I really enjoyed this virtual experience! Despite it having to be delivered in a virtual format in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still proved to be a highly insightful and fun experience. The positive attitude brought by everyone involved, and the light-hearted, collaborative working environment that this created, was fantastic to witness, and made the sessions highly engaging despite their delivery coming from behind a screen. Not once did I feel bored or disengaged, which I think pays true testament to the charisma and talent of the lawyers delivering the sessions, and the excellent creative-thinking and planning of Graduate Recruitment.
Due to the classroom-based learning format of the experience, we weren't carrying out work which specifically contributed to the firm's business. As such, there wasn't much scope to be valued for our contribution to the work being carried out by the lawyers. Having said this, I feel Graduate Recruitment did a fantastic job in valuing our enthusiastic attitudes and positive approach to the unexpected virtual format. It was nice to have their acknowledgement of the fact that the experience wasn't quite what we had been expecting, and to hear how pleased they were with our attitudes towards the experience despite its virtual format.
Graduate Recruitment did a fantastic job in clearly outlining what was expected of us at each point of the virtual experience, and the approach we should adopt to executing tasks and participating actively in sessions. I also really valued the guidance and support we received in completing the daily tasks, and appreciated having the chance to try the tasks out independently before going through our answers in detail with a lawyer. I thought that this was a fantastic learning structure, which found the right balance between challenging us whilst still acknowledging that we had limited legal knowledge at this relatively early stage in our applications.
The skills I developed and the information I received will greatly assist me in my future career. The knowledge and insight I gained will help strengthen my future legal applications, and will guide which firms I'll apply to through helping me understand better which type of work I enjoy the most and am best suited to. The skills I developed through the daily tasks will help me when I start my Training Contract, as they will apply directly to the type of work I will receive.
The only aspect of the structure which I felt could potentially be improved was the short changeover times. I understand that this was almost inevitable given the reduced time-frame of the scheme. However, at times I found myself running around the house trying to get all the different sessions done promptly; for example, trying to keep up with the cooking class before squeezing in lunch and being back in my room promptly for the start of the next session was a bit hectic! Otherwise, I feel the virtual experience was well structured, and had a good mix of learning opportunities and experiences for us to engage with.
I was impressed by how positive, enthusiastic and inspiring the general atmosphere was during the virtual scheme. I felt engaged throughout, and loved the 'buzz' coming from the other participants, from Graduate Recruitment, and from the involved lawyers. Prior to the scheme, I did have my doubts as to whether such a strong positive atmosphere and sense of collaboration could be achieved in a virtual experience, but I'm happy to say that I was proved wrong! It was an amazing experience to be part of, and I felt highly energised, motivated and inspired coming out of the experience.
The virtual nature of the scheme coupled with the high number of participants meant there wasn't much scope for highly personalised training and development. I benefited from receiving a personal trainee buddy, but otherwise the feedback and guidance we received was generalised for the group rather than for each individual. I also unfortunately was unable to gain detailed feedback from my AD due to a lack of access to the office, which I completely understand in the current context, but which did limit the more personalised feedback I was able to receive.
I think the virtual experience significantly helped me to better understand what it would be like to have a full time role with the firm. We were able to hear from many lawyers of different seniority levels and practice backgrounds about their experience with the firm and about their everyday work, and, as such, were able to get a varied insight into what a full time role looks like across the firm. It would only have been through doing more tasks and sitting in on team meetings that we would have gained a better understanding of what a full time role at the firm looks like.
The virtual experience really helped me to understand the company culture better. Indeed, I think this is one of the areas that the experience excelled in, as I feel I got a very good understanding of the firm's culture without having been present in the office and meeting the members of the firm face-to-face. This understanding was passed on to us not only through the culture-focused insight sessions which were run for us (such as 'Insight into Pro Bono' or 'Insight into Diversity and Inclusion'), but through the general attitude and conduct with which each of the firm members approached their role in the scheme, and approached answering our questions. The core values of the firm really did shine through to me, and I think this pays testament to the strong culture that lies at the heart of the firm.
The content was very valuable in helping me to decide my future career path. The experience confirmed to me as a whole that this was the right career for me, and that the firm was the one which I felt would fit me the best out of all the firms I'd previously had experience with. The content also helped me to better understand which practice areas I may be interested in doing a Training Contract seat in, and which skills are best suited to these practice areas.
I was paid for this experience, and I feel I was paid adequately. Our payment was split into two, as we were originally meant to be paid for our three day classroom-based learning scheme and our two-day work shadowing scheme separately. Unfortunately, the work shadowing aspect of the scheme had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. However, the firm still paid us this second payment, which all of us appreciated. I think that, considering we were largely learning for our own benefit rather than assisting with firm business, we were most definitely reimbursed adequately for our time.
Due to the short time-frame of the scheme, networking opportunities were inevitably rather limited. Whilst we were able to meet a large number of lawyers from across the scheme due to the variety of lawyers involved in delivering sessions to us, we were unable to meet most of them individually, and thus weren't able to network effectively. However, this was inevitable with the nature of the scheme, and I appreciate the effort Graduate Recruitment made in trying to run as many Breakout Room sessions as possible to give us more of a chance to network.
The pre-scheme social was enjoyable, and a good chance to first meet the other students participating in the scheme. During the scheme, the networking/social event opportunities were rather limited due to the reduced time-frame of the scheme, and due to the switch to the virtual format which made smaller group networking more of a challenge. However, I appreciate the effort Graduate Recruitment made to help us get to know our fellow SPARK participants better through running additional networking events, even after the summer scheme had finished.
We were given a lot of information about the activities that employees can get involved in outside of work! I appreciated the amount of information we were given with regards to extra-legal opportunities within the firm, and very much enjoyed learning more about the firm's pro bono work, their affinity networks, and the additional activities (such as music groups, sports clubs, and social events) that they run for their employees. This information demonstrated how there's a real focus on lawyers as people within the firm, and a celebration of their non-legal passions, identities and commitments which helps to make the firm the incredibly diverse and exciting place which it is.
I would most definitely recommend this virtual experience to a friend! I gained so much from this experience, both in terms of my knowledge - about the firm, about the wider legal industry, about the role and responsibilities of a commercial lawyers, and about the different practice areas of a commercial law firm - and in terms of my skill. I feel I was able to not only develop in skills required of a trainee solicitor, but also learn more about my own strengths and weaknesses, putting me at an advantage when it comes to understanding my skills better and acknowledging where I still have room left to grow. I also had a lot of fun on this scheme - laughed a lot, made new friends, and had a great, challenging and motivating time - and came out of it feeling not only truly energised and inspired, but also even more excited about pursuing this career than before!
Central London and City
25th November 2020