Ask Trainees

Vacation Schemes

Same thing happened to me. I missed the morning to go to my graduation and then came back to the firm when it finished. I even missed an assessment. The firm were completely understanding – they initially told me to take off the day – and it didn’t affect the outcome at all. Just tell them early and you should be fine.

It also depends on how much graduation matters to you, but I wouldn’t miss it too lightly. It’s one of the few once-in-a-lifetime things (or two/three if you do more degrees!) that I wouldn’t miss.

It’s difficult to offer general advice because it depends on a number of factors:

  • Firms have different formatting styles
  • Partners have different preferences
  • The task may require a particular style

A few tips I can suggest.

First, you should be getting IT training during the first day or two. This is a question worth asking in terms of the numbering format for your firm – ours is 1/1.1/1.2 etc.

Second, check with the person who sets you the task whether they have are particular style they prefer. If it’s a senior then I’d suggest asking your trainee buddy or a secretary for suggestions.

Third, try to understand what the task requires. It’s not usually so rigid – unless the person has asked for a particular format. I can’t say I’ve ever included purpose and rarely an intro/conclusion. Typically, I’ll do a summary of my findings (sometimes in bullet points) and then provide more detail in the body of the report. The key is that the partner/supervisor can get to the important points quickly. Then, if they want more guidance on how you got there, they’ll read the main body.

If you’re ever confused, fall back to the second point. It may even be good to make a start and check in with the supervisor/partner to see if what you’re doing is along the right lines. We do that a lot in practice. It saves you wasting time doing it incorrectly. If you can do that during a vacation scheme, it often shows a lot of professionalism.

Your supervisor/trainee buddy will generally give you work. You’ll also have an tour of the department you’re sitting in on the first day – that’s when I’d usually mention I’d be happy to take on any work, so sometimes people will know they can come in and give you work. And sometimes I’d just offer it to people who came into the office.

Aside from that, I don’t think it’s necessary to get work from lots of people, at least in the sense of knocking on doors or searching for work (apart from Jones Day where it’s part of the training). There’s some qualifications to that, for example if you found yourself without any work – then I’d suggest seeking out work.

It’s a bit strange because you’re on a scheme without many highly-qualified students, so I know it often feels like you need to go above and beyond everyone else. But I’d think of standing out this way – just focus on doing well in each activity you do. That means work really hard on every task you’re given; be nice to every person you meet, from the IT staff to the secretaries to other students; and ask genuine questions during department talks. I think it’s better to get good reports from a smaller number of people you do interact with than spreading yourself thin or trying to get the attention of senior lawyers.

It varied between firms. For Osborne Clarke and Weil I was doing 9:30 – 6:00/6:30, whereas for Jones Day, it was more like 8:30/9:00 – 7:30/8:00. Simmons was somewhere in between.

That’s excluding the social events, which some firms emphasised more than others. The bigger social events would often run late – one was an overnight office party (we stayed in a hotel) – though I must say I preferred the shorter ones!

Generally speaking, I worked very hard. Sometimes that was due to the work. For example, for one of my vacation schemes, a partner set me a huge task (at least I thought it was huge, but he didn’t seem to notice!) – I had to write a report about an ancient law for every country the firm had an office in. I was worried that this was going to take up too much time and I wouldn’t be able to work for other people (this was for JD where this was more important). So I ended up getting in early and working on the weekend. I think that’s a bit exceptional though.

For another US firm, we had lots of assessments during the scheme, so I had to balance this with vacation scheme work. In that case, it was about being efficient and using my time wisely. We also had a client pitch and a TC interview on the last day, so I’d come home and work on those or stay late.

But it’s important to work hard on the right things i.e. the areas you think you need to work on. For me, that meant preparing questions, pushing myself in presentations or putting in the effort at a networking event.

It also means different things for different firms. For one of the other schemes, it would have looked bad if I stayed late. I’d advise against this unless you really have work to do (and can’t push it to the next day). Please don’t be the guy who used a sleeping pod on a previous scheme – especially when partners needed to use them!

Whilst you’re not always working hard in the traditional sense, I think vacation schemes are very intense. That’s because it’s a new environment where you have to be switched on all the time. I think it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the two weeks; clear out as much of your schedule as you can and devote your time to it – after those two weeks you can then relax. Likewise, if you can do things to help yourself in preparation, you’ll be really thankful during the scheme – I’ll expand on this tomorrow.

