7 ways that being a law firm campus manager helps you to bag a vac scheme

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By The Careers Team on

Herbert Smith Freehills’ outgoing campus managers told us how the role contributed to them securing spring and summer placements


1. The campus manager role is great application form practice for first years

The application process for campus managers — which closes this Thursday for Herbert Smith Freehills — is essentially the same as for vac schemes. The big difference is that roles are targeted at first years.

abi“The campus manager position is a way for first years to get ahead and gain an advantage,” says Abigail Willett (pictured left), who currently holds the role at Oxford University.

Like Willett, Herbert Smith Freehills‘ Queens University Belfast campus manager Shannon Jones (pictured below) secured the position this time last year while in her first year, before taking up the role — which pays £600 for the year — in her second year.

“The application is tough, but really good practice. And there is the added bonus that if you pass the online tests then you are exempted from the same test on your vacation scheme application if you complete it within a year,” she says.

Both have used their campus manager applications for the basis of successful vacation scheme applications over the last few months.

2. The interview is invaluable experience

Prospective campus managers who are successful with their written applications are typically invited to an interview at the headquarters of the law firm which they are seeking to represent.

The Herbert Smith Freehills interview, reports Willett, was “very thorough”.

“It involved a fairly long interview with a partner, with lots of questions about commercial awareness. I also had to make a presentation about what you will do as a campus manager,” she says.

Earlier this year Willett returned to the firm to do a vacation scheme assessment centre, which comprises a competency interview, a case study interview and a group exercise.

“Having already been through a similar process, I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t intimidated at all,” she recalls.

3. The feedback you get if you don’t land the position sets you up nicely

Don’t worry if you bungle the campus manager application or interview, urge previous occupants of the role, nobody will hold it against you.

“Apply! It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it. I know people who didn’t get the campus manager position but did get first year workshop and open day places. It is so competitive,” says Jones.


She adds that candidates for the campus manager positions who were unsuccessful at the interview stage receive feedback that can be invaluable for vac scheme applications in the years ahead.

4. If you get the job it’s application form gold

Law firms are very keen on positions of responsibility — and campus managers get lots.

Probably the biggest thing, agree Willett and Jones, was helping to organise the firm presentation and networking event that Herbert Smith Freehills runs at the beginning of each academic year at various universities.

Campus managers also played a big part in the firm’s spring campaign which this year was a “pop-up popcorn stand”.

This sort of events and marketing experience, says Herbert Smith Freehills graduate recruitment adviser Clare Feaver, is “a great way for academically gifted students to demonstrate on applications forms and at interview that they have a broad skill set that would translate well into the commercial world”.

5. Being a campus manager demystifies corporate law

“Dealing with law firms is much less scary when you know their graduate recruiters by name and have met partners and trainees,” says Willett.

Plus, the multiple visits campus managers make to firms’ often intimidating glass and steel offices — first for the initial interview, then for a training day during the summer and later for vac scheme interviews — mean that the environment itself loses what Jones terms its “fear factor”.

There is also the benefit which campus managers get of being able to liaise with their peers at other universities during their training.

“It gives you a different perspective sometimes to see the campus managers at other universities and how they are approaching things. It’s also just nice to meet other people in your position in other parts of the country,” adds Jones.

6. The role does wonders for your commercial awareness

Over the course of the year, Willett has built up Herbert Smith Freehills’ Oxford University Facebook page. As part of the process, she posts regular updates about the firm appearing in the news.


Tracking developments in this way has been a big help for her commercial awareness.

“Having a year’s worth of interest in the firm meant that, when it came to applying for a vac scheme, I didn’t have to cram. I already knew what they were about and what differentiates them from other firms,” she says.

7. Be warned, it’s a busy year

The days of louche undergraduates swanning into training contracts are long gone. But even so, being a campus manager is a step up from your typical hard-working second year law undergraduate experience.

“Alongside degree and extracurriculars — I’m power lifting captain and play a lot of netball — I have had to be quite strict managing my time,” says Willett.

Jones has had a similar experience, noting that “even with lots of support from the firm you have to be very switched on”.

Applications to become a Herbert Smith Freehills campus manager close on Thursday. The roles, which commence in the new academic year, are open to first year law students at the following universities: Bath, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Nottingham, Cambridge, Oxford, Cardiff, Queen Mary, Durham, QUB, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Exeter, SOAS, Kent, Southampton, KCL, TCD, Leeds, UCL, Lancaster, UEA, LSE and Warwick.

You can apply here.