Law Firm Vacation Scheme
Rós Ní Dhubháin
Rós gained a 2.1 in law from Cambridge and she is now a trainee solicitor at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. She took part in a two-week vacation scheme during the summer of 2004. She was given the chance to choose a department and sit in it for two weeks. During her time in the IP/IT department she was given a lot of work to research – notably, the team was working on a patent litigation, representing a well-known electricals firm.
What was your motivation?
I did a law degree at university, but at the time I wasn’t wholly sure where I wanted to work. I am from Northern Ireland and my only exposure to solicitors had been with very small country firms, not broad-based international practices like you get in the City. I wanted to know what life would be like in a commercial law firm. People had spoken about a team spirit with 2,000 people in one office – I wanted to know what that was like.
What did the application process involve?
In 2004 it was a written application process. You were given a blank form and had to write about yourself. Since I applied it has become an online application but the format is still the same: you write what you choose to say about yourself. During the interview they were very interested in me as a person; I knew that there was a strong focus on whether or not I was a suitable team player.
What did you do?
In addition to the patent litigation research, I did some market research – we had to decide whether to go ahead with a case, as the particular client was concerned about fees and didn’t want to rack up costs. Partly based on the work I did with a trainee, it was decided that we should not go ahead with the case.
How did you sell the experience on your CV?
After I had completed my vacation scheme, I didn’t have to go through the normal training contract application route; they wanted to know how I had got on. I wrote a letter to graduate recruitment in which I talked mostly about my brief experience at the firm. I did another vacation scheme at a smaller firm, but it was only when I came to Freshfields that I realised how much more I enjoyed it here. Comparing the schemes allowed me to make a more informed decision on where I wanted to apply for my training contract.
Did you enjoy it?
I had a brilliant time. It was great to be part of a big international firm. They organised a conference call with an international office and we were given a case study to work on. Since I started my training contract there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been in contact with another international office.
What did you learn?
The most important thing I learnt was finding out what it would be like as a trainee. Doing a vacation scheme gives you the opportunity to see what’s really going on inside the City.
Easily the people – it was nice for us to meet other students and Freshfields lawyers on the vacation scheme.
Getting used to early starts – especially after socialising until the early hours!
Advice to readers?
Apply for as many vacation placements as you can; there’s a lot of competition. If you can, do more than one, ideally with different sizes and types of practice. But don’t pack your second year holiday full of vacation schemes.