It’s that time of year again – vacation scheme and training contract applications have opened and you’re forcing yourself to sit down to fill in those awful forms. Well, as you’re on The Student Lawyer’s website, your procrastination has led you to the right place!
The best advice for first year students is to attend as many open days as possible. I went to 8-10 in my first year, and when it came to writing application forms for vacation schemes, it was considerably easier to answer the question ‘why law’ or ‘why this firm’ by demonstrating your willingness to apply to and be involved with open days. One of the added benefits of open days is being able to use them in your CV and future applications, so make a note of anyone you speak to and any shadowing you do.
Two words can fill any prospective lawyer with dread are ‘vacation scheme’. The applications can be tedious, and the interviews nerve-wracking. Vac schemes are competitive: one City firm has over 1000 applications a year for 55 spaces. It would be better to write 8 or so applications and spend a lot of time refining each, than trying to attempt 15-20 generic applications. Manage your time wisely around university work by scheduling in time to work on applications as you would with a particular essay or assignment you have due. Do your research and make sure you use what you’ve learnt in the most effective way possible. So, if you have attended an open day at a Magic Circle firm, but are now applying to a Silver Circle firm, use that to demonstrate that you are aware of the differences between the two types of firms and why one attracts you over the other.
Training contract applications are similar to vacation schemes in the fact that they often entail very similar questions and assessment day styles. It is, however, important to recognise that graduate recruitment will be looking for a step-up from a vacation scheme application. Prepare well for the interviews and make sure when an interviewer pushes you, that you make a clear stand – either step back and realise that you agree with what they are arguing, or fight your corner with clear points. Remember: no-one is trying to trip you up.
Finally – don’t be disheartened. Rejection is horrible, especially when it comes in the form of a faceless email moments after taking an online test, or after an interview in which you felt went really well. Ask for feedback if you can, particularly after assessment days, and try to use it constructively going forward. Good luck!