Law fairs are a specific type of careers fair where you can learn more about breaking into the industry. They can be useful for both barristers and solicitors, since both chambers and law firms are often in attendance. However, law fairs have arguably been more closely associated with the latter than the former.
In terms of what practically happens on the day, you’ll usually be moving from stall to stall, with each stall being run by a different employer (e.g. a different law firm or chambers). You then have an opportunity to speak to the staff on those stalls (usually someone from the graduate recruitment team). Speaker events sometimes take place simultaneously in another part of the venue (this could be a general talk about how to secure a training contract or pupillage).
The vast majority of law fairs are free to attend and open to anyone interested in a career in law (although there may be some restrictions, such as needing to attend a particular university, for some fairs).
There are a number of reasons why law fairs are well worth attending.
A key part of a law fair is the ability to really get to grips with what your journey as a lawyer could look like. It’s a great place to meet other people and simply get your head around concepts like the PGDL, law school, or training contracts. While some of this information is easily available online (through sites like The Lawyer Portal), other details (e.g. whether a particular firm wants you to take the SQE at BPP or ULaw) can be discussed here.
Once you’ve understood the steps you need to take in order to reach your destination, you need to maximise your chances of getting through the rigorous application processes in place for a career as a qualified lawyer. At a law fair, you can directly ask employers for tips on how to succeed within their applications. For example, a common question to ask a law firm might be: what are you looking to see on an application form for one of your vacation schemes? Getting this 1-1 experience first-hand is genuinely invaluable.
It’s worth being open about the fact that there are downsides to every career, including those falling under the legal profession. For example, some firms will have worse hours than others, and some chambers might have less friendly cultures than others. No graduate recruitment website will ever tell you this. At an in-person event, however, you have slightly more access to the idea of an ‘off-the-record’ conversation with members of staff who might be slightly more honest.
Law fair provide an unparalleled networking experience. There will likely be representatives from most (if not all) of your target employers in attendance, and having a genuine conversation with some of them will prove invaluable later on when you can bring up the experience on an application form or in an interview.
While certainly not anywhere near as important as any other points on this list, it’s worth pointing out that law fairs often give out a huge amount of free branded merchandise – this could be anything from pens and notepads to stress balls and bottles.
Most law fairs tend to be organised by universities. These are well-established events and allow employers to target specific universities that they wish to source candidates from.
In more recent years, accessibility has improved via an increasing number of law fairs being run by private companies – Legal Cheek’s law fairs are very well-known in this space, and offer a great way to get started in your early days of exploring the career path.
Law fairs were traditionally always in-person affairs, often held within a university campus’ exhibition space. However, since the pandemic there are also a number of virtual law fairs on that are run throughout the year.
Virtual law fairs have emerged as a practical and convenient way to connect with law firms in order to gain insights into the legal profession from the comfort of your home.
Virtual law fairs are generally hosted through a specialised online platform. These are designed to give you the opportunity to virtually meet with a range of different employers within a digital space.
Once you’ve registered for the fair, you’ll be given instructions on how to join and will be able to create an online profile which you’ll use to participate at the fair.
During the fair, you’ll be able to visit each firm’s virtual booth, where you’ll have the opportunity to interact with representatives from different firms and join in on presentations and dedicated Q&A sessions.
Another key component of most virtual law fairs, is the opportunity to join Networking sessions, where you can connect with other aspiring lawyers from around the world.
The most important thing you can do to prepare for a law fair is to do some basic research on the employers in attendance. Know which firms or chambers you’re interested in so that you don’t waste time on the day trying to work that out. Aim to know a little about each of the employers you’ll be targeting on the day – for example which practice area they tend to specialise in. You should also take time to think of a few key questions and talking points to discuss with each firm.
The dress code is often brought up as another question in terms of preparation. In truth, law fairs are rarely very formal occasions, and there’s no expectation that you’ll be attending in a full suit and tie. At the same time, however, you will want to look presentable – smart casual is a common choice, although there really is no hard and fast rule here.
First of all, you need to come across as sociable and friendly. Lawyers have to deal with people on a daily basis, and the ability to demonstrate your interpersonal skills is very important. Be yourself and try to create a genuine conversation with the employers present.
As already stated, you also want to have done a small amount of preparation to streamline things on the day. However, adding to these notes on the day with a small notebook and pen, for example, is also a good idea.
Another point worth considering is what you’re looking to get out of the experience. If your primary goal, for instance, is to learn more about the work-life balance of each employer, you can make the most out of the law fair by asking targeted questions around this area.
Finally, you should try to avoid questions which are very easily accessible online. Law fairs are primarily a chance for you to gain an extra insight into each employer and their recruitment process through open-ended questions which prompt interesting responses. Asking a law firm when their winter vacation scheme cycle opens and closes, on the other hand, is really a waste of time.
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