Getting ready for your first law fair? Whether you’re attending a law fair virtually or visiting in person, you’re probably wondering—how do you best prepare for one?
A Law Fair is a great chance to learn, network and make a good first impression. You’ll be provided with an opportunity to meet a variety of firms, and develop an understanding of the work they undertake, their culture, and the kind of tasks you can engage in at that firm on a day-to-day basis. You can chat with the Trainees, Associates and even the occasional Partner. Further, the Graduate Recruiters will also be present, providing you with an opportunity to find out more about the application process as well as giving you the chance to show them what you can offer outside of the confines of an interview, CV or cover letter. By preparing prior to the fair, and knowing what you can expect to walk into during the event, you’ll be able to put your best foot forward and make the most of the fair.
Prior to the Fair
- Think about your “why”
Why do you want to work at a particular firm, and what are you looking for in a training contract? You want a good answer to these questions before heading into a law fair because that will help you in deciding which firms to target. You may also be asked this question directly by some of the firm representatives.
- Make a list of your target firms
Forward planning will help you to focus your research and time on the law firms that particularly interest you when you attend the law fair. All firms are different and offer various schemes. Find out which firms will be attending the fair and then focus on the ones which are most relevant to your interests. Though it’s also completely fine to talk to representatives from non-target firms, this is just to ensure that if there are already a few firms that are peaking your interest, you don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet them and prioritize speaking with them since law fairs are busy places and you may not be able to speak to everyone.
- Do your research
You’ll be at the firm for two years if you secure a training contract, so you should consider what is important to you and accordingly tailor your research. For example, if spending a seat overseas is crucial to you, then you should research which firms offer that and target them at the fair. Equipping yourself with some basic knowledge of the firm is an easy way to stand out.
It’s also best to ‘walk into’ (or in the case of virtual fairs, ‘click to enter’) a law school fair with specific questions for the firms that interest you. This will be a great opportunity to engage with a firm on a more personal level than just email. Focus on asking questions that are most pertinent to your interests– whether that’s gaining experience in a particular practice area or learning more about the firm’s diversity initiatives.
- Create a professional email address
While most representatives will not collect resumes, they will, however, take your name and email address to add to a list of students who attended and who they may refer to in case of any future events and opportunities.
Prior to attending a law fair, prepare a professional and simple email address. It’s easy to create a new email through Gmail and link it to an existing account. You can also decide to update the username for an existing account. It’s usually a safe bet to go with some version of your first and last name.
- Scope out the schedule
In addition to the standard networking opportunities and booth visits, law school fairs may also include guest speaker sessions or panel discussions focussing on specific practice areas or legal skills. Check for them ahead of time and make it a point to go for those if you can.
During the Fair
- Dress appropriately
Remember, virtual or in-person, this is your chance to make a great first impression. This isn’t an interview, and you aren’t being assessed on how formally dressed you are. However, recruiters need to be able to picture you in the role – a smart appearance can go a long way towards helping them to imagine you in the job. Smart casual or business casual is most appropriate. You should try to be as comfortable and confident as possible within a professional environment. Also, dressing for success will ensure that you’re feeling more confident and well prepared.
- Carry your CV
Most firms won’t actually accept CVs at the event, since they’ll have online application forms for vacation schemes and training contracts. But it never hurts to have a copy in your bag just in case you’re talking to a recruiter and the subject comes up. Ensure your CV looks professional and is up-to-date before the Law Fair. Avoid using too many colours and fancy fonts. Have a few copies printed out and well put together.
- Bring a bag to collect materials
Once you walk into a law fair, you’ll realize very quickly that you’ll be leaving with a lot of materials. There will be stacks of brochures, handbooks, pens, pads of paper, highlighters, USBs, and more. You don’t need to go around looting stalls and collecting everything but getting copies of certain important promotional literature such as the firm graduate recruitment brochures, the Chambers Student Guide and the Training Contract and Pupillage handbook can all be quite useful. If you’re distracted trying to figure out a way to balance the new materials in your arms and still shake someone’s hand, it can drag you down.
Be sure to bring a bag or backpack to put things in. That way, you’ll have at least one hand free to introduce yourself.
- Be an early bird
There will be plenty of students at the fair trying to talk to firms too so you can find yourself having to wait around. Arrive at the fair early so you do not end up rushing around to talk to your target firms. Having plenty of time will also help you to calm your nerves and will stop you from getting flustered.
- Take notes
Carry a small notepad and pen to jot down useful information. Try not to feverishly write notes down as someone is speaking to you but write some key information down immediately after walking away from a stand so you don’t forget things. It can also be helpful to write a small note on a business card so you are able to connect that piece of information back to that person and can use that information in a follow-up email.
- Ask questions
Having done your research now is your chance to ask us any questions you may have. Examples of some questions that you can ask are:
What do you like most about the firm?
Did you do a secondment? If so, what was your experience like?
How would you describe the culture of the firm?
What is your advice or what are some of the tips that you can share for someone like me who is keen to apply to this firm?
- Engage and build conversation
Before you approach the firm, have a quick read of your notes. Who are they? What do they do? What questions do you have for them?
Then walk confidently up to the booth, smile and introduce yourself.
And while you should ask great questions, you don’t want to come across like a journalist conducting an interview. So try to develop a conversation instead of making it sound like an interrogation, and remember that enthusiasm goes a very long way.
Post the Fair
- Follow up
Contact the representatives you built a good rapport with at the fair and thank them for their time. It shows initiative and is a great way to build a relationship with the members of the firm so that they can get to know you (and possibly even remember you) before you submit an application for review or attend an interview. It is hard for firm representatives to keep track of the names of all students they have met so if you have sent an email or started a conversation on LinkedIn then they are more likely to have a record of it.
In case you spoke to someone relatively in-depth at the firm, and/or they mentioned something unique about the firm that really stood out to you and you want to mention it in your application (eg. in your cover letter), feel free to note down their name and their job title and refer to them in your vacation scheme or training contract application. Avoid simply name dropping, however, if you have not had a significant conversation with the person.
- Narrow down firms
Following the law fair, narrow down the firms to the ones that you would really want to work for and then look for further opportunities to engage with them, such as open days and insight evenings.
Reflect on your law fair experience, make a note of things you have learnt, and any feedback you have received including things you feel you can work or improve on before the next law fair. You can also write an article summarising your experience of attending the law fair for your University Newsletter or any other legal publications/ platforms.
Finally, remember that the law fair is not an interview, you are attending a law fair to get your questions answered, collect information, and hopefully make some valuable first impressions.
Nirali graduated with a Distinction upon studying the full-time Legal Practice Course (LPC) at BPP University. She is currently working as an in-house Legal Advisor for a company in the Middle East.
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