Conversation between colleagues

Making the most of law fairs

Recruiters really do remember particular students so make sure it's for the right reasons

It’s 1am at the time of writing this. Why? I blame our law fair freebie, Google Cardboard. As a big fan of the Oculus Rift concept, this literally feels like an early Christmas present.

However, I'm taking a break from trying all the virtual reality apps I can cram onto my phone, because the phrase 'work hard, play hard' springs to mind.

A law fair has plenty of uses as a student aside from getting your hands on our amazing freebie and, having attended a number as a trainee before securing my training contract, I'm going to aim to show you how.

Decide your key questions and criteria and try to answer them yourself first. It can be hard to know where to start, but questions like this will help you decide:

  • 'Do I want to work for a local, national or international firm?'
  • 'What is their main practice area?' 
  • 'Which offices take trainees?' 
  • 'What level of responsibility will I have?' 
  • 'Are there secondment / international opportunities?'

There are plenty of varying publications that can answer your questions in part (firms' main and graduate recruitment websites and Chambers true picture spring to mind). This way you can start to narrow down your list of firms in accordance with your training and career preferences.

In order to target your application efforts you should come up with more personal questions to ask us at the stands, reflecting you and your motivations more than the marketing material that's available and easily located.

Introduce yourself

We want to know about you as much as you do about us. Telling us a bit about your current year of study and why you're here to talk to us will mean we're able to keep the conversation relevant to you.

You know what they say about first impressions; what does not go down well is 'So, what area of law do you do?'. Be honest and polite about your level of research, but hopefully you'll have researched our firm enough to be confident and enthusiastic about what you'd like to learn from us on the day that you can't get online or on paper. Recruiters really do remember particular students so make sure it's for the right reasons.

Be open minded

Various bits of legal experience just can’t compare to the cumulative experience gained in a day-to-day role at a team in a law firm.

We don't expect you to know what you want, and you shouldn't be adamant you're going to be a particular type of lawyer either just from studying a unit of your degree or a week's work experience.

Bear this in mind and ask how you could perhaps pursue those areas or skills you've enjoyed so far, instead of 'I love land law and want to go into property'. That way you'll get a more detailed and useful answer to help you with your future elective or training contract choices.

Consider a practice area in light of the typical type of client, level of client contact, size of team, ability to research/apply substantive law to name a few, each entirely differing depending on the firm, and you'll see why it takes a lot to be able to say you definitely want to do a particular seat.

Take notes

Unless you have a fantastic memory, take a notebook and jot down the key points and answers you have taken away from your discussions from representatives of the firms (and who you spoke to). The law fair will only save you time and increase your chances of success if you remember why you decided a firm isn't for you or what it is you want to refer to in your application by the time you sit down and draft it.

Stay positive

For most students and especially if you’re in your first year, walking up to HR, trainees and partners and striking a conversation can feel pretty daunting. As with anything, practice makes perfect and the law fair is a good opportunity to get rid of any nerves you may have in this regard before finding yourself at an assessment day or interview.

If you're unsuccessful for a training contract this time around, don't let it put you off and don't forget to spend a little time learning from your experiences. What might seem not so successful now might just be the thing that becomes a stepping stone to your ultimate goal. I attended more than one Manchester law fair, with each one improving my chances of finding the right law firm for me.

See you there!