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You are here:   Ultimate Law Guide > Articles > Summer vacation or vacation placement?

Summer vacation or vacation placement?

For those dedicated and determined aspiring solicitors, holiday periods should become synonymous with legal work placements, known as vacation placements. Formal vacation schemes are the best way for students to gain an insight into how a law firm operates, develop an understanding of the firm's dynamic office environment and culture. 


Vacation schemes are notoriously difficult to get onto, so you should not be too disheartened if you have not yet been successful in getting a place on one for this summer. Law firms understand this. However, it is still possible to gain valuable work experience outside the formal vacation schemes.


When it comes to acquiring work experience - anything you do that is supplemental to studying shows you are a well rounded individual who has maximised their time at university efficiently, who has get-up and go and is willing to get involved with new opportunities. This will help you to develop your commercial awareness and transferable skills which are required to become a good lawyer. Graduate recruiters value all sorts of legal and commercial work experience.


Informal work experience:

My first real taste of a law firm began as an informal work placement. I wrote to a local law firm and enquired about undertaking a couple of days of work experience. They said that if I wrote articles for their website then they would be happy to offer me a week of work experience.

Apply to a range of firms for informal work experience. Target a wide variety of different types of firms. Aim to see the bigger picture because each experience you gain is a worthwhile investment towards plotting your long-term future as a successful legal practitioner.

Attend Open days at Law Firms:

Many firms will hold open days at their offices. Take advantage of these as they allow you to get to know the firm in question, make valuable contacts in trainees, associates and partners and provide plenty of ammunition for you to use on your application form.

Apply for skills workshops and attend employer presentations:


These allow you to build up your skills and experiences and gain an insider account of what it takes to forge a successful legal career (ULG commercial workshops). Learning how law firms operate as businesses and create a competitive edge will enable your commercial understanding to lift off the page on your application forms and make you a candidate to remember at interview.

Securing work experience in a particular industry sector which relates to the type of work the law firm specialise in:


If you are keen to practice a particular area of law, or to join a firm with a specialism in a particular area, use your holidays as an opportunity to learn as much as possible about how the commercial enterprise and the industry works. This will help you to improve your commerciality which is hugely valued by city firms. For example, we know a student who gained experience in their summer working in the aviation industry and subsequently secured a Training Contract with a niche firm who specialized in aviation law.

In- house work experience:

Gaining experience with the legal team of a company can greatly enhance your level of commercial awareness and understanding and show that you are willing to go the extra mile. Even better if the company operates in an industry associated with the area of law in which you wish to practice. Target the clients of the law firm in which you are applying. If you undertake work experience with an in-house legal team, keep the contact open, they may even take you back during your Training Contract for a secondment – with the potential for you to introduce a new client to your firm before you have even finished your training!



Graduate recruiters value all sorts of experience. Embarking upon a project abroad, such as the Raleigh Project, who take on fund raising volunteers for their charity projects across the World (http://www.raleighinternational.org), can portray your skills, for example, in teamwork and management constructing a shelter, communication in overcoming language barriers, commitment in raising funds and confidence to embark upon a challenge. Travelling with friends or family to foreign countries also presents a well- rounded individual, and provides plenty of interesting experiences to talk about with recruiters.


Part- time holiday jobs:


Offers the opportunity to increase your understanding of the mechanics of business; how a business is organised to function efficiently, working in a pressurised customer-facing environment and the factors which affect the company's profitability and market growth.


Remember: It’s all about how you sell your transferable skills to prospective law firms. Make it clear what skills you have learnt during your work experience and how these would make you a good trainee and bring benefit to the firm.


This article is written by Luke Murphy. Luke is a member of the Ultimate Law Guide team and a future trainee solicitor at Clarke Willmott LLP.


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