Jersey: The Value Of Intern/Bursary Programmes – The Ogier View
Last Updated: 4 April 2017

At Ogier, we see our long-running Bursary and Vacation schemes as a great way to build relationships with young lawyers starting out their careers. We invest in a structured programme that includes bursary opportunities and a trainee solicitor programme equivalent to those run by City law firms and at the end of 2015 a lawyer who progressed through both of those schemes was promoted to the partnership in Jersey – which clearly demonstrates the value of that investment to the firm.

In this Q&A feature, our HR Director Sue Lincoln talks about the value of the bursary/internship scheme to the firm and how we make it work.

Q - Typically for you,  who are interns and bursary students? Are they school/uni leavers, people who are keen to get into an industry? Does the word 'intern' actually cover quite a broad church?

A - The opportunities for work experience in Ogier are very broad. We have a Vacation Scheme that operates in our Cayman office which gives students post-secondary education a four-week placement in our office working with our lawyers and also our specialist support functions. We have a Bursary Scheme in our Guernsey and Jersey offices, again aimed at post-secondary education students where we give financial support during their studies, career advice and paid work placements. We also offer general work experience opportunities across all our offices for people at all levels.

Q -  Are there any industries that use interns more than others?

A - My experience is in Financial Services and Professional Services and both use a range of work experience programmes.

Q -   There's a perception that interns are nothing more than slave labour – doing all the menial jobs for little or no pay. How accurate is that representation?

A - That's not accurate at all in our offices! There is a very structured programme of activity the "interns" get involved in that covers, giving them an insight into us as a firm, soft skills development around networking, what it means to be a lawyer and technical knowledge on the types of work and clients we deal with through shadowing various people. We also organise events for them to meet each other, our Partners and our Executive team plus involving them in social events. At the end of 2015, a lawyer who was part of the first intake of English trainees was promoted to the partnership in Jersey, and he will not be the last – that demonstrates the value of a structured bursary scheme.

Q - Are some companies  using interns wisely and getting the most out of them – eg picking the best candidates, developing them for the future?

A - We have criteria for the minimum standards we expect from applicants in the first instance, primarily focussed on academic achievement and we have a structured interview process to determine fit and potential.

Q - How are they doing this/sourcing the best talent?

A - We have established close links with all of the local schools and regularly attend sessions with the students and careers teachers to explain what we can offer. We also ensure all of our employees are aware so they can share that information with their children and wider families, plus a whole raft of advertising from features in careers supplements, attending careers fairs and more general profiling of our previous "interns" who have subsequently joined us as permanent employees.

Q - Is it important to have a proper programme in place rather than just random work placement?

A -Yes – we created a structured programme and invested time and effort into making it work because we recognise the benefits that we as a firm can get from establishing relationships with young lawyers starting out in their careers.

Q -Are there any general time limits on internships so that people don't end up exploited?

A -It's not in anyone's interest to make people feel like they are being exploited, and it certainly wouldn't do anything for us as a firm. You just won't have a motivated individual performing at their best, and you won't get a fair view of their potential.

Q - What do interns need to look out for to ensure they are not being exploited?

A - Above all, they should make sure there is structure to the placement, ensure that right from the outset everyone knows what they are expected to deliver and what they are expected to gain. It's also important that someone in the firm who "owns" the scheme, is the point of contact for the intern and ensures what was agreed at the outset is being achieved.

Q - Are internships even more important in 'closed' markets such as the Channel Islands?

A - I wouldn't say they are more important but, what is important is that firms recognise the potential talent they have on their doorstep and ensure they work with the local communities to nurture the talent and create great opportunities to ensure we retain talent locally. I think having a good mix of people with different experiences is also important, so an exclusive approach would be wrong.  

What are your top five tips on getting the most out of internships?

  1. Employers must have criteria for who they will offer placements to, but must also be flexible if they come across someone who offers potential in a different way.
  2. Be clear exactly how the placement will operate and who is responsible for making sure it achieves what has been agreed.
  3. Make sure you share knowledge both ways. Whilst the placement is designed to help the intern make a career choice, businesses can also learn from the next generation so take feedback and use it.
  4. Involve the intern in as much as you can, including social activities. It's a fantastic way of hiring and being able to see every facet of your potential future employee.
  5. Hire the best interns as permanent employees, and do that as soon as you spot their potential.

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