Making the most of law fairs
You may have only just picked up your textbooks and you may still be recovering from Fresher's flu. The Vacation Scheme and Training Contract deadlines probably seem a long way away! However, the annual trainee recruitment cycle is about to get underway with the arrival of the law fair season. Fear not – we've provided some helpful tips to ensure you make the best of the opportunities these fairs present.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
The best way to think of a law fair is not as an opportunity to gather enough free stationery to last until the following November, but as a series of mini interviews. These mini-interviews provide a great opportunity to impress potential employers without the high pressure environment of an assessment centre, whilst also carrying out valuable research.
As is the case for any interview, preparation is vital.
- Find out the list of firms attending the fair in advance and make a shortlist. This will focus your efforts at the fair.
- In the days before the fair, you should make some notes about your shortlisted firms. You can find this information on the firms' websites, or by looking at their social media pages and other websites such as Chambers Student and Lex 100
Whilst exhibitors are happy to provide general information about their firm, it is a lost opportunity if all you learn from a fair can be found easily on firm's websites and recruitment brochures. Finding this out before the fair allows you to dig deeper and get real insight into what makes that firm unique. It can also be vital when you're trying to make your "Why do you want to work for…" answers stand out from hundreds of others.
I would recommend bringing a notebook with a list of key facts about the firm and a list of questions you were unable to get answers to. This gives you a good template when talking to exhibitors and you won't have to rely on your own natural talent and on the spot inspiration. It also demonstrates your organisational skills and that you have a solid interest in the profession.
On the battlefield
- Look presentable – business attire isn’t necessary but doesn’t do any harm. Gym clothes, loungewear and last night's going out clothes are definitely not a good idea.
- Greet appropriately – shaking an exhibitor's hand and introducing yourself before asking questions is a great way to make a good first impression.
- Ask the right questions to the right people. A trainee may not know much about application deadlines or future intake numbers and HR personnel aren’t going to be able to tell you about life as a trainee.
- Get distracted by freebies – it might be October but that doesn't mean Law Fairs are a place to Trick or Treat. Students (and other exhibitors) make a poor impression by circling the room on a freebie hunt without engaging with exhibitors.
- Stick together – it's much easier for exhibitors to talk to one student at a time and it's much easier to leave a lasting impression if you're by yourself. Unfortunately in this scenario your friends are your potential competitors.Think of networking as a necessary evil. Although student 'networking' may often occur at the pub, it is a skill that ought to be practiced. There is every chance that a firm representative will make a note of you so don't be nervous to go and introduce yourself.
If you were given a business card or email address by an exhibitor, it might be worth sending them an email a few days after the fair telling them how nice it was to meet them or following up on a question you had. You may even want to add them on LinkedIn.
If speaking to an exhibitor convinced you that their firm was the one for you, say so when you come to apply for the firm later. This shows the recruiter that you've made a real effort to gain an insight into the firm.
If you did find a firm that took your fancy, make sure you keep an eye on any application deadlines. You may be surprised by how early some firms open their applications for Vacation Schemes and Training Contracts. If you are ready to make an application and you've found a firm that you think is a good fit, complete your application sooner rather than later.
Michelmores' Training Contract and Vacation Scheme applications will open at the start of November.