Slaughters, Bakers, Bird & Bird, Skadden and Debevoise move to virtual vacation schemes

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New online offerings to mirror in-office experience but will be shorter than originally planned

A further five law firms have moved to virtual summer vacation schemes in view of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Slaughter and May, Baker McKenzie, Bird & Bird, Skadden and Debevoise & Plimpton were all due to run student work experience programmes in June and July 2020 but have made alternative arrangements to deliver them remotely.

Slaughters has followed fellow magic circle firms Clifford Chance and Freshfields, and confirmed its three summer work experience schemes, due to take place at its City headquarters, will now take place virtually in light of the current set of circumstances. The schemes will last one week each, instead of the usual three weeks, and participants will be remunerated £450 for the week.

The schemes will include daily live sessions with various members of the firm, plus the opportunity to connect with its lawyers and other scheme participants, as per an email seen by Legal Cheek. It is unclear how the firm will assess participants for training contracts at this stage.

The firm had previously postponed its week-long Easter work experience scheme. A spokesperson told us that those students affected have been offered a place on one of the three virtual summer schemes.

Bakers announced it will continue with its two summer vacation schemes, due to be held in London, in a virtual format. The schemes will be completed over the course of two weeks instead of the usual three weeks and no changes will be made to the weekly salary that participants will receive.

A spokesperson for the firm said that the schemes will run “a similar timetable of talks and networking sessions as already planned”. Students will be allocated two supervisors, a buddy, and a HR contact during the programme, and spend time in two practice areas, as originally planned. There will be opportunities for the students to get involved in group tasks, such as a mock client pitch, practice and industry group meetings, and virtual socials and wellbeing sessions, as well as the firm’s inclusion and diversity activities.

Would-be interns affected by the firm’s decision to postpone its spring vacation scheme earlier this year have been offered the opportunity to join one of the two summer schemes, the spokesperson added.

David Scott, graduate recruitment partner at Baker McKenzie, welcomed the virtual experience. “This is extremely important to all of us, as these students are our talent of the future, and as a firm we take a long-term view on these types of things. We will do our very best to ensure the students have a full and enjoyable programme and, most importantly, a very worthwhile experience. We’re looking forward to welcoming each one of them this summer.”

Virtual student event: What COVID-19 means for future lawyers — with Pinsent Masons, Willkie Farr, the SRA and ULaw on Tuesday 12 May

Bird & Bird confirmed it will continue to run its London summer vacation scheme, albeit online. The international firm said its two-week in-office experience will now be offered as a one-week virtual experience. Participants will be paid £376.25 to reflect the change in duration and format of the scheme.

The virtual version will involve practical skills sessions, insight presentations and interactive Q&A sessions, as per an email seen by this website. There will also be the opportunity to speak to and network with partners, associates, trainees and the graduate team, and participate in a virtual social event.

Bird & Bird’s virtual offering will still form part of its recruitment process for a training contract, the email continues, and individual interviews will be held throughout the week. Participants will be required to complete a “task” during the scheme, and these two aspects will form the assessment for a training contract at the firm.

Skadden confirmed its London summer vacation schemes will proceed this year on schedule, remotely. The US outfit will host four virtual vacation schemes, each lasting for one week (instead of the usual two weeks).

David Herlihy, graduate recruitment partner at Skadden, said:

“Our teams have worked creatively to ensure that the schemes will continue to provide a meaningful opportunity for candidates to learn more about our firm, people, culture and work. We are committed to keeping our talent pipeline strong.”

Fellow US firm Debevoise also confirmed to Legal Cheek that its London summer vacation scheme will now consist of four, one-week (instead of the usual two weeks) virtual schemes to run in consecutive months starting from May. The virtual scheme will mirror its in-office scheme but will introduce some new elements.

Participants in the scheme will include most students from its postponed spring schemes, as well as its original summer vacation scheme candidates. They will be remunerated the original amount that was communicated to them.

Debevoise hires most of its trainees from its vacation schemes which it intends to continue to do so this year. Despite the new format, the firm’s selection process remains the same and successful candidates will be offered a training contract to commence in 2022, a spokesperson from the firm said.

Patrick Taylor, partner and training principal at Debevoise, commented:

“Our vacation schemes are an essential opportunity to get to know the top students looking for training contracts each year, and for them to get to know us. It became obvious in March that the current circumstances were going to make it difficult for many of our participants, and so we have worked hard to put in place what we feel is a great alternative to the traditional in-person scheme. It means the students will have an opportunity to experience our unique culture first-hand, while showing off their capabilities to us. We are confident it will be a success, and look forward to starting work with the students.”

Virtual student event: What COVID-19 means for future lawyers — with Pinsent Masons, Willkie Farr, the SRA and ULaw on Tuesday 12 May



I wonder if the failure to honour the total sum of pay promised is evidence of the firm’s worrying for their future financial position?

At least Slaughters offered to pay any ‘already agreed upon’ accommodation or travel costs.


-4 PQE, Swindon

Firms like that should cough up the money. Embarrassing not to and doesn’t leave a good impression with the future partners that they are trying to recruit.



Probably not, more likely to be because pay for these schemes is usually expressed as per week.


Disgruntled Applicant

Oh to have even been offered an online vac scheme….


Reality check

I would still apply / participate if your scheme was moved to online. Even if you do not get the TC, a vac scheme still shows that you were selected by the firm from a large pool of applicants.

