Those in the know tell us what students can do to stand out
With another round of summer vacation schemes upon us, we thought to ask graduate recruitment partners at top law firms in London for advice on how students can stand out during their two-week work experience placements and ensure they secure a training contract offer.
They are the most senior lawyer involved in graduate recruitment at their respective firms, and keep a close eye on future lawyers’ development from student to trainee. Read on to find out their tips…
Damien Gomez, restructuring and insolvency partner at Linklaters:
“There are numerous opportunities for candidates to stand out over the course of their vacation scheme. It is always helpful to get a sense of someone’s motivation. It’s great when we are able to identify candidates whose outlook fits in with our culture and values, and to see in action the traits that will likely set them up for success at our firm. I’d say: apply yourself to, and invest in, each and every task you are set and use the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the firm and law as a career.”
Cyrus Pocha, financial services regulatory partner at Freshfields:
“A summer vacation scheme is a fantastic opportunity to test whether a career as a commercial lawyer is the right one for you and also whether the firm is the right place for you. Make sure that you test both of those things during your scheme. The best way to do that is by really committing to the experience and by talking to as many people as you can. It also means you have to be yourself. Perhaps above everything else, be kind to your fellow vac schemers. Revel in their and your successes and help those who may be struggling.”
Charlotte Madden, corporate partner at Clifford Chance:
“To make the most of this opportunity, it’s important that you get to know the business you’re about to enter. Explore valuable resources like our suite of global virtual internships and arrive with questions that show you have really thought about the important role trainee lawyers play in large transactions.
“It’s a good idea to think about the skills lawyers use on a regular basis too and how you might demonstrate that you understand and possess the same skillset. Most importantly, be prepared to act out of your comfort zone and grab every opportunity to engage with the firm.”
Hannah Manning, tax partner at Travers Smith:
“What we look for is candidates who understand our business and culture based on their own research, show a genuine interest in what we do, and have the raw intelligence and EQ [emotional intelligence] to hold their own in the firm as a trainee and beyond. Beyond that, we have no fixed template for what makes an ideal Travers Smith trainee, and what we hope that candidates see on the scheme is that there is plenty of scope for them to bring their own personality, background and style to the job.”
Nick Wong, global loans partner at Ashurst:
“Speaking up and asking questions is key. It shows us that you’re engaged and curious. You’ll likely find opportunities to attend both in-person and virtual meetings as well as training sessions: it’s important to participate.
“Be ready to say ‘yes’! A vacation scheme is a unique opportunity to get real, on-the-ground insight into life as a lawyer, so try not to shy away from the experiences that come your way, no matter how scary they might seem. Whether it’s a team-building social or a client event, say ‘yes’ whenever you can. You won’t learn everything you need to know about the job from behind your desk — the informal interactions are just as important and it’s crucial to have fun during your placement too.
“Finally, remember it’s not all about the law — firms also want to know you as a person. Whilst it’s always impressive to discuss the day’s top news stories and how it might impact what you’re working on, we also want to hear about you and what else interests you, whether it’s sport, books, travelling or something else.”
Greg Norman, investment management partner at Skadden:
“In my view, the vacation scheme is a two-way street — it is a chance for us to get to know our candidates better and it is a chance for the candidates to get to know us. In my experience the candidates that embrace that opportunity and try to learn as much as possible by interacting with people in the firm, at all levels, typically do very well in the assessments because they feel more at home. And I like to think the candidates benefit from gaining some, albeit limited, experience of what life at Skadden is like.”
Christopher Hutton, global regulatory partner at Hogan Lovells:
“Enjoy it! The purpose of the scheme is for you to get to know us, and for us to get to know you — the real you, so be yourself, and enjoy the scheme! Next, make the most of it — it’s a great opportunity for you to meet market leaders in a broad range of practice areas so identify those you are interested in, come up with a list of questions, reach out to the people you would like to speak to and let them know what you would like to talk about, and start to have those valuable conversations.”