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

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By Aishah Hussain on

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

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