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How to ace a winter vac scheme

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After navigating the tortuous application process…

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…you’ve made it onto a prized winter vac scheme. But now what?

Norton Rose Fulbright graduate recruitment head Caroline Lindner explains to Legal Cheek’s Alex Aldridge what students should do next…

It’s probably harder to get on a winter vac scheme than a summer one because fewer firms offer them. We had over 700 applications for 17 places this year. The calibre of students is very high. Accordingly, we expect to recruit a large proportion of them. If everyone does well, there’s no reason why we won’t offer them all training contracts.

Winter vac schemes tend to be quite mixed. There are GDL and LPC students, people who are doing gap years and people studying masters degrees and PhDs. It makes it interesting for us.

There’s a long gap between interviews for summer scheme places and the programme itself. In the time between interviews at the beginning of the year and the summer schemes taking place, students may have more opportunities to develop their interests and skill set. With winter schemes the application schedule is much more compressed. Application in October, interview in November, scheme in December. It means we know winter vacation students a bit better. The downside, with the scheme being shorter, is that the window to make an impact is smaller.

We sometimes get feedback from partners saying that vacation students are nervous to engage in conversation. No doubt it’s intimidating to share an office with a senior lawyer. But it’s important to try to overcome that. Law is a people business and during what is effectively a week-long interview, we’re looking for people who make an effort to talk to others and ask sensible questions.

It’s OK to wear the same suit every day. But remember that the smarter you look the more you enhance the image of the practice. And, of course, the way you are presented will create an impression on everyone you meet, which will include some of the firm’s senior figures.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are full steam ahead in large corporate law firms. It’s possibly more intense than in the summer. There’s a skill to navigating your way around busy people.

Having said that, December tends also to be a really vibrant and fun time. With Christmas parties coming up, vacation students have lots of opportunities to get involved in the social aspects of the practice. Needless to say, behave in a way you would like to be remembered.

Think carefully about your social media footprint. Selfies taken in the office, which are then shared on Twitter or Instagram, are not appropriate. It’s different at a social event held in your own time, but use your judgement. They key thing to remember is that during a vac scheme you are an employee of the practice and should behave accordingly.

Leaving mid-way through a piece of work because the clock has struck 5:30 may irk the lawyers you’re working with. At such times ask yourself whether failing to complete whatever you’re working on could impact colleagues and clients. In doing so, avoid a “9:30 to 5:30” attitude, be responsible and keep people informed. And if you get the opportunity to be involved in something extra-curricular, why not do it? Vac schemes only last for a week or two, so it makes sense to really go for it.

As the statistics mentioned above indicate, we’ve chosen you because we have seen something in you which we really like. Draw confidence from that. Now show us what a great asset you can be to the practice.


Images via Legal Cheek, Twitter and Giphy.

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