|DLA Piper, King & Wood Mallesons, Linklaters and Walker Morris|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Vacation Scheme in the United Kingdom
Summer vacation schemes for law - with real responsibility
What I do
This was a vacation scheme during the university summer holidays. I worked in the offices of a number of law firms for two to four weeks, getting stuck in to project work, attending meetings, doing training, and shadowing senior colleagues.
Skills I use and how I developed them
Firstly, my teamwork skills were important because the type of work that I was involved in was so big in scale and complexity that it is unlikely that I was working on a project by myself. Often, entire departments were tasked to solve one legal problem, and I found it was vital for a lawyer to draw on all the expertise and talent available and bring the best out of whoever they are working with.
Secondly, I developed my communication skills. It was clear from my vacation schemes a large proportion of a solicitor’s life will be spent drawing up documents. I found the art of being a good commercial lawyer is being able to convey information in a succinct way. It was vital to be able to understand how and when to alter a written register, whether that be for writing concisely and clearly to explain a complex legal issue to a client or to write formally and in a structured manner to opposing counsel, or to a judge.
Finally, before the vacation schemes, understanding the definition of commercial awareness was very difficult. Throughout my time at the firms I found in essence, commercial awareness is about recognising two ideas: first, that a law firm is a business like any other, and second, that all the trials and tribulations of the business world drive your client’s legal needs and you must be able to understand and react to them.
What I like most
I enjoyed the type of work I was allocated. Everyday was different - there is always something new to learn. Additionally, I appreciated conducting this work in very approachable and friendly teams at each law firm.
What I like least
During my time at the firms there was sometimes photocopying to do but as you are mostly involved in client work or are copying documents to enable you to understand a deal, this is actually often a good thing.
What surprised me most
What I found most surprising was the amount of real responsibility and client involvement I was given.
My advice to students considering work
Firstly, research the law firm beforehand. A little knowledge goes a long way. If you have read up on the firm and have some questions ready you will be able to show you are genuinely interested in its work. It will also help you connect with your new colleagues.
Secondly, make sure you network on your vacation scheme. You can use your scheme to build contacts as well as legal knowledge. Relationship management is an essential part of being a solicitor. Social events, lunches and dinners are a great opportunity to network and quiz colleagues.
Thirdly, prioritise your vacation scheme workload. You need to come across as reliable and organised. Make sure you clarify the urgency of tasks given to you by fee-earners. Find out when the work is needed by and meet that deadline. Always remember to take along a pen and paper to meetings and be aware that certain tasks may require coming in early or staying late.
Finally, keep a record of your legal work experience. You will find that your vacation scheme is very busy and as a result it can be difficult to remember everything. Consider keeping a diary or some notes if certain aspects of your time with a firm grab your attention. That way, if you decide to apply for a training contract with the firm you’ll have some information ready for your application form and/or interview.
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