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What we are looking for from candidates on a Vacation Scheme

When you take part in a vacation scheme, it’s important that you know what the law firm is looking for, what competencies you will be assessed against and what the assessment methods will be.

Many candidates start a vacation scheme without really understanding what they need to do to perform well – especially if it is their first vacation scheme.

You often hear competencies being cited by law firms as the once you’ll need to demonstrate during your vacation scheme. Typically these are teamwork, analytical skills, communication, intellect, common sense etc.

All of these competencies are accurate and trainees do need these skills, but it’s difficult for people on vacation schemes to understand how they can translate these competencies into vacation scheme performance.

We’ve worked to expand on these competencies to create 10 critical competencies we look for in our trainees, and therefore our vacation scheme participants too. We’ve made these more detailed and explained what each of them means.

Here our are 10 critical competencies:

Trainees need to use logic and intellect to understand how things work. They can apply prior knowledge to improve decisions and processes.

Trainees have the ability to identify relevant factors, understand interdependencies and structure complex information in an insightful way.

Trainees understand what it means to provide a quality professional service and have the ability to apply this understanding to deliver the best work possible.

Trainees deal with complex concepts and have the ability to concisely explain these complex concepts.

Having strong control of a task is important. Trainees feel comfortable taking full responsibility of their work and for it to be delivered on time.

Attention to detail and an ability to follow precise procedures and identify inconsistencies in large amounts of information is a key skill required of trainees each and every day.

To work effectively and efficiently, trainees need the ability to organise work within the given timeframe and set priorities in the context of objectives.

In a client-focused environment having the ability to perform at your best under pressure is vital. Our trainees are people who can maintain composure to ensure the proper execution of the job.

People matter. Exhibiting a high level of integrity and showing respect to others is a must.

Great trainees have the willingness and ability to figure things out on their own and an understanding of when to escalate and ask for help.

Assessment Methods

Law firms can use a wide range of assessment methods in order to assess competencies. For example at Shearman & Sterling, we use a written test, a group exercise, a case study and a partner interview.

You will also find that psychometric tests, in-tray exercises and presentations are commonly used by law firms.

The difference, of course, between a vacation scheme and a one-day assessment centre is the work experience component of the vacation scheme. Vacation schemes last anywhere between one and four weeks depending on the law firm. This time spent in the firm also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills in a more life-like setting than the assessments.

Many law firms use vacation schemes as a way to recruit trainees because vacation schemes allow law firms to assess candidates for longer and helps to make better recruitment decisions.

As a vacation scheme participant, you have more opportunities to demonstrate the competencies that the law firm is looking for – and that will work in your favour.