Francesca Hawker, student at Northumbria University, recently spent a week at Watson Burton on our Vacation Scheme. Here’s what she thought about her time with us.
After visiting Watson Burton offices for a drinks evening and an informal meeting, I was very excited to start my vacation placement with them. Despite feeling a little bit nervous on Monday morning, I was made to feel at ease right away. This kind of environment was not a surprise to me though, from speaking to people at the careers fair and even through my interviews, everyone will help you feel at ease and truly comfortable within the firm. Monday morning gave me a chance to get to know the other vacation students and break the ice by jumping around a table avoiding crocodiles, yes that’s right, crocodiles!
Something I really enjoyed about the vacation scheme was every morning, a partner or associate from a different department would give up an hour of their time to sit and have a conversation with us. This experience was invaluable, it is very rare that an aspiring solicitor would have the opportunity to speak with partners from numerous departments and gain a true insight into how they have progressed to their current position. This was completely unpressurised time and felt more like a chat rather than a formal presentation. Of course, the delicious coffee was always a bonus to the morning!
The trainees at Watson Burton were so helpful and friendly. They were more than happy to sit and answer any questions and give you feedback on the tasks you are set throughout the week. I was lucky enough to be invited out for a department lunch mid-week; this was another opportunity to meet and speak with more people from the office which was great. The contact time you are given with trainees is really valuable as they were in our position only a year or two ago and can provide you with genuine advice. It was not long ago when they were in our shoes.
I was able to gain experience in a contentious and non-contentious department. My first seat was in real estate. I was set initial tasks to ease me into the department as it has been a while since I had been familiar with property law. Once finding my feet with the leases and the terms of contracts I was able to throw myself into the work. My second seat was in commercial litigation which certainly surpassed all expectations, I entered the process feeling rather confident that I would follow the path of non-contentious law, but I enjoyed this department and environment so much that I am now remaining very open-minded about embarking upon a training contract. This is one of the best pieces of advice I have been given, to remain open-minded.
The final day was a different set up, we were able to spend the morning in our department completing work for our supervisor and then the afternoon, I and the other vacation students were brought together. Although there were a number of exercises to keep us on our toes, for me it was a fantastic end to the week. You manage to gain a real flavour of what the assessment centres would entail and a chance to show how passionate you are about the firm. I would advise any vacation student to throw themselves into these tasks and take as much as you can from them, and enjoy!
Now at the end of the placement I can happily say Watson Burton has surpassed all expectations and is a firm I greatly admire. The vacation scheme provided a unique opportunity to experience the day to day life working at Watson Burton and gain a true insight into the culture of the firm.
I am very grateful for the experience I have been given at Watson Burton. I may not be certain about which department I want to work in within a commercial law firm, but I am certain that Watson Burton is the firm for me.