I don’t see why this would be a problem, many students take more than one cycle to get an offer. You can leverage all of the experience you’ve gained doing apps/interviews and apply for vacation schemes next year. Unless you mean direct TC applications, in which case, yes it will be much harder if you haven’t done a vacation scheme anywhere. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible though.

It’s important to think about the purpose of legal drafting to do well in this exercise:

A lawyer is recording what the parties have agreed, or if it’s the first draft, this will be your client’s instructions. This is a document which will have contractual effect. Any terms which you draft inappropriately could be harmful to your client.

These are the most important points:

  • Spend a lot of time planning: think about the type of agreement, what has been agreed and how best you can set this out on paper.
  • Make sure the language is simple, relevant, clear and can’t be misconstrued. Eliminate unnecessarily wording.
  • Have a clear layout, use headings and sub-headings if they help; it should be easy to read.
  • Be consistent with your language and structure.

Yes – by the time it came to my last vacation scheme I had a decent sense of how to convert. If you’ve got to the vacation scheme you’re not far off and often it’s about not messing things up rather than having to be perfect – so I’d actually say don’t try too hard to stand out and you will.

Be interested/enthusiastic about the work and ask thoughtful questions when it’s appropriate. Be sincere and a nice person to the other interns (even if others are trying to be competitive)/secretaries/trainees etc. Show you’ve taken feedback on board. Manage expectations if you’ve been given too much work, it’s much better to do less work of a higher quality than trying to work for everyone. There’s a lot more detail I could give and happy to expand if needed but generally these are the kind of qualities you need.

It’s going to be a little scary, but remember – the firm has decided that you’re a good candidate; that’s why you’re on the vacation scheme. Even then, you don’t have to get everything right, often it’s a case of not shooting yourself in the foot during the scheme. That means handling situations appropriately (communicating if there’s an issue), conducting yourself professionally (especially on the socials!) and being friendly (it’s very obvious when you’re trying to be competitive).

Vacation schemes are exhausting. Or at least, that was my experience. It’s not so much the tasks, but going from university life to a day of work was harder than I thought. It’s a new environment where you have to be switched on all day, so it helps to mentally prepare for that. I’d suggest preparing as much as you can in advance e.g. your outfit, travel routes and times (don’t do what I did and turn up late to your first day), and track what you’re doing each day – that’ll help for your TC interview if it’s held on the last day of the scheme.

If you’re getting set quite a few tasks, you’ll have to practice managing expectations. It’s good to get into the habit of asking when the trainee/associate/partner needs the work by. If you don’t think you’ll get it done on time, the best thing you can do is speak to whoever set you the work – it’s much better to give them notice than rush a piece of work or miss a deadline completely. Likewise if someone tries to set you work when you’re at full capacity, briefly let them know what you’ve got to do at the moment and check whether you can do it after.
Proofread your work, many times. Make sure there’s no typos or obvious errors – print it and read it over if necessary. Otherwise, it looks sloppy and that’s going to look bad.

That said, there will be times when you’re not sure what to do in a task, that’s fine, just relay that back appropriately. Prepare informed questions and ask the person who set you the work if you can run through it with them (instead of just saying you’re lost).

When a trainee/associate/partner sets you a task, it often doesn’t make complete sense until you start it, so make good notes – that can be a lifesaver.

It might also be helpful to re-write your notes once you’re back at your desk/after your conversation with the lawyer – that can help you to understand what’s going on and flag up any immediate issues which you might want to ask. It’s quite hard to balance listening and note taking, which for me, led to some of my notes not making sense at all!

Have a to-do list. I found this to be essential for keeping track of different workloads/assessements/meetings during the day. This can combine as a work log. Some firms have their own for you to fill out, but otherwise this is useful when it comes to the TC interview, so you can easily run through what you’ve been working on.

It’s not necessary if you’ve done vacation schemes at other firms in the past, but it can help by giving you two weeks to impress rather than a one-day grilling. The one exception is some firms recruit exclusively (or mainly) from vacation schemes, so make sure to check first.

Load More