Latest blog post by LLB law student, Maddison Seed.
My name is Maddison and this summer I joined Pinsent Masons as a vacation scheme student, albeit a virtual one! Despite its differences to traditional in-person vacation schemes, this was a fantastic experience that was innovative, engaging and fun.
The Virtual Platform
The Virtual Vacation Scheme was hosted on Inside Sherpa; this is a digital platform with online programs that contain tasks designed to simulate various career roles.
The vacation scheme consisted of five tabs: Home, Schedule, Internship Hub, Networking Hub, and Chat & Inbox. The Home page presented your upcoming events; the Internship Hub was where you could access the resources for your assigned tasks and various videos on Pinsent Masons; and the Networking Hub was a directory of students and employees involved in the vacation scheme. It showed a photo of each person, and if you clicked on a person’s photo you could read a fun fact about them!
In addition to Inside Sherpa, Pinsent Masons used Microsoft Teams. By clicking on the event you wanted to attend on either the Home page or Schedule, you were automatically directed to Teams, where you could join the event call.
Contact on the scheme
We were each allocated a mentor (a qualified solicitor) and a trainee buddy who were our main points of contact throughout the scheme. They were easily reachable via the Inside Sherpa platform, Teams or email. They were also extremely supportive and on hand to give advice and answer all our questions.
Plus, we were given a teammate – this was another student who had applied to the same office, and shared your mentors and trainee buddy. Teammates acted as a friendly face during the scheme, and someone who you could work together with.
Structure of the scheme
The scheme consisted of live webinars on Teams, tasks to complete in your own time, and the odd social!
The webinars were a mixture of talks and workshops. The talks ranged in subject: examples include a presentation on how to be a successful trainee, panel discussions on COVID-19 and innovation, and Q&As with Richard Foley, the global Senior Partner at Pinsent Masons. The workshops were interactive, and the use of ‘breakout rooms’ on Teams allows us to collaborate in smaller groups. An example of a workshop was the commercial awareness exercise: we were faced with tricky ethical dilemmas which each group had to discuss and provide a solution for.
We were assigned two tasks to complete in our own time. The first one was to review a contract in order to provide answers to the client’s questions. The second one was to complete a due diligence report- this involved reading through all the client’s company documents to identify any issues. When we finished the tasks, we had a 1:1 session with our mentor who provided us with positive and constructive feedback.
Pinsent Masons made a big effort to ensure that we could still network and have fun! We had a quiz and a game of bingo, but my favourite social was the cocktail/mocktail event. Each office set up a Zoom call to make a cocktail/mocktail and there was a competition to see which office made the best one. The event was done in a ‘shocking shirt’ theme which only added to the fun!
(Birmingham Office Cocktail/Mocktail Event- I am in the shockingly bright green shirt!)
Advantages to participating in a virtual vacation scheme
There were actually many advantages to completing the vacation scheme virtually, but I will focus on two of them.
The first benefit is that we could experience a range of tasks. Had we been in the office, we would have only been able to complete tasks pertaining to our allocated seat. However, because we completed the scheme virtually, the tasks allowed us to dabble in multiple different areas. Going back to the due diligence task I mentioned earlier, the documents we reviewed covered many areas of law, from commercial to IP, instead of just focusing on documents relating to one practice area. As such, we gained a broad knowledge of how different areas of law inter-relate and work in practice.
The second benefit is that the online platform allowed us to connect with vacation scheme students from all the UK offices: everyone was contactable through the Networking Hub and we all joined the same webinars. This meant that we could form long-lasting relationships with people who we may not have been able to meet had we been confined to one office.
How to prepare for a virtual vacation scheme
To conclude my blog, I will share some tips on how to prepare for a virtual vacation scheme.
Keep in mind the general advice for traditional in-person vacation schemes. Although you’re not in the office, don’t forget to be yourself and ask lots of questions. This includes asking for help- your mentor and trainee buddy are there to help you and want you to do well!
When you participate in events (whether that be talks, workshops, video meetings etc), make sure you keep your camera on so that they know you are engaged. You can make a good impression by actively listening: nodding, smiling and making notes. But remember that if your camera is on, it’s very important that you dress professionally (even if that is only your top half!) and have a tidy background.
Please don’t be put off by the fact that a vacation scheme is virtual. I had an incredible time with Pinsent Masons. I experienced multiple areas of law in practice, networked with people of all levels in the firm (Trainee, Associate, Partner and even Senior Partner!), and made some friends for life.