Virtual Vacation Schemes - Top Tips

Discussion in 'Vacation Scheme Experiences' started by Jaysen, Jul 6, 2020.

  1. Jaysen

    Jaysen Legendary Member
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    A huge thank you to this candidate who shared this advice after completing Weil's virtual vacation scheme:

    General Tips
    • Be yourself. Vacation schemes are about the firm seeing if they would want to work with you but also for you to see if you would want to work at the firm. Neither assessment can be properly made if you are not being yourself. It would also be very difficult to keep up a persona throughout the whole scheme. Firms are not looking for robots.

    • Set up regular Zoom meetings with your supervisor and trainee buddy. They can give you a great insight into the firm and it is likely that they will have already allocated time to talk to you so you can have more in-depth conversations.

    • Do not feel like you need to set up calls with everyone in the office. Have calls with people who you have genuine questions for. This means that you can have more focused and helpful conversations.
    • When setting up calls, always establish: time, date, method and who is calling who. For example, ‘I will call your mobile number at 1pm on X date’. This avoids confusion.

    • The most important people to impress are your supervisor and your trainee buddy. It is best to really impress a small group of people rather than somewhat impressing a large group of people.

    • Remember that the other vacation scheme students are not your competition. Focus on doing your best- you cannot control what anyone else is doing.

    • Showing that you are a team player is also very important, as lawyers typically work in small teams.

    • Form WhatsApp groups with the other vacation scheme students who you are doing group work with. This way if you are using a company laptop you can communicate with your group even when they are offline, e.g. to set up a meeting with them.

    • You do not need to be the loudest person in the room. Just make sure your contributions are meaningful.

    • Do not be afraid to ask your trainee buddy for help. They are there to help you. Also, you can generally build a good relationship with them because they know what it is like to be in your position. Always remain professional though.

    • Try to get used to the virtual platform you will be using. For instance, I was using Zoom so before the scheme I practiced scheduling meetings and sharing my screen
    Tech
    • If you are having technical difficulties, contact Grad Rec ASAP. They will do everything they can to help.

    • Do not worry about having technical difficulties. Everyone has struggled with poor internet, etc and it is not a reflection on you at all. It will not affect your chances of securing that TC. I missed ¾ of a couple of talks due to technical difficulties but I still got the TC.

    • If you are having technical issues, see if you can dial-in to the sessions with your phone while using your computer for visuals. That way if you lose your internet connection you can still hear what is going on via your phone.
    Virtual/ Zoom Sessions
    • Keep your camera on during all Zoom sessions. You have limited opportunity to make an impression now that schemes are virtual so make the most of every opportunity.

    • Do not be afraid to speak when you are waiting for a Zoom talk to start. Introduce yourself and say hello, ask how everyone is doing. On my scheme Grad Rec said it was really nice to see us all chatting while we were waiting.

    • In Zoom talks always appear engaged. Listen actively, i.e. nod and make notes, smile where appropriate, etc.

    • Prepare questions for the sessions. Make sure the questions are not ones you can find the answer to on the internet. Your questions do not need to be technical ‘impressive sounding’ questions, they just need to convey that you are interested in the firm. For example, we had a talk on innovation and I asked how new legal tech is rolled out across the London office. Not an impressive question but it shows that I am interested in how the London office works (and I was genuinely interested in the answer).

    • Generally, keep your mic off when you are not talking. However, during Q&A sessions it can be difficult to get your question in when you are also trying to unmute yourself, i.e. other people will be faster to speak than you or you will forget to unmute yourself. Therefore, in Q&A sessions I left my mic off so I could speak whenever I wanted to without worrying about unmuting. Of course, if you have a lot of background noise you will have to stay on mute when you are not speaking to avoid disrupting the session.
    Tasks (all of my tasks/ assessments were presentations so this will be skewed towards presentation tips)
    • If you have presentations, use the slide format that the firms use. You can ask your trainee buddy or supervisor to send you a powerpoint produced by the firm and you can replace the information with your own. Note, some firm’s slides will have the title of the presentation at the bottom of every slide so make sure to replace this with your own title.

