Having recently undertaken my second vacation scheme, I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Whilst each vacation scheme is different (some are strictly structured, whilst others are devised on an ad hoc basis; some you sit with partners, others you will be shadowing a trainee), they are all invaluable in their own right. My first was with a large commercial firm in the City, and more recently I worked within a niche, boutique media and corporate dominated firm. The value of these placements is evident through several factors.
Quite frankly there is no better way of gaining an understanding of the inner-workings of a law firm. Having only previously experienced working within a firm for the odd few days here and there, my initial two week placement emphasised just how quickly one can become integrated within the fabric of a firm. I found myself working closely alongside a trainee, experiencing much of the sort of work that I would be given throughout a training contract. To be entrusted with such responsibility was exhilarating, and served to further confirm that I was on the right career path. The placement also showed me the way in which the food-chain of trainees, associates, and partners closely work together, and how projects are completed from start to finish using this system.
Experiencing more than one placement will also enable you, as applicants, to determine what type of workplace you are looking for, as you will begin to be able to differentiate between different firms. It is nigh on impossible to say for certain that you are the ‘large, corporate firm kind of person’ without having immersed yourself in that environment. You may well discover, after two weeks at a magic-circle firm, that you are in fact a ‘smaller, boutique firm person’.
Finally, whilst law firms are looking at your training contract application expecting more and more legal work experience, it is without question that those placements will also benefit you in being able to produce a far more tailored and specific training contract application. To be able to sit in an interview and be able to express exactly why you have chosen that type of firm based on your own experiences will certainly put you in a far more superior position to those who simply cannot.
Nick Weaser is a history graduate who has just completed the LPC at the Guildford College of Law