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November 1 2019

Flex Legal's Vac Scheme Guide

Legal Career Tips

Harry Coates

Harry Coates

Flex Legal's Vac Scheme Guide

October, and if you haven’t started thinking about Vac Schemes then you should start now. An increasingly large number of firms are putting a greater emphasis on their vac schemes, with many city firms recruiting solely from them, such as HSF and Mischcon de Reya. What’s more, vac schemes give you a cracking opportunity to not only gain a deeper understanding of life as a lawyer (and specifically as a trainee) , but provide you with invaluable work experiences and a shot at a Training Contract (TC).

What is a Vac Scheme?  

Well first let’s talk about what a vac scheme is and how it works. Effectively it’s an internship with the opportunity of obtaining a TC that provides you with work experience and an opportunity to really make your CV stand out, even if you don’t get that golden egg (TC). Usually they last a week or two weeks (CMS hold a three week vac scheme). Some firms may have several rounds of vac schemes, over Winter, Easter and Summer, whilst others may just have one.


What will I do?  

Well that is completely dependent on the firm. Each firm has their own style and method when it comes to Vac Schemes, but generally you can expect to be given a decent insight into life at the firm. At some vac schemes you will be partnered with a Partner or Associate who will give you work to do on live cases, whilst others will also provide talks for you to attend a tight timetable for you to follow for the week. At some it may be that it is up to you to go looking for work and opportunities by knocking on doors. Depending on the length of the scheme, you will sit in either one or two departments/seats.


Which Vac scheme should I apply to?

To determine where you want to apply requires a number of steps. Firstly, I would think about what type of firm you want to work for. For starters, have a look at a previous article that the wonderful Hannah Ish wrote for us on the very topic https://blog.flex.legal/post/2019/3/27/different-types-of-law-firms.

Secondly, think about your interests. Being able to speak passionately about why a particular law firm is of interest to you, and which specific team/practice area will only help your applications.

Once you have identified a list of firms you would like to apply to check their application deadlines. Sites such as, Chambers Student and LawCareersNet have handy calendars detailing deadlines.


How do I make the most of this opportunity?

Try to get involved with as much as possible. If someone offers you the opportunity to get involved with a piece of work that you weren’t expecting or to sit in on a client meeting, take that opportunity.

Be a sponge. Take in as much as you can and use the opportunity to learn as much about the profession and firm as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, although this is a careful balancing act as you don’t want to be irritating.

One of the best tips I’ve come across for vac scheme success is taking 10 minutes at the end of your day to make a note of things that you have done and learnt. The ultimate aim for most vac schemers it to get an interview and a TC. By making a note of what you have done and learnt, when it comes to that interview you will be prepared to draw on your experiences and explain how they have influenced you.

 A quick word about alcohol… It’s very likely the firm will put on some form of drinks or you may get invited for drinks by some of the trainees and associates. Proceed with caution. It’s very likely that the mental notebooks will still be out. Try to assess the firm’s culture and act accordingly. My advice would be to enjoy yourselves but do not become one of the horror stories. If you are a non-drinker still go to the networking events as they present a great opportunity to get out there and meet new people and gain deeper insight into the firm.