Surviving Law Fairs

Surviving Law Fairs

Law fairs are an opportunity to assist law students in a number of ways. Some students go in the hope of making a good impression, with the aim of being invited to open days, or to be remembered when it comes to making applications for vacation placements or training contracts. However, the more important reason is to meet representatives, often current trainees, from lots of different law firms and get a feel for which firms match your personality. After all, you will be spending a long time working with these people if you manage to secure a training contract.

By knowing what type of area you wish to practise in will make it much easier to decide which firms to speak to on the day.

A typical law fair is set up in either a large room at a university, or an exhibition or conference centre near a university. Each attending firm will have a small stand, manned by a selection of Partners, recruitment managers and current trainees, set to answer any questions posed by the students who approach them. As well as solicitors firms, there may also be representatives from careers services and websites, universities, the Solicitors Regulatory Association and Bar Council. There may be some attendance from local barristers’ chambers, but these usually prefer to attend pupillage fairs.

Law fairs can be a fairly daunting experience. There are sometimes representatives from over 100 law firms, so picking which to speak to is an extremely important task, as there is very little chance of getting to speak to all of them.

Researching firms

Most solicitors’ firms that attend law fairs tend to be larger ‘city’ firms that deal with variations of corporate work, although at times there can be a small representation of local high-street firms. This is not to say that if family or criminal law is your area of choice that there is no point going, as the large firms often have departments for this work, even if it is not their main discipline.

There are always specific areas of law that a firm will specialise in. Whether it be aviation, tax, insurance, or real estate, each firm has its own market. By knowing what type of area you wish to practise in will make it much easier to decide which firms to speak to on the day.

As well as recruitment websites, there are a number of publications available which give information about most firms you would expect to see at a law fair. The information varies between them, from overviews that a firm may supply themselves, to interviews with current trainees who share their experiences, which you can compare to those at competitors’ firms.

Deciding which firms to speak to

This requires preparation. Look at the webpage for the particular law fair and see which employers are going to be attending. Use the recruitment websites and independent publications to figure out what areas of law each firm practises in and where they are located. If you are currently unsure what area of law you wish to work in, and deciding which area interests you most feels too restrictive, try the opposite and identify areas that you definitely are not interested in.

One very important thing to consider is how to present yourself on the day.

All employers have different requirements. Some have a strict requirement for educational qualifications, or a particular number of UCAS points. Others will have a less strict approach, focusing on an individual’s achievements in all aspects, not just academic excellence. By reading through each recruitment website, you will get a feel for which firms match your particular skill set. This can also be a good way of figuring out which direction to take your legal career.

Personal presentation

One very important thing to consider is how to present yourself on the day. Remember why you are going to a law fair: to make a good impression and to gain additional information to help decide where to apply for placements and training contracts. Consider the law fair as an early screening process and approach it as such. You would not expect to be taken seriously applying for a training contract by arriving at an interview unprepared and wearing jeans. There is nothing to worry about with potentially feeling overdressed by wearing a suit as everyone else will be wearing the same. In this environment, there will be more chance of you standing out in the crowd by not wearing a suit and dressing casually, but for the wrong reasons.

Deciding what to ask

One thing to note, with large firms comes a more structured recruitment setup. With this in mind, most have a comprehensive recruitment area on their website, sometimes even a recruitment specific website. This highlights the significance of doing research before you attend a law fair. The idea of making a good impression, receiving invitations to events and being remembered would be completely wasted if the one question asked was something readily available on the website. With this in mind, turning up and asking a question such as ‘What types of law do your firm do?’ would not be making the best use of the opportunity. You would already be expected to know this sort of information beforehand, otherwise how did you know that you wanted to come over and speak to them?

Following up after law fairs

Once the day has passed, don’t let that be the end of it. You will have bags full of leaflets, brochures and business cards. One of the most important things is to reflect on your experience of the law fair – think about which firms impressed you and which did not.

If you gave your details to any employers whilst at the fair, keep an eye out for any emails for invitations to open days or careers events.

Open days are specialist events run by larger employers. The structure of the day can vary between employers, but expect to have presentations from partners, recruitment managers and current trainees. There will usually be presentations about the firm, their specific recruitment process and general tips for making applications. It is quite normal to have a team task, similar to ones that may be expected at an assessment centre in the recruitment process and there would normally be a networking opportunity at the end.

If you gave your details to any employers whilst at the fair, keep an eye out for any emails for invitations to open days or careers events.

These events are nothing short of priceless. They give you a sneak preview of what a firm is really like, what they look for and how they approach recruitment. Selection for these events can often be down to making a good impression on the person you speak to at a law fair, making it even more important to make the most of the fair.

Every employer has a different process for recruitment, so checking deadlines for vacation placements and training contract applications is essential. Being able to write an application and being able to reflect on meeting representatives at a law fair and open days shows that an applicant has made an effort to get to know that particular firm. It will also make it easier to write a good answer to open questions on an application as knowing more about a firm and their ethos will allow you to write an answer that reflects this.

Everyone’s experience will be different, but hopefully this article has given a brief overview of law fairs, with a view to ensuring that you can make the most out of yours by doing some preparation leading up to the day.

Christopher Crawley is a 2nd year LLB student at University of Central Lancashire. He has had previous experience working for the Ministry of Justice, and is a convert from a career in engineering to law, starting in 2009.

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