Two week vacation scheme intern gaining insight into the firm and completing trainee level work.
The vac scheme lasted for two weeks, comprising a week in two departments. I spent my first week in the financial markets litigation team, and the second in the tax team. Overall, it was a fantastic experience. Everyone (and I mean everyone, partners included) was friendly, approachable, helpful and very willing to give you their time. The culture was very open, relaxed and pleasant, whilst still being fast-paced, exciting and hard-working. I was kept really busy with a range of interesting tasks that you would expect a trainee to be given - it wasn't just grunt work, it was real work for real clients. I received feedback on all my work, and everyone I completed work for thanked me personally for it. The scheme was also packed with great talks, workshops, chances to meet managing associates and partners, and social events, which made the scheme really well-rounded and enjoyable, and provided lots of opportunities to ask questions, make friends and get involved. Overall, an amazing experience - I would love to work there.
As mentioned above, everyone I encountered, from receptionist to secretary to associate to partner, was friendly, willing to help and answer questions, and happy to have me there. I felt supported throughout, and really felt people wanted me to succeed. All my work was received with gratitude and constructive feedback, and I was given real work for real clients, showing I was used as and considered a member of the team rather than as a visitor or just a student who knew nothing.
As a non-law student, I was concerned I wouldn't be able to complete all the work without some guidance and help from those in the know. But throughout the scheme, my supervisors and trainee buddies were very understanding of this, and would explain tasks thoroughly to me, allow me to ask questions and answer them patiently, and check in with me to see how I was getting on. I was also provided with plenty of feedback, as well as being given templates and examples of how certain documents should be completed - I always knew what was expected of me, and feel that brought the best out in me.
I have finished my degree, however I think in pursuing a career in law this experience will definitely help me. I learned how to use tools law students will have encountered, including Practical Law and Westlaw, and practical skills such as how to draft research notes, emails to clients and engagement letters. I also had the chance to refine certain skills such as being concise and clear in my communications to allow others ease of access when reading my work. I think all these skills are key for a lawyer.
The scheme was very well organised. Each day, we had chunks of time working in our given departments, which were punctuated with really interesting talks about the firm from the senior partner; workshops on information services, IT, and personal development; case studies from partners in particular sectors; opportunities to network with partners from every practice area; and to meet current trainees to discuss the training contract at Simmons and life as a lawyer there. The graduate recruitment team also organised numerous great social events for us, including lunches, bowling, a chocolate making workshop, drinks, dinners, and a trip to the London Eye, all to get to know our fellow vac schemers, our supervisors and trainee buddies, and the graduate recruitment team. There was a great balance between the events organised for us and the time we spent in our departments completing work and learning.
The atmosphere was fantastic. As this was my first law vac scheme, I wasn't sure what the vibe would be like in a corporate city law firm, as I've heard my fair share of horror stories. Simmons wasn't at all like anything negative I've heard. Everyone was kind, engaged and very willing to have a laugh with you. They also made a real effort to get to know me, include me in social events within the departments, and make me feel welcome, despite me just being a student. I felt that despite it being a high achieving and well-respected law firm where people do work incredibly hard, it would be a very pleasant place to work amongst such lovely and good natured people.
The company provided a few workshops throughout the two weeks designed to give us a taste of the emphasis on personal development that firm places on the training contract at Simmons. These sessions were really helpful for showing us how involved the firm would be in helping us grow as trainee lawyers and how we would be able to mingle with other trainees and lawyers to hone certain skills whilst completing our training contracts. My supervisors and trainee buddies also invested a lot of time in finding varied and challenging work for me to push me, and explaining things and giving me opportunities to get involved in work and social events, showing they invested in my experience at the firm.
Working in amongst the firm's current employees and being included in things such as client calls, calls with other offices and departments, and meetings with other colleagues meant I got to see the inner workings of the company and therefore if I felt I would fit in there. The talks put on for us and the work we were given also gave us a good idea of the kind of work we would do there as trainees.
I think being immersed in a place for two weeks, being exposed to so many people, and seeing people mainly in their professional environment will inevitably give you a really good idea of the culture and atmosphere. My overwhelming impression of Simmons was that of a very friendly, cooperative and fun place to work.
It was definitely valuable for me in figuring out what kind of a lawyer I might be one day. I really enjoyed my week in litigation, and my discussions with other lawyers in contentious practice areas has shown me this will probably be the path I pursue. Equally, I really enjoyed my time in the tax department, as the people were lovely and welcoming and the work was very interesting and challenging - however, this has helped to show me I am perhaps not as well suited to this area. Although I am not firmly set on such ideas, the scheme definitely gave me some preliminary insight into what I like and what I think I might be good at.
We were paid £375 for each week, which was intended to cover expenses such as travel and lunch on days we weren't provided with food (which were very few!). A few people also had living costs for staying in London for the duration of the scheme - I fortunately didn't have that problem so having the money was just a nice bonus for me!
There were plenty of opportunities for networking, including breakfasts, brunches, lunches and speed networking sessions involving lawyers from all departments and all levels, right up to partner level. This meant we could ask questions to people from many different backgrounds, expertise and stages in their careers, giving us a well-rounded insight into the firm and its employees.
These opportunities were fantastic, fun and engaging. We had at least two such opportunities each day on the scheme, some during the day and some after work, all of which were optional if you had lots of work on but they were definitely worth going to! I found people were really willing to chat to us about their experiences, give us advice on applications and how to get the most out of the scheme, and answer questions candidly about the firm, its work and their time there.
Definitely, Simmons appears to offer lots of 'extra-curricular' activities for the firm's employees, including clubs and societies for sports, art, religion, LGBT+ employees, social committees and more, as well as pro bono opportunities with a legal advice clinic and the Big Issue. I was lucky enough to be invited along to the legal advice clinic the firm works with in Clapham and see first hand how lawyers at Simmons get involved in such initiatives, which was so interesting. With so much on offer, it felt a bit like being at uni, but with more interesting work!
I would absolutely recommend this insight to a friend, particularly one looking for a firm that carries out varied, interesting and large scale work, but that is friendly, approachable and an incredibly fun place to be. I had an amazing time, and would do it all over again if I could.