Student working

July 2, 2019, by Jackie Thompson

Applying For Law Firm Vacation Schemes

By Ella Rees, final year law student

When you first sit down with the prospect of writing multiple vacation scheme applications ahead, the process can seem overwhelming. 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 them. I knew that second year was going to be busy, so I made sure 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 whilst also leaving your options open wide enough. I’ve put together a few tips based on what I learnt during the process: 

Attend 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 during the Autumn Term. They are a useful way of meeting people from the firm and getting an insight into the specific things that that 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 

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 long-winded, then it probably is and needs changing. Being honest with yourself is an important aspect of the application process.  

Give yourself enough time 

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 and Employability Service 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.  

Use evidence 

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 your support network 

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. Remember that most other people don’t have much experience writing applications either, so don’t be too harsh on yourself. 

For more information about legal careers, opportunities to develop your skills and where to find work experience, visit our website. 

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