Definitely better than Indisherpa’s online experiences / internships which are available to anyone. The idea is great (the stranded law students get at least some sort of a law firm exposure and firms get good PR) but they are completely useless now. When every single law student lists 5 of such schemes on their linkedin, they give the students no advantage whatsoever to getting that TC. If there are many of them on CV, they can even diminish importance of other more valuable experiences (it would be easy to skip through them when they are hidden between 5 online internships).



Well said.

For those who secured vac schemes for this Easter or summer that were moved online or even cancelled… it’s still worth having it on a CV because out of all those candidates that applied – you were chosen.


LLB student

Anybody know what’s the latest on SPB’s London summer vac scheme? Haven’t heard anything from HR.



Even the summer vac Schumer’s in the regional offices haven’t heard anything so I think it’s just a delay on behalf of the firm



Run as fast as your feet can carry you, don’t come near that shyte firm. Awful awful shop.



DLA Piper have moved their 3 week vac scheme to a 1 week online scheme and have in office visits later in the year once (or if) it is safe. They are also paying £400 for the one week online vac scheme.

I think they have found the best happy medium between having a virtual vac scheme because of the situation we are under, but also having some form of in office experience to allow candidates to get a feel of the office and the culture of the firm.

They are yet to reveal how they will be selecting for the TC but I hope they will be reasonable and fair.



I think there is a real danger when it comes to online schemes. If an associate asks a vac schemer how determined she is and what she is willing to do to prove how much she wants a TC, then the vac schemer could take that as a prompt to lift her shirt. Is that really the kind of behaviour we want to be encouraging?



with respect, if I was offered a TC in exchange for doing victory lap of the office (no questions asked) au naturelle, then by Jove would it be done.



Firms should be most generous in handing out TCs to third years and graduates who are more in need of them and then have the remaining vac scheme candidates enrolled into the next available vac scheme date. It’s the most fair way in my opinion.

1st year students (for firms which have 1st year student vac schemes) and 2nd years are not so much of a priority in this if I’m being totally honest.

And this is coming from a trainee!



In my opinion, I think that firms should offer as many TCs as they are able to, but prioritise final year university students and graduates because they are more in need of a job than the other candidates still in education.

Those remaining students that are not offered a TC, which should be penultimate or previous year students (considering some firms offer 1st year students vac schemes), should be enrolled into the next available Vac Scheme date so they will have their opportunity when it comes.

Given the declining legal job market, particularly during this time, I think it is only fair to offer TCs to those leaving university and already graduated and seeking a job


Anon Ymous

Or just offer the job to the best candidate for the position. No one is entitled to a TC just because they graduated from university with a law degree.



Disgruntled 2nd year much



You’ve clearly missed the point. Aaron isn’t saying to simply hand out TCs automatically to all final year and graduate vac schemers, but to prioritise them and give TCs to the most promising final year/grad schemers. Obviously the ones left over could be put into the next available vac scheme with the candidates who are still in education. But it makes sense to prioritise those most immediately in need of jobs


Anon Ymous

Don’t think I’ve missed the point. He’s saying that the fact a person is closer to graduation (and therefore is more in need of a job) should influence an employer’s decision to hire them. I disagree because I think a job should go to the best candidate, regardless of how much any particular candidate needs that job.



It will be interesting to see if those seeking TCs will just accept whatever TC they can get or if they will be more picky given the decline in legal jobs and TCs being delayed.

I’ve heard from friends and fellow law students in my university cohort who have applied to many firms, that are now willing to accept the first TC offer they are given as they are worried about it becoming increasingly harder to get a TC.

A couple of them who intended to get a TC with a city firm in London have accepted regional firm TCs out of fear of there being even less TCs on offer for everyone



I’m a GDL student who has no vac schemes (I haven’t applied to any). Is it better if I apply for Direct Training Contracts this summer or to wait for the next round of Vac Schemes to open and apply then? The firms I’m targeting at the moment are Latham, Debevoise and Skadden.



in my honest opinion, I think you should apply directly for training contracts for the firms you’re most interested in, as long as you have had a decent amount of interaction with those firms beforehand and researched them. And then I would also make vacation scheme applications to back up firms.

Basically, I would do both considering how much more competitive and harder it is going to become to get a TC in this economy



The best advice I can give you from my experience is – don’t put your eggs all in one basket. You hear stories about students who apply to 1 firm or very few firms and either end up getting TC offers from all of them or at least one of the ones they wanted, but in reality that doesn’t always happen for most people and you have to keep your options wide open. All the vac schemes I have done are with firms that were ‘back ups’ or ones I randomly applied to.



If you’re going to take the vacation scheme route, make sure it is with a firm that has a high percentage rate of giving out TCs to those in the vac scheme.

I’ve heard horror stories about students who took the vacation scheme route with firms like Travers Smith, Macfarlanes, Sidley Austin etc who have a small trainee intake but don’t always prioritise those in the vacation schemes. Put simply, they would’ve been better off applying directly than waiting until summer to do 2 weeks of experience to not be offered a job in the end


Future Trainee at one of those firms

The firms you have listed take an extremely small proportion of trainees from direct TC applications, if any.

Apply for vac schemes next cycle if those are the firms you want.



Rule of thumb is that if you don’t have a VS under your belt, you can’t apply for a TC.

Yeah, some smaller and regional firms may be more relaxed, but major firms like the ones you’re mentioning won’t be impressed by the lack of a VS.



Cool story brah



Skadden v rarely hires anyone for a TC without them having completed a vac scheme… unless you’re a Cambridge grad and have connections with partners who went to Cambridge too… Pretty sure the other firms you mentioned are the same.


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