• Mary Bonsu

How to Convert your Vacation Scheme into a Training Contract

A vacation scheme is a huge achievement. It is an opportunity to expand your network, gain exposure to the legal industry, and of course, secure a Training Contract. This article is going to outline the main things that I believe are essential to securing a Training Contract Offer from a vacation scheme.


Relax!


A large part of the assessment essentially boils down to “do we want to work with this individual?”. If you have made it to the Vacation Scheme, you most likely already tick their boxes, they would just like to see you in action. Being personable and being able to build a rapport with people is important. This does not necessarily mean you have to be the loudest in the (virtual or physical) room, but can you hold a conversation about life and things that are going on in the world? Essentially, be human - laugh at jokes, make (appropriate) jokes, make conversation and be curious! Friendly, yet professional.


Any assessment is a two-way process. No matter how objectively great a firm might be, it is important that you find the right firm for you.


Complete your work to a high standard.


Manage your time:

  • When you receive a piece of work, acknowledge receipt, and ask for a deadline/time frame.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor how long the task will take.

  • Remember that you will have presentations, activities, workshops, and socials - factor that in.

  • If you cannot complete a piece of work, say so. It is better to be honest about your capacity when you first receive the work than to leave it too late.

  • Don’t forget to factor in proofreading time!


Don’t be afraid to ask questions:

  • When you receive a piece of work, go through the task, and note down any initial questions that you may have for your supervisor. Always ask for the background matter of the task too.

  • Ensure that you understand the task at hand. Repeating the task back to your supervisor in your own words can help with this.

  • Ask what format your supervisor would like the work in if this has not been stipulated.

  • Naturally, as you are completing the task, questions may arise, so do not be afraid to ask those too. However, it may be helpful to note all your questions as you go through the task and then ask them in one sitting.

  • Use your trainee buddy:

  • If your trainee buddy has not done the seat you are in then, ask your trainee buddy to put you in touch with a trainee who has done this seat - this is a great way to meet new people.


Be proactive and take initiative:

  • If there is something that you are able to figure out on your own, give it a go for your own development.


Explain your reasoning:

  • By explaining your reasoning, your supervisor doesn’t have to complete the task themselves to check that you have done it correctly. They can simply verify that your process made sense.

  • This is also important in cases where you have taken initiative. Saying something like “I wasn’t sure on this point, but I decided to go with x because a, b and c” can be really helpful for the both of you.


Ask for feedback:

  • Asking for feedback is the best way to be invested in your own development.

  • Everyone makes mistakes, including actual lawyers. Showing that you can grow and learn at this stage is extremely important.


Engage in a meaningful way.


Before my vacation scheme, one piece of advice I saw everywhere was “try to talk to as many people as possible”. I do not necessarily agree that this is the best approach and here’s why.


First of all, lawyers are very busy people and are very perceptive. It is obvious if someone has set up a meeting for the sake of it. Second of all, vacation schemes are packed full of presentations and workshops where you can learn a lot. Setting up meetings to ask questions that were addressed in the presentations/workshops is not helpful.

Set up meetings when you have genuine questions, clarifications, follow-ups, or you just genuinely want to have a chat with someone.


Think about the questions you’re asking. Sometimes the presentations are very limited in time so only a couple of people get to ask a question. If your question is very personal and the answer will not benefit the whole group perhaps it is better to set up a separate meeting. Also, make sure that you are not doing that thing that we all hated back in secondary school where someone disguises their extensive knowledge as a question, it is very obvious.


Be nice


When you’re gunning for a limited number of TCs, people can see vacation schemes as some sort of weird corporate hunger games, it definitely is not. If you are what the firm is looking for, you will be offered a training contract. In fact, being nice to others can only enhance your chances. On one of my vacation schemes, I built some great friendships through cooperation and all of us received TC offers! Remember that building a network is not just about those who are senior to you but also your peers.


Interviews


A common structure for vacation scheme assessment (as well as your general engagement, work that you complete, and sometimes a group and written exercise) is a partner interview with a presentation. For vacation scheme conversion the key things to consider are:

  • The new things you learnt, especially about the firm and how that made you like the firm more.

  • The tasks that you completed - what did you like about them? What did you learn from the tasks? What feedback did you get?

  • Who have you spoken to during your vacation scheme?

  • If you have completed other schemes, what separates this firm from others?

  • Did you face any difficulties? Is there anything that you would do differently?


Conclusion


A vacation scheme is a great way to find out if the firm, the industry, the work, and the pace is truly for you. Getting a vacation scheme is already a great achievement so make the most of it.


If you do not convert a vacation scheme, do not be disheartened. Remember that it is a two-way street, chances are that the particular firm was not the right firm for you. The good news is, at this stage, most firms offer feedback so act on it and keep pushing forward.


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