The Law Fair 2015: top tips to impress

You've not even had the chance to work out what the hell you're supposed to be learning this term, let alone started thinking about jobs! Probably the last thing you feel like doing is dragging yourself to your Student Union for what is essentially a round of speed dating with potential employers.

Yet, if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of bagging the training contract you want, drag yourself there you must.

First and foremost, when attending a law fair it is important to try and suppress that part of you that wants to dash around as quickly as possible, satisfied in the knowledge that you physically attended the fair, even if all you got out of it was some branded pens and a handful of Haribo.

Instead, you must listen to the 'voice of reason', that part of you that you ignored when 'just one more' jäeger bomb last night seemed like a brilliant idea. The 'voice of reason' tells you it would be much more beneficial to be properly prepared and actually speak to some of the delegates – and yes, there is a chance they will remember you.

Before the law fair you should… 

  • Review the list of exhibitors. Your university will normally have a list online.
  • Shortlist potential ‘target’ firmsIt 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.
  • Research the firms on your shortlist. The Lawyer recommends identifying: 
  1. where the firm is headquartered
  2. how large it is in terms of partner numbers and turnover
  3. how many overseas offices it has, if any
  4. how many trainees it typically recruits
  5. the practice areas it focuses on.

As a 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 you should…

  • Arrive at the start of the fair. Law fairs tend to get very busy a few hours in and you may have to queue to talk to delegates.
  • Go 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.
  • Remember how to greet people! This is such a simple point that so many people forget to do. Introduce yourself − it's no good being memorable if no one knows your name.  Shake the delegate's hand and most importantly, smile!
  • Ask questions. As a student, I remember agonising over interesting questions to ask. Now, as a recipient of such questions, I am not so bothered about whether they are innovative or intellectual, rather it is nice to have a normal conversation with students who seem genuinely interested in the firm. Remember that at least one of the delegates is usually a current trainee – by asking what seat they are in and how they are getting on you can't go far wrong.
  • Remember the names of the people you have spoken to. This may come in handy when making your applications. If you are not a 'names person', bring a pen and paper to make a note.
  • Dress smartly.  Don't be the person that turns up in joggers (no-one cares that they are Hollister). Although a good first impression will probably not result in an immediate job offer, many firms do make a note of people that impress them. With stiff competition, this could be the difference that gets you that interview.

After the law fair you should…

  • Be aware of applications deadlines.  Some firms accept applications as early as September so you may be able to apply straight away. If you are in a position to make an application, why wait?  Leaving applications until the last minute risks deadlines coinciding with coursework and/or exams so if you can submit an application now, this will save you stress later on.
  • Bolster your experience. 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. If you can't get in-house experience, volunteer at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or at your university's legal advice centre. Get involved in your law society, take a leadership role in your sports society – it doesn't all have to be legal, just something to demonstrate who you really are i.e. motivated and hard-working! 

This year, Michelmores will be attending law fairs at Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Reading, Manchester, Exeter, Bristol (UWE) and the London Law Fair. If you are interested in finding out more about life at Michelmores, please do come and say hello!

If you have any questions or would like more information on being a trainee, please leave a comment below or tweet @MMTrainees