Leaves are falling off trees, the evenings are getting longer – that’s right kids, it’s officially law fair season.
Come every Autumn, you’ll hear the sound of trainees setting up wieldy exhibitions and painstakingly laying out piles and piles of free pens and notebooks. For any aspiring lawyer, there is no better place to hone your networking skills and discover personal insights about a vast number of firms.
And when I say a vast number – I mean a vast number. Law firms from all around the country will fill up the fair – all with the intention of speaking to you. Although tempting, don’t attend with hopes of just pilfering the freebies because your student loan doesn’t cover a Ryman’s splurge, but instead use the fair to your advantage. Find out things you couldn’t necessarily see on the firm’s website or grad brochure and gain the real inside scoop.
Tips on how to make the most of the fair:
Depending on what you’re interested in, make a list of the firms you want to speak too. Stick to the list – don’t get distracted – and make sure you allow yourself enough time to interact with them all. Law fairs are extremely busy places so you will inevitably have to queue to speak to trainees so you have to limit how many firms you can speak to. Be clever – if you definitely want to do an international secondment, don’t waste your time talking to firms which don’t offer any. You’ll waste both yours and the trainee’s time.
No one is asking for black tie but be sure to dress relatively smartly. You want to make a good impression on potential employers – your lecturers may not care if you rock up wearing your pyjamas but law firms certainly will.
Make a Good Impression
Be friendly, curious and amiable. Make firms remember you for the right reasons. Don’t be that sleazy guy who waltzes up to the firm and asks ‘Why should I apply to your firm?’. Please. I’m begging you. Don’t be that guy.
Perhaps the most important tip of them all – prepare, prepare, prepare! Research the firms you’re interested in depth and prepare a few questions. See if there are any recent deals in the news involving the firm and ask about them. If you’re interested in the career of a specific partner, you could ask the trainees if they’ve come across or even worked for them. Firm-specific questions demonstrate commitment, but more general questions can be equally as helpful – such as:
Why did you choose to apply to this firm?
Some trainees will justify their answer with the secondments offered, the training, high profile clients (or, almost certainly, the ever elusive ‘culture’ of the firm) but it’s always interesting to get an individual’s real perspective. Some will immediately become the firm’s top PR person and tell you that they dreamt of working for the firm from birth – and others will be refreshingly honest and tell you that they applied to every firm they could and only landed this one.
What is the training contract like?
Although you should have ideally researched the basic outline of the training contract offered by the firms you are speaking to, there’s no beating hearing the inside scoop on the how long the hours really are, how much partner interaction there really is and how elitist the firm actually is. Although be aware that trainees are still trying to recruit you so will naturally paint the firm in the best light they can.
Tell me about….
The pro bono work you do
What sort of pro bono work is there? Is it localised or global? How much do trainees get to participate? Do vac schemers? Are there compulsory hours? Do partners take a leading role?
The diversity and inclusion policies in the firm
What does the firm actually do? How do their policies translate to the real world? What networks do they have? How long have they been in place? What is the participation level across the firm? Are there grassroots initiatives?
The secondment opportunities
International secondments? Client secondments? What percentage of trainees do them? Do associates and partners? Which are the most popular offices?
You may not have enough time to ask all the questions you have jotted down but they will show that you are dedicated and already committed to the firm at such an early stage. Prepared questions may also stop you looking a bit silly in front of the trainees as well – you don’t want to be asking a Jones’ Day trainee about which their favourite seat was. And if you don’t know why, it’s back to Google for you.
Sienna is a member of TCLA’s writing team. She is a graduate of Politics and Sociology from the University of Cambridge.
Sienna is interested in race issues, such as the issue of diversity and underrepresentation within corporate circles. She hopes to educate both herself and others on the topics.