University: Downing College, Cambridge
Type of work experience: 3 week summer vacation scheme at Allen & Overy.
Why did you decide to do work experience? Having considered various careers in the legal profession, I felt the only way to get a real flavour for what working in a big corporate law firm would be like, was to do a vacation scheme.
What did you actually do? Typically, when we arrived in the morning, a lovely breakfast and coffee would be provided and there would be a relaxed talk from one of the specialist departments, such as banking law, real estate or employment law about the kind of work that goes on in their departments.
We would then shadow a trainee solicitor in a department that we had asked to sit in. I sat in dispute resolution for half the scheme and in a department dealing with shares and bonds for rest. Typical tasks would be: conducting research – I had to research into the law on dangerous dogs and some aspects of human rights law; making amendments to contracts as well as checking contracts for errors.
We also had a team project to work on with the other students on the vacation scheme. This involved preparing a presentation to be used in a pitch for a client. This is when the law firm competes with other law firms to win the business of a particular client. This involved research into Allen & Overy’s strengths in particular practice areas as well as into its overseas offices.
Twice a week there would be a social event with the trainees. These were great fun and involved a great deal of free food and the occasional glass of wine! Activities included a cruise along the Thames and a trip to the West End. The evenings also provided the perfect opportunity to chat informally to the trainees about their own experience of the firm.
What do you need to make a success out of work experience? Enthusiasm to get involved in everything and an eagerness to learn. Also an ability to maintain professionalism at all times while making sure you enjoy the experience.
What advice would you give other graduates contemplating work experience? Vacation schemes are an excellent insight if you are contemplating a career in a law firm. Not only do they help you to work out whether this is the right career for you, they also provide a real insight into the firm your working for. By obtaining a place on a vacation scheme you could also then be offered an opportunity to interview for a training contract.