Law Career Fairs – An Essential Guide

The importance of law career fairs is often under-estimated by candidates and you will be missing a trick if you don’t attend any.

Whilst we wouldn’t recommend you go to lots of them, we would certainly recommend you attend at least one or two carefully selected fairs.

They are a safer and less scary way of presenting yourself to a firm and for getting some invaluable information about the firm and their recruitment processes and requirements.

You can find out what firms really want from their applicants and then you will have a blueprint to work from.

Gain a Competitive Advantage

Law fairs can give you an advantage over other candidates for the following reasons:

  • You will get to talk to firms in the flesh. Most firms will be represented by multiple members of staff at different levels of seniority. You will have the opportunity to speak with trainees, associates, partners and recruitment personnel. Therefore, you will have the chance to speak with either those people who have already been successful in getting the training contract you want or those people who stand in your way of getting that training contract.
  • You will be able to ask them questions that can help you when you put together your applications. You can find out information that isn’t otherwise available about the firm and their recruitment processes which candidates who don’t attend the law fairs won’t have access to.
  • You can get a better sense as to what the firm is like in reality. You can see the type of person who works there and discuss aspects of the firm so that you have more information on which to base your decision about which firm to apply to. This will not only mean you have a better chance of making the right career choices but it will also mean you will find it easier to convince the firms you do apply to why you are applying to them. Do not underestimate the importance of this!
  • You can find out more about the size and structure of the firm and the type of work they do. Also, you can find out more about the training contract and the nature of the training you would get at that firm together with the culture of that firm. You will, therefore, feel more knowledgable and confident when you get to application and interview stages.
  • When the application and interview stages come around you will be surprised how many of the recruiters will remember a name and/or a face so it’s not going to harm your chances to have already put in this groundwork. Treat it as a form of networking.

How to Make the Most Out of Law Career Fairs

It’s important to consider how to get the most out of the law career fairs you attend.

Before you even get to the law fair you will benefit from carrying out some thorough preparation. Find out which firms will be there and do some research on each one that interests you beforehand.

Next, draw up a shortlist of firms you are most interested in and be sure to target those first. You don’t want to be running out of time and still not have spoken to some of your preferred firms.

Getting The Most Out Of The Day

Here’s are our tips for when you get to the law career fair:

  • Keep an open mind – about the type of firm you might want to work for until you have met several.
  • Be professional but relaxed – when you approach a firm. Don’t be too casual and don’t waste the opportunity to ask questions by asking questions which could be answered by reading their marketing literature/website.
  • Introduce yourself properly – tell them your name and what stage you are at in your studies as a way of introducing yourself – also when you might be looking to do a vacation scheme and start a training contract.
  • Prepare questions – think about and plan the questions you will ask the different members of the firm. Make sure they are questions you would really like to know the answers to rather than ones you think they want to hear. Ask each firm the similar questions so you can compare like for like. Three to five questions should be enough but ask more if you feel a rapport with the person – however, be conscious not to hog someone’s time especially if there are other candidates hovering to speak to them. Think about who to ask each question to – some will be better for trainees and others for partners or the graduate recruitment representative.
  • Be strategic – seek to glean information that will help you at the application and interview stages – for example, what are the 3 key things a firm looks for in its trainees, or which are the biggest challenges the firm is facing at the moment?
  • Grill the trainees – always try to speak with the trainees as well as either a partner or recruitment manager. Trainees can tell you what it’s really like to work at the firm, what the training environment is like and the sort of work they do, the hours they put in and the culture of the firm, etc.
  • Display your knowledge – show the firm that you know a bit about them already when you ask your questions or in general conversation. This will impress them and be noted.
  • Dress appropriately – you are not expected to dress in a suit but there is no harm dressing more smartly than you might perhaps for your day to day lectures/classes – as the cliche goes, first impressions count!
  • Make notes – it is well worth making a few brief notes after you see each firm and then expand on these notes after the fair has finished but when things are still fresh in your mind. Be thinking about what you have learned that you can use in your applications and interviews when the time comes.
  • Follow up – ask for a business card off the people you speak to and consider sending them an email afterwards saying thanks again for their time and you found it useful. Maybe even remind them of something you spoke about to jog their memory who you are. You never know when it might come in useful in the future for that person to remember you.

What Not To Do

Things you should not do if you want to avoid making the wrong impression:

  • Spend the entire time filling your bag with all the freebies and brochures – by all means, take some as that’s what they’re there for. Just make sure you focus on interacting with the firms’ representatives first and taking the swag second.
  • Spend the entire time eating free food and chatting with your friends.
  • Always approach the firms’ representatives with a friend or friends. You want to create your own personal good impression, not appear as part of a double act.
  • Go up to firms to collect their brochure and asking questions that will not impress such as:
    • “When is the deadline for applications?”
    • “What does the firm do?”
    • “Why should I work for your firm?”
    • “What is the salary for a trainee solicitor at your firm?”
    • “When is the deadline for applications for vacation schemes/training contracts?

Leave Recruiters With A Strong First Impression

So if you want to make a good first impression and stick in the recruiters’ minds aim to be confident and enthusiastic. Also, ask some interesting questions that display you have done your homework on the firm in advance.

Finding Law Career Fairs

Law career fairs traditionally take place at universities and law schools in October and November of each year.

For details of when law fairs are due to take place check the diary on Lawcareers.net and also the Chambers Student Law Career Fairs page.

Matt Oliver

Matt Oliver

Matt is a former FTSE 100 in-house lawyer, an experienced legal career coach and MD of Trainee Solicitor Surgery. He provides entry level law careers advice to students and graduates through his writing and mentoring. He also offers private one to one coaching to those struggling with training contract, vacation scheme or paralegal applications and interviews. Find out more about Matt's 1-2-1 Coaching >>>>

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