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Vacation Scheme or Training Contract – Which one is for you?

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We get this question a lot – should I apply for a vacation scheme or a training contract? Short answer- its almost always better to go for a vacation scheme. Nonetheless, training contracts also have quite a few benefits. It is a common opinion that the applications are just targeted for different people. Below we will outline which one is right for you.

What’s the purpose of the vacation scheme? You are probably tired of hearing this, but the application process is a two-way street.

They see whether you are the right fit for them and you see whether the law firm is the right one for you. A vacation scheme can only strengthen the process.

The first benefit of the vacation scheme is to see whether you like the firm. Below is a list of the things you will be able to get a taste of.

The Work.

If you are a law student, chances are you have watched suits and you picture your future career similar to the one presented on the show. You are probably wrong.

If you have no experience of working in a corporate law firm then your vision is probably far from reality. The vacation scheme is your way of figuring out whether it is actually for you. Focusing purely on the work, your day to day tasks will be completely different than what you are used to in university. Long gone are the days of reading textbooks and journal articles. Law Firms activities are much more practical – going through data rooms, due diligence, drafting contracts and applying regulations.

Is it for you? You can read and ask your friends about their experiences, but you will never know before you actually try it.

The Culture.

The second aspect of the vacation scheme is the culture. A lot of law firms look for specific people to join their teams and we don’t mean academically.

Keep in mind you are likely to work with the people there for a great portion of your day.

Are they outgoing, do you feel natural in the environment or is depressing for you. All of this you can get a grasp for while at the vacation scheme.

Keep in mind you are choosing not only the next 2 years of your life but also the foundation of your future career – the training. During the vac scheme, you will be able to figure out whether they have the right practices in place. Also whether the hierarchy of the firm is the right fit for you. After all, the biggest part of the training will be exposure and gaining knowledge from the more experienced members of the team. If you are just given proofreading and due diligence tasks, you might want to opt for something else.

As mentioned above, it is a two-way street. Law Firms with small intake will hire predominantly from their vacation schemes with some not even holding training contract applications.

It makes more sense for them. If you hire 4 people a year, would you rather shortlist 16, spend two weeks with them and take the people you think are the best fit or would you rather hire somebody just after having 3 interviews.

Of course, they will hire from the vacation scheme. Keep in mind you will spend a great portion of your day with them, but so will they and this is the way to make sure everyone gets along.

The Experience and The Salary.

Last but not least, getting a training contract is a pretty hard job, even getting a vac scheme is rather difficult if you are eyeing the top firms. The fact that want you to have work experience sure does not help. So what can you do – apply for a lower-tier firm to get some work experience? If you think you don’t have enough credibility to go for your dream firm, start for somewhere lower and build yourself up. That way you will not only be able to get to where you want, but you will have the experience to perform the way you should in order to get a training contract after that. Trust me, the first vacation scheme is much harder than the rest. You feel tense, stressed and with the constant feeling that they watch your every move. After doing one, you will see that it is not so scary at all and will be much more yourself for the next one.

And if they like you for yourself that is a really positive sign.

Don’t forget that vacation schemes are usually in the summer and after them, you can go and enjoy yourself on a beach. How better to enjoy yourself with an extra £1000 in your pocket. That is right – not only you get work experience but most of the firms will pay you to for the time you spend with them. It’s a win-win!

The Success Chance.

Finally, on a more serious note, a vacation scheme will give you a direct chance for a training contract. Usually, in your last week, you will have a training contract interview, which will be one of the deciding factors whether they give you an offer or not. This should on paper be the same as the interview you will get after a training contract application. In fact, that is not quite the case.

You have been with them for 2 weeks, this interview is a minor step compared to all the data they have on you already.

Just looking statistically, for most law firms their intake comes from vacation schemes rather than training contracts. Think of it this way – you have 2000 people applying for 30 positions. It becomes who can impress them the most. On one side – you have 1-word document and 3 interviews to impress them on the other you have the same plus an additional 2 weeks.

Nonetheless, training contract applications also have their benefits. Think of it as above – you have 2 weeks to impress. Two weeks is a long time in which you might screw up.

During a vacation scheme, you will partake in different exercises and workshops. You will likely have to prepare materials, give a presentation or something among those things. One major mistake can be a huge setback for your chances of a training contract offer. Law firms are ruthless – they have so many bright individuals to hire from that they will use the smallest reasons to disqualify you from the race.

Applying directly for a training contract might give you better chances. A lot of it comes down to luck.

Direct applications definitely will not give you the same in-depth knowledge of the firm and whether it is right or not. You should really do A LOT of digging before you accept an offer, but then again that’s why you will have two more weeks for your research. Head out to our profile section and start digging, we have a lot of inside information there.

Another benefit is that you can apply even if you have another job. Direct applications are pretty much the only way for people who are working somewhere else. If are not a student anymore and can’t afford to have 2 weeks in the middle of summer, go for this.

Whichever you chose to apply for, here is a free tip – APPLY AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.

Never underestimate the timing of your application. A huge portion of the applicants will send theirs last minute and graduate recruitment will have to rush through them. Every day matters. The sooner you send it the better.

Good luck and get down to work!



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