22 April 2022

This article was written by Eleanor Parsons.

As trainee solicitors, we often act as 'buddies' for our applicants to share experiences, advice and insights into the firm. As we commence our 2022 vacation schemes, I have been reflecting on the vacation scheme process – from the position of the applicant, and now as a 'buddy'. As new trainees, this can often be the first time we reflect on the huge learning curve that takes place between the vacation scheme and actually beginning the training contract.

Here are five key tips and reflections on the vacation scheme process:

1. A big fish in a small pond?

It is easy to forget within large university cohorts or a sea of potential recruiters, but the legal industry is actually a relatively small place. The attendees you meet at assessment centres, or work alongside during vacation schemes, may well be your colleagues for many years to come. Don’t forget to build good relationships now, as these can grow and flourish alongside you as your career develops. You can begin to build your reputation now, which can help with confidence as you move through the next stages.

2. Collaboration is key

You will likely be used to working individually in the application process and your education to date. However, to succeed in a vacation scheme, you need to have an ability to collaborate with your peers and colleagues too. This doesn’t just stop at the office door – you can show your collaboration skills in informal and social activities also – particularly if they will help you win at an escape room!

3. Be authentic

Whilst it might sound cliché, a huge emphasis is placed on being authentic. You should not struggle to be who you are in the firm you choose to train and work for. Ask questions of your buddies and supervisors to compare your key values with that of the firm and your potential future colleagues. If you feel you are having to try too hard to fit in somewhere; that may not be the work or firm for you. By the same token, if you are excited about a particular area or aspect of a firm, make that known! I spent more time in my interview talking about my interests and prior relevant experiences that linked to the firm than I did about the law.

4. Be clear with what is expected of you

All too often, when facing a stressful situation, it is easy to overestimate how much is expected of you. As a vacation scheme applicant, you will be evaluated on your attitude, ability and aptitude for the future role far more than your ability to cite the latest technical quirk in the textbooks. Remember that applicants for a vacation scheme will be from all stages of their career. You will be assessed at the stage you should be at, for your own personal situation, not at that of a senior lawyer! Focus instead on working hard, asking questions and really making the most of your time with the firm.

5. Stay in touch

Once the vacation scheme comes to an end, stay in touch with key contacts you have made during your time with the firm – from other applicants, to the recruitment team and your buddies. Regardless of the outcome of your vacation scheme, your paths may cross again in future and it is useful to keep up to date through LinkedIn as you progress in your career. I have stayed in touch with various individuals who are now trainees or qualified solicitors across the country, or who have followed an alternative route altogether. Ultimately, these connections have broadened my understanding and awareness as I develop in my own career.

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