Vacation Schemes – Free Guide to Law Vacation Schemes
If your aim is to be a solicitor, you will need to carry out relevant work experience in the form of a vacation scheme. This not only gives an unparalleled insight into the working life of a solicitor. It is also a key component of your CV as an aspiring solicitor.
We’ve got all the latest vacation scheme deadlines listed in our deadlines section.
See Vacation Scheme Deadlines
Want to know what vacation schemes are like? Read our Pinsent Masons Case Study and Simmons & Simmons Case Study.
What is a Law Vacation Scheme?
A vacation scheme is a way of gaining invaluable work experience at a law firm. Schemes commonly last between one and four weeks and provide a unique and rewarding opportunity to:
- Experience first-hand what life as a trainee solicitor is like
- Understand the type of tasks you will be expected to perform as a trainee solicitor
- Understand the culture and work ethic of a law firm
- Establish whether you are suited to a career in law
Can a Law Vacation Scheme Help Me to Secure a Training Contract?
In short, yes.
Many law firms now use vacation schemes as an extended opportunity to assess a candidate’s suitability for a training contract. Candidates are frequently invited to attend a training contract interview at the end of the scheme as standard. As such, vacation schemes form a central part of the training contract application process.
To get a flavour of how law vacation schemes can lead to training contract opportunities down the line, you should take a look at Pia’s Training Contract Application Case Study.
Please note that completing a vacation scheme does not always guarantee a training contract. Similarly, it is still possible to obtain a training contract without having completed a vacation scheme in most cases. Current statistics show that between 30% and 70% of candidates who complete a vacation scheme go on to secure a training contract.
What Do Law Vacation Schemes Involve?
1) Work Based Tasks
During law vacation schemes you will be expected to perform tasks similar to that of a trainee solicitor. You will be supervised, supported and ultimately assessed by one of the firm’s partners or associate solicitors, assisting on a variety of deals and/or cases. You will also have an opportunity to work alongside and observe current trainees, providing a genuine insight into trainee solicitor life.
Day-to-day vacation scheme tasks may include:
- Performing legal research
- Drafting, amending and reviewing legal documents
- Attending and taking minutes of meetings
- Attending court
- Performing administrative tasks such as filing, document management and photocopying
2) Group Exercises
Some law firms like to set group tasks, projects and exercises to simulate practice as a solicitor, for example a mock negotiation. Such exercises are designed to give you a flavour of what life as a solicitor will entail. Group tasks also enable the law firm to assess your suitability for a training contract based on:
- Demonstration of core skills
Core skills include:
Visit our What Makes a Good Lawyer? page to find out more about the core skills law firms will be looking for you to demonstrate during law vacation schemes. Ensure that you demonstrate these core skills to the best of your ability to give yourself the best opportunity to shine.
Law firms tend to embrace socialising and networking amongst fellow vacation scheme students and the law firm’s employees by organising social events. You will be encouraged to attend such events, which may include lunches, dinners and drinks out. Use these events to connect with as many people as possible, helping to get your name out and broaden your network.
See Vacation Scheme Deadlines
What are the Benefits of Completing a Law Vacation Scheme?
- Law vacation schemes will give you a genuine insight into life as a trainee solicitor in a particular law firm environment and the legal profession more generally
- Law vacation schemes enable you to broaden your network and make vital links and contacts with experienced lawyers at the firm
- Law vacation schemes assist in determining whether a career in law is right for you
- Throughout your vacation scheme you will be offered constructive feedback on various tasks performed, which greatly assists in the development of core skills
- At the end of a vacation scheme you may, based on performance, be considered for a training contract.
Vacation schemes should therefore be approached with the utmost diligence, enthusiasm and professionalism. In addition to providing you with an insight into trainee life and whether a career in law is right for you, it will give the law firm the opportunity to gain an insight into you and your suitability for a future position at their law firm.
Will I Be Paid For a Law Vacation Scheme?
Payment in some form is likely. How much depends on the individual law firm and may vary from simply covering travel expenses to a weekly salary of up to £500. Take a look at our Vacation Scheme Deadlines Calendar for an indication of possible vacation scheme remuneration.
When Should I Apply For Law Vacation Schemes?
Timings for vacation scheme applications will very much depend on your degree choice but are usually accepted in your penultimate year of undergraduate study and beyond.