    • When preparing presentations do not hesitate to reach out to people in the firm who you think can help you. Always approach them with a suggestion and ask them what they think- do not ask questions about your task without having thought about possible answers first.

    • Less is more when it comes to powerpoint slides. Have your key points on each slide as well as enough information for your audience to follow what you are saying. However, most of your information should be within what you say.
    • Presentation is important. Think about using tables and charts to express your points more visually.
    • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

    • In presentations do not read off your notes. You need to primarily look into the camera but have some notes near you that you can refer to if needed. I laid my notes out on my laptop keyboard so I could quickly glance down if I needed a prompt.

    • Think about your audience. If the presentation is for clients, use less technical jargon than you would use if your presentation was for lawyers (or at least be sure to explain what the jargon means). When using acronyms always explain what they mean when you use them for the first time, regardless of your audience.

    • If you are given a time limit for a presentation, stick to it!

    • On virtual platforms often you can hide the faces of the audience (you can do this on Zoom). Public speaking is difficult for me so I hid everyone’s faces so that when I was presenting all I could see on the screen was the slideshow. This made it easier for me to focus on what I was saying and almost ‘forget’ that I was presenting to people.

    • If you have a Q&A session after your presentation it is not about answering the questions correctly, it is about staying calm and coming up with a logical response even if you do not know the answer. For instance, I was asked a question that I did not know the answer to. I said, ‘That’s a good question. I imagine that….’ and then based my answer on what I knew. It may not have been the right answer but it showed that I can stay calm under pressure and think on my feet, which my supervisor appreciated. When speaking to clients, lawyers won’t always know the answer then and there, but it’s about staying level headed and offering up the information you know at the time but saying you can follow up with a more definite answer afterwards.

    • Your supervisor does not expect you to be perfect or a legal genius. They just want to see that you approach tasks logically.

    • Do not feel like you have to take on extra work. If you want to and believe you can complete the work to a high quality then that’s fine but do not feel pressured to do so. Your priority should be completing your original tasks to a high standard.
    If anyone has anything else to add in this thread, please go ahead!
     
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  2. Jessica Booker

    Jessica Booker Legendary Member
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    Virtual Internships – how to ensure success (part 1)

    With many vacation schemes and internships now being delivered online/virtually this summer, I thought it would be useful to download my thoughts on some advice on how to ensure you have a successful one.

    To start with, there are several different ways in which “internships” are being managed and delivered. These include:

    1. Online seminars/webinars: much more like e-learning rather than an internship (e.g. you don’t have any responsibilities to deliver any actual work, you are just expected to turn up, listen in and make notes).

    2. Simulations: these are sometimes delivered via virtual platforms like Sherpa. You have responsibilities to deliver work, whether individually or in groups, but the work is a simulation of the type of work you would do. Everyone who is taking the internship is also delivering the same project as you.

    3. Internship: you are delivering real-life work for a business. You are working with people to deliver real-time projects/services, it is just on a “work-from-home (WFH)” basis or being conducted remotely due to Covid-19.

    Many internships are also hybrids of the above, with a mixture of different activities and responsibilities over the period of the internship. Some of the advice below will only apply to the “internship” category, but hopefully there will also be some useful pointers for any type of internship.

    Things to consider:

    Set up:
    Make sure you have somewhere productive to work from. Ideally you should work from a desk/table with a chair with good support for your back. Try to give yourself as much desk/table space to work from as possible. Try to ensure you have adequate lighting/sunlight too. Think about the background behind you for video calls – it doesn’t really matter what it is, just make sure it is tidy (no one wants to see a sink full of dishes or your cat’s litter tray).

    Technology:
    If you are not using your phone as a form of communication with your employer (e.g. you aren’t expecting people to contact you via your mobile phone or via apps on your phone), think about turning off notifications or using the “do not disturb” function to limit your distractions. The same goes with your laptop. Try not to have various other tabs/website pages running in the background. Your social media/WhatsApp messages can wait until you have a break.

