I attended the Stephenson Harwood placement scheme in March 2012. The firm had been an obvious choice due to its international focus, especially in Asia, and it's strength in a broad range of practice areas.
The scheme itself was two weeks long, during which eight of us spent time in two different practice areas. I worked in Marine & International Trade, and Intellectual Property, carrying out real work that included drafting letters to clients, researching and presenting my ideas to a partner. We were also given various presentations as introductions to the firm's core practice areas over the course of the placement scheme.
I received help, support, and all the responsibility that I sought. I was never left twiddling my thumbs, and I was able to fit in easily with the small teams. Both my supervisor and trainee buddy in each seat were very helpful. Everyone in the firm who I came across was incredibly friendly and made sure I was included in team events.
In comparison to the other schemes I have experienced, I felt that I came away with a real understanding of the firm and how it works on a day-to-day level. Furthermore, after the scheme I knew exactly what the firm expects from its trainees. I was able to get to know many of the trainees personally, ask questions, and even attended their know-how training sessions with them.
Whilst it was not all work, there was not just the standard 'wining and dining' that other firms offer students. From the first morning we were put into teams and took part in an apprentice challenge to raise the most money for charity. We were taken out by the trainees for drinks as well, and even went bowling.
Everyone on the scheme had a fantastic time, which was mostly down to the way that HR had balanced all the activities and actual work. Looking back, the scheme gave me the opportunity to see the firm's culture for myself, which is absolutely essential when choosing the one that is right for you.