Concerned Scottish Applicant

danbdow

New Member
Nov 19, 2021
4
0
Hi,

I'm hoping someone can give some clarity on the timing of TC awards for the major UK/International firms as I think I've messed up the application process to put it lightly.

To give some background, after a decade working in the energy sector in client, project & commercial management positions I decided to start my career over in the legal services industry. As I intend to practice in Scotland I'm undertaking a 2 year accelerated LLB which I started in September 2021. Given the recruitment cycle of the majors I was a bit blindsided by the application process and didn't really know I had to apply until the deadlines were upon me, so, in my naivety I only applied to 3 firms. These being the ones which I was extremely interested in working for and hence prioritised. I've since been rejected from one post VI and haven't heard anything at all from the other two but I applied right at the deadline which was several weeks ago now so I'm expecting PFO's imminently.

The rationale behind the low application count was based on my understanding that my first year would just be a trial run and if I was to secure a Vac scheme it would be a bonus but my second year would be the make or break in terms of securing a VC and then hopefully a TC.

However, it's now dawning on me that I may have misunderstood things as it seems that all of the major law firms recruit 2 years in advance.

Is my understanding correct? If I were to apply to these firms again next year am I correct to presume it would be for a Summer 2023 VC and September 2025 TC?

If so does that effectively rule out a TC with a large full-service firm without a gap year 2024-2025 or are there any other avenues open to me?

Any thoughts/suggestions greatly appreciated!
 
Last edited:

Anoned

Distinguished Member
Nov 1, 2021
73
281
Hey mate,

Final year Scottish LLB (4 year degree) student here. I might get a bit carried away so I'll try to split my message up into different sections for the sake of clarity!

Eligibility
So in terms of when you can apply from, you are correct in thinking that, for most Scottish firms, you can apply from your first year of the accelerated degree/ third year of the four-year degree. However, this is merely an option not the 'make it or break it'.

In my own case, I applied to only a couple of firms last year (my third year) and ended up reaching one AC which I was rejected from. I did feel really stressed out and felt as though it was the end for me but I was definitely wrong! This year I broadened my target firms, refined my app technique and have ended up securing two vacation schemes in Scotland (one international firm, one top-tier Scottish firm). If I can do it, anyone can, so please do not worry if you fail to get a vac scheme this year. It seems to me that around 50% of applicants who go on to secure vac schemes/ TCs in Scotland actually do so in their diploma year (Scottish equivalent of the LPC/SQE) after their degree so you have more than time.

Firm Recruitment
You are right in that most international firms in Scotland do recruit two years in advance (think DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons, CMS etc). However, I have had friends who have been asked by their firm to start their training contract a year earlier (2022 rather than 2023 as was initially stipulated) so it is definitely not impossible. It seems as though most candidates who hold offers for such firms do tend to have other offers too so there is sometimes the business need to ask people to start earlier if they pick elsewhere. So please don't get put off by this, firms will likely try to accommodate your circumstances if possible.

With that, most Scottish firms do actually recruit one year in advance (see next paragraph re this).

Firm Choice
I note that you are mostly interested in applying to large international firms who have a Scottish base. This is absolutely understandable, likely higher salaries, international secondments, cross-border work etc are definitely strong pull factors. However, have you actually had the chance to attend any events/ talks with leading Scottish firms? Although not 'international', Scottish firms such as Burness Paull, Dickson Minto, Shepherd and Wedderburn, Brodies (among others) do carry out a lot of international work, particularly in the transactional teams. In fact, these are the firms which the US/ MC city firms will rely on to act on any Scottish elements of deals so you would have great exposure to international work.

I really do recommend you broadening your targets a little (as I did). Many of these firms host open days, attend university law fairs and interacting with them may actually change your mind! Ultimately it is your choice but I do think that broadening my targets did help me this application cycle. Further, as briefly mentioned above, the majority of Scottish firms will recruit one year in advance. Therefore, if you were to apply for placements/TCs with them in your final year you would be able to start a year sooner than with international firms.

Vac Scheme vs Training Contract
If you are yet to apply for some of the international firms I would recommend looking at whether they offer direct training contract applications. Firms like Addleshaw Goddard and Pinsent Masons typically recruit ~60% from vac scheme and the rest from direct training contract applications (I know people who have done so for both). Therefore, it definitely is worthwhile to submit these if you have the time and it interests you. Given you are a career changer and have much more life/ professional experience than most of the firms' talent pool you may be well suited to pursue the direct TC route.

I hope this helps, I'm aware it's a long ramble! Do let me know if you have any questions/ would like any other insight from me on anything re applying in Scotland or my own personal experience. Happy to share as much info as possible and give you a hand!
 

danbdow

New Member
Nov 19, 2021
4
0
@Anoned

Thanks for the comprehensive reply, lots to think about there!

I hadn't fully considered the direct training contract route so I'll certainly look at that. In terms of the timing of direct applications, do you think it's best to apply as early as possible or should I wait until closer to the deadlines which seem to be around May/June?

The reason I ask is that although I feel my CV is strong enough to apply now, there are some things which I can potentially add in the coming weeks/months that may boost my legal credentials. For example, I haven't yet had my formal module grades from semester 1 so I haven't been able to add these to applications, and I've also applied for voluntary positions with two different pro-bono organisations. One of which being the local Citizens Advice Bureau and the other a cross collaborative unit between Scottish universities which supports community groups in exercising their right to buy/lease public property. However, within the wider context of my CV I'm not sure how much these realistically add and given that it may take several weeks to hear back, and that the responses may not be positive, I'm not sure if waiting would do more to harm than to help.

In terms of yourself, did you undertake any legal work experience between 3rd and 4th year in place of a Vac scheme? As it seems unlikely that I'll secure one myself this year I'm trying to decide whether I should prioritise earning as much as possible over summer by picking up a short term contract and/or consultancy work back in the Energy sector or if I should just focus on picking up legal work, however trivial this may be.
 

Anoned

Distinguished Member
Nov 1, 2021
73
281
Hey mate,

No worries at all. So re dates, it really depends whether or not the firm you are applying to recruits on a rolling basis. You can normally find this information on each firm's website/ social media. If you can't find an answer then you can also just drop an email and see if they let you know (although bear in mind that they are very busy right now and may take a while to reply to that kind of query).
So if they recruit on a rolling basis then I would try to apply at earliest convenience but if non-rolling then you can wait until closer to the deadline.

I definitely do recommend waiting for your first semester grades before you submit any application. Although firms tend to not care as much nowadays about grades, it will still add more strength to your application. I would also recommend getting involved with any pro bono work you can, this is something I have devoted a lot of time to during university and it has gone down well when discussing it in interviews. By getting involved with these initiatives you will also be able to further showcase your interest in a career in law particularly in roles at CAB etc where you are handling legal matters. Does your university have a law clinic? Many in Scotland do so could be worth having a look.

I did not undertake any legal work experience between 3rd and 4th year no. I had a one week placement with a smaller national firm in the summer between 1st and 2nd year and worked at my university's law clinic since 1st year. Apart from this, I attended various open days with firms in Scotland and London and that was about all the legal experience I had.

Honestly, I do not think that lacking any legal experience would impact your applications to direct TCs. I may be wrong on this (@Jessica Booker please do feel free to correct me) but I feel as though the majority of firms looking at direct TCs would more want to see evidence of 'serious' office-based work, not just legal work. Since you have held numerous management positions I would argue that this would tick that box and so legal experience over the summer wouldn't be crucial to your applications.
 
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