    Technology is never 100% reliable. Even if it were, a cut in the electricity supply would likely stop many people’s Wi-Fi. Don’t panic if your technology fails on you. If it is a simple case of rebooting your computer and logging back in, that will be fine. If for any reason your technology is failing over a longer period, notify your supervisor/HR via your phone. Everyone has experienced these failings at some point, especially over the last 4 months, so don’t get concerned about them. These things happen from time to time!

    Organisation:
    Organisation will be very important. Make sure you are using all the necessary tools to keep your calendar and to-do-list up to date. This is somewhat easier if you have been given a company email account by your employer with software like Outlook, but if you haven’t got this, think about how you will record and plan your time each day of the week. You want to make sure you don’t miss any meetings/seminars/deadlines.

    When working remotely think about how you want to ensure you record things. In the workplace, you’d probably always carry a notebook with you to write down information. Think about how you will replicate this at home. You are fortunate that this could be done in many more ways than in an office, so don’t be afraid to be creative with this. You may find it difficult to do this on your laptop, as your screen might be occupied by video calls/seminars or working from documents. You therefore may want to consider a secondary device or a notebook to help record things separately.

    Learning & Development:
    If your employer doesn’t give you one, I would recommend running a learning log throughout your internship, no matter what format the internship taking. The learning log can take a very basic format of a Word document or Excel spreadsheet with something like the following columns.
    • Date/Time
    • Activity
    • Hours taken
    • Reflections
    • Feedback
    • Further actions
    The reflections should be about how you feel the work went. What you found easy/difficult, what was surprising to you, what you learnt etc. The feedback should be the feedback you receive you’re your colleagues on how you did. Further actions should include any further work that was needed to finalise the work or if there are any development/training opportunities you could seek to improve your ability to do similar work in the future.

    You could also use this learning log to record any questions you want answered at a later stage of the internship.

    This learning log could really help you reflect on your time on the internship and also your own personal development. It could be a great document to use in the future should you have interviews that ask you about your previous experiences.

    Looking after yourself:
    Make sure you look after yourself during the period of the internship. Try to get enough sleep, eat well, and stay hydrated. Ensure you take breaks from your computer, even if just to stretch your legs/make yourself a drink. Take a lunch break at the appropriate time. Don’t feel that you need to be by your computer screen at every moment of the day/week – remote working is great that it provides much more flexibility of how and when you work, but many take that they then need to be “on-call” all the time. That shouldn’t be the case. You will be far more efficient and focused if you take care of yourself and ensure you create the balance between work and life outside of it.

    Communication is key:
    Many people don’t like certain forms of communication. Some fear calling people and speaking to them on the phone and will avoid it. Some hate video calls and so will do anything they can do put them off. This can often mean an over-reliance on emails. Emails can be an effective method of communication, but at the same time they can be the worst form. If an email takes you 30 minutes to draft, takes 10 minutes for the recipient to read and then another 20 minutes for them to respond to, it might be likely that a phone call/video chat is far more productive for both parties. The same goes for difficult conversations. These would usually be done in person in an office, but without that luxury, it is likely that this will be better done by a video call rather than an IM or text message.

    It will also be important to remember that everyone has a unique situation at home, and some of your colleagues may require flexibility in the way you communicate and when. It is important to get clarity on when people will be available and when they won’t. This allows everyone who is working together to create better expectations of how and when you will get a response. Under current circumstances, this is more important than ever as many people are juggling home schooling and other home commitments. This means the 9-5 job has become much more like “7-8 hours between 6.00am to 10.00pm”. You may find your Supervisor is up early doing work before some home-schooling, while your Trainee/Grad Buddy is working later in the day and into the evening as their housemate is also working from home and there isn’t enough space for them to work at the same time. They are allowed that flexibility, but so are you – you aren’t expected to be working at 7.00am just because your supervisor is, nor expected to work through to 10pm just because your Trainee Buddy is. Ensure there is two-way communication so that work patterns work for everyone.

