Published: 08/11/17 Author: Jasmin Guy, TLP Ambassador for Durham University
So your university law fair is coming up and you want to know how to get the most out of it? University law fairs are an excellent opportunity to meet a range of firms you’re interested in. A conversation with a firm’s representatives, perhaps a firm you’ve never seriously considered applying to before, could lead to a successful training contract application down the line. Law fairs really are the gateway to your future career, so here’s how you can ensure you get everything out of the experience.
Your first task is to work out which law firms you particularly want to target. If you’re in your first year of university or have only just become interested in pursuing a career in law, you might be unsure of what kind of firm suits you and your ambitions. Do you want to be part of a big city law firm, a regional firm or a small high-street firm? Do you want your career to have an international aspect to it, or is there something else on your wishlist?
Next, find out which firms will be exhibiting at the fair and come up with a rough list of which ones seem to fulfil your requirements of a ‘dream firm.’ If you’re still unsure about what type of firms suit you, don’t worry, just try and have some idea of which firms at the fair you’re particularly interested in and want to speak to. Fairs are usually very busy so it is best to have a plan of some kind.
You will have already had to do research to discover which firms you want to target, but now you have your plan, you’ll need to deepen your knowledge in order to show your interest when speaking with firms’ representatives. Firms won’t be impressed if you are unaware of their recent merger or their key practice areas.
Visit a firm’s graduate recruitment website to find out about their work as well as their training contract/vacation scheme opportunities. This will help you show your enthusiasm for a firm and ultimately, make it easier to have a meaningful conversation with their representatives. Has there been any interesting developments at the firm? Or is there something unique about their training contract?
So you know which firms are going to be attending and which ones you want to speak to. You’ve done your research into these firms and now you’ve reached the final challenge, deciding what to wear. You’re jumping from one end of the spectrum to the other: can I go straight from the gym? Do I need to dress like I’m going to the royal wedding?
The safe option is be smart and professional. After all, you’re at a law fair because you’re interested in becoming a lawyer, dress like one! Firms will be pleased to see that you’ve made an effort.
Hopefully, seeing as you’ve done your research, you won’t be tempted to ask questions that could easily be answered using a firm’s website.
Try and build on your research via the questions you ask. For example, via your research, you could have found out that a firm has recently opened an office in Paris or Dubai or some other city. You could build on your knowledge at the fair, while simultaneously demonstrating your interest, by asking about their reasoning for opening an office in that place in particular and how it reflects the direction the firm is going in.
Depending on how many firms you speak to, you will have been given a lot of information and (hopefully) had a lot of insightful interactions with firm representatives at the fair. Try to note down which firms you spoke to, who you spoke to (if you managed to get their names), and what was discussed.
This may seem a little strange to those unfamiliar with applications, but it may come in useful when writing about what particularly draws you to a firm. For example, you could explain that ‘John Smith,’ the trainee representing X at your university law fair, discussed with you his role in a recent dispute he worked on and it increased your interest in the firm because of the level of responsibility he was given or because of the nature of the work etc.
If you met someone at the fair who really did make the effort and spent a considerable amount of time speaking to you, it may be appropriate to send a follow up email thanking them for their time and giving such an insight. As there will be a large amount of people at the fair, sending an email will help you stand out.
You’re now ready to tackle your law fair.
Ultimately, the firms are at your university fair because they are interested in students like you so there’s no reason to become apprehensive. It isn’t an interview, it’s an opportunity for first impressions: firms giving a good impression by telling you all about their opportunities and you giving a good impression by being enthusiastic and professional…not just grabbing the freebies.
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