What we learned from the Legal Cheek vac scheme open thread

The essentials to consider as application deadlines draw near

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Following on from giving their advice to students during Legal Cheek’s vac scheme open thread earlier this month, RPC trainees Sophie Tuson and Rebecca May analyse the key themes that wannabe lawyers need to keep in mind.

Application forms

With so many good candidates competing for a relatively small number of vacation schemes, getting past the paper application stage often seems to be the biggest hurdle for students. During the open thread we gave our top tips on how to make your application stand out from the crowd. If you’re copying and pasting generic answers that you’ve written to serve multiple application forms it’s unlikely that your application will be sufficiently focussed to get past this stage. Attempt to link all your answers to the firm that you’re applying to, having researched the firm so that you are aware of what is important to that specific firm and its key practice areas and clients.

Extracurricular experience

We received a number of questions from students about the importance of extracurricular activities in strengthening their applications. Students were particularly concerned whether they should be evidencing particular types of extracurricular activities and whether not doing so could disadvantage them. Our advice was clear on this point — it doesn’t matter what your non-academic interests are, it’s more about providing examples and explaining what transferable skills you’ve gained through your experiences.

Academics

A number of students wanted to know whether their application would still be considered if they had not achieved the required grades. While grades are important and RPC generally requires grades A* to B at GCSE and A-Level followed by a 2:1 at degree level, the mitigating circumstances box is there to be used. Therefore, if students have mitigating circumstances we would still encourage them to apply for the vacation scheme at RPC — their application will be reviewed as a whole.

Assessment centres

And the trick to success at assessment centres? Preparation is key! 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 and elaborating where necessary, brush up on your commercial awareness and make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before! On the day it’s important to stay calm and be yourself (you could even try a power pose or two!).

RPC summer scheme

Students were interested to know whether RPC’s vac scheme has more to offer than other firms’. Sophie applied for the vacation scheme having attended RPC’s open day and been impressed by the range of work and innovation RPC has to offer. Furthermore, RPC greatly invests in its summer scheme students and works to engage them in the business and brand whilst being very friendly — something which not all other firms seek to achieve at the summer scheme stage. RPC’s graduate recruitment team is currently screening applications but they will also be reviewing applications after the closing date.

Experiences we have had

Unsurprisingly students were also interested in learning what experiences we have both had since starting at RPC. We were asked whether trainees are encouraged to participate in business development and the answer is definitely yes — for example Sophie has been involved in preparing pitches and client presentations. Students were also interested to know whether trainees are frequently involved in international work and whether we work regularly with the Singapore and Hong Kong offices. Sophie will be spending her fourth seat in Singapore and there is also a regular secondment to Hong Kong. There is a lot of collaboration between the offices, and trainees will have further exposure to international work, for example by instructing lawyers in various different jurisdictions.

We were asked what made us choose RPC and what the atmosphere’s like. For Rebecca it was the culture and size of the firm that made it stand out. The open plan offices allow for integration and collaboration whilst being a mid-sized firm with a mid-sized trainee intake enables trainees to play an integral part in a deal rather than performing purely administrative tasks. When it comes to the atmosphere, we received an amusing response about the gases which RPC’s atmosphere consists of. Assuming that RPC’s atmosphere is the same as the rest of the Earth this answer would seem to be completely true, although perhaps not the answer to the question the author thought they were asking! Literals aside, Rebecca describes the atmosphere as one of “hard-working individuals who all bring their personalities to work.”

RPC in general

We were asked what RPC stands for — RPC is committed to innovation, providing high quality advice and valuing people as individuals and not just cogs in the corporate machine. We were later asked to expand on what we meant be innovation and Rebecca explained that RPC has expanded beyond only providing excellent legal services, for example by starting RPC Consulting who provide management consultancy advice and software solutions to insurers.

Our three top tips for securing a vacation scheme

1. Make sure that your application is sufficiently tailored to the firm that you’re applying for and that you’ve really considered why you’re applying to that firm and why you would like to work there.

2. When you get to the assessment centre stage make sure that you’re fully prepped and feeling as confident as you can be.

3. Don’t leave out extracurricular experience because you think it’s irrelevant. Even if, on the face of it, your experience doesn’t seem related to working in a law firm you will have undoubtedly learnt transferable skills so think about how you can link this into why you should secure a vacation scheme to strengthen your application.

Further reading

Open thread: How do I get a vac scheme? [Legal Cheek Careers]

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