The vacation scheme was split into two separate parts. The first week was the 'business of law'. The next two weeks were the 'internship' and were spent sat in a department and doing work. The first week was heavily assessed and I didn't enjoy it, apart from a few activities, such as the client visit. The two weeks in the department was less stressful and much more enjoyable.
During the first week, some of the top people at the firm came to talk to us. The fact that they were willing to give up their time for us made me feel very valued by the firm. When I did work for lawyers in the department, they always thanked me and seemed grateful for the work I had produced for them.
The first week was heavily scheduled and with little independence, so there was not much guidance needed. In the internship section of the vacation scheme I was assigned both a trainee buddy and a supervisor, who was an associate. Everyone in the department seemed genuinely willing to help and I always felt there was someone I could ask if I wasn't clear on something. This was especially useful as a non-law student.
As a non-law student, I did not feel that any of my experiences on the vacation scheme assisted me in my degree studies in any way. I also do not believe the scheme helped me develop any skills. However, the information I received from both trainees and associates about starting a career in law and progressing through the profession was very valuable.
The first week was very highly structured. Almost every minute was planned out from 8.30am every day. This was good in some ways, as it was clearly very well organised, but I would have preferred slightly more freedom. The internship part was much less structured with only one social event per week. I would have preferred the amount of structure to be a bit more even.
The general atmosphere during the business of law week was quite tense due to the constant assessment. This made it hard to relax even during the social events during this week. The atmosphere during the internship was much better. The people in my department were both friendly and sociable, which made me feel welcome.
This was a strong focus of the vacation scheme. The whole of the first week was mostly (as well as assessing us) dedicated to our personal training and development. For example, we completed a Myers Briggs test and had a session going through this and thinking about how this affects what we personally need to work on.
The two week internship really helped to understand what it would be like to be a trainee at the firm. We sat in one department for the full two weeks, which is different to vacation schemes at other firms, where you switch department half way through. Whilst it means that we got a narrower view of the range of work firm does, it gave me a much deeper understanding of the department I sat in.
The business of law week told us about what the firm advertises its culture as. The internship gave a much deeper insight into what the company culture is actually like. However, this was somewhat department specific. The department I sat in was very friendly, but vacation scheme students in other departments had different experiences of the culture. In this way it gave us more an understanding of a department's culture rather than the overall company culture.
The internship section gave me a much clearer picture of what life is like as a trainee solicitor and the work that they do day to day, as well as the work that associates and partners do. This was very helpful in making my decision about whether or not to pursue a career in law and more specifically as a solicitor.
I was paid for each week of the vacation scheme, including the 'business of law' week, even though I only did work during the second two weeks of the vacation scheme. This was therefore quite generous of the firm and I was very happy with this arrangement. Expenses were not reimbursed, but as we were paid, I did not mind this.
There were plenty of opportunities for networking and meeting other employees of the firm. These ranged from more formal speed networking sessions to more casual situations, such as lawyers attending our lunches in the first week. The open plan layout of the office made meeting members of the department very easy and I was introduced to everyone at the start.
I found the more casual networking opportunities that also worked as social events enjoyable and very useful. I found the more formal networking events slightly more awkward and less useful, as I did not feel fully comfortable asking the questions I really wanted to know the answer to and instead stuck to 'safer' questions.
Activities that employees can get involved in outside of work were briefly mentioned during the first week, but I mainly found this out during the vast number of networking events by asking the lawyers I met about the activities they take part in. This ranged from being part of diversity networks to going on a CMS worldwide football competition in Vienna.
I would definitely recommend this insight to a friend. It gave me a full and comprehensive view of the firm, in terms of both the culture and the work done by the firm. It was also very helpful in learning about life as a solicitor in general and gave me experience in doing some of the work that trainee solicitors do.