haven't done a vacation placement it doesn't mean they are under par."

"I'd be equally, if not more impressed, with someone who has trawled the phone directory and found themselves a couple of weeks work experience in a high street firm. That shows commitment," he says.

*This article was amended on 7 November. It originally said that Allen & Overy take on 10-12 vacation scheme students per year. This has now been corrected