Tall buildings in a commercial setting

December 2, 2019, by Jackie Thompson

Applying for Vacation Schemes – What Worked for Me

By Ella Rees, law student

When you first sit down with the prospect of writing multiple applications ahead, the process of applying for vacation schemes can seem overwhelming. I was lucky that I knew from when I started university that I wanted to pursue a career in commercial law.

Despite this, I hadn’t had much luck with any first-year scheme applications and didn’t feel that I knew what I was doing when I first attempted vacation scheme applications.

Do your research

I knew that my second year was going to be busy, so I made sure when I started the year that I already had a plan in mind about which firms I was going to target. During the summer, I started my research and made a shortlist of around eight firms. In hindsight this was probably a few too many as it did take up a lot of time, but it is important to find a balance between producing high-quality applications while also leaving your options open wide enough.

Find out more at presentation evenings

One of the most useful things that I found was to make the most of the presentation evenings, which the law firms do on campus. Once you have been to a few they can start to seem repetitive, but they are a useful way of meeting people from the firm and getting an insight into the specific things that the firm is looking for. Being able to precisely articulate why you are applying to a firm is fundamental and I didn’t feel that I could do that without some personal contact with the firm. I didn’t apply to anywhere where I had not been to an open day or presentation evening.

Be precise in your answers

The advice I heard over and over again was to be precise. It is easy to dismiss this as obvious and not that helpful, but once I focused on this my applications improved hugely. From the perspective of the graduate recruitment team, they are reading thousands of essentially the same answers, so you have to find some way of differentiating yourself. I made a conscious effort to make my sentences short and clear. If you think what you have written is a bit waffly, then it probably is and needs changing. Being honest with yourself is an important aspect of the application process.

Articulate why law is for you

I first began writing my applications back in September and sent most of them off in December. This meant that I had spent three months editing and refining my answers. Giving yourself time to let your answers develop is key. For me the hardest part was succinctly articulating answers to questions such as ‘why law?’.

Organising meetings with the Careers team helped me with this, as it was a chance to informally chat through my reasoning and helped me pull it together in a coherent way. Using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) formula helped me to structure my answers and I stuck rigidly to this. Always back your answers up with examples as the firms want concrete evidence of what you are saying.  It is even better if you can put a metric on an example such as, we did X which meant we raised £Y.

Use the support around you

Being pragmatic is also critical; most other people don’t have much experience writing applications either so don’t be too harsh on yourself. Lastly, use the support you have around you. Get your friends and parents to read over and critique what you’ve written. Everyone is going through the same process and picking up their own useful information so helping each other out goes a long way.  

If you’re putting together an application for a vacation scheme or internship, visit our website for expert advice on all aspects of the recruitment process. Once you’ve drafted your application, book an appointment with our team to have your application reviewed.

Posted in Work experience