Application deadlines will vary depending on whether you are applying for a spring, summer or winter vacation schemes:
See Vacation Scheme Deadlines
- Application deadlines for spring/summer vacation schemes tend to be around January time
- Application deadlines for winter vacation schemes tend to be around October/November time
Step by Step Guide to Securing a Law Vacation Scheme
Step 1 – Choosing a Law Firm
Before making your vacation scheme applications it is important to think carefully about which law firms to apply to. There are a number of factors you may wish to consider when deciding where to apply for vacation schemes, including:
- Whether your heart lies in commercial law or private client-type law
- Whether you wish to practice in a large global firm, a smaller scale national firm or a high street practice
- Where in the country you would like to gain experience
After you have weighed up the various factors, you will be well placed to compile a list of target law firms. You can then start drilling down into the detail, by researching:
- The law firm’s main clients
- Recent deals or cases they have worked on
- Any influential lawyers in the firm
- Any other interesting facts of note
By conducting thorough research, you can tailor your applications accordingly and ensure you are applying to law firms that are right for you. Note: law firms are not interested in generic vacation scheme applications – a commitment to and an understanding of their particular firm and working is a must.
Step 2 – Research Vacation Scheme Opportunities Available
Visit our Vacation Scheme Deadline Calendar to find out more about vacation schemes currently available, with direct links to application forms and deadline information.
Step 3 – Submit Vacation Scheme Applications
The vacation scheme application process is very similar to the process involved in applying for training contracts. So visit our Training Contract Application page to find out more about how the overall application process works.
Step 4 – Attend Vacation Scheme Interviews
The vacation scheme interview process is very similar to the process involved in interviewing for training contracts. So visit our Training Contract Interview page to find out more about how the overall interview process works. You can also read our blog on Vacation Scheme Interviews.
Step 5 – In-House Assessments
As part of the vacation scheme application process you may be asked to attend an assessment day where you will be expected to complete a whole number of tasks including:
- A verbal reasoning/critical thinking assessment, for example, a Watson Glaser Test – click here to learn more
- An internally set written exercise
- A group exercise, such as a mock negotiation
Step 6 – Being Made a Vacation Scheme Offer
If, following the intensive interviews and any assessment days you have sufficiently impressed, you may be offered a vacation scheme. Many law firms will call you in person to deliver the good news whilst others will inform you via email. Then it’s down to you as to whether you accept the offer!
Top Tips for Vacation Schemes
To stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons you should ensure that you:
- Arrive at the office in a timely manner – a polite way of saying don’t be late!
- Avoid using your personal mobile phone during working hours
- Demonstrate professionalism at all times, whether you are in the office or attending organised social events
- Demonstrate enthusiasm! Never underestimate the power of this, even when approaching the most basic of tasks
- Be friendly and approachable – don’t be afraid to say hello!
- Demonstrate proactiveness. Actively offer out your services and seek work as and when appropriate
- Demonstrate inquisitiveness. Ask relevant and carefully constructed questions to demonstrate engagement and interest
- Don’t clock watch! Take a flexible approach to your work and show willingness to stay on and go the extra mile if required
- Dress smartly and appropriately!
- Carry a notebook and pen when taking instructions from an associate or partner. This will ensure that you have a full note of the task in hand and will avoid the embarrassment of having to go back and seek clarification!
- Complete every piece of assigned work to the best of your ability. Watch out for your spelling, grammar and punctuation. An eye for detail is key
- If possible, read up on any supervising solicitors. Being able to discuss their past work will help to build rapport
- Show off your skills! Be mindful of the qualities law firms are looking for in you. To find out more, visit our page on What Makes a Good Lawyer?
- Finally, stay in touch! If there were partners, associates or trainees that you built up a good rapport with, drop them a line of thanks following the placement and stay in touch
What Happens if I am Unable to Secure a Vacation Scheme?
If you do not manage to secure a vacation placement, there are plenty of other work experience opportunities available. Options include:
- Sending an ad hoc CV and covering letter to smaller/high street law firms that do not run vacation schemes
- Exploring summer schemes and legal internships run by the larger commercial organisations such as investment and commercial banks, media and telecoms companies and accountancy firms
See Vacation Scheme Deadlines
- Sending an ad hoc CV and covering letter to smaller commercial organisations that do not run structured schemes