The Vacation Scheme: how to make (good) waves and be a success.

So you’ve been offered a Vacation Scheme at a law firm, and you’re thinking ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ Well, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to tarnish your reputation. So here’s a selection of key things that you should and should not do during your time at the firm, to en-‘shore’ you make the best impact possible.

vacation scheme training contract top tips
I would like to apologise and take full responsibility for any bad vacation-related puns in this article. …Enjoy!

Life’s a beach…or is it? (take it seriously)

You’ve made it through countless assessments, interviews and tests, and you think that the Vacation Scheme is a time to relax and have fun. Wrong! (Well…do try to have fun). Do not get confused and think that the Vacation Scheme is the time to sit back and wait for the Training Contract offer to land on your desk. It’s not going to happen and in fact, this is where the work really begins.

You need to be on the (beach) ball, from day one. Don’t become complacent. Maintain the focussed attitude that you had during the assessment stages, because it is critical now more than ever. You’re being evaluated from the second you walk in the door, to the minute you leave on the final day. Even the people you least expect are developing an opinion of you, from receptionists to the IT department, and any other support staff within the business. Just because they aren’t a Partner, lawyer or in a legal role, doesn’t mean they are irrelevant to your application. Be polite, courteous and greet everyone that you meet, regardless of if you are introduced to them or not.

Leave the tan linen suit and floral shirt at the door (dress well)

I know this is common sense, but nonetheless, please nail the dress code. It is important that you get this right as it demonstrates to the law firm that you can understand and comply with the standards and expectations they set out for their staff.

Try to look like a solicitor and not a student in a suit/dress. [Rosie: if in doubt, be too smart.] Please forgive the Gok wan undertones, but this means buying something that fits well and doesn’t hang from you like a sack. Nor should it be so small it looks like you’ve just had a growth spurt on the train in. Keep your suit/dress relatively neutral. Feel free to use colour in accessories, but if you decide to, be tasteful (less is more).

If you’re struggling, asking for an opinion on outfit choices before you commence the Vacation Scheme is always a sensible idea.

vacation scheme training contract top tips

Come out of your shell (finding the confidence/arrogance balance)

It’s important that for the duration of your Vacation Scheme, you’re 100% yourself. After all, they did select you to be their Vacation Scheme attendee. It’s guaranteed to be nerve-wracking, and you may feel somewhat ‘on-edge,’ but don’t let that make you become too shy, or too loud.

You’ll want to find a happy medium, and 99% of the time, that will be you being yourself. To conquer the shyness, introduce yourself to as many people as possible, as soon as possible. You’ll be rewarded by having plenty of familiar faces to talk to for the remainder of your time at the firm. To conquer the nervous ‘loudness,’ take a few moments to think before you speak…it sounds somewhat scathing, but it’s true.

Be confident in yourself, you’re attending the firm for a reason. Rosie has already posted an article on the ‘pre-interview pep talk’  which I am sure you can use before the Vacation Scheme – it’s definitely worth a read regardless. Just remember that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and you don’t want to be remembered as ‘the cocky one who thought he/she was the best;’ it’s not an attractive look.

vacation scheme training contract top tips

Lay off the cocktails (know your limit during social events)

A social event is a key opportunity to properly get to know the lawyers at the firm. Everyone tends to let their hair down, and it’s a great chance to engage in some informal ‘chitchat’ without the undertone of it being an assessed interview (unless you mention that you support Brentford FC, or something of equal reputational damage).

I would highly recommend getting involved in whatever is being organised (or even better, organise something yourself!) However, tread carefully. You need to be conscious of the limits. By all means, go out with the current Trainees, or attend a networking drinks event, but be wary of your alcohol consumption…especially where food is not involved.

vacation scheme training contract top tips

[Rosie: Law firms have a habit of plying you with booze and only feeding you tiny little canapes. And those sneaky waiters will top up your wine glass while you’re not looking. So you need to be really really careful with how much you drink. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t drink at all. I honestly believe my tipsy karaoke performance at HSF’s Christmas do got me my Training Contract. Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne- in case you’re wondering].

Don’t make bad puns like this article does (be professional)

vacation scheme training contract top tips

Wit and an accompanying good sense of humour may very well put you in good stead during your Vacation Scheme. Making other people feel at ease in your presence is attractive to a legal employer, as it reflects your ability to form a relationship with clients. But be tasteful with the humour you use.

If you’re considering cracking a joke in the office and it sounds remotely weird, creepy or not in the slightest bit funny, keep shtum. Further, avoid anything politically, morally or socially degrading. It is better to say nothing than make a slightly inappropriate joke, regardless of how well it went down at the pub with your friends, or on last weeks’ episode of 8 Out Of 10 Cats. Law firms aren’t grey, emotionless deserts – solicitors do enjoy good humour when relevant – but just be certain before you make a quip that it will be met with the right response.


If you enjoyed this post, why not take a look at my meme-ingful article on handling rejecting?


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