Tips for applying for vacation schemes at Bird & Bird

Big up your digital savvy in your application and follow the firm on Twitter.

Bird & Bird is known to recruit many of its trainees from its pool of vacation schemers; schemes have even been described as ‘extended interviews’ for training contracts. If you’re serious about getting a training contract with this firm, it makes sense to try to get a place on one of its placement schemes.

Here are our main tips:

Specialism is good: research Bird & Bird’s main sectors and show how your interests match

You application should scream loud and clear why you’re such a perfect match for Bird & Bird. One of the ways to do this is to highlight how your personal interests and background tie in with one or two of Bird & Bird’s key sectors. Good ones to mention in your application are sport, media, technology or science. Even though you won’t sit specifically in any of these sector teams on your vac scheme – with the exception of science, as placements are available in intellectual property – having a strong, demonstrable interest in areas like media or technology is a clear signal that you’ve got the potential to develop deep industry knowledge and could therefore be an asset to the firm in the long term.

You’ll need to give watertight examples of your interest in sectors, especially in popular, ‘sexier’ sectors like sport and media. For example, Bird & Bird’s sports lawyers have worked on cases involving the FA, Six Nations Rugby and the Team GB swimmers – what interests you about these cases? Past candidates advise flagging up how your interest in sectors goes beyond a legal context. So if sport’s your thing, say whether you regularly play or watch certain sports. Maybe you’ve worked on the sports section of a student paper or website, or volunteered as a coach for children’s teams?

Vacation scheme students work in one of the following departments throughout their placement: banking, commercial, corporate, dispute resolution, employment, intellectual property (IP) and real estate. You will need to state a preference for the department you wish to work in. What is your understanding of the nature of the department’s work and why does it appeal to you? For example, corporate involves a lot of client contact and a huge breadth of clients working in everything from finance to food.

Present yourself as a digital native

An interest in media and technology seems obligatory for any aspiring Bird & Bird vac schemers, whether they see themselves working in this area or not. But even if you’re more attracted by, say, the intellectual rigour of IP work, would-be vacation schemers still need to show that they would fit in with the firm’s vibe and enthusiasm for digital media and technology.

Words like ‘forward-thinking’, ‘current’ and ‘high-tech’ have all been applied to Bird & Bird. The firm is proud of its history at being at the forefront of technological and digital media developments (it was one of the first firms to extend its practice into the computer market back in the 70s).

Smartphone and social media naysayers – not to mention general technophobes – probably shouldn’t apply. A keen engagement and interest in all things digital is expected, even assumed, nowadays but big up your digital savvy in your application and you’ll stand a better chance of being selected for the assessment day. Follow the firm’s Twitter account and see how they use social media and other platforms in their business activities. Show you’re completely au fait with apps and all the newer, exciting things to come out of the digital sphere, and that you can see how they are used in the legal profession (and the legal implications they could present potential clients).

Quirks are useful – use the extracurricular activities section to showcase your personality as well as skill set.

The application asks you to give information about extracurricular activities and the ‘positions of responsibility’ you’ve held. As mentioned, use this section to bolster your enthusiasm for certain sectors by listing relevant hobbies but, equally, be sure to underline any activities that show what a general outgoing and personable creature you are. Bird & Bird have famously sociable and friendly personnel – you want to indicate that you’d really get stuck in with the extracurricular programme laid on for vac schemers! Pursuits that involve working closely with people are useful for signalling your interpersonal skills to Bird & Bird recruiters, so mention any volunteering, charity work or jobs that involved working with people. If you can point to times when you worked closely with children, even better. In general, if you can combine evidence of a friendly disposition with positions of responsibility, it would impress. Have you led a team, no matter how small? Have you held a position of trust on a university committee?

Commercial awareness – signpost your potential to be a commercial lawyer

It can be very hard for prospective vac schemers to show evidence of commercial awareness in applications, and it is often something that applicants are tested on in assessment centres. Underline any of your past dealings with commerce, whether this is working in a shop or restaurant for a Saturday job. If you handled petty cash and stock or had to liaise with customers, you’ve already got some appreciation of how businesses work – make sure you bring this out. How did your experiences enhance your understanding of the bottom line?

Read the TARGET jobs guide to talking about commercial awareness in law firm applications and interviews.

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