If you’re serious about a legal career, what should (and shouldn’t) you do at law recruitment fairs?

Recruitment fairs could very well be the first step into the career you’ve worked so hard to follow. However, as seasoned veterans we’ve been lucky enough to see best and worst practice first hand.

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If you’re serious about a legal career, what should (and shouldn’t) you do at law recruitment fairs?

Recruitment fairs could very well be the first step into the career you’ve worked so hard to follow. However, as seasoned veterans (and people who have managed to use these fairs as the first step in our own careers) we’ve been lucky enough to see best and worst practice first hand.

We’d like to share some of that experience and let you know what does and, more importantly, what doesn’t work when you are at recruitment fairs.

DO:

1. Prepare ahead

Get an attendee/exhibitor list and tick off the firms you want to talk to. Then note down relevant talking points (e.g. how the firm deals with student loan debts, that the firm will be merging with XYZ soon or that the firm was recently in the news for their work on XYZ).

2. Practice talking!

It’s totally normal to be terrified of the prospect of walking up to a stranger and having to sell yourself – it’s a pretty weird thing to do!

Practice with friends, teachers, family or whoever will let you until you’re confident in your approach and maybe even prepare a little sound-bite you can use at every introduction to calm your nerves:

“Hi, I’m Rachel and I’m about to finish my final year. I know your firm does a lot of work with XYZ and I’d love to know more about how I can get involved in that area/do you have anything specific you look for in prospective trainees?’

3. Talk talk talk

Practice makes perfect and eventually you’ll have introduced yourself so many times your nerves are but a distant memory! If you really have to, single out a few places you have no interest in applying for and talk to them first- you may fall over your words but you’ll gain confidence … and you may even discover a new firm to look into!

4. Ask your careers office

Ask if they can give you any advice ahead of the fair. And you aren’t bugging them. It is literally their job to help you!

5. Prepare a bunch of CVs (and bring a pad of paper and a pen)

Don’t be afraid to hand these out when you’re having a conversation with someone and make notes of people’s names. Not only do you look well prepared but you’re giving them less work to do by providing them with your information there and then.

6. Do not be afraid to follow up!

This is the easiest and arguably most important part of these fairs. Anyone you made a note of having a conversation with should get a follow up email within a week of the fair. Just to remind them of who you are:

“Hi, I’m Rachel and we met at the law fair at Sheffield University last week. We discussed the impact of HS2 on the local house prices and you mentioned the possibility of a phone interview / you mentioned there may be an opening soon I could put my name in for / I wanted to say it was nice to meet you and to make sure you have my details in case you have any openings in the future.”

You may not have been the most interesting person they spoke to that day but they’re busy people and a quick email like this lets them know you’re still interested and provides them an easy way of getting back in touch.

DON’T:

1. DON’T treat it like a day out with your mates

Some firms will offer interviews and others have even been known to conduct interviews on the spot at Law Fairs and that’s not going to happen if you’re in a huddle of friends. You want to be able to talk to these recruiters face to face.

By all means attend the fair together but split up once you’re inside and try to talk to recruiters alone if you can.

2. DON’T forget the entire event is one big interview

Don’t turn up in your lecture clothes (hoodie and jogging bottoms, anyone?) or still steaming from last night. Wear what you would wear to an interview. After all you want these people to give you a job so you need to look like someone they’ll want to give a job to!

3. DON’T just show up for half an hour then leave

Try to spend the time talking to as many people/firms as possible. If you can’t spare the full day then act smart – over lunch there will be a lot of other people there so the event will be cramped; closer to the end of the day most people will have gone home leaving you with more room to talk to recruiters alone.

4. DON’T just talk about Brexit

Yes, it’s the easy topic but everyone knows about it. By all means if you have a complete mind-blank use it but it’s the issue everyone knows about and every recruiter’s heard it all before so it won’t make you look like someone who’s genuinely commercially aware. Look up something different to talk about – something more nuanced, something that’ll make you look more widely read … and the recruiters will be glad of the change!

5. DON’T try to brag or lie about experience

You’re a student, they know this. Recruiters aren’t looking for someone with 5 years’ experience who’s already super confident in everything they do. They want people willing to learn and easy to get along with in the office.

(They can also tell when you’re lying and if they do, that’ll definitely count against you!)

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