As vacation schemes and summer internships are quickly coming around, some of you may be wondering how you can show the best version of yourself and impress the firms. In this article, Blaise Nsenguwera, Adam Leigh and Leen Kayali provide some things you can do to stand out and some things you should try to avoid based on their experiences at top international law firms. While the upcoming vacation schemes will be different due to their virtual nature, there are certain principles from ordinary vacation schemes which may still apply. Also, stay tuned for future articles that will provide you with advice specifically on virtual schemes and remote work.
One of the most important things is to be yourself throughout the entire process. One of the main aims of vacation schemes is for the firm to get to know you and what makes you a good fit for them. This means that if you fake a certain personality, it will be hard to truly express your unique talent and skills. Also, it is important to remember that the vacation scheme is also about finding out if the firm is the perfect fit for you. This means that if you are not genuine, you will be unable to identify whether the firm’s values align with yours and whether the firm accepts you for who you are.
Furthermore, I have noticed that candidates who are not genuine from the beginning often lack the energy to maintain the false persona which negatively impacts the quality of the work they produce. For instance, if you are already busy with a tight deadline and get offered more work, it is perfectly okay to say that you are busy. If you truly believe that you can handle the work, then by all means take it on. But, it is about staying true to yourself and not overwhelming yourself to the point where it negatively affects you or your work. Also, when you are unable to complete certain work, you must communicate this honestly to the person who gave you the work and ask if there is any flexibility on the deadline. Having these conversations is a big part of being yourself and should not be underestimated. Although it may be harder to showcase your personality and authenticity through virtual communication, you can still do this by being genuine in your actions, conversations and interests.
Firms want to see that you are not only interested in the work they do, but also in the people at the firm. Therefore, taking your time (can also be outside your working schedule) to get to know the team you are sitting in is very important. Remember, the lawyers want to make sure that they can work long hours with you and form a friendship. In order to do this, you must actively get in touch with different members of the team to introduce yourself and get to know more about their journey. Simultaneously, you can share your own journey with them in order to form a more personal relationship. However, when you are unable to get in touch with someone due to delayed replies or unavailability, it is important to not take it personal. This is because you must respect that lawyers are very busy people. Although this idea of messaging and knocking on the door of partners and other lawyers might be scary, you have to remember that they are ordinary people who also want the opportunity to get to know you.
Network Beyond your Team
Whilst reaching out to other people in your team is really important, also feel free to reach out to people in other teams via internal messaging systems. When you start your vacation scheme, emails will be sent throughout the firm so that everyone knows there are vacation schemers in the building! In my vacation scheme, a personal profile with a short ‘bio’ of ourselves was sent around. This is hugely beneficial as it means you can reach out to someone who is in a completely different department and it’s likely that they’ll take the time to chat with you and even set you some work. For example, if you’re placed in an Asset finance banking team but you’re passionate about white collar crime, then absolutely reach out to that team and ask to chat to someone there or even ask for some work. Not only does it mean you’ll get a well rounded exposure of the firm, it also shows the graduate recruitment team that you’re keen and eager to learn new things.
Be punctual! This of course goes without saying but it’s so important on vacation schemes. Although being punctual may not get you ‘brownie points’, being late and disorganised certainly loses you them. It’s important to remember that even though you’re assessing whether you think you’ll fit in at the firm, they are also assessing you. Make sure you have your supervisor or the graduate recruitment teams contact details so that you can inform them if you’re going to be late!
Be Prepared and Stay Organised
It is essential to have a notepad with you to take notes throughout the vacation scheme. Make sure you indicate the date, the names of the people you are working with and the tasks you are completing on each day. This will be very useful when reviewing your notes before your interview. Additionally, make sure you complete your work based on your supervisor’s instructions. It is completely normal if you don’t understand a certain task, just make sure you ask questions to know what you are expected to do. After completing a certain task, ask for feedback and be open to constructive criticism. It is important to show the firm that you are a keen learner and can learn from your mistakes. After all, the whole point of the training contract is for you to get the training you need to become the lawyer you aspire to be. By showing the firm that you care about your work and your development, you demonstrate the kind of trainee lawyer you will be if they recruit you.
Conduct Yourself Unprofessionally
One thing which often hinders candidates’ chances is their behaviour at social events organised by the firm. Although this may not be as much of an issue in virtual vacation schemes, it can still be relevant. Some candidates often think that because they are no longer in the working environment, they can act in a way that is not professional. This is wrong. Even though the aim of the social events is to get to know your fellow vacation schemers and firm representatives in a relaxed environment, you should remember to remain professional. I have seen and heard of candidates who became too relaxed and took the fun too far. This diminishes their professionalism and tells the firm that they cannot have fun in a respectable manner. More specific things to avoid at social events include excessive drinking, inappropriate jokes and hindering another candidate’s involvement.
Don’t work yourself to death. You are there to impress the firm but sometimes this can be taken too far. If you’re told to be in for 9am, there is no need to arrive an hour early – just get there for a couple of minutes before 9am. One of the most important things on a vacation scheme is to enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy yourself then what’s the point in being there? So just enjoy yourself and work to the best of your ability without pushing yourself too hard!
Don’t compare yourself to other people on your scheme. The firm gave you the vacation scheme because they see potential in you and like your personality. Therefore, remember to always stay true to who you are, the firm can tell if you are not being genuine. At the end of the day, it is a two-way process – you are interviewing the firm just as much as they are interviewing you. Also, don’t forget that you are being interviewed at all times during the vacation scheme, so be nice to everyone and keep a smile on your face.