How to nail a vac scheme application form

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By The Careers Team on

Advice from a King & Wood Mallesons expert


As law students turn their focus to a festive period of application form-filling, Legal Cheek Careers caught up with King & Wood Mallesons‘ graduate and trainee engagement manager Caroline Sarson to get some expert advice on how to navigate the process.

How many firms should students be applying to for vacation schemes?

8-10 is the ideal number. Above that and the applications start to become generic. Go below, and you are reducing your chances too much.

How long should you spend on the form?

That depends on the candidate. What I will say is that the real graft is done at the research stage, which should have begun in October with students attending law fairs and firms’ on-campus presentations. Information obtained at this stage is very important. If you have done your research properly, completing the form should be fairly straightforward.

Is there hope for students who have not attended campus events?

Yes. But they have more work to do. The challenge is to find information about the firm to reference beyond that which appears on our website.

What if your A-level grades are below the minimum requirement?

The reality is that the vast majority of students accepted onto a vacation scheme have achieved our minimum A-level requirement of ABB. But we look at all applications and take mitigating circumstances into account.

What if your first year uni module grades aren’t great?

If you got a 2:2 overall in your first year, with no mitigating circumstances, you will find it harder to secure a vacation scheme as these are the only university results we have for you. The majority of our applicants have achieved the 2:1 benchmark in their first year and with the volume of applications we receive, we have to use academics as part of the screening process.

Do languages matter?

Speaking another language fluently is an advantage at a firm like ours, which is very international and has many offices across the globe. However, it is not essential by any means.

How should you approach the longer answer questions?

Most of these questions still demand fairly short responses, which is in some ways more of a challenge as they obviously require applicants to be detailed. Part of being a good commercial lawyer is being able to convey information in a succinct way. This is one of the main things we are testing here.

What are the most common mistakes?

Poor spelling or general sloppiness.

Is there an optimum time to submit the application form?

I’d say the first couple of weeks of January. Applications that come in during that time tend not to be rushed and are comfortably in advance of our 31 January deadline — so we know they have not been left to the last minute. Candidates should bear in mind that we start screening vacation scheme applicants and inviting them to interview after Christmas. The worst time to submit an application is 11:59pm on 31 January. It speaks volumes if you leave it so late.

Do you have any other tips?

We make a note of the names of students who have impressed us when we are out on campus and log these into our system. So when one of these students makes an application to us we are aware of the positive impression they have previously made. Applicants should always be looking to build on any contact they have had with a firm.

Eyes on the prize: the spectacular view from King & Wood Mallesons’ London roof terrace…

What a view from King & Wood Mallesons roof terrace!

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