Getting the most out of a law fair

Feeling a little lost when it comes to law fairs?  I expect you are not alone.

Having attended a number of law fairs as a student, I know that the experience can be quite overwhelming and it can be difficult to know where to start.  But for me, visiting these fairs was a positive experience and definitely helped to kick-start my law career, having first met Michelmores at the Cardiff Law Fair in 2011. 

Law fairs are not just about re-stocking your stationary pot with branded pens and USB sticks (although this is a definite perk), they are much more valuable than this.  They are an opportunity for selling.  Recruiters strive to sell their firm to the best quality candidates and equally, students want to sell themselves to potential employers.  

To help you calmly navigate your way around the maze of recruiter stands, I've put together a short guide on how to get the most out of a law fair. 

Before the law fair

Yes, I know you've heard it all before, but preparation is important.  Unless you already have an excellent knowledge of the law firms attending, I recommend conducting some background research:

1. Review the list of exhibitors (your university will normally have a list online)

2. Shortlist potential ‘target’ firms.  It is very unlikely you will have time to talk to everyone so make a list of a half a dozen or so which particularly interest you

3. Research the firms on your shortlist.  The Lawyer recommends identifying the following:

 where the firm is headquartered;

  • how large it is in terms of partner numbers and turnover;
  • how many overseas offices it has, if any;
  • how many trainees it typically recruits; and
  • the practice areas it focuses on.

As a bare minimum you should review the firm's website but I would also suggest browsing legal press such The Lawyer and Lawyer2B, the firm's presence on social media, rankings in Chambers and Partners (in order to find out in which areas of law your chosen firm has its strengths), Lex 100 (for trainee perspectives on life at the firm) and for a bit of light-hearted insider gossip, RollonFriday.

At the law fair

Walking into a room filled with 40+ exhibitors can feel overwhelming.  However, armed with your new list of targets, you should feel much more focused and able to confidently approach delegates with a decent knowledge of their firm.  Some points to remember: 

  • Arrive at the law fair early.  Presuming that not everyone will take this advice, law fairs tend to get very busy a few hours in and you may have to queue to talk to exhibitors
  • Approach exhibitors on your own.  As tempting as it is to walk around with your friends, this will only hinder your ability to get the information you want and stand out as an individual
  • Ask the delegates interesting questions.  As a student I was told not to ask a question if I could find the answer to it online − and remember thinking this was an impossible task given that you can find out almost anything online!  Having said that, there should be at least a few points raised from your research that you would like to know more about, be it the firm's 'ambition', it’s clients, sectors or secondments.  If you are really stuck, remember that at least one of the delegates is usually a future or current trainee – this is essentially you in a few years time, so asking the trainee how they are getting on is an excellent way to find out about your potential future career
  • Take a pen and paper and make a note of the people you have spoken to.  This will come in handy when it comes to making applications for Vacation Schemes and Training Contracts
  • Dress smartly.  This should go without saying but all too often I have seen people turn up in joggers and UGG boots.  Although a good first impression will probably not result in an immediate job offer, many firms make a note of people that impress them.  If your application is one out of hundreds, even thousands, this might be the difference that gets you an interview.

After the law fair

Hopefully, the law fair will have helped you identify the firms which you would like to work for, but it is important that you do not sit on this information until the last minute.  Here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Be aware of the opening and closing dates for applications to your chosen firms.  Many firms accept Vacation Scheme applications from November so you may be able to apply straight away
  • If you are in a position to make an application, why wait?  Deadlines for Vacation Schemes often fall in January, amid coursework and/or exams, so if you can submit an application now, this will save you stress later on
  • If you feel that you are not in a position to make an application now, ask yourself "why not?" and seek to remedy this.  If you think you are lacking in work experience, make a conscious effort to gain more experience between now and the application deadline.  Get involved in your Law Society, do some voluntary work – it doesn't have to be legal, just something to make your application stand out!
  • Finally, if appropriate, mention who you spoke to at the fair in your application as this will help demonstrate your interest in the firm.

This year, I will be attending the Reading Law Fair on 5 November 2014 and my fellow trainees Holly Dobbins and Sarah Duke will be at the Cardiff Law Fair on 4 November 2014, along with Kim Tomlinson and Gabby Essame from Michelmores HR team.  If you are interested in finding out more about life at Michelmores, please do come and say hello! 

Additionally, if you have any other questions about law in general, please leave a comment below and I will be happy to help.