Wannabe lawyers take note
As this year’s round of summer vac schemes gets under way, insiders took to Reddit to share their collective wisdom on the subject. Legal Cheek has distilled the discussion into eight top tips to help students make the most of their vac schemes and bag that TC!
1. Don’t stop taking notes
Although a famous cliché, it’s really important to get all the information you might need when being briefed or attending a talk. One Reddit contributor, who goes by the name of ‘chavvy partner’, warns against vac schemers who are “selective about what they write and when, as if they have any idea what’s important”.
The end result is: “I’m now trying to take notes myself while also leading the meeting and it’s making me edgy because something is going to be missed, plus you will definitely cock up the task or annoy my associate with questions after we finish this conversation”. Firms don’t issue their branded pens and notebooks to vac schemers for nothing.
2. Don’t forget this is a job interview
Law firms famously pepper their vac schemers with lots of little treats including drinks and networking events with members of the firm. Although this is a more relaxed part of the vac scheme, don’t forget that this is still part of the interview. “Remember that the trainees are always watching and they will report back on you. Don’t completely let your guard down around them, although you can be more colloquial with them than partners of course”, one cautions.
Another advises, “now isn’t the time to get super shitfaced or worse, try to add me to your selfie-led Instagram profile”. They recommend alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and getting a cab immediately if “you start feeling like you want to blurt out deeply personal stories, or like you want to kiss or punch someone”. Avoid drama at all costs! Teetotallers are also well-advised not to be too pious: “now probs isn’t the time to let all the old booze hounds know about their unhealthy lifestyle”.
3. Don’t write an overly ambitious law essay for research tasks
If given a research task, one insider explains, provide “all the sources in a helpful format and be ready to talk about them, answer the actual question in a summary, and highlight points that are ambiguous”. This is not the time for you to emulate Lord Denning’s legal reasoning. Make sure your writing is succinct and well-referenced with good spelling and grammar. If you don’t, expect this reaction: “no Hugo, I’m not going to take your two para unreferenced email as a definitive answer to this tricky point of law, but thanks for sending it to me at 1730 and then leaving so that I’ll be doing the research myself again this evening”.
4. Don’t ask associates or partners questions about how many hours they work
This is a question that, deep-down, you probably already know the answer to and is likely “make it sound like you are bored of working here before you even started”, one poster writes. “Just be honest with yourself and if you want genuine work life balance, probably don’t be [a] City lawyer, it’s okay to not want your job to be a big part of your life, but it’s not very realistic for most lawyers in international firms, the job involves endlessly responding to other people’s emergencies”. Besides, The Legal Cheek Firms Most List have you covered if you really want to know!
5. Don’t ask weird personal questions in an attempt to build rapport
Whilst the firm will do everything they can to make you feel welcome, don’t get carried away. Reddit contributors agree that “really open questions about ‘my journey as a lawyer’” or worse, offering your supervisors tips on their draft of a document is not going to win you any friends.
After some apparently “creepy” interactions, one apparently experienced supervisor recommends vac schemers “join in conversation like you would in any other scenario where you don’t know people yet, cautiously and with the level of deference you might offer to the parents of your most attractive date that you don’t want to mess up with”. A useful dictum to stick to is “be nice to all our support staff, and have normal human conversations at appropriate times”.
6. Don’t brag about your uni or grades
This is only likely to irritate your fellow vac schemers and distract you from what really matters: doing any work assigned to you on the scheme really well. “Do good work!”, reiterates one insider, adding, “if the research report you gave to me was crap you’re not getting the job”. “You would be amazed at how frequently I’ve been given absolute crap by students who have apparently fancy CVs”, confesses another contributor. Besides, once you’re at the vac scheme, the chances are that everyone has pretty good grades anyway. There’s no need to “act like you are in the hunger games”.
7. Don’t ignore the value of doing some boring tasks well
Although it may not be the exciting work experience in the world, supervisors will always appreciate vac schemers who make their lives a little bit less stressful. “Help with things like marketing research or admin that I can’t charge for”, suggests one spy. “I know it’s boring but you’ll have actually helped make my week easier, which I’m likely to remember fondly”.
8. Don’t overstay your welcome
Stories are often passed around about how putting in long hours on your vac scheme are the key to getting a TC. But, generally, if your supervisor tells you to go home, just go home. Normally, “it’s code for I would like my office back to myself now and also I actually want you to enjoy your evening”. Asking intelligent questions when you are unsure about something and not over-promising on work that you know you will struggle with is good way of avoiding staying late and frustrating your supervisor.
Do you have any vac scheme don’ts? Let us know in the comments below!