Interview: My life-changing time on a vacation scheme

Christopher Moorcroft, a trainee from Clifford Chance, describes his life-changing time on a vacation scheme in London and Munich
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The Independent Online

For anyone considering a career in law, a vacation scheme at a solicitor's practice is a fantastic place to start. It offers a real insight into private practice with many new and exciting experiences and, for those who obtain a placement at a large commercial firm, there is also the potential for a high salary.

I started applying for vacation placements at the start of my second year of Durham University. It seemed very early to be thinking about jobs, but as all the firms came round at that time to do their presentations, it became clear that this was the time they were expecting us to think about applying. Also, the idea of spending four weeks of the following summer in a law firm seemed a much better idea than temping.

I ended up making about 30 applications, which was pretty gruelling, and after interviews at a few different firms I accepted my offer from Clifford Chance. I was delighted - I'd secured a four-week vacation scheme with one of the biggest law firms in the world and, what's more, I was going to spend the second fortnight working in the Munich office!

To say that the 30-floor skyscraper in Canary Wharf that houses Clifford Chance is an imposing place to walk into for the first time would be something of an understatement! However, one thing a vacation scheme is guaranteed to do is blow preconceptions out of the water - no matter how big an organisation is, it is made up of people. Bright and hard-working, yes, but also extremely friendly and welcoming. I felt at home in no time.

The scheme itself was a whirlwind of meals out, drinks receptions, talks and tours, and I made some really good friends - I even ended up living with two of them at law school a couple of years later. I was struck by how many non-law students were on the scheme (around 50 per cent), and it was great to meet so many different people from such diverse backgrounds.

I sat in the banking department in an office with a trainee. She was fantastic - despite being busy, she made a huge effort to get me involved and explain what was going on. I was given documents to review and cases to summarise and was really made to feel part of the team. Nobody back home or at university could believe the magnitude of the deals that I had been working on.

After two weeks the time came for me to jet off to Munich. I wasn't sure how my German would hold up as I hadn't done any since school, but I needn't have worried: everyone in the German offices spoke fantastic English and most of the work was done in English.

I had an unbelievable fortnight. I was put up in a really nice hotel, five minutes' walk from the office, and spent most evenings enjoying the German summer, including the beer gardens! Above all, the partner I sat with was one of the nicest guys you could possibly meet. Shortly after the end of the scheme I went for my training contract interview and got an offer. In addition, the experience I'd gained from those four weeks helped me get training contract offers from the other two firms that I interviewed with. However, based on my experience on the vacation scheme, I had to take up the Clifford Chance offer.

A vacation scheme at a law firm will do different things for different people. For me, it really focused my mind and made me far clearer about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. It's a brilliant addition to any CV but, more importantly, it gives you a fantastic insight into the world of law, commerce and the people with whom you'd be working. For anyone who's even considering such a career you really should apply; you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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