COVID-19 and subsequent social distancing guidelines have undoubtedly caused major disruptions in various sectors and facets of life. Students and recent graduates have felt this as they scramble to gain work experience and face deferred or cancelled internships. Some firms have been able to adapt to the current circumstances by moving their placements online. Virtual insight programmes, in particular, present students early in their legal careers a great way to develop their commercial and legal understanding this summer.
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Normally, insight programmes invite students to visit the firm’s offices over a period of three days during which time they attend various talks given by the graduate recruitment team, trainees, associates and partners, and develop professional skills through a range of practical tasks. Students are therefore able to understand the specificities which make the firm unique and the unique opportunity of networking with lawyers directly. Naturally, as offices have closed and lawyers work from home, this is no longer feasible.
Instead, virtual insight programmes offer a series of webinars that delve deep into the firms and their practices. Associates or partners that specialise in a particular legal sector provide a closer view of the work being done by the firm, from banking and capital markets to dispute resolution and mergers and acquisitions. These talks are valuable as they can help aspiring solicitors understand how different firms service their clients, stand out from competitors and achieve their company’s unique vision and strategy. Virtual insight programmes can also include workshops where lawyers ask participants to engage with the material, completing tasks and participating in quizzes.
For example, attending Linklaters’ Virtual Insight Programme provided invaluable exposure to the firm’s strategy and how this is incorporated in its corporate and banking sectors, in particular. It also offered an understanding of the firm’s values, in particular how Linklaters demonstrates its commitment to diversity and inclusion through their revised application process, for example. The commercial understanding workshop offered encouraged participation as we applied our business knowledge to a previous deal to understand the mindset of a commercial lawyer.
Virtual insight programmes still allow aspiring solicitors to network with lawyers, albeit not in the traditional sense. As well as answering questions during the talk, most lawyers are happy to be emailed for further information. These schemes also dedicate time to explain processes for applying to the firm and offer valuable tips to boost your application.
Students who previously applied to firms’ insight programmes will normally be made aware if virtual opportunities are now available. Additionally, it would be worth contacting the graduate recruitment teams or HR representatives and enquiring about any current placements. Be sure to keep updated with firms’ social media platforms, particularly their LinkedIn profiles, for updates. These schemes normally require you to fill out an application form detailing your interest and experience as well as providing a legal CV.
Even if you are unable to secure a virtual insight programme with a law firm directly, definitely explore the plethora of virtual internships firms have begun offering. While these were introduced before the Coronavirus pandemic, they have been hugely popular in the current crisis. Such programmes, offered by firms including Linklaters, Clyde & Co and White & Case, offer aspiring solicitors crucial exposure to the daily routine and tasks associated with the job. From reviewing legal documents to completing due diligence, such internships are a brilliant way to get legal experience in the current circumstance. Moreover, these are completely free of charge and do not require an application process, making them available to all students.
Read about more ways in which you can virtually boost your CV here:
Words: Siobhan Ali
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