    Because of the above, don’t always expect an immediate response to a query you have, especially if something is not urgent. You will need to factor this into your plans for delivering work. Because of this, work may take longer than expected. Given that, it will be important to ask questions upfront when the work is given to you. These questions could include any of the following:
    • What is the deadline?
    • How long would you expect this to take?
    • How long should this document be?
    • Is there a template/structure I should work from?
    • What’s the most important objective(s) with this work?
    • Are there any sources of research you would recommend?
    • What should I prioritise?
    • When can we catch up about this again?
    • Who else would you recommend I speak to?
    Don’t be afraid to ask these questions to a supervisor – they will generally see it as positive as they want you to deliver the work well rather than going off on a tangent or missing the point. If you ever need further clarity (or you can’t get hold of your supervisor) try to get the views of other interns or current graduates/trainees.
     
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  3. Jessica Booker

    Jessica Booker Legendary Member
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    Virtual Internships – how to ensure success (part 2)

    What else can I do:

    Although many interns may find themselves fully occupied throughout the period of their internship, it wouldn’t be surprising if many also find that they have spare time during the day or are waiting for work to come in/sessions to start.

    In those periods, it is important for an intern to be proactive and think about how they can occupy their time. It is not the employer’s or supervisor’s responsibility to keep you occupied every minute of the internship, and it is very much your own responsibility to ensure you make the most of the opportunity.

    Even with face-to-face internships, interns could often experience times of not doing much. This is likely to be exacerbated by remote working and people not being able to physically see you are not doing much.

    If you have spare time, think about the following:

    Ask for more work:
    if you have capacity, ask for more work. If your supervisor can’t give you more, think about speaking to other interns or current grads/trainees to see if you can support them. Ensure you run past things with your supervisor though, as they may not have any work now but may have work to give you later that could conflict. Those who you are working with may have a list of “would be nice to get to this if I had time” activities/responsibilities on the bottom of their to-do list. This might be writing an article for business development purposes, it might be researching a potential new client/service, it might be some competitor analysis. These are the type of activities that are non-urgent but could be ideal for an intern and give you some interesting work to do at the same time.

    Push you own self-development or learning: spend time completing your learning log, read up on subject matters you didn’t quite understand, find some e-learning that might help you get more confident with the technology/software you are using, read up more on a client you are working for. Whatever it is, think about how you could utilise your time and show you have proactively sought out/completed learning opportunities.

    Network: try to utilise your time to speak to other employees. Organise virtual coffee meetings, ask people about their experiences. It will be important for you to gain a perspective about the firm/employer and its culture to help you make the decision as to whether it is somewhere you want to spend your future career.

    Help others: apart from supporting others with their the day-to-day work, other ways in which you could support the employer more generally include things like writing an internship experience blog, asking the graduate recruitment team if they need any photos/content for their social media.

    Other bits of advice:
    • If you are doing real work, remember that your work could be confidential. Be mindful about the conversations you are having, particularly if you are working in an environment with other people (even family!). Also, if you are printing documents or saving them to devices that are not company property, think about whether this is 1) appropriate and 2) how you may dispose of them afterwards. If you are unsure about this, speak to your supervisor or HR contacts to find out the best way to manage these processes so you ensure confidentiality and data protection are maintained.
    • Most interns fear asking questions because they think it will make them look stupid. 9 times out of 10, that won’t be the case and not asking the question might be a greater risk. Questions generally help you deliver work to a higher standard, meet expectations better and show your interest in the subject matter more. Just ask yourself whether you are asking the right person the question (e.g. HR can’t help you with IT issues, your supervisor can’t help with HR issues).
    • If you realise you are not going to meet a deadline, the earlier you flag this the better. Try to seek solutions first (e.g. can you get support on the piece of work from other interns/grads, or could you push back other deadlines) but if it is clear you will miss a deadline, it will be much better if you tell someone sooner rather than later.
    • Do all your work well. Triple-check and re-read everything before you send it out (including emails). If necessary, print it out and go over it in hard copy line by line - it's usually easier to spot typos this way.
    • Don't knock any work that's given to you, even if it isn't very intellectual (proofreading, due diligence, research, filing). Take everything with a smile, and make sure you do your best, even if you don't find the work all that exciting.
    • Think about how you could replicate or replace the social aspect of the internship. Sometimes employers put on social events for their interns, sometimes groups of interns will socialise outside of work anyway or go to lunch together. Don’t be afraid to replicate that activity online to ensure you get a feel for the people you could be working with in the future if you were to join the firm as a graduate.
     
