The CMS Academy was highly enjoyable. The Business of Law week, which takes place at the start of the placement, was especially enjoyable - the firm had organised simulation exercises, fun painting tasks, client visits, and meeting the firm's different sectors. However, be prepared for long days (9pm) two nights of the week. The following two weeks are based in an office, echoing a more traditional vacation scheme, where we had a chance to meet the people you would be working with on a daily basis for your traineeship.
There's no question that CMS has invested a lot into its vacation schemers. The Business of Law week revolved the vacation schemers rather than the firm - we were constantly asked how we felt about the activities, and the entire schedule, including client visits and meeting sectors, were organised exclusively for us. We were encouraged to ask questions and made to feel valued. Moreover, the firm made me feel valued by financially investing a lot in the scheme - the firm provided accomodation to those who weren't based in London, provided us with breakfast and lunch every day, as well as dinner for two of the evenings. It also paid for travel expenses to get to London. As you are doing a more traditional internship during your second two weeks, you obviously don't feel quite as valued.
We recieved a large amount of guidance and support during the insight. During the first week, we were paired up with 'feedback partners' with whom we exchanged feedback at the end of the week. Additionally, we received feedback after every activity during the first week, and were allocated time to discuss our experience amongst ourselves. This was helpful because it's great to hear about points you wouldn't have thought about yourself, and leads to a lot of constructive dialogue. However, be prepared to having to reflect on every. single. activity. It gets a bit tiring. As mentioned above, meeting the different CMS teams and their clients was extremely supportive.
During the last two weeks, you have every opportunity to discuss anything you would like with your supervisor, and ample opportunities are made available if you would like discuss things with those working in different departments.
I think the communication skill I developed on the Academy will be invaluable for all the communication exercises on the Diploma, but also when meeting clients and understanding their needs. Moreover, collaborative teamwork skills are always invaluable for the Diploma and a future traineeship. Finally, the information gathered from the sector meetings, and the last two weeks of the internship, have helped shape my understanding of the type of law I would like to go into.
The insight was very well structured. During the first week, there were a substantial amount of activities, and because of this, timing was critical. The team did really well to keep everyone on time, and the whole week went by seamlessly. Two minor points: 1) the days are pretty long; you are stressed from being assessed all day, and so the evening activities may not have been necessary; 2) you don't get to leave for lunch - it would have been nice to take a break during the day. However, these are extremely minor points in what was an extraordinarily well structured insight, considering the amount of students and activities.
The last two weeks are touch-and-go because there's only so much work you can give to a work experience student, and the fee-earners have work to do. As long as you understand that, it's fine.
The atmosphere during the first week was one of contagious enthusiasm. Everyone was really excited to be there, and it's a actually very refreshing compared to other insights. Maybe because there's no law to it?
During the second two weeks, because you are doing actually legal work in a regional office, the fun dies down a bit. However, you are made to feel very welcome, and the firm organises a dinner and drinks to help you mingle and get to know everyone.
As I mentioned above, the company invests a lot into its vacation schemers. The Business of law week is tailored around you, and you learn a lot from these activities and the feedback that you and others give after these activities. You get to know yourself better in different scenarios, and you learn how to deal with them.
Meeting the sectors and clients, as well as being placed within a team during the second two weeks, allows you to figure out the type of law you want to do, which is crucial at this stage.
I think the Busines of Law week does help to some extent, as you get to meet the clients, and meet the departments, but the two weeks in a regional office are most helpful in this regard. You get to know your department, and carry out the standard tasks that are expected of a trainee. One thing that helped me understand life at CMS was the extra-curricular activities e.g. netball or 5s - these aren't readily available to vacation schemers, but they're invaluable to getting to know the firm and its people. One recommendation for CMS would be to make sure insight schemers take part in one of these activities, because you're at a risk of only seeing the formal side of the firm.
The insight helped understand the culture to a large extent. During the first week, we were given ample lectures on what CMS is doing for diversity and inclusion, how it views its employees, what it expects of them, and how it operates with its clients. However, it is very structured, which poses difficulties when trying to understand something as fluid as culture, though you nevertheless come out with a general picture of CMS culture. However, the second two weeks in the regional office are also useful to understand the office-specific culture - a lot of the offices come from different legacy firms which had different cultures. This is why extra-curricular activities are so important.
The client visist and meeting the sectors during the Business of law week were very valuable in helping decide on a future career path, especially because teams would usually talk about their specific daily activities rather than speaking in general terms. The second two weeks are also quite valuable as you get to know the department you are working in, and understand the type of work they do and the clients they work with. You can also ask different fee-earners about the work they do should you wish to do so.
The firm paid us a weekly rate of £350 pcw, and I believe pay day is on the last day of the Academy. Moreover, the firm paid for travel expenses to get to London for the first week, which will cover everything as long as you book somewhat in advance. The firm also provided accomodation for those who weren't based in London, which is huge plus. Finally, the firm provided us with breakfast and lunch during the first week, and treated us to dinner thrice throughout the placement (twice during Business of law, and once in the regional office). The firm also ensures that there is food and drink whenever there is training or something social to go to.
Every single lunch during the first week was an opportunity to network - most of the first week faculty are fee-earners and so you get to know them quite well should you choose to do so. There is also a speed-networking event during the first week, as well as lectures on what the different departments do. During the second two weeks, you spend your entire time within a CMS team.
Excellent - as mentioned above, the firm organised a collaborative painting exercise during the first week, and gave us drinks on the last day of the business of law week, as well as the final day of the Academy as a whole. There is also a CSR dinner during the first week, and a dinner with trainees during the second week.
Yes, if you wanted to know this information it was freely available, and there were a number of Business of Law talks revolving around what the firm does and provides outside of work. However, this is confined to the first week, and isn't really seen during your time at the regional office, which is kind of when you want to see it most.
Yes, you get to know the firm extremely well, and the Business of Law week is so much more refreshing than other vacation schemes. If you're considering CMS, definetly get on this scheme, as they mainly recruit trainees from it. Plus you're getting paid and finding out what type of law you want to do!