London office of US firm launches unpaid vac scheme-lite for first year students

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By Judge John Hack on

Weil Gotshal & Manges cites an “increasingly competitive environment” in move to target ever-younger students, who will be working for free


For the eagerest of eager beaver wannabe lawyers, the London office of a white shoe law firm is promoting a vac scheme-lite involving a week’s placement at the practice during a student’s first year at university — but don’t expect to get paid for the privilege.

New York-based Weil (don’t pronounce it ‘Vile’ if you want to stand a chance of getting on this gig) Gotshal & Manges recently announced what it is describing as a “first year fast track scheme”.

The programme will take up to ten students for a week of experience starting this April. According to a statement from the London office, the scheme “has been designed as an introduction to the firm, giving students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the work and culture of Weil”.

That means sharing an office with an associate and, maintains the practice, taking “on real work similar to that of a trainee associate”. Legal Cheek assumes that is a bog standard trainee and that the “real work” will involve the odd bit of photocopying.

Those performing well on the programme (and see earlier point about pronunciation of Weil) will stand a good chance of being slotted onto the firm’s main 2016 fortnight vacation scheme, the first step on the road to the nirvana known as a training contract … sorry, recognised period of training. Currently, Weil vac-schemers are paid £400 per week.

But the vac scheme-lite week comes without remuneration. A firm spokesman said Weil will cover reasonable expenses, such as for travel, but there will be no pay for the job.

That translates to hard luck for any students from the provinces, with the new one-week scheme only being realistic for students based in London or the home counties, as a week’s worth of accommodation expenses are likely to fall outside the firm’s definition of reasonable.

The move highlights the increasingly early stage at which wannabe solicitors must get on the career track. In a worrying remark that suggests those toddling off on their bicycles to primary school will soon be targeted by City law firms, Weil’s London graduate recruitment partner, Jonathan Wood, commented:

“In an increasingly competitive environment, we are looking to engage with bright and focussed individuals at an earlier stage of their education.”

Wood continued:

“We hope that the introduction of this scheme will allow us to do just that, whilst giving students the opportunity to gain a valuable insight into life at an elite international law firm.”

Applications opened for the new Weil scheme on 15 January and will be accepted until19 February. The process consists of a form, a critical thinking test and an interview.

For more information about Weil Gotshal & Manges, including what the firm pays, visit our Top 60 Firms Most List.