Open thread: How do I get a vac scheme?

Trainee solicitors advise

nowords1

Two City law trainees who know what it’s like to apply for vac schemes are on hand below the line from 1pm today to help wannabe lawyers.

King’s College London graduate Sophie Tuson and Cambridge graduate Rebecca May are both training at RPC having joined the firm in 2015.

Not sure about how to stand out from the crowd or what strategy to take? Or perhaps you just want to hear more about Sophie and Rebecca’s career journeys to date.

Join them in the comments section of this article from 1pm, where they will be taking questions until 2pm.

Find out more about RPC in Legal Cheek‘s profile of the firm here. RPC’s vac scheme application deadline is 31 January.

75 Comments

Anonymous

What extra curricular activities, part-time jobs etc. did you do while at university?

(6)(0)
Rebecca May

When I was at university I was a cox in my college boat club and on the boat club committee. In my first year I was also a choral scholar and played cello in an orchestra. In the summer holidays I worked in the Student Support department at a Further Education College.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

What would you say was the most challenging aspect in obtaining a vac scheme?

(1)(0)
Sophie Tuson

I found that the most challenging aspect in obtaining a vac scheme was getting past the initial round of paper applications as firms often receive hundreds of applications and it can be difficult making yours stand out from the crowd. My advice would be to make sure that all of your answers on your application form are focused and that you link your responses back to the firm at all times. For example if you are describing an experience that you have had, always explain what skills/knowledge you’ve developed and how this would benefit the firm bearing in mind the firm’s key practice areas and clients.

(8)(0)
Anonymous

What’s the best way to make your application stand out above the others?

(0)(0)
Rebecca May

Make sure your application is tailored to the firm you are applying to and that you’ve completed sufficient research beyond the firm website.

(1)(2)
Anonymous

What constitutes “sufficient” research, and where do you go to find out this extra info?

(0)(0)
Anonymous

If you can swap the name of the firm for another firm and it still makes sense, then the application is insufficiently tailored.

Beyond the firm’s website – Lex100, Legal500, Legalcheek, Roll on Friday, The Lawyer, etc.

(3)(1)
Anonymous

Vacation scheme applications generally ask about your non-academic interests. If your hobbies dont center around sports or music but you’re more into art or travelling, how can you make this relevant to your application or should you leave this out? thanks!

(2)(1)
Rebecca May

It doesn’t matter what your non-academic interests are and it’s more about providing examples and explaining what you’ve learnt from your experiences.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

How does one cease being a wannabe lawyer, and bag a top TC at a top firm?

(11)(0)
Anonymous

What is the best way to prepare for an assessment centre?

(2)(0)
Rebecca May

University careers services sometimes offer mock interviews or assessment day tasks so this is worth looking into to make you more familiar with the experience. Shortly before it’s advisable to review your application so that you’re confident talking about all aspects of it, brush up on commercial awareness and make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before!

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Could you please summarise your experience at RPC in 3 words?

(1)(0)
Sophie Tuson

My experience at RPC so far has been rewarding, challenging and a lot of fun!

(3)(3)
Anonymous

As a trainee solicitor I would have thought you would need to follow instructions.

(13)(0)
Anon

As a trainee at RPC are you encourgaed to participate in business development?

(0)(0)
Sophie Tuson

At RPC trainees are actively encouraged to get involved in business development. So far during my training contract I have been involved in preparing pitch documents to new clients, attending client seminars and networking drinks and putting together presentations and training slides for partners in the team. Some lucky trainees even managed to bag a spot at the firm’s annual insurance party! A great place to network.

(3)(0)
3149

Hello. You may have had this question many times, but are academics crucial in securing a training contract at RPC? My personal circumstances led to obtaining a 2.2 in my Law degree, but I do have mitigating circumstances to evidence this however. I am currently working as a Paralegal at the moment. I do not have strong A-Levels (BCC). My plans are to Paralegal for many years, undertake a part time LLM for academic interests, and then apply for a TC. Would graduate recruitment consider my application if I were to apply?

(0)(3)
Rebecca May

Whilst grades are important and RPC generally requires a 2:1 the mitigating circumstances box is there to be used, so if you do have mitigating circumstances include these and the application will be reviewed as a whole.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

is a year abroad beneficial to increase chances of getting a vacation scheme and standing out from others?

(0)(0)
Rebecca May

A year abroad in and of itself is not an advantage or a disadvantage. If you have had a year abroad make the most of it in your application and for example explain what transferable skills you learnt.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

What advice would you give for preparation for an interview for a vacation scheme?

(0)(0)
Anonymous

How would you recommend preparing for an interview/assessment day? What are your best tips for standing out at interview?

(1)(1)
Anonymous

Calmly but assertively threaten to burn down the interviewers’ houses if they don’t offer you the job. Makes you stand out very easily.

(15)(1)
Anonymous

Did either of you complete a vacation scheme at RPC? If so, how do you think it differs from what other firms may have to offer/what made you apply for it?

(2)(0)
Sophie Tuson

I applied for the RPC Summer Scheme after attending RPC’s open day – I was particularly interested in the firm’s mix of insurance and commercial work and I was impressed with the firm’s commitment to innovation. RPC’s Summer Scheme stood out head and shoulders above the other 2 vac schemes that I did due to the firm’s investment in its Summer Scheme students. The firm really worked to engage students in the firm as a business, its brand and to introduce students to as many different practice areas and partners from around the firm. The firm was also a lot friendlier than all of the other firms that I experienced and I knew that this would be an environment in which I could thrive!

(5)(1)
PJ

What drove you to pick RPC against other firms? Would you have been happy at any similar firm or would you have considered regional firms?

(1)(1)
Rebecca May

The main reasons I chose RPC was for the culture and size of the firm. Having open plan offices means that trainees have everyday interaction with the whole of the team from partners to support staff. Similarly being a mid-size firm with a mid-size trainee intake means that the firm is working on big and interesting deals and as a trainee you’re able to get involved in substantive work rather than just the administrative side.

I knew that I wanted to work in London after graduation so did not focus applications on regional firms.

(1)(2)
Alex Aldridge

Advance question submitted by email from a reader:

“I have an assessment centre coming ahead for a vacation scheme placement.

I don’t have much experience with these situations. I was wondering if either Sophie or Rebecca may be so kind as to help me with some useful tips & tricks on how best to manage:

The tasks given at the assessment centre (written tasks, group exercises, partner interviews); and
The day as a whole – as I know the entire day is a continuous assessment process. “

(1)(2)
Rebecca May

In relation to tasks I think that preparation is key. For interviews make sure you review your application and are confident to elaborate on points you have highlighted, brush up your commercial awareness and make sure you’re up to date with the legal press. Adopting a “power pose” before the interview to calm nerves can be advantageous for some candidates. University careers services often run mock assessment centre tasks so this is worth investigating in relation to written tasks and group exercises.

On the day it’s important to stay calm and be yourself. Also, make sure that you’re polite and friendly to all staff and other candidates.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

if you’ve averaged a 2:2 in your first year and got a 40 in one module but in rest of degree get a 2:1 overall will you still be disadvantaged?

(0)(2)
Sophie Tuson

The Graduate Recruitment team will still consider your application. When you apply we would encourage you to use the mitigating circumstances form to explain the lower results in your first year of university.

(0)(0)
Sophie Tuson

We stand for: 1) commitment to providing high quality commercial advice to clients; 2) valuing employees as individuals (we encourage everyone to bring their full selves to work!); and 3) innovation/trend setting in the market place – not being afraid to try new products, ways of working and to challenge ourselves to deliver the best service to our clients.

(5)(7)
Anonymous

If you were to answer a question based on an achievement you feel is significant, would you be inclined to talk about achieving a A-Level top grade when you were studying in your first year at university? Or would you steer away from this as it shows you did not get the grade you hoped for in the first place and thus, had to do it alongside degree?

(1)(3)
Anonymous

You mentioned the firm’s commitment to innovation in your answer. Please could you expand on this?

(2)(0)
Rebecca May

RPC has expanded beyond being “just” a law firm through, for example, RPC-consulting which offers management consultant advice and software solutions to insurers.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

When during the summer does RPC run its summer scheme? I can’t seem to find the exact dates on your website.

(0)(2)
Rebecca May

The dates for the two 2017 summer schemes are 19 – 30 June and 3 – 14 July.

(0)(3)
Anonymous

Are you frequently involved in international work/ Do you regularly work with RPC lawyers from the Singapore and Hong Kong offices?

(0)(0)
Sophie Tuson

RPC runs a rolling secondment to our Asia offices – I am spending my fourth seat working from our Singapore office with the Property & Casualty and Energy teams. Needless to say I’m incredibly excited! Trainees based in London also have exposure to international legal work as there is a lot of cross-referral and collaboration between the firm’s four offices. It’s not unusual to be sitting in on a conference call with partners from our Asia offices and be instructing local lawyers in many different jurisdictions.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

Do you recruit for the vacation scheme on a rolling basis or do you wait until the closing date to review applications?

(1)(0)
Sophie Tuson

The Graduate Recruitment team are screening applications at the moment but they will also be reviewing applications after the closing date.

(0)(1)
Anonymous

Could you explain how you screen applications? Will my application now be disadvantaged as it is later than others?

(0)(0)
Sophie Tuson

No do not worry, your application will not be disadvantaged as RPC screens all applications in the same way no matter when they are submitted before the closing date.

(0)(1)
Anonymous

Great, thank you. How many applications do you usually receive?

(1)(0)
Anonymous

Pretty sure they aren’t just locked away from other employee’s at RPC. Perhaps they have asked someone before? So cut the obnoxiousness behind your keyboard and stop thinking you are better than everyone else.

(4)(6)
Christianah Babajide

What are the qualities law firms are looking for in candidates? (Commercial awareness, academic ability, extra cirricular activities etc)

(1)(2)
Rebecca May

Law firms will take into consideration all of the qualities you’ve listed and will consider your application as a whole.

(0)(4)
Anonymous

Hi Rebecca,

Are there any qualities that RPC favours or hold highly when choosing candidates?

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Why are you asking these questions if you are an aspiring barrister?

(2)(1)
Anonymous

Are there many trainee events? How would you describe the atmosphere at the firm? (apart from friendly). Thanks!

(0)(0)
Anonymous

The atmosphere at RPC is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.93% argon and 0.038% carbon dioxide.

(31)(0)
Rebecca May

There are firm organised pre-joining events in the two years leading up to joining as a trainee where you get to meet other pre-joiners and the current trainees. Most other solely trainee events will be trainee organised, but there are plenty of these and trainees will be invited to vacation scheme socials, whole firm and department socials.

The atmosphere is one of hard-working individuals who all bring their personalities to work.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

I have a video interview for a vac scheme, but I’ve never done one before so am unsure on how to prepare. Do you have any tips?
Also – what have you found is the best way to ‘sell yourself’ in an interview, bar the cliche CV words such as ‘hardworking’ and ‘determined’?
Thanks in advance!

(1)(1)
Anonymous

Does your firm specify how many UCAS points you should have? If so, if you do not meet this and have no mitigating circumstances, will you still be considered?

(0)(0)
Sophie Tuson

RPC does not require a particular number of UCAS points. Instead we look for grades A* to B at GCSE and A Level. If you do not have these grades then the firm will still consider your application but it may also be worth submitting a mitigating circumstances form to explain the reason for your low grades. You should also make sure that the other sections of your application form are as strong as they can be to make up for the weaker grades.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Things you wish you’d known before starting your vac scheme?

Also any applications tips or advice?

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Would experience in management consulting be considered an advantage for an application?

(0)(1)
Rebecca May

It’s not an advantage or disadvantage by itself but could be used to highlight transferable skills and commercial experience.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

If you are applying to be a management consultant, then yes.

(1)(2)
Anonymous

Sophie – you studied history at university. How did you articulate, in applications, your motivation for wanting to pursue a career in law? I am currently studying drama at university and I aspire to work as a commercial solicitor.

(5)(0)
Sophie Tuson

I was able to gain legal work experience whilst at university and in the year following graduation which enabled me to demonstrate my motivation for wanting to pursue a career in law. I would suggest you use your university holidays to gain as much legal experience as you can – whether that be work shadowing or more formal work placements. This is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to a legal career over a number of years.

(2)(0)

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