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Vacation Scheme Applications: Top Tips

Chances are, vacation scheme applications will be your first experience of the solicitor selection process, but with these few tips you will be better equipped to tackle the challenge. This blog post will not address some of the more obvious tips, such as making sure you have done your research and checked your application for spelling and grammar mistakes. However, these general tips form the basis on which this post will build.

1. Be specific in your vacation scheme applications

Naturally, commercial awareness questions require you to have done your research on the firm and business news. However, do not be tempted to write down all the information that could possibly be relevant in order to demonstrate your knowledge. As questions often have a word limit, you will never be able to deal with more than two points in sufficient detail.

The best way to approach this question is to pick one or two pieces of information, such as a specific pro bono event put on by the firm. Then you will be able to answer the question fully. Being specific extends to naming particular cases that a firm has been involved in and even naming specific partners who have been recognised in the news or in Chambers and Partners Rankings. This also applies to tailoring your vacation scheme applications to a specific firm, so avoid copying and pasting – if your answers are overly general or irrelevant, the recruiters will just stop reading.

2. Showcase your skills

If you have little or no legal work experience you may feel short of examples to use when answering skills questions. However, most of the skills required to succeed as a young lawyer are transferable so you may already have gained them in your part-time job or through being involved with a university society.

Your skills are not devalued simply because you obtained them through non-legal work experience. For instance, customer service and general communication skills are invaluable when interacting with clients and colleagues. Similarly, being on a university society committee will help you develop leadership and teamwork skills which will be extremely useful when you work on a team of lawyers.  

Often, the skills you learn over two years working in a coffee shop will be more developed than the same skills learned over two weeks of legal work experience, so do not hesitate to showcase abilities from all areas of your professional life, just ensure you identify the skill and cite examples of how you demonstrated and developed it, always linking back to its relevance on your vacation scheme.

3. Network

Many firms and universities also organise specific networking events. While networking can be a slightly uncomfortable experience for hopeful lawyers, it is a good way to boost your application.

Firstly, meeting trainees, HR representatives and lawyers is a good way to get a feel for the firm’s culture. If nothing else, it will help you form an opinion on whether you also want to work there.

Secondly, being able to mention specific events you attended on your application will help to show that you are truly interested in the vacation scheme. If you can mention that meeting representatives from the firm at a specific event allowed you to get an insight into the firm’s culture, your application will stand out.

It will also show that you have made an attempt to connect with the firm over and above researching it online. So you definitely have nothing to lose if you just say yes to a networking event once in a while.

4. Sleep on it

Proofreading your vacation scheme applications and then getting someone else to proofread it for you is a very common tip but it is an invaluable one and one that many applicants fail to follow.  

A way to help with this process is never to fill in and submit an application on the same day. It is often tempting to take a “tick list approach” to application forms and get them submitted as soon as possible.

However, to avoid little errors which could ruin your chances, proofreading your vacation scheme applications the next morning will ensure you have a fresh pair of eyes and a much greater likelihood of success.

Words: Mariya Rankin

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