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Interviews

PwC Legal LLP Vacation Scheme: Ask the Trainee Interviews

PwC Legal LLP Vacation Scheme: Ask the Trainee

It’s not often that we get to hear the inside scoop on vacation schemes. Trainee solicitor Yaxin Zhang tells us about her experiences on PwC Legal LLP’s vacation scheme, the application process and why PwC Legal LLP is different. As the main vacation scheme deadline approaches, now's the time to knuckle down and send in those applications.


Why did you decide to apply for PwC Legal’s vacation scheme?

When I was looking at summer vacation schemes, it was organisations with relatively small practices that appealed to me. I was attracted to the idea that I’d have more responsibility and client exposure as a trainee. PwC Legal LLP stood out because it’s got about 200 fee earners, which is quite a nice size. There are opportunities to stand out and act as an individual: you’re not a nameless face in a swarm of employees.

PwC Legal LLP is part of the PwC network, meaning you’re part of a huge international organisation. Other law firms might be global but they aren’t on the same sort of scale as the Big Four. For me, I was looking for access to good quality work with global connections and this relationship meant the chance to work with exciting high profile clients.

The size of the PwC network means you get to work on slightly more varied projects, as well as traditional legal work, for a very wide range of clients. And often directly alongside professionals in PwC who are helping the client with other aspects of their business.

So you get to work with other departments in PwC? Is this what makes it different from a traditional law firm?

Yes, definitely. We work with other departments within PwC Legal LLP obviously, but there’s quite a lot of work sourced from the PwC wider network too, particularly in areas such as Corporate Finance, Transaction Services and Tax. The opportunity to work alongside people in other professions and different industries is hugely important if you want to become a commercial advisor, and not just a lawyer.

As a trainee or someone on a vac scheme, you’re at the point in your career where you want to get as much experience as possible; this is a law practice that lets you do just that. It’s completely unique in the legal market. You don’t get that anywhere else or at least certainly not on this scale.

What stage were you at in your university education when you applied?

I applied about six months after I graduated from university with a Law degree, sending off my application in December 2010. The break gave me time to gain more experience and make sure that law was absolutely what I wanted to do. During that time, I did a few legal internships and also a marketing internship, as I was really interested in business. I just wanted to make sure that law was what I wanted, and it was!

Talk us through the application process for PwC Legal. What did it involve?

The first part of the application is made up of two online tests: verbal and logical reasoning. If you’re successful, this is followed by an online application form. It’s a pretty standard application form; you give all of the usual information and answer two questions. I answered a commercial awareness question and one on why I wanted to apply to PwC Legal LLP.

This is followed by a telephone interview lasting about 40 to 50 minutes. I was asked questions about myself and my background, what I’ve been doing, and answered some competency based questions.

The second stage is an assessment centre in a PwC office. You’re given verbal and logical reasoning tests (longer versions than the ones you did online at the beginning of the application process), a written exercise, and a group exercise. The final part of the recruitment process is a partner or senior manager interview. Again, you talk about yourself, answer competency questions and tackle some in-depth commercial awareness questions.

What was the most challenging part of the application process?

Well, it is pretty lengthy! There are many stages, but you’re kept up to date via texts and emails as to what’s happening and what to expect. It wasn’t gruelling and I certainly didn’t feel like I was being ripped to shreds! Every stage was a platform from which you knew you had to perform to the best of your ability.

I admit it was a challenge keeping your concentration and focus up during the assessment centre, particularly for the interview at the end of the day.

What advice would you give to students applying for the vacation scheme at PwC Legal LLP?

PwC Legal LLP is unique compared to others, so try to cultivate a genuine understanding of what we do and how we work with PwC. This might be really generic advice, but figure out why you want a vacation scheme with PwC Legal LLP as opposed to another mid-tier law firm. Don’t make the mistake that PwC Legal is an in-house legal department, as we’re not! You’d be surprised how many students think this as they’ve not done their research. We’re entirely client-focused, acting for them often alongside a variety of specialists in PwC.  In some cases, we may be the only part of PwC with a relationship with a particular client, but if the client is looking for expert non-legal help, then we’ll help to introduce colleagues from other parts of the business. It’s all about client choice and trying to help add value to their business.

An interest in business law is really important. It’s been said many times before, but you should keep up with the business news.  Read a good quality broadsheet or online business publication. What’s really important is being able to talk about business stories and link them to PwC Legal LLP or PwC clients and the impact they have on the organisation.

That’s what some students seem to struggle with, figuring out how the business story affects the place they’re looking to work in…

Yes, if you make that extra link, people will be impressed.

We’ve covered the application process, so can you tell us a little bit about actual the vacation scheme itself?

The vacation scheme is a paid three week work experience programme in June and July of each year. The three weeks are spread across three different practice groups; I was in Corporate, Employment and Real Estate. During this time, you work with pretty much everyone in the team; from trainees to partners. I remember doing things like drafting legal documentation, legal research and summarising cases. I also attended a client conference call. We had regular training and development sessions, and a mock employment tribunal with all of the students on the vacation scheme, which was really fun.

PwC Legal LLP recruits trainee solicitors directly from the summer vacation scheme, so we were assessed during the programme. There was a written assessment which involved giving a piece of advice to a client. We were also put in pairs and gave presentations at the end of the vacation scheme. We focussed ours on how PwC’s global network could benefit a potential client. It was quite fun. We had the full three weeks to prepare, during which we were able to speak to people from different departments and find out what it was they did. Really, it was an opportunity to network to a wider team and build those connections early on.

Could you choose which practice groups to experience?

Yes, beforehand we picked our top five practice groups we wanted to experience and they tried to accommodate us as far as possible. It meant we all spent time with at least one practice group we were really interested in.

What did you enjoy most about your vacation scheme?

Even though the overall PwC scope is huge, PwC Legal LLP is a relatively small team (at the moment!), so everyone has more time for you. I remember one Real Estate partner even went through two file packs with me. In that sense, it was great to feel valued, even though there’s a limit to what you can do on the vacation scheme. It didn’t feel like I was imposing on everyone’s time.

The scheme was well organised and the work we did actually fed into things. There was a good bunch of people on the scheme and a really nice open atmosphere. We were only there for a few weeks but we had our own desks, laptops and proper induction training. Everyone had time for us and we were given every opportunity to get the most out of those three weeks.

PwC Legal LLP actively recruits trainees from its vacation schemes. When did you receive your training contract offer?

I was part of the first June intake, so there was another vacation scheme after me starting in July. Naturally, they didn’t make a decision until the final vacation scheme had ended. I finished in the first week of July and got my training contract offer in mid-August.

What qualities do you think PwC looks for in a potential trainee during the vacation scheme?

They’re looking for really well-rounded people who will contribute to the team, as well of course as showing good intellectual skills. You’ll work well in PwC Legal LLP if you can engage well with others and present levels of confidence. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses!

Naturally, business and commercial awareness is important and you’ll need to have a passion and drive for something that will make you want to stay on at PwC Legal LLP and do well here.

There’s actually a list of PwC’s “core global competencies”, so it’s worth having a look at them. These are assessed throughout the application process and the vacation scheme.

What advice would you give to students looking to impress during their law vacation schemes?

Be personable, be bright, and have a passion.

To find out more and apply for a vacation scheme at PwC Legal LLP click here.

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Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

After a two-year round-the-world trip, Gavin Thomas decided to move away from music journalism and started working as a travel editor with Rough Guides. After several years of editing, he was given the opportunity to author the first edition of the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka. Since becoming a freelance travel journalist in 2005, he has written a range of guidebooks about Dubai, Oman, Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra. We chatted to Gavin about becoming a travel writer, avoiding cliché and the time he was shot in the stomach by armed bandits in Mexico…

Interviews

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance apprenticeships are increasingly on the up as an alternative to university for top school leavers. But what does an apprenticeship actually involve? Josh and Katie came from slightly different routes (A-levels and a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Business) and have now taken up tax and audit apprenticeships with financial services firm Smith & Williamson. They let us in on what their programmes involve…

Interviews

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

You’ll often here that nowadays banks implement diversity policies and programmes in all elements of their business. But what are they actually doing? Vinay Kapoor, UK Diversity & Inclusion Manager at BNP Paribas told us about how things are changing within the industry and what diversity and inclusion means at the Bank…

Interviews

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan was curious about what an actuarial career may hold as a mathematics student, but wasn’t 100% sure what the industry actually entailed. A couple of years later, he has completed a summer internship in actuarial consulting within pensions with top actuarial firm Aon, and has now moved into their graduate scheme. So what did he gain from his summer internship?

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Private and business clients is a highly desired career path focus in the banking and finance world. Roya is gaining experience in this area with Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany – one of the world’s biggest financial hubs. She told us about the opportunities this is opening up.

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Leo is a Global Technology Strategy Analyst in Group Technology & Operations in London. His team pioneers technologies and re-engineers business processes to deliver innovation and world-class client service. From moving trillions of Euros through a business every day to integrating two organizations after a major acquisition, they face the technological challenges caused by growth, market change and constant competition…

Interviews

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

If you watched children’s television in the 90s, you will probably recognise the trademark smile of Dave Benson Phillips. Yep, that’s right! He’s the charming chap who presented Playdays, Get Your Own Back and Wake Up in the Wild Room. We caught up with Dave to chat about his life as a children’s television presenter, the 'World’s Largest Gunge Fight', and the internet death hoax that threatened to ruin his career…

Interviews

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Prepare to be shocked, appalled and amused! We interviewed a graduate recruitment consultant to find out what really happens to your CV when you apply for a job through a recruitment agency. If you want an honest insight into the recruitment process, you’re in the right place. The person we interviewed has asked to remain anonymous. Get ready to find out why!

Interviews

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo started writing her debut novel when she was just 17 years old. Having secured a two-book deal with Faber at the age of 20, whilst studying history at King’s College London, she went on to receive widespread critical acclaim for The Spider King’s Daughter, which was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize. We chatted to Chibundu about tackling the writing process, getting published, and balancing academic work with a literary career…

Interviews

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Mark Hughes has recently been appointed training principal at Browne Jacobson. Mark, a partner in Browne Jacobson’s corporate team specialises in all aspects of corporate advice, including acquisitions and disposals and has been with the firm since 1999. AllAboutCareers.com caught up with Mark, finding out about changes to Browne Jacobson’s trainee recruitment programme…

Interviews

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn

Fresh from his recent appearance on Dragons’ Den, Martin McLaughlin (a.k.a. Ben ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ McLaughlin) chatted to us about starting his own popcorn company, Love Da Popcorn, with two close friends. With a background in advertising and a tidy little bit of investment from Peter Jones, Love Da Popcorn’s products are likely to be making your tonsils tingle with happiness very, very soon…

Interviews

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Mike Day is the Head of the Accounting Academy Partnership, an apprenticeship scheme which helps young people to become qualified accounting technicians in just 14 months. We chatted to Mike about the increasing importance of apprenticeships in the accounting industry, especially now the government has announced its scheme to create 360,000 apprenticeships in the UK this financial year…

Interviews

An Interview with the Attorney General

An Interview with the Attorney General

Appointed as the Attorney General by Prime Minister David Cameron in May, 2010, Dominic Grieve QC MP is the Chief Legal Adviser to the Crown. A champion of student pro bono projects, he also chairs the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to the Attorney General about the importance of student pro bono projects, his own personal experiences of pro bono work, and the possible impact that the proposed legal aid cuts will have on pro bono initiatives in the UK…

Interviews

An Interview with an Ambassador

An Interview with an Ambassador

His Excellency Ric Todd has recently been appointed Her Majesty’s Governor to Turks and Caicos Islands. Previously he was the 56th British Ambassador to Poland. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to Ric about his career so far, his advice for people considering a career as a British Ambassador, the challenge of learning new languages and meeting Pope John Paul II...

Interviews

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

Employers Jessica Addis and James Vaughan-Smith needed to hire additional staff recently and took a chance on apprentice Chloe Hutchinson-Brown. Having had a positive experience of utilising an apprenticeship scheme, Jessica and James spoke to AllAboutCareers.com about how hiring an apprentice worked for their company and should be a serious consideration for all school leavers.

Interviews

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates gained a multitude of different experiences working with young people through her studies before she took on the challenge of the Teach First Leadership Development Programme as a maths teacher in the Yorkshire and The Humber area. A couple of years later, she’s now a Lower School Assistant Head in Sheffield! She chatted to us about her experiences on the programme and what teaching means to her…

Interviews

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse

Having completed a DPhil in Physics at the University of Oxford, Adam Gamsa decided to move away from academia and join Field Fisher Waterhouse as a trainee solicitor. We caught up with Adam to chat about his first nine months as a trainee, his vacation scheme and his enthusiasm for intellectual property law…

Interviews

A Life in Social Care

A Life in Social Care

Many of the people who pursue a career in social care are initially drawn by the simple motivation of ‘helping people’ or ‘giving something back’. Behind such simplicity is a complicated range of values. For example, a recognition of the inherent value of every person and their right to be considered equal with every other citizen.

Interviews

A Different Kind of Accountant

A Different Kind of Accountant

When you hear the word Mazuma, you might think of those irritating adverts which invite you to exchange your mobile phone for cash. But wait! There is another company with the same name. Started by two friends, Mazuma provides expert accountancy services to small businesses and independent contractors. We had a chat with Sophie Hughes about starting up her own business and what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry…

Interviews

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

After graduating from the University of Warwick with a degree in Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics (MORSE), Tom Williams joined Aon as a trainee actuarial consultant. We caught up with him to find out more about the professional life of an actuary… 

Interviews

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Sponsored Degree Programmes can be ideal for those looking for a career change too. Lee Dennis was initially an engineer with the Royal Navy, and took his career in a new direction into the power system industry through the National Grid Engineer Training Programme…

Interviews