It’s 8 am. You’re lying in bed, nursing what you consider to be the worst hangover of your life to date. A calendar event pops up on your phone, reminding you to attend your university Law Fair.
Right now, you have two choices;
Option 1) Roll over and go back to sleep, replacing the feeling of severe-dehydration with regret; or
Option 2) Pull yourself together, get up to campus and improve your chances of obtaining a Vacation Scheme or Training Contract.
(As an impartial bystander, I’d suggest option 2…)
A Law Fair is a great chance to learn, network and make a good first impression. You’ll be provided with an opportunity to meet a variety of Firms, developing an understanding of the work they undertake, their ethos, and what day-to-day life is like in their offices. You can chat to Trainees, Associates and even the occasional Partner. Further, the Graduate Recruiters will be present, giving you the chance to show them what you can offer outside of the confines of an interview, CV or cover letter.
By the end of the day you should come away with a strong understanding of what the Firms can offer and what they look for – this is fundamental knowledge and can improve your chances of application success.
…oh also, you’ll probably get a few pens, stress balls and sweets- everyone loves a freebie!
[Rosie: Here are my best ever freebies in order:
- a Linklaters power bank,
- an Addleshaw Goddard USB-adaptor in the shape of a jellyfish,
- a million HSF pens (they are honestly just the nicest pens. Plus, they help my family remember the name of my firm).
My least favourite freebies are brand-coloured sweets. Blue is just not a good candy flavour, ok?]
Top Tips for success
1. Do your research beforehand
This is vital.
Work out which Law Firms are attending and establish which of those you want to visit. Don’t make the common mistake of waltzing around and approaching every Law Firm you go past. It’s not a particularly efficient use of your time. There are a lot of firms, and many of them won’t be of interest to you. So, you want to be selective. A sensible idea is to write a list of who you really want to see, and underneath a list of others that you are interested in, or know little about. It’s likely that some Law Firms will be inundated with people, so make sure you have a decent list of firms you want to visit.
2. Ask questions
Have some knowledge of the Law Firm before you meet them, and prepare some questions beforehand. Don’t ask anything too generic. You’ll want to learn more about the Law Firm (which is the whole premise behind the day), but at the same time you want to come across as intelligent and engaged. Rosie has already published an article on 5 stupid questions (and 5 good ones) so use that to your advantage. Further questions might include:
- Are there opportunities for secondment during the Training Contract? And if so, where?
- Do trainees have the opportunity to get involved in pro bono work?
- Are there any diversity initiatives or mentoring programmes?
If you want to ask more ‘in-depth’ questions about something that you may have recently read (which is related to the firm) then go for it. This is an ideal forum to ask those sorts of things. You’ll create a positive impression on the person you’re talking to, which means they’ll probably remember you when it comes to applying. And just FYI, recruiters have amazing memories, so don’t worry if there’s hundreds of other people there- if you make a great impression, they WILL remember you.
[Rosie: My top tip for Law Fairs, is that you should take a look at the Firm’s application form first. That way, you can figure out what sort of information you are going in for. For example, if one of the questions is ‘what are your strengths?’ Well, they want to know this because they want to make sure you’ll be a good Trainee. So, why not go and ask a Trainee what they’re working on? What are they finding difficult about it? What has been the biggest learning curve they’ve had in the last 6 months? From their answers you can draw out the key skills they have been using and developing. You can then include a paraphrased version of this conversation in your application, highlight the relevant skills, and follow it up with an example of how you’ve been improving on these skills. Here’s an example of how I did this.]
3. Take Notes
Realistically, how on earth are you going to retain all that information?
You need to bring a notepad and pen with you to the Law Fair. It’s a good idea to have your questions for each firm written out, just in case you go blank in the moment. And it’s always great to jot down the odd name or note when you hear something useful. You won’t be able to retain everything you’ve been told (unless of course, you’re Mike Ross from Suits). But you may just pick up on something really interesting that gives you a sneak peek into the work that the Law Firm undertakes, or some insider info. which would be hugely advantageous to your application.
4. Engage and be positive
First impressions count. So before you approach the firm, have a quick skim over your notes. Who are they? What do they do? What questions do you have for them?
Then walk confidently up to the table, smile and introduce yourself.
It’s important to remember that the people running these stalls are probably also finding the whole ordeal a bit awkward. So the quicker you strike up a conversation that flows and isn’t too stilted, the better. And it’s far easier to do this if you have a genuine interest in the firm and some ready-made questions.
And while you should ask great questions, you don’t want to come across like a journalist conducting an interview. So aim for chatty (rather than interrogatory), and remember that enthusiasm goes a very long way.
Try to relax, and relish
the opportunity. [Rosie: No clichés please, Josh]
5. Dress well
It’s important that you dress well. As I’ve said, this isn’t an interview, and you aren’t being assessed on how formally dressed you are. Equally, Law Firms tend not to offer Vac Schemes/Training Contracts on the basis of how ‘Edgy/Indie/Underground’ you looked at the Law Fair.
You’ll want to meet somewhere in the middle, and my recommendation is that infamous term – ‘Smart Casual’. For guys, this would mean a nice (ironed!) shirt, with jeans/chinos, and some clean, smart shoes.
[Rosie: For women it’s not quite as simple. But rule of thumb; if you’d visit your posh-grandma wearing it, it’s probably fine.]
Dressing well shows that you are conscious of your personal brand and the impression that you make on those around you. It’s one of those unfortunate things where if you do it right no one notices, but if you get it wrong they’ll remember.
6. Give out freebies!
Don’t take this too literally. I’m not asking you to spend £100 making 5000 personalised stress balls, with matching notepads and ballpoint pens. [Rosie: if you do make them though, can I have some?]
Instead, bring your best freebie – your CV. It’s a good chance to have your details looked over before it comes to the formal application for a Vac Scheme/Training Contract. It’s about creating a bold impression of who you are and getting a head start with the application process.
Ensure your CV is well maintained and up-to-date before the Law Fair. Have a few copies printed out and well put together (I’d advise against handing out loose bits of paper, as it’s likely that they’ll be binned).
You never know, a Law Firm may even contact you after reviewing your details.
If you liked this article, there’s a good chance this one will take your fancy: 5 stupid questions (and 5 good ones). Or maybe this one: How do I ace an open day?.