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  4. Jessica Booker

    Jessica Booker Legendary Member
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    Zoom - hints and tips
    Mute and unmute your mic quickly using the space bar
    If you have to follow just one tip for Zoom then let it be this one. When there are too many participants in a meeting, it’s hard to hear everyone because of cross-talk and background noise. But you can reverse this behaviour by a simple hack. If you are in a Zoom meeting and not speaking then keep your mic on mute. And when you want to talk briefly, simply hold the space bar to enable the mic and speak. Once you release the space bar key, you’ll be muted again.

    Screenshots

    Sometimes when on seminars you want to take a screenshot of the slide that is being presented. You can do this by pressing Alt + Shift + T or Command + T

    For the vain amongst us... (and yes I have done this...)

    Zoom offers an option to beautify your look. It softens your skin tone and smooths out any blemish on your video display. Overall, it offers a more polished and pleasing appearance to your look while you are in a meeting. So to enable it, open Settings -> Video -> turn on “Touch up my appearance” and you are done. I'd recommend testing it out though before starting. It also isn't necessary to do this - no one is really going to care what you look like as long as you look presentable and are not rocking up with bed hair and PJs.

    Change your viewing settings

    When you get started with Zoom for the first time, the app has its default video layout set to ‘Active Speaker’, which shows the person currently talking in the main window. However, if you want, you can switch to the Gallery View to see all the participants on the conference call at the same time. For this, click on Gallery View in the top-right of the screen.

    Use the raise hand option

    If you are in a meeting and the organiser is talking and you don't want to interrupt them, you can typically use the "raise hand" option to show you want to speak. Some Zoom meetings will also have a Q&A function too.

    Virtual backgrounds:

    You can use virtual backgrounds in Zoom but in a professional setting they can be slightly distracting, especially if they go fuzzy as you move about or if you disappear behind them. Only use them if absolutely necessary, and definitely don't use them to try and impress as this could be perceived as tacky.​
     
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  5. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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  6. Jessica Booker

    Jessica Booker Legendary Member
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    this shouldn’t be normal nor expected. To anyone reading this, I wouldn’t advise working this late on things, nor working weekends.
     
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  7. Jessica Booker

    Jessica Booker Legendary Member
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    “Inability to leave the office”?!?
     
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  8. Dwight

    Dwight Legendary Member

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    Regarding the second point (set up regular meetings with supervisor and trainee buddy) - how should I approach this. I feel like perhaps the trainee buddy/supervisor may not consider this necessary and too much? Btw, I have not done my scheme yet so don't know how they are like.
     
  9. reedyboy

    reedyboy Star Member

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    I have just finished a virtual scheme this week and I found it was really natural setting up meetings. It obviously depends on the firm and the supervisor/trainee mentor but it felt like no issue to IM them and ask for a quick call. I'm sure you will probably have a scheduled call with either one of them pretty much everyday but if you want extra calls I'm sure it will be no issue at all.
     
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  10. Jessica Booker

    Jessica Booker Legendary Member
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    That can be one of the first questions you ask them when you first meet them.

    “Would it be possible to have regular catch ups? If so, how regular would you recommend and are there any days or times of the week that might work better for you?”
     
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  11. Dwight

    Dwight Legendary Member

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    Is this usually with the trainee or supervisor? Just want to be wary of the age difference/ level in seniority.
     
  12. Jessica Booker

    Jessica Booker Legendary Member
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    either! They have been allocated to you as people to check in with and support you. It really doesn’t matter how junior or senior they are. Make the most of that support rather than assuming the worst.
     
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