Case study

Law vacation scheme — Tom Phillipson

Six months after graduating with BSc Economics from the University of Nottingham, Tom landed a two-week vacation scheme placement with a UK city law firm

What were you looking for in an internship?

I wanted to find out a bit more about the legal industry. Having studied economics, it's not necessarily a natural progression into law. I'd done some work experience previously and enjoyed it, but thought I should try and get some more up to date experience. Also, sometimes there's an offer of a law training contract at the end of the scheme, so that's another reason I was interested.

What attracted you to the company?

I'd undertaken work experience there a couple of years before, so that's what initially sparked my interest. It seemed like a good place to work, with partners, trainees and associates all sitting in an office together. So you're rubbing shoulders with senior, knowledgeable people from the outset. Also, the type of work they do appealed to me. They do a lot of corporate work, which is commercially focused, so as well as having expertise in law, they emphasise having an interest in business as well.

How did the vacation scheme work?

It was a two-week scheme, which is fairly typical for most law firms. The intern sits in one department for each week. I sat in the Commercial IP and Technology department for the first week and the Private Equity Transactions department for the second.

You're given set tasks by the associates and partners, usually research, so you send over your findings when you've finished. But we also had specific vacation scheme tasks - a dispute resolution workshop, a negotiation workshop and some fun social outings.

Because it was a selection process, we were assessed on a written task as well as our performance in workshops, and we were interviewed by one of the graduate recruitment partners - this was more of a debrief than a classic job interview. So we were being assessed during the process.

I was paid £450 per week. In my experience, the amount a company pays their interns reflects the sort of salary you could expect from a graduate role.

What was a typical day like?

It's difficult to say because it was quite varied. Sometimes I'd be in the office doing set tasks, but occasionally we'd be out all day and at other times we'd be listening to an explanation from someone from a different department about their work and the interesting cases they'd worked on.

The vacation scheme was only ten days in duration, but if I had to describe a typical day, it would probably be doing some set research in the morning, meeting up with your group to do a workshop, coming up with some ideas about how to go about that, and then continuing with your research task for the rest of the afternoon.

How did you find the transition from study to work?

Well, it wasn't my first experience of working in an office, but generally speaking, there's no curriculum to follow so you have to be more resourceful and a bit more proactive looking for things to keep yourself busy.

What did you enjoy about the vacation scheme?

It was good to learn about the industry and to do some interesting research. We had a lot of talks, so I learned plenty of new information. It was good fun as well; I think most companies make an effort to help interns socialise by putting on social and networking events.

What was the most challenging part?

The assessment aspect of the scheme - that's a key difference between studying and working during internships. At school or university, you've a very good idea of how to impress or get good marks, but with these assessments, it wasn't exactly clear what they were looking for - so having to tailor your work to perform well was challenging.

How did the experience benefit your career?

It's given me an experience that I can talk about in interviews with law firms, as well as transferable skills such as being proactive and performing well under pressure.

What advice would you give others who are planning a vacation scheme?

Note down what you do every day. It makes it a lot easier to remember what you did and learned about when you're preparing for interviews weeks or months down the line.

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