Exams are coming to an end and the summer is upon us, which means that firms around the country are about to welcome hundreds of law students onto their summer vacation schemes. Congratulations to you if you’re one of those students; be sure to get the most out of this excellent opportunity with our top tips on making this valuable work placement work for you.
By Cara Fielder. Published 21 July 2017. Last updated 8 July 2022.
Act and look the part
The competition for vacation schemes is fierce and firms are discerning about who they accept, so you’ve already shown you’ve got what they’re looking for. Now’s the time to continue in that vein. Be quietly confident that you have the intellect and ability that’s needed and think about other ways that you can develop a professional demeanour. One great way to do this is to make sure you look the part. Asking about the dress code before you start will show that you’re keen as well as considerate of fitting in.
Having a positive and enthusiastic attitude will take you a long way. It’s not just about making a good impression (although that’s very important); it also encourages people to help and teach you. Think give and take. Be upbeat and willing to get involved in anything and everything; it’ll show you’re a team player. Working on loads of different projects with different people means you’ll get to learn more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either. There are no stupid questions, just opportunities to learn. Stay eager and involved and you’ll also leave a positive lasting impression – something that could pay dividends once you start applying for jobs or asking for references.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to relax and mingle with your colleagues, where you can find out about the life of a lawyer on a more personal level. Be sure to keep yourself in check, though, especially when it comes to drinks evenings. Your social skills are considered very important and even as a trainee you’ll be expected to represent the firm at functions or with clients. So getting too merry is definitely not a good idea.
Your vacation scheme gives you the perfect opportunity to start building a network in the legal industry. Some of the people you’ll meet could help you when you’re searching for your first job after graduating. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can keep in touch or connect via social channels; the firm could see you as a future employee and want to follow your progress.
Keep a journal
You’ll have huge amounts to take in during your vacation scheme, so writing down your key learnings and experiences is a great way to make sure that you’ll remember the essentials. Reflect on what you’ve learnt by keeping a daily journal of your experiences. Include details of what you’ve done, key bits of advice you received and points of interest. Be sure to also make notes on your personal thoughts – that way, when you look back, you can remind yourself of what you really enjoyed doing and why. You can use these reflections when you come to apply and interview for jobs post-graduation, when it’s vital to talk about your personal experience of working in the law so far.
Ask yourself: Did I pick the right firm?
You won’t get a true idea of the firm and how they operate until you’re on your vacation scheme. Throughout your placement, ask yourself if you honestly like what they do and how they do it. It’s ok if the answer to either of these questions is ‘no’. Figuring out where you’d like to work and what you’d like to do is a process of elimination and it can take time to get it right. Note all of this down clearly in your journal so you’ve got a reminder of your observations.
The most important thing to do throughout your scheme is to embrace it and go with the flow. You’ve got a great opportunity to learn from the pros by getting stuck in and watching them work, so take any chance you can to get involved. Keep your eyes open and take in as much as you can… and enjoy it.
For more tips on making the most of legal work experience, visit this guide to vacation schemes.
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