Preparing for Vacation Scheme Interviews
What I learned securing seven vacation schemes
You have submitted your application and completed the psychometric tests. It has been a long journey so far with hours of research and proofreading in order to hone your application and make it stand out. But it does not end there. The assessment day is the final stage before securing a vacation scheme and arguably the toughest hurdle to overcome.
Applicants will often be tested on several competencies such as communication, teamwork and analytical ability through a variety of exercises, and this will vary depending on which firm you have applied for. One guarantee is that you will always have an interview, either with graduate recruitment or a partner and an associate. Therefore, it is imperative that you really and I mean REALLY prepare for the interview. Not only is this a key way to stand out and demonstrate the competencies that the firm looks for, but you will undoubtedly make a strong case as to why you want to work at that specific firm. This is the process that many of us go through each year, with the hope of securing the all-important training contract at the firm of our choice.
Andreas HadjipavlisTCLA Writer
This piece will outline ways, which can help you prepare for one of the most important interview questions, and one that you will always be asked: Why this law firm?
Researching the Firm and Areas of Focus
You have most likely completed some research in order to complete your application form, but it is important to undertake extensive research on specific aspects of the firm. A good method that I have found to be useful is to focus on three aspects: work/practice areas, training, and culture of the firm.
(i) Work/Practice Areas
This is where you can really show that your interests align with the firm and the work and transactions that it handles. It is important when answering this to first explain why this practice area is of interest to you (perhaps you have attended several workshops on this or studied a corporate module at undergraduate/postgraduate level), and secondly to link it back to the specific firm. It is always great to have 2-3 practice areas (especially if the firm is a full-service firm) that you are interested in and can comfortably talk about.
For example: If you have a strong interest in private equity be sure to research any recent deals the firm has completed and understand what that means for the firm’s client and their position in the market. Also, understand which side the firm typically acts for (e.g. in private equity, if the firm represents the sponsor or the lender), and why that is of interest to you.
(ii) Training This is another big area that law firms pride themselves on, therefore, make sure that you know the type of training programme that the firm conducts and what seats you will have the opportunity to do. Some law firms make it mandatory to complete several seats so make sure you are aware of this as well.
Some good points of focus are Mentoring Schemes that the firm conducts, if you will have a Trainee Buddy and how often there will be a formal appraisal and review of your performance at the firm. When researching these areas be sure to think about how you feel such initiatives will affect you and further your professional development.
For example: If you apply to a top US law firm, which will often have a small trainee intake (or at least smaller than most London-based firm) you will be given a great deal of responsibility. Highlight in your answer why this appeals to you and how you have already demonstrated the requisite skills e.g. adaptability, confidence and organisation, to succeed in such a fast-paced environment.
(iii) Culture This is where a candidate can really stand out. Factoring in how you think the firm’s values and culture align with your values and is somewhere where you will fit in and excel is an important part of your answer to why you want to work at that specific firm.
Law firm’s pride themselves on their culture and why they are different from other firms, therefore, it is key that you understand this and highlight this in your interview. To really get a feel for the culture of a firm, apply to open days, attend law fairs and really put yourself out there. The best ways that I have been able to understand the culture of different firms is through networking with their trainees and the graduate recruitment. That way you are able to understand if that specific law firm is the ideal place that you would like to work at.
If you make sure that you know the firm’s business well, what if offers to their trainees and what the culture of the firm is like, you will be sure to nail that answer and already give yourself an advantage in the interview process.
Andreas Hadjipavlis is a final year law student from the University of Nottingham and a member of TCLA's writing team. Andreas secured four vacation schemes last year and is due to complete three more this year.