Law fairs are a very valuable source of information for anyone who is serious about training as a solicitor, barrister or any legal-related role. Although they can be daunting, you can leave a law fair feeling inspired and well informed if you simply take the time to prepare and know your stuff about the firms, chambers, and organisations you will be meeting. Not to mention the useful contacts you will gain!

It is completely natural to be nervous about meeting the exhibitors, but you should also make sure you are properly prepared in order to make the best possible first impression for those firms and organisations that are on the lookout to recruit budding lawyers from your university. There are a number of things you can take on board and implement when preparing to meet potential employers. Preparation can ease your nerves and make the whole experience of meeting law firms a more pleasant one, both for you and the employer. Here’s my list of top ten tips on how to make a great first impression at your law fair:

1. Be confident

Above all, be confident. Confidence is key when it comes to meeting your potential employers. Think of it as sort-of-like, a slightly more relaxed interview. Employers will judge you, and if they remember you, they will expect the same when it comes to your application and interview. Try to radiate confidence when you approach professionals at the stalls, even if you feel nervous. Sometimes, faking confidence can actually change your mind set and make you really feel confident, so let it show.

Approach the stands with confidence, armed with intelligent questions and a smile. Make sure your mobile phone is switched off so that there are no unimpressive distractions and try not to have your hands full of freebies you have collected over the course of the day. Always introduce yourself before asking questions and shake the exhibitors’ hand. Also, be prepared to answer some questions yourself; firms/chambers may like to know about you and your work experience in order to assess what you can offer them. Try not to let this make you nervous, if they ask you questions it is certainly a good thing as it shows the exhibitors are interested in you, they might find you impressive. Remember, be positive with your answers and express your enthusiasm for the firm and your eagerness to work for them, but stay cool and collected at the same time. Confidence will surely place the cherry on the cake and win over your desired firms/chambers as long as you have ticked the boxes elsewhere!

Law fairs are a great experience and an essential one if you are serious about becoming a solicitor/barrister or other legal professional. So, take advantage of them and make every effort possible to create the best possible first impression of yourself for potential employers. Your efforts will be noticed and you will be rewarded in the long-run when it comes to the application process.

2. Arrive early

There is a good reason this is the runner-up. If you arrive half an hour before the fair comes to an end you will not have enough time to gather all the information you needed and to meet the exhibitors you were most interested in. This will make most of your prior research and question pitching a waste of time. It is much better to arrive early to give you enough time to examine your surroundings, get used to the setting, and find out where each of the stands are located and which firms/chambers are located there. Plan your day like you would the night before a day at work. Make sure you have checked and double-checked all relevant train and bus timetables in order to ensure there will be minimal fuss the next morning. Also, be sure to plan your journey so that it allows for any possible delays – we all know how risky getting to work on time – via public transport – can be! So, save yourself the stress, plan your journey, make sure you know exactly where the fair is going to be held and at what time, and arrive fashionably early.

3. Keep your options open

Remember, even though you may have narrowed down which employers you are most interested in, you should also keep other organisations in mind. There are lots of opportunities out there both legal and non-legal related, and you may be surprised by how you respond to them at the fair. So, try to speak to different types of firms or chambers, not just the large corporate ones in the specific area of law you are interested in. There are plenty of niche practices out there that may interest you that you hadn’t even thought about. For example, have you ever considered working as an in-house lawyer for a big company like Canon? Or maybe even doing work for the Government Legal Service? The world is full of possibilities and you should take advantage of them in order to open more doors. The more information you have about the options available to you, the more informed a decision you can make when it comes to applying.

4. Say thank you

Use the contact information gathered from the fair to email or call the relevant firms, chambers, and organisations that you spoke to in order to thank them for their time. Remember, the exhibitors have given up their time to come and meet you. They are interested in you and what you have to offer them. Show them mutual interest and express your enthusiasm and gratitude by saying a simple ‘Thank you very much for speaking to me, you were very helpful and I look forward to applying to your firm/chambers in the near future, goodbye’. It doesn’t have to be a fancy farewell, just a friendly goodbye and show of appreciation. Take the same approach a few days after the fair by sending a thank you email. Not only is it good manners, but it is also a great way to stay in touch and keep all of the useful contacts you made at the fair. After all, knowing someone at the firm/chambers can come in useful when it comes to obtaining work experience and applying for pupillages and training contracts.

5. Keep everything

Keep hold of all of the employer information you have collected during the fair, even if it is from employers you are not very interested in, you may change your mind about them at a later time. It is also strongly advised that you take on board any information given to you by the professionals and staff at the fair. They may have highlighted the fact that you need to develop a certain skill further, or get some more work experience to enhance your employability. Take their advice, keep it in mind, and act upon it.

Also, make sure you refer to feedback regarding recruitment you may have obtained from asking questions when you are applying to the relevant employers. This will enhance your chances of gaining that all-important pupillage or training contract as you have acquired the information first-hand and from a reliable source. Lastly, make sure you keep note of all of the firms/chambers’ contact information – this will come in handy when it comes to the next tip..

6. Ask sensible questions

Law fairs are a great opportunity to find out as much as you can about the firms/chambers you are interested in. It is your chance to select your ideal employer as all the exhibitors will be marketing themselves and will be equally as eager to answer your questions, as you are to ask them. The best way of remembering which questions to ask which exhibitors, is to make a list. Try to set out your list in such a way, that you are able to compare the answers to all of your chosen questions from each exhibitor. This allows you to compare and contrast which firms/chambers you are most interested in, depending on their answers. Remember, keep your questions sensible. It does not create a good impression if you approach a firm or chambers asking which areas of law they provide services for – the answer to this will be on their website. Instead, you should have filtered out the information which has not been provided by the employer through your prior research, allowing you to draw up a list of unanswered questions. Also, if you are able to, try to seek out and speak to trainees from each of the firms/chambers and ask them your questions. They are going through the process that you will be going through in the future, and will therefore, be sympathetic and much more likely to provide you with accurate and honest answers to your questions. This will make your potential position in a couple of years time much more clearer in your mind.

7. Do your research

You are preparing to fail if you dive into a law fair with no prior knowledge of the range of firms, chambers, and organisations that are going to be there. It is critical to research all of the exhibitors that you are interested in well in advance of the fair. Narrow down which exhibitors you are interested in. Ask yourself, which firms or chambers will be attending? Which of these firms/chambers do you most want to speak with? Then have a look on the exhibitors’ websites and note down any important information so that you can walk into the fair with confidence knowing that you understand everyone and can approach the exhibitors with ease. There may also be workshops and/or free CV consultations which you might need to book a place for. Having knowledge of all of this information in advance of the fair will leave you a step ahead of the competition. Research is also a great way of filtering information and identifying any questions you may have about the employers that are not answered on their website or elsewhere. Asking questions is a fantastic way to show the exhibitors that you have done your homework and are genuinely interested in potentially working for them. Which leads onto the next tip..

8. Dress to impress

Probably the first thing the exhibitors will notice about you is how you are dressed. This is why it is so important to dress in an appropriate manner in order to be judged highly and spark up a great first impression. It is not always necessary to wear a suit and tie but certainly dress smartly to make the right professional impression. So, no band t-shirts, no shorts, and certainly no hoodies and jeans! As long as you go for the smart look, the exhibitors are sure to be impressed by your appearance.

9. Print out your CV

Make sure you print out copies of your CV before you arrive at the law fair. Of course, you should check your CV is in tip-top form before presenting it to the exhibitors, and make any updates if need be. You should print out enough copies to give to each of the exhibitors, and more (just in case you misplace any). It is also a good idea to keep the copies of your CV in a folder in order to keep them nice and neat – employers aren’t going to be impressed with a scruffy CV! Remember, try not to force your CV onto people. It is better to wait until they ask you for it or if it is a good time in the conversation to hand it over.

10. Freebies

Pens, pencils, bags, bottles and pom-poms with googly eyes, you name it, they have it. Freebies are a great enticing incentive for you to approach the exhibitors and ask them a question or two. Think of it as your reward for plucking up the courage and putting yourself out there, but be aware not to let the freebies cloud your focus and judgement. Probably the biggest benefit of freebies are the fact that they act as instant notes of the name and contact details of the firm or chambers that you met at the fair. It reminds you to keep them in mind and stay in contact. Remember, you are there to gain useful information from potential recruiters and to make invaluable contacts, think of the freebies as perks, rather than the sole purpose and focus for you.