Law firms go through a lot of effort to attend fairs at universities and put on their own events to attract the brightest students and graduates to apply for training contracts. Below are some tips gathered from personal experiences at these types of events, both as a student and a trainee, to ensure you can make the most of these investments of time and resources.
Try to keep an eye out for a range of events. A law fair at your university is a great way to meet a number of firms, but for your shortlist of firms that you’re particularly interested in look out for any open days and presentations they may hold in their offices and, if one is required, put in your applications to attend in good time. Bear in mind that there are also external networks hosting events attended by firms, for example the Aspiring Solicitors network and the Legal Cheek STEM Future Lawyers, both of which giving you a chance to meet some friendly Bristows faces.
The most important thing you can do is research the firm(s) you want to speak with before you attend any event. Kate has given some excellent research tips in her article on applications which are also applicable for recruitment events. A good amount of research is important for all types of events; even if you’re attending a general presentation for the firm, your discussions with people during any networking portion that may follow shouldn’t be informed solely by what you’ve just heard. Being able to mention a particular case or transaction that the firm has been working on during a chat can make you stand out from the crowd.
Always come to events with some questions in mind that you’re genuinely interested in finding answers to and which can’t be answered by a quick look at the graduate recruitment website. Current trainees are an invaluable source of information about a firm’s culture, approach to training and the type of work that you can expect to do in the first two years of your career.
On the flipside, the easiest way to demonstrate that you don’t know anything about the firm is to ask a variation on the all-too-common question of “Why should I apply for a training contract with you?” Without telling the rep anything about your priorities and the type of firm you might be interested in, it forces the rep to give a generic pitch of the firm’s virtues and should be avoided.
It should be obvious that walking up to a stall at a law fair just to grab some freebies is not going to win you any points with that firm, but you should also pay attention to how you interact with your peers. Recruitment events tend to be crowded affairs and there’s often a small group of students waiting to speak to one rep. In those situations, don’t cut off someone who’s speaking or rush in with your own question before the rep has had a chance to give an answer to someone else. That being said, don’t be afraid to pick up a thread of conversation that another student has started – it’s all about using your judgment and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
You shouldn’t be afraid to jot down some key points from a conversation with a rep, especially if you’re at a law fair where you’ll be meeting a number of firms. At the same time, remember that you’re interacting with someone face-to-face, so don’t let persistent scribbling prevent you from maintaining eye contact with your partner.
A final piece of advice is not to be afraid to be yourself and let your personality come through. Being able to fit into a firm’s culture is important for all employers, so despite not having a full interview’s worth of time, feel free to mention any relevant interesting facts about yourself and interact with people as you would hope to interact with future colleagues.