James Savelli-Holt, former College of Law student
Not just about the vac schemes
23 September 2009
So the academic year has once again begun, and now that the economy has breathed a huge sigh of relief it is time to start looking toward those dreaded vacation scheme applications in October.
By no means is this the time to start getting complacent. Firms will still be reeling from the economic turmoil of last year, and there are certainly going to be knock-on effects felt continuously throughout the industry.
For those who have completed the LPC then finding an elusive vacation placement is going to be even harder. Generally, they are normally reserved for second and penultimate year students; therefore I would almost definitely check with the firm if you want to do a vacation scheme placement with them. You may find yourself wasting time filing in their application form only to be immediately rejected. I’ve also tended to find that emailing around some firms for unpaid work experience actually works surprisingly well.
It’s easy to think that the only way of getting work experience in the industry is through the vacation scheme system. However, a nice polite email explaining yourself can be equally as effective.
In it for the long haul
I’ve already had a few rejections. I was expecting these. At this point in time even with tenacity and persistence, you’re going to get a kick in the teeth. However, I refuse to attach any sense of expectation or deservedness just because I’ve done the LPC or I have attained the required standard. It’s not enough. It was never enough, it was just easily justifiable to employ a graduate back in 2007 because the economy wasn’t so unpredictable.
You might as well forget all the grumbling, and all the bitterness that comes attached with the phrase “I regret to advise you that your application for a training contract has been unsuccessful”. It’s not worth the hassle - but by no means be put off. Firstly, every talented individual is going to be suffering, and secondly don’t fret about the myth that millions of bankers are going into law. Trust me if any got to interview stage they would have to seriously justify why they wanted to change their profession. The law is still an ivory tower.
What is going to really impress a firm now is not endless lists of work experience but to actually go off and work in a non-legal capacity for its clients. You have to add more value to your application. You have to be worth something to them. Having the intelligence is not enough. In effect this means playing the long game. If you are not successful this year consider all the other graduate schemes out there. For example, go and work for Deloitte get your tax qualifications and then reapply to likes of Clifford Chance.
Trust me a firm would great you with open arms.
It’s tough being a law grad these days
Having recently completed the LPC with no training contract to speak of, coupled with the liquidity crisis and recession things are not exactly looking rosy. In fact when you combine the £25k debt attached to my name - I’m pretty terrified I’m going to end up on the human scrap heap.
31 July is rapidly approaching. So far my training contract count consists of five applications. I’ve taken my time with these. All of them have been vetted by the college career department and I’ve had more than three people read through each one of them. It’s amazing how many spelling mistakes can slip through the net. I’m also currently cruising the web looking for paralegal work, which on a re-read makes me sound like some sort of internet predator. In fairness though, you basically have to become a hermit over the course of these weeks. Get comfy and strap in for the most boring, mind-numbing, I can’t believe I’m doing this again, experience.
In my opinion people should be bending over backwards to employ me – that’s how I feel anyway. However, it appears that even the para-legalling world is just as bad as the training contract world – who knew. Hays Legal, have even suggested that they are only going to recruit you if you have a training contract…there’s a Catch 22. It really is an employer’s market I’m afraid. For those of you in the dilemma of trying to secure any form of legal work experience this summer, recruitment companies are not a bad place to start.
In response to my dilemma, a careers advisor suggested recently, that I trapes jovially around the City with my CV on a t-shirt. “Originality” he said, “that’s what they want!”. Has it really come to this? Are we graduates supposed to jester round acting like the intermediary lunch-time entertainment. “Dance monkey dance….and then will see if you can get a job”. Personally, and this is my pride talking here, I would rather employ my talents elsewhere. It’s certainly not worth the debt or the stress. I recently read a story about a Linklaters solicitor who left a rather lucrative job in the Tax department to go off and start a Mexican eatery called Benito’s Hat – at least he had a job for a bit.
Not to end my blog on a sour note, but the simple realisation is that it is a tough time for legal graduates, and will be for some time to come. Don’t expect to see the likes of Clifford Chance employing 130 graduates any time soon. Luckily the panacea to all of this is simple. You just have to send out more applications and be more ruthless in your approach.