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    Ok, so I've applied to about 9 vacation schemes with top 20 firms. So far, I've had about 6 rejections, one interview with Pinsent Masons (which was going great until I totally messed up my commercial awareness question) and I am still waiting on Olswang and Reed Smith - neither of which am I very hopeful about.

    I just want to know what people think is going wrong? I've got a first class philosophy degree from a top redbrick university with extra curricular activities which include writing for and editing student magazines, playing for sports teams, fundraising abroad, and previous employment in a large commercial business. What more do I need to put on my applications?? I mean what aspects of your lives/experiences do you guys focus on when completing applications?

    And what do people now recommend that I do? I'm considering spending the summer doing volunteer work abroad, does anybody think this will help or should I instead look for more commercial experience in a large corporate organisation? And feedback would be much appreciated as I'm now re-considering whether I even want to go through all this again next year as there doesn't seem much point applying for any Tcs before then.
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    (Original post by Crux)
    Ok, so I've applied to about 9 vacation schemes with top 20 firms. So far, I've had about 6 rejections, one interview with Pinsent Masons (which was going great until I totally messed up my commercial awareness question) and I am still waiting on Olswang and Reed Smith - neither of which am I very hopeful about.

    I just want to know what people think is going wrong? I've got a first class philosophy degree from a top redbrick university with extra curricular activities which include writing for and editing student magazines, playing for sports teams, fundraising abroad, and previous employment in a large commercial business. What more do I need to put on my applications?? I mean what aspects of your lives/experiences do you guys focus on when completing applications?

    And what do people now recommend that I do? I'm considering spending the summer doing volunteer work abroad, does anybody think this will help or should I instead look for more commercial experience in a large corporate organisation? And feedback would be much appreciated as I'm now re-considering whether I even want to go through all this again next year as there doesn't seem much point applying for any Tcs before then.
    The competition for the stupid things is astonishingly high...it must be down to the way you're approaching the forms? I think they want a pronounced emphasis on commerciality and some sound reasons as to why you chose their firm. I'm assuming you did that? Then what about A levels? I think you'd be very lucky to get a look-in anywhere with less than AAB at the moment. As a long shot, less than a few A*s in your GCSEs? How about the tiresome competency stuff they look for-teamwork, analytical skills, ability to see problems from a client perspective, relationship-building etc? Did you check the specific ones for each firm?
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    RE: If it is the A level issue, then maybe you should just apply to smaller firms and ones that do not specifically ask for higher grades than BBB. Train there, get qualified, then if you're good at the job, you can move around if it doesn't suit. You're clearly more than smart enough. Just get your foot in the door; be pragmatic about it.
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    If you've finished your degree, which it seems you have, I would say you should be applying for a training contract rather than vac schemes. Vac schemes are primarily aimed at penultimate law or final non-law students. It's actually harder to get a vac scheme than it is to get a training contract.

    And it is perfectly possible to get a training contract without a vac scheme. A few friends of mine did it last year, when the recession was at its worse!

    If you keep at it, you should be able to get something! Good luck!
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    This could be a case of just looking in the wrong place. Is there a real reason you want a vacation scheme with one of these firms or is it that you want a training contract and the vac scheme is a good way in?

    I am not making any hard and fast statements, because I am just a law student, but IMO with prior commercial experience, fund-raising, a first class degree etc, it might be that firms are looking at you wondering why you are bothering with VSs at all. They may be binning you expecting your application for a training contract to be somewhere in the undoubtedly enormous pile that is in front of them.

    Good luck, sounds like you will get there, just a question of tweaking your approach maybe.
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    As regards the A-levels, I've only got BBB BUT I do have VERY strong mitigating circumstances and around 500 UCAS points due to also completing a BTEC National Diploma...so I meet all the UCAS Points requirements if not the typcial AAB requirement. I also made a point of not applying to firms specifically requiring A at A-level.

    In my interview with PM, they actually remarked on how strong my responses were to their competency questions so I don't think it's that...unless I'm failing to get enough buzz words in there about 'project management skills' and 'organising workloads effectively' etc etc...

    As for the TC issue, you're correct, I've been trying to get the VS as a means of more easily securing a TC. I might try and go for a few TCs now that the vacation scheme approach has completely failed. But do you guys think I ought to apply to the same firms that have already rejected my VS applications? There are a couple such as Olswang which I would really like to secure a TC with.

    Just some advice on the TC search; do you think I could get away with lifting much of my VS content (such as competency examples and 'why this firm?' responses) and transferring it the TC apps, or should I radically alter my VS apps for the TC app? And also, when would you recommend submitting my TC apps given that most deadlines are not until end of July? (and yes, I am aware that this paragraph is beginning to sound like a promotional advertisement for the iPhone!)
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    Crux, I really think this has to be an issue with how you are approaching the application forms. I have similar academics to you (haven't finished my degree but have a predicted first), and far less impressive extracurricular stuff. Yet I've secured interviews with the vast majority of firms I've applied to, both for vac schemes last year and a mix of VS and TCs this year. Have you made your answers to the 'why this firm' question really specific to each firm? I have been told by a couple of HR people that that is the most important question on the form, along with 'why law'. The competency questions are apparently comparatively much more easy for applicants to get right - most people can think of a time they worked in a team etc.

    I also don't agree that you are being rejected because you have graduated, especially if you don't have any vac schemes already. I've been on a couple of vac schemes (MC and SC) and there were plenty of people who had graduated and were either on the GDL/LPC, working, or on a gap year. I really think it has to be your application technique as, regardless of the level of competition etc, there just isn't any other explanation for a candidate with your credentials to be overlooked for interviews every time.

    If you are going to go ahead with TC applications now, it's probably best to get them in asap as interviews with many top 20 firms have already started. It is possible to get a TC without any legal work experience but make sure you are very, very clear why you want to be a solicitor as you will be challenged over it in any interview. Whether you can reapply for TCs tto firms that rejected you for VSs depends on the firm - some won't allow it, some specifically state that you should. If you really like a firm there is no harm in reapplying. I would however definitely recommend looking at your 'why law'/'why this firm' answers again with a really critical eye before sending them off, especially if you are planning to apply to the same firms that rejected you for VS. Are you still able to use your uni careers service? I know at my uni graduates can continue to use it for a certain period, not sure how long though. It might be useful to get someone to look at your applications before you send them off.
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    In my response to the 'why this firm' questions, I've focused on the particular firm's training programme and waxed lyrical about how that is really important to me, and why that firm's training programme structure appeals to me (for example, one firm provides trainees with core business skills to supplement their conventional legal training and I made a point of highlighting this).

    However, I have kind of universalised some of my responses to the 'why this firm' question such as stating that they are best placed to provide trainees with significant client exposure and contact time. Perhaps it does come across as a bit generic.

    I have also predominantly applied to firms with first tier TMT and media and entertainment practices and stated how the chance to work with the firm's impressive client base in these sectors, and for example, advising on film financing, outsourcing and licensing are really enticing prospects which lie behind my application.

    So in short, I've highlighted their training structure and the strength of their practice areas as key reasons for my application. Any ideas on what other areas/factors that I could highlight in my application bearing in mind the typical 250-300 word limit?

    As for the 'why law' question, I've found these slighter harder but have talked about how my own skill set are well suited to commercial law, in particular my analytical and problem solving abilities. And as for my university's careers service, I suppose I do still have access to it. I guess I can contact them and email my applications to them for review before submitting them.
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    (Original post by Crux)
    In my response to the 'why this firm' questions, I've focused on the particular firm's training programme and waxed lyrical about how that is really important to me, and why that firm's training programme structure appeals to me (for example, one firm provides trainees with core business skills to supplement their conventional legal training and I made a point of highlighting this).

    However, I have kind of universalised some of my responses to the 'why this firm' question such as stating that they are best placed to provide trainees with significant client exposure and contact time. Perhaps it does come across as a bit generic.

    I have also predominantly applied to firms with first tier TMT and media and entertainment practices and stated how the chance to work with the firm's impressive client base in these sectors, and for example, advising on film financing, outsourcing and licensing are really enticing prospects which lie behind my application.

    So in short, I've highlighted their training structure and the strength of their practice areas as key reasons for my application. Any ideas on what other areas/factors that I could highlight in my application bearing in mind the typical 250-300 word limit?

    As for the 'why law' question, I've found these slighter harder but have talked about how my own skill set are well suited to commercial law, in particular my analytical and problem solving abilities. And as for my university's careers service, I suppose I do still have access to it. I guess I can contact them and email my applications to them for review before submitting them.
    Looking at this, it surely can't be your 'why this firm?' responses that are the problem; I've put basically the same things-probably more generic than yours, in fact-and had interviews. After all, what on earth is there to possibly say in one paragraph, without regurgitating the whole recruitment brochure? It could possibly be commercial/business awareness, or 'why commercial law?' that does for it...? Though of course, I'm no expert.
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    I have to disagree to a slight extent. I've had my applications thoroughly checked by the careers service, and it has still not passed through the initial stage when I go on to submit them. I don't know if this is due to their incompetence or not, but I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with my application either - 2:1 from top 3 uni, good ECs, varying commercial experience at banks/law firms etc. So I think luck plays a large part in the application process.

    Your application will obviously have to stand out above the thousands amongst the pile as well - what you think are genuine responses may very well be used by every single other candidate out there, and consequently perceived as being very generic to HR.

    Quite frankly, backing your statements with relevant examples is just not good enough at the end of the day.
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    (Original post by Albiceleste)
    Looking at this, it surely can't be your 'why this firm?' responses that are the problem; I've put basically the same things-probably more generic than yours, in fact-and had interviews. After all, what on earth is there to possibly say in one paragraph, without regurgitating the whole recruitment brochure? It could possibly be commercial/business awareness, or 'why commercial law?' that does for it...? Though of course, I'm no expert.
    I think you have to take into account that you're a Cambridge student as well. Your academics already offset a lot of other areas that might not be strong on the rest of your application form.
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    (Original post by Rofl)
    I have to disagree to a slight extent. I've had my applications thoroughly checked by the careers service, and it has still not passed through the initial stage when I go on to submit them. I don't know if this is due to their incompetence or not, but I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with my application either - 2:1 from top 3 uni, good ECs, varying commercial experience at banks/law firms etc. So I think luck plays a large part in the application process.

    Your application will obviously have to stand out above the thousands amongst the pile as well - what you think are genuine responses may very well be used by every single other candidate out there, and consequently perceived as being very generic to HR.

    Quite frankly, backing your statements with relevant examples is just not good enough at the end of the day.
    I have to agree on this one. I think I have some things that make me stand out but don't most people? In the end the competition is huge and not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality.

    My advice to anyone struggling is to just keep trying different firms and be prepared to have a gap year and do another round of applications. Don't lose your determination
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    I may have missed it, but do you have any law work experience? You could try and get some experience at a small law firm. It may help bolster your applications to larger firms. Although if you have no contacts, getting experience at a small firm can be a trial in itself. I phoned the A-Z of Solicitors from the Yellow Pages in my region, about 100 of them and only got experience from one.

    Alternatively, just attend lots of open days and law fairs. I saw a firm at a law fair, attended their open day and then requested a second, individual visit. I don't think my application to them was particularly strong, but because they knew my name and recognised I had made the effort they invited me for interview.

    Although I graduated last year (non-law degree), I've also attended lots of law-related talks provided by my university's career service this year. Adds something extra to mention in 'other experience' boxes or at interview.

    Last thought - perhaps apply to firms outside of the top 20? Even if you have your heart set on working at a top 20 firm, work experience at a top 50, 100, etc would be beneficial.
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    You still have 2 to hear from, dont lose faith!

    If i were you id start getting emails out to local firms and more regional full service firms that dont offer TCs. I did a week's informal work experience in a full service firm in Derby as well as vac schemes, and I enjoyed that most! get on teh phone, get writing, get emailing. Dont stop until you have as much informal work experience under your belt as possible. Youd be surprised how good that will make you look - initiative and a passion for the law. Two things a vac scheme wont help you much on.
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    Well the irony of it all is that I have actually been offered that vac scheme at Pinsent Masons (the one firm I had an interview with!). However, my heart is set on a couple of other firms. Of course I'll still do the scheme in order to strengthen my future applications but my dilemma is this; if I'm offered a TC at the end of it and I refuse it, am I still going to be able to put this on future applications bearing in mind I'll probably get a very poor reference from PM if I reject them?

    And more pertinently, I'm going to start a couple of TC applications soon so can I include the fact that I've been offered a vac scheme with PM this summer in those applications? And if so, where do I include this information on the application forms? Or can I only refer to it once I've actually undertaken the vac scheme in June/July?
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    (Original post by Crux)
    And more pertinently, I'm going to start a couple of TC applications soon so can I include the fact that I've been offered a vac scheme with PM this summer in those applications?
    Yes, you can (and should) include the fact that you already have a vacation scheme lined up, even though you have not completed it yet. If firms know you have made a successful application elsewhere, they are more likely to offer you an interview.

    (Original post by Crux)
    And if so, where do I include this information on the application forms?
    Put it on your CV. If the application form has a work experience/employment section, put it down there too (as long as the "date" options allow you to select a time in the future).

    (Original post by Crux)
    if I'm offered a TC at the end of it and I refuse it, am I still going to be able to put this on future applications bearing in mind I'll probably get a very poor reference from PM if I reject them?
    What do you mean by "reference"? If you reject a TC offer it is no big deal - PM aren't going to call up all the other firms and tell them you're a ****! If firms notice you completed a vacation scheme but are still applying for TCs they will know that you either rejected the offer, or did not get offered a TC. Given the competitive nature of the market at the moment, they are likely to assume the latter. Therefore, in any future TC interviews you should make it crystal clear that you were offered a TC by PM (assuming you are), but turned it down. Make up some crap about how the "culture" of the firm didn't fit, or something about how their firm is more suited to you for reasons x, y and z.

    However, it gets more tricky if you complete the vac scheme with PM and don't get a TC offer. Listing the vacation scheme on your applications to other firms will probe them to ask you questions about it. You'll then have to lie and say you DID get a TC offer, but turned it down, or be honest and risk them getting a bad impression of you ("If PM didn't want him, then we probably don't either...).
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    (Original post by Grifter)
    I'm in a similar position to you Crux - non-law graduate, not even getting interviews. I have stronger A Levels than you, but a low 2:1. I graduated in 2008, applied to a handful of firms last year for vacation schemes - got a few interviews. A pretty good application/interview ratio. Unfortunately I didn't secure one, so this time round have applied to many more, and my applications have been better too, but have only had one interview invitation.

    I do think this cycle is more competitive than the last- although this year there are more places than last, there is the huge back-log of applicants who were unsuccessful last time- and the many who decided not to apply due to the effect of the deferrals.

    I also think it is harder applying as a graduate, or GDL or LPC student. If there were 2 similar applicants, one in final year (the 'designated' time to apply if non-law), and one a grad, or, in my case, a not-so-recent grad, I think HR tend to favour the former, as it's likely it's not the grad's first bite at the cherry. Self-funding the GDL/LPC just suggests to them that you couldn't get a TC.
    Crux - I reckon you should avoid mentioning your interest in media law on your applications. Comparitively, it's such a tiny sector. Olswang was one of the firms I interviewed at, and I think that was one of the reasons I didn't get the placement - I was too focused on the media side of things. Even at Olswang media stuff is only a small part of what they do.

    Anyway, so bored of the application process! best of luck.
    Then again, with the recession and law firms' efforts to reduce costs - if you were just as good as another final year candidate, they may prefer you because you'd cost them less.

    It's all speculation though - I guess you'll never really know.
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    (Original post by Crux)
    Of course I'll still do the scheme in order to strengthen my future applications but my dilemma is this; if I'm offered a TC at the end of it and I refuse it, am I still going to be able to put this on future applications bearing in mind I'll probably get a very poor reference from PM if I reject them?
    You won't get a poor reference simply for rejecting them - law firms aren't that childish/vindictive. I'm not aware that firms ask for references from Vac Schemes at other firms - I could be wrong, but it would seem a very bizarre thing to do.

    And more pertinently, I'm going to start a couple of TC applications soon so can I include the fact that I've been offered a vac scheme with PM this summer in those applications? And if so, where do I include this information on the application forms? Or can I only refer to it once I've actually undertaken the vac scheme in June/July?
    Of course. Obviously you can't lie and say you've actually done it, simply say that you are doing it, or make this clear by giving dates.
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    (Original post by Grifter)
    Crux - I reckon you should avoid mentioning your interest in media law on your applications. Comparitively, it's such a tiny sector. Olswang was one of the firms I interviewed at, and I think that was one of the reasons I didn't get the placement - I was too focused on the media side of things. Even at Olswang media stuff is only a small part of what they do.
    Well they make a big play of it, as do the legal 500 when reviewing Olswang's core strengths. Did you focus on Olswang's media and entertainment practice in your application because clearly whatever you said was good enough to secure an interview? I have considered that maybe focusing on this one practice area, as opposed to corporate or litigation, is a bit risky but I was careful to only apply to those firms with a particularly strong media sector focus and who actually market themselves on their skill and reputation in this sector.
 
 
 
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