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Wanting to convert a vac scheme to a training contract? Here’s what you need to know

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By Saad Khalil on

ULaw Moorgate, London Dean Aruna Verma discusses campus life, transferable skills and commercial awareness hot topics

Former solicitor Aruna Verma has been Campus Dean at The University of Law’s London Moorgate, London campus since April 2023. She tells me about the multiple clubs and societies that have been set up on campus. “The University encourages students to share their skills by taking the initiative of hosting events and building clubs and societies. This creates a sense of community at the campus and polishes the transferable skills of those students taking the initiative”, she explains.

Verma points out that these transferable skills can help one succeed in any career they go into, elaborating on this with an example. One of the most important transferable skills she gained from her time as a solicitor which helps her in her current career in legal education is public speaking. “Having the experience of being in a courtroom and arguing a case really helped me when I started teaching – I was often in front of large groups of students numbering over 100”, she details.

Verma shares that these skills can drastically increase the chances of students securing a coveted training contract. “Setting up a society takes initiative. Running it alongside full-time studies takes commitment and it demonstrates a student’s time-keeping skills which is very important for lawyers”, she says.

Using the example of setting up a football society, Verma explains that theses social groups do not need to have a business or legal context to build valuable skills. “It takes planning and teamwork to get the kits together. Getting permission from the University to use its logo requires the students to look at the regulatory infrastructure. These are competencies that they can demonstrate during their interviews,” notes Verma.

In terms of pro bono opportunities, she shares that the Moorgate campus hosts several projects that allow students to obtain valuable insights into different practice areas like family and employment law. “Students have shared their experiences with me about interviewing real clients, listening to the advising solicitor, making notes of the meeting and undertaking legal research”, she highlights, noting that the skills students are able to develop in these clinics are crucial building blocks of a legal career.

I went on to ask Verma about the advice she would give to students about transferrable skills they can demonstrate from non-legal roles to law firms. “What I’ve always done is I make notes of anything new I’ve done within my role. I can then use these as examples to demonstrate core competencies in either applications or interviews”, she suggests. Verma elaborates that in addition to her role as Dean, she also chairs a tribunal, which often confronts obstacles. “I constantly write down how I deal with these situations and what competencies I use — it’s an ongoing process and it means you demonstrate competencies in everything that you do,” she points out.

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Her advice to students who are preparing for interviews is to have a bank of experiences that they can turn to. “Remember to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method when you answer interview questions. Research the law firm that you are interviewing for and most importantly, know your CV so that you can instantly tell the interviewer about a particular experience when asked”, Verma advises. She goes on to highlight the importance of taking action after an interview. “This is your opportunity to leave a good impression. Always send a follow-up note thanking the panel members for their time. It shows that you have a holistic approach from start to finish.”

Touching on vacation schemes, I ask Verma about how students can convert these short placements into training contracts. “The whole process should be seen as a live interview. You should immerse yourself in every opportunity. The firm has worked hard to give you a good experience with its work. You should make the most of it and ask insightful and relevant questions”, she suggests. Verma urges students to also engage with the work, be proactive and make connections both with the people there as well as their fellow vacation scheme students. “Hopefully, you’ll be in a cohort together”, she points out.

On the topic of commercial awareness, Verma explains that the Moorgate campus offers different opportunities for developing this elusive skill through guest speaker sessions, networking events and mentoring sessions. These have the added long-term benefit of building up a professional network. “Students should think about how businesses and industries around the globe are being affected by current events. They should be critical while doing so, considering the benefits and drawbacks of these current events for the businesses”, she explains.

Commercial awareness is also an important component of learning at ULaw Moorgate. “All of our papers and materials teach students at the cutting edge of law and business. We try to get students opportunities for work shadowing and encourage students to bring topics they have read in the paper to class so that they can discuss it and share their views, which leads to fruitful discussions. We also hold commercial awareness competitions”, Verma details.

I then ask her about key commercial awareness topics for students to follow for 2024. “The law is constantly changing – in addition to that, business developments in one part of the world can affect another region quite significantly, so it’s always important to keep track of geopolitical implications”, she says. Verma also reassures students that AI will not replace lawyers but instead help them shine within law firms. “There is an opportunity in this generation for law firms and businesses to automate processes through AI and you need to jump at that opportunity. You can lead this innovation and bring changes to law firms in the way things have been done for years”, she encourages.

Verma also states that despite 2023 being a big year for AI, it will continue to get even bigger in impact and popularity in 2024. She characterises it as a snowball effect — the technology used in AI will continue to build upon its success with more resources dedicated to it, is Verma’s prediction.

Aruna Verma will be speaking at ‘Secrets to Success London — with Ashurst, CMS, Osborne Clarke, Willkie and ULaw’ an in-person event taking place on Tuesday 20 February. This event is fully booked, but secure your place at one of our upcoming events.

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