CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve got through the long process and secured yourself a much-coveted vacation scheme, but how do you convert it to a training contract offer? I get this question a lot, and want to highlight a few key things that might help you in your couple of weeks at the law firm of your choice.
For a bit of background (and full disclosure), I applied to four vacation schemes in the second year of my law degree and was successful in two of my applications. I spent five weeks in total working back-to-back at both firms during the summer of my second year; one for three weeks, and one for two. I received training contract offers from both firms. I’ve already written a post on how to make a good impression in your pursuit of a vac scheme so this article will cover specific things during the work experience period.
Here are my top tips to help you secure an offer of a training contract:
- Be engaged and ask questions: it’s really important to show you are interested, intelligent and enthusiastic by asking questions during talks and learning opportunities. If you are given presentations (and believe me you will) make sure to have a question up your sleeve at the end. You’ll get so much more out of the experience and also show you are a confident and active participant.
- Organise coffees and meet-ups: if you are given a talk by a particular team make a note of their email and follow up after the session; if you are assigned a buddy, ask them to introduce you to someone in an area of interest; if you were interviewed or met anyone in the run-up to your vacation scheme then send them a message and see if they can meet with you.
- Get your work done and don’t be afraid to ask for more: completing assigned work is important; but it’s also good to be proactive and offer help on other projects, show interest generally and accept offers to show you systems, cases and ways the firm operates. If you aren’t given enough work then ask for more. If you’re given too much work, then ask which is the priority.
- Keep your line manager informed: you will have other commitments on the vacation scheme other than the work tasked by your manager and so it’s important and responsible to keep them updated – don’t assume they know where you should be and where you are at every hour of the day. This shows the firm that you are mature, well-mannered and accountable.
- Keep a log of work completed: this will help you in interviews going forward, be a record for your CV/LinkedIn/etc. and is great to reflect on at the end of your time at the firm.
- When being given work – take notes: don’t be afraid to take notes when being assigned tasks. Most of the work you will be given to do will be foreign to you, so there’s no shame in asking for clarification and taking thorough notes to refer to.
- Mingle with the other vac scheme participants: don’t be a lone wolf or think of the other vac schemers as your competition – that won’t help you enjoy your experience or cultivate a good atmosphere – especially when it comes to any group assessments. I also organised a last-night-of-the-vac-scheme social for both of mine and this allowed us all to let our hair down, relax and bond.
- Be visible, friendly and yourself: make sure to introduce yourself to everyone in your team on your first day, try and remember everyone’s names, be open and smiley, attend any socials (but don’t drink too much!) and I also recommend giving out some leaving treats on your last day. But also remember to be yourself during this period. The offer you get will be based on you being you rather than someone who doesn’t exist. You can’t keep up an act for long, and certainly not on your training contract.
- Be punctual, proactive and present: you’ll have lots of meetings and appointments – plenty of opportunities to be late – but don’t be. It’s really important to show up on time and be prepared. Bring a pen and paper too! This is your chance to show you will be a good potential employee and time management is a key aspect of that, so if you’re running late or are delayed then let people know asap – I was once held up on my way to work and sent a quick email to my manager to inform them.
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