How to survive: Law Fairs

Law fairs are a valuable source of information for anyone who is serious about training as a solicitor or barrister.

For many students these events will also be the first face-to-face contact they will have with legal professionals and some may find them quite overwhelming. But with careful planning and plenty of research you should come away feeling more clued-up about the profession and the application process, as well as gleaning some useful contacts.

Most of the fairs are open to everyone but some universities restrict entry to their own students. So if you do not want to risk being evicted from an event, check in advance that you are permitted to attend.

Exhibitors

The exhibitors typically include law firms, barristers’ chambers and other potential employers, such as the Government Legal Service or Crown Prosecution Service, as
well as course providers. The number of exhibitors will vary, with some fairs attracting more than others. The Manchester Law Fair, one the biggest, typically attracts around 90 exhibitors per year. However, larger fairs also have their ­disadvantages. Manchester pulls in a crowd of around 1,700, so you may have to join lengthy queues before you are able to talk to an exhibitor. So be patient and make sure you do not jump queues or interrupt conversations. Alternatively, return to the stand later when the queue has died down.

Preparation

The reality is that, regardless of the size of the fair, there simply will not be enough time for you to talk to every exhibitor. Some events last just a few hours, although others are longer. The good news is that the organisers normally publish a list of exhibitors along with other useful ­information, such as opening times and details of shuttle bus ­services to ferry students to and from events, on their websites.

Therefore, in advance of visiting a fair, have a look at which firms, chambers and course providers will be present and put together a ­shortlist of the ones you would like to speak to. You should then do some research on each of them by looking at their websites. The legal press, including The Lawyer and of course Lawyer 2B, is also a useful source of information on law firms and chambers and will help you get up-to-speed on the latest developments in the market.

For each firm you should try to identify the following basic information before attending a law fair:

  • where the firm is headquartered;
  • how large it is in terms of partner numbers and turnover;
  • how many overseas offices it has, if any;
  • how many trainees it typically recruits; and
  • the practice areas it focuses on.

Some universities also provide workshops designed to help you prepare for law fairs. If your university is offering one it would be foolish not to go along.

Questions

Exhibitors’ stands will be staffed by members of their graduