I really enjoyed the whole experience, from start to finish. Having also completed another vacation scheme at a different firm, I can safely say that the scheme at RPC was in a league of its own. We were made to feel incredibly welcome by every employee that we met during the scheme.
From the cleaning staff through to the senior partners, absolutely everybody we met always came across as friendly and always made time to speak to us despite their busy schedule. We were treated like royalty and were given real work that made me feel very valued during my time there.
I felt that there was always somebody I could go to for guidance if I needed it, whether that was HR, our trainee 'buddies' or our relevant supervisor. However, we were also trusted to complete our work as much as we could without guidance, so we were supported without having our hand held.
Though many of the tasks assigned to me by my supervisors were similar (mainly research tasks), I did get to try a variety of different tasks and I think this has allowed me to understand the role of a solicitor more and will help me in my upcoming studies and beyond.
The whole vacation scheme was very well structured, and we were given a timetable for the scheme on the first day. This included various networking events, training sessions and social activities (both with other trainees and also with just the other vac schemers). I felt that there was a good balance between actual work, social events and getting to know the firm and its employees.
The atmosphere within the firm was very professional and friendly. It struck me as a firm that clients will trust to perform high quality work, as well as enjoy working with. The atmosphere among the vac schemers was again very friendly, and not at all competitive. The social events arranged by the firm helped with this.
There was a decent amount of training during the scheme, however I would say this was more for getting to know the firm's online systems and to understand the work that the firm performs, rather than investment in our personal development. I think this is understandable given the fact we weren't permanent employees, though.
The whole scheme felt as though it was designed primarily to give us the best understanding of the firm, its work and its culture. The multiple opportunities to speak to employees about their roles, the various training sessions and the real work we were assigned all helped to achieve this.
As with the above, having two working weeks spent in the company doing real work alongside employees of the firm allowed us to experience the firm's culture first-hand. Every employee I spoke to had only good things to say about the firm and many who had joined from other firms said that the culture was one of their primary reasons for moving.
As we were assigned real tasks by employees that wanted help completing more menial tasks (or more complex tasks that they didn't have time for), I felt that I got to experience the real role of a trainee solicitor. This helped confirm my belief that I wish to follow this career path, so it was a very useful experience.
From memory, I believe we were paid £350 per week during the two-week scheme. This is particularly low for a City law firm, and reflects the relatively low salary of a trainee when compared to other mid-size city law firms. However, the hours are much shorter than these firms and from what I was told from employees who had worked at multiple firms, the pressure is much lower at RPC.
There were multiple opportunities to network with other trainees, associates, senior associates, legal directors, partners, senior partners and professionals from other industries. This included some employees from the Bristol office that had travelled to London and led training sessions. There was a mix of formal and more informal networking sessions.
As the work of the firm is broadly split into the two areas of Insurance and Commercial, networking events often divided along this line. For instance, we completed a 'speed networking' session for each of these departments. Socially, there was crazy golf, a meal with trainees and drinks with the other vac schemers.
Compared to the other firm that I completed a vac scheme at, I don't feel as though there are lots of different activities for employees to get involved with outside of work with RPC. The activities that do exist had to be discovered by asking around the employees, as this was not communicated formally.
I would absolutely recommend this insight to anyone who wishes to pursue a career as a solicitor. I am struggling to think of any noteworthy negatives from my experience of RPC and the vacation scheme there. Though I believe that it would be a great firm to work at, it would be useful to do this scheme even if the firm is not top of your list as the culture really is different and it would act as a good tool for comparison.