7 April 2008
Extracts from Berwin Leighton Paisners (BLP) Easter vacation scheme bloggers What if?
The night before the first day, I couldnt sleep with nerves. No matter how many vacation schemes you may have done, the first day of a new one is always nerve-wracking. What will the other people be like. What if I dont get on with my supervisor. What if I dont know how anything works? A series of similar questions prevented me from getting the good nights sleep that I needed to face the next morning.
Feeling like it was the first day of school again, I walked into the lobby of St Magnus House, only to be greeted with a loud chatty bunch of really cool people who, as luck would have it, were my fellow vac schemers.
Charlotte Jao - University College London, French graduate
All twenty of us arrived at BLP looking smart but obviously somewhat nervous. But the HR team immediately made us feel at ease, offering biscuits and pastries (no interview/ assessment day/vac scheme is complete without the worry that a bit of Danish wont fall down your front in the first hour), before starting the ice breaker session. Still having a clean shirt I approached the fact-finding session feeling more confident. As it turned out I had no reason to feel nervous. The other vac schemers were a great bunch and we bonded very quickly.
Theo Clark - Bristol, Geographical Sciences graduate
I think we started off the week as we meant to go on when BLP reception had to phone HR to let them know that the new vacation schemers were being too noisy. Everyone got chatting straight away as we were sitting waiting to be called into our ice-breaker session.
After an introductory talk from HR and the graduate training partner we got our ice-breaker session underway finding out weird facts about each other. Learning that someone had a secret desire to dress up as a Smurf was particularly odd. The nerves I had been feeling over the previous weekend were quickly dispelled and the rest of the day passed in a blur of lunch, a tour, IT training and a quiz with the trainees.
It was even pretty funny when my team came second to last at least HR were there topping up our wine glasses throughout.
Saleem Feeney - Cambridge, Geography graduate
The real deal
Two days into my placement I found myself, the sole BLP rep, in a Mayfair boardroom with two directors from a venture capital partnership. I was to get finance documents signed by the client. On my journey to Mayfair I reminded myself what one of the trainees told me during lunch; its funny when you get asked to do stuff like that, because youre always assured you wont be asked any questions, but you always are.
On the way back to the office I was thinking it was excellent that on only my second day at BLP I was allowed to meet clients and represent the firm. Then I found a tenner on the floor outside a Bentley garage and was pretty happy about the day.
Alex Gotch - Bournemouth University, Law graduate
Wondering around the historical landmark that is Adelaide House, you truly feel like a proper lawyer holding your counsel notebook, leaving a client meeting on your way to an in-house presentation, having left behind a desk which was laden with all sorts of different work that had been handed to you by senior associates and trainees alike. The fact that they let you draft things and send you off to research your own project not only shows you how much they trust you to give them the result, but also gives you an insight into what its like to be a solicitor in a city firm, which is part of the whole purpose of doing the vacation scheme in the first place.
Charlotte Jao - University College London, French graduate
For most of the week I worked on a multi-billion pound property deal. I learnt first hand what its like to find a needle in a haystack. After several hours of searching I sought help. I was impressed at how helpful the senior associate was. I never felt stupid, like I should have known the answer or pressured in any way.
Carl Sheppard - Leicester, Law graduate
[Our] first night was a quiz downstairs in the firms restaurant. Along with another student on the scheme, I diligently tackled the questions at hand, trying to take it seriously enough whilst still guzzling down the Peroni. By the end we had convinced ourselves that maybe the BLP trainees werent the brightest sparks - my supervisor having answered not a single question throughout. Maybe this was all a test for us? Later my supervisor sheepishly admits he had written the quiz and had been sworn to secrecy or risk being labelled a cheat.
Stuart Stock - Nottingham, Law undergraduate
The evening social at Abacus, on day four, was impressive. The venue was a swanky bar in the heart of the Square Mile. It was an excellent opportunity to mingle with everyone (trainees, vacation scheme students and HR). Food however was a little scarce and I started to worry about the consequences of too much drink on an empty stomach (was this the BLP alcohol stress test?). I decided to retire at about 10pm in order to get a good rest before the last day.
Asif Hussein - Guys & St Thomas Medical School, Medicine graduate
Wear a suit and shirt everyday - you wont look overdressed.
Dont feel embarrassed about talking to everyone you meet, everyone will have been told that you are coming. Talk to as wide a range of people as possible and at all levels including those who trained with the firm and why they stayed, those who trained with other firms and why they moved. Treat it like freshers week at uni and introduce yourself as a vac scheme student who is interested in what you are working on.
Dont drink too much. An obvious one but true. Our vac scheme had plenty of opportunities to get boozed but just remember that if you do get a training contract, you have to work with those people for at least two years.
Get to know the other people on your scheme, you never know, you might end up working with them.
If youre given a task to do, ask when the deadline is as it helps you to relax and allows you time to get it right rather than assuming your partner needs it tonight and you stay behind and realise he needs it by the end of the week and you have missed out on other important events.
Write a diary of everything you do. Its great as a souvenir but also important for interview preparation as the interviewers will more than likely ask about what you did.
Remember the time is just as much about you assessing the firm as the other way round. If you dont feel like you fit in after a week or two, just imagine two years of working there every day. Make sure youre honest with yourself and make that decision.
Have fun. Theres a serious element to the week but I really enjoyed meeting so many new people.
Jane Pendry - Edinburgh, Law graduate