1. WHEN SHOULD YOU BE CONSIDERING WORK EXPERIENCE?
As soon as possible is the easy answer.
We recently had a 14-year-old in on work experience. She assisted both our trainees and myself with a number of tasks over her week with us. While I have seen (and supervised) a number of Vacation Scheme Students at my firm it was a first to enjoy the company of someone so young who was still very much undecided about her career choice (and rightly so). Despite her age, I think she got a lot out of the experience, however, unless you know someone who is a lawyer it is unlikely that many firms (particularly the large ones) will regularly allow young students in on work experience.
- It is always helpful to have work experience in law (and your other career options) before you commit to pursuing such a career.
- Work experience before making a subject choice for university is essential (although this may be harder to get)
- A summer scheme or further work experience is also highly recommended whilst studying your degree.
- Mentoring Schemes offered by schools and universities are another excellent opportunity to take advance if offered.
Many schools and universities have dedicated work experience schemes with established relationships which can be a useful starting point if you don’t have a personal contact to use.
2. I’M ALREADY WORKING – SHOULD I STILL BE CONSIDERING WORK EXPERIENCE / VAC SCHEMES?
One question the crops up continually from those who come to law a little later in life (or are still looking for a training contract post-LPC) – is whether if they are already working should they still apply for Vacation Schemes?
Many of the large firms recruit for their training contract directly from their vacation schemes. Therefore there is clearly an advantage to applying for and undertaking a vacation scheme if your dream firm runs one of these schemes. If they don’t you may still want to undertake a formal vacation scheme to get the experience and/or general work experience.
There is no doubt about the many advantages to vacation schemes – you get a trial run of the firm, get to showcase your skills, extended interview for a training contract and something else for your CV. However, it may also be that doing some additional work experience may not give you anything over and above what you are already doing in your job.
For some, the job they are in is a much more valuable experience (whether in law or otherwise) and it can’t be ignored that for some it is difficult to take time off (or you would prefer to use your precious holiday for an actual break).
Vacation schemes are aimed at university students which I know can put off candidates who have come to law later in life and therefore they have not applied for Vacation Schemes (I know when we had our last round of students came in they felt so young) but maybe this should be changing with the times – after all people are coming to the profession later. Easter/Winter Schemes tend to encourage more mature candidates.
It should be added that a vacation scheme is not a prerequisite to getting a training contract. Many firms will value your actual experience in your job more. In my opinion if you choose to do a vacation scheme do it for yourself (e.g. to learn more about the firm and to see if it is a good fit or to get a training contract at a firm that recruits almost exclusively through their vacation scheme) not just in the hope that it will pick your CV up a bit. Plenty of people get training contracts without doing any vacation schemes and some do many summer vacation placements and still have no luck with a training contract.
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