“Your greatest resource is your time”: How to balance applications with your university life

In July 2019 Valerie (careers consultant for Warwick Law School) spoke to student Amy Wang about how she secured her vac scheme at Morgan Lewis.

Valerie: Why did you want to do a vacation scheme in the first place?

Amy: A vacation scheme is the ultimate opportunity to assess how the cultural fit of a law firm aligns with your own values. For example, I value personal growth and ambition so I hope to work on exciting cases in a supportive mentorship environment at Morgan Lewis. The vacation scheme is entirely what you make of it; I fully intend to explore the practice areas I am interested in and gain an insight into people’s honest opinions. Spending two weeks with a law firm is a slice of real legal life that I consider essential before committing to the start of your legal career.

Valerie: How did you decide which Law Firms to target?

Amy: This process definitely needed a learning curve that I would advise against! My first year involved a number of applications that were less targeted and motivated, so even though I was offered a First Year Scheme the applications caused more stress on my university life than it needed. I realised this in my second year and adjusted my strategy to focus purely on firms I had positive experiences with through the Law Fair or firm events. I kept an eye out on the myAdvantage Careers page for interesting events and would set aside more time in the first term for firm research before attending the events. This initial contact allowed me to be selective and focus my energy on applying to firms with a good cultural fit.

Valerie: How did you deal with rejection and stay motivated?

Amy: My method of dealing with rejection is to remember: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Go to multiple events and submit well-researched applications to multiple firms so you do not pin your hopes on a single application. I would also emphasise self-reflection – know your own worth and take this as motivation to build your CV with a wide range of experiences. This will help to position you for future applications, as well as becoming a more rounded individual.

Valerie: What preparation do you think you need to produce a good quality application?

Amy: The preparation is about finding common links between yourself and the firm, so it is important to work both on the firm and on yourself. Speaking to people from the firm at events is doubly motivating for two reasons: i) it provides solid evidence for the question “Why this firm?”, and ii) I felt motivated to prepare my application immediately after events. It can be difficult to fit in applications alongside a heavy university workload, so setting aside application time after going to an event is an easy way of writing authentically about your perception of the firm. Also, try not to sacrifice your extra-curriculars or hobbies during application season as they form a part of your individuality that law firms find just as legitimate as your work experience!

Valerie: What feedback did you get from law firms on your application?

Amy: Unfortunately, its standard practice that law firms do not give feedback on the first stage of applications. I highly recommend that students use the support network at Warwick – Valerie you’re a key resource as Law Careers Consultant! Other options include Brand Ambassadors, the Law Society, and other Law students who have successfully navigated the application process. From my time as Brand Ambassador, I would get messages on LinkedIn and Messenger and I am sure everyone is similarly eager to help.

Valerie: How did you prepare for the in-person interview at Morgan Lewis?

Amy: Each firm has a slightly different process, and it is important to do your research for what is expected on you. I had a phone interview beforehand for Morgan Lewis so I wrote down the questions asked and thought about follow up answers that could apply to the upcoming interview. In addition, I prepared for a range of competency, strength, and motivational questions. The most important thing I did was my mock interview with you (Valerie) as you could comment on the sub-conscious body language or verbal tics that impact how I come across to an interviewer. Highly recommend!

Valerie: What did the interview with Morgan Lewis involve?

Amy: Whilst I cannot reveal much of the process, I will say that the interview was with a partner and a member of HR. The interview was mainly exploratory, and primarily focused on gauging the fit between me and the firm. There were a number of motivational questions and some abstract ones which tested your thought process.

Valerie: What advice would you offer students going for interview?

Amy: Be yourself – but the best version of yourself. Let your interviewer see your passion in your expressions, tone of voice, posture, and body language. I always advise a mock interview with Law Careers or a professional authority to help in this. Also, remember that this is a two-way interview and don’t be afraid to ask probing questions at the end e.g “Why did you choose to work here?”. Use the opportunity to gather information that will help you make an informed decision, and the interviewer will appreciate your analytical approach.

Valerie: What will you be doing to make the most of your vacation scheme?

Amy: As I’m sure I’ve made clear by now, I am a big fan of self-reflection. I will keep a diary throughout the vacation scheme to reflect on my work and the skills I have developed. My attitude towards the vacation scheme is to maximise the opportunity by following up on specific practice areas and volunteering for new experiences. I am excited to make connections with trainees and other students for an accurate perspective on life at entry level, but also with associates or partners in order to ask about the overall direction within the firm.

Valerie: Any other comments?

Amy: I would like to raise attention for the common presence of ‘imposter syndrome’ amongst students applying for legal opportunities, and some strategies to tackle this. Imposter syndrome is the feeling of inadequacy that tricks genuinely qualified candidates into thinking they are undeserving of their position. This feeling is incredibly common in a competitive field such as commercial law – my advice for minimising its impacts is to redirect that energy into an eagerness to learn and help others. Identify your role models who can share their expertise, and also ‘pay it forward’ by being willing to mentor other younger students. Everyone has moments of doubt but by embracing your network you can make an impact!

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