Hi Caroline, this is perfectly normal - not only have I been through this, but I know many others who have. And frankly, once you convert one TC, you’ll be surprised at how the other TC offers come one after the next!
I set out some context and then some insights afterwards below.
Why it is fine: In relationships, we see it as perfectly normal to meet different people before settling down with the right match. Even for most other careers, folks do 2-3 internships at various organisations before getting an offer.
Why it may not be fine (from a Law firm POV): Law firms can be risk-averse, and their only concern may be that you have a persistent trait that needs to be improved before you are ready to be a trainee - it is on you to demonstrate how you have changed following feedback.
1. Control the narrative - focus on the positive
Rather than let your interviewers slip into their assumptions of why you did not make it, control the narrative by talking about (I) what an amazing opportunity you had at those 2 firms to experience a variety of practice areas and network with a ton of lawyers (II) how that influenced what practice areas you wanted to undertake (which ideally will be aligned with the law firm you are interviewing with) and what kind of firm you wanted to train in and (iii) how you took away any constructive feedback from that vac scheme to improve yourself in clear tangible and measurable ways.
2. Have a steely sense of confidence about your story. Rather than explain the situation from a defensive position, explain from a position of strength: Rather than saying I was rejected or I had many problems that I needed to fix, it’s much better to say I learnt that I operated better in x environment instead, or I have since worked on improving my x skill following feedback from the vac scheme by doing y.
To end-off, my gray-area/controversial personal opinions below:
1. Anything can be explained with enough confidence. I have seen friends lateral as an NQ into another firm without even undertaking a seat in that practice area. Think about the FTX collapse, how even government institutions bought FTX’s story. Read around how delivery of your answer is the deal-breaker, and focus on explaining all the positives you bring to the role - mainly that you have pretty much undertaken a mini-TC for a month and therefore have a good stepping stone to a full TC as opposed to someone who has just done one VS and only knows one kind of law firm environment. Someone who has the perfect CV but doesn’t know how to deliver it will probably not have a shot too.
2. This is just my observation, but firms do not go and check with each other whether an offer was given or not - it just doesn’t happen. So sometimes less is more. If they do not explicitly ask you whether you got an offer or not, there may be no need to explain it at all and instead focus on what you learnt from those vac schemes!
Hope this was helpful Caroline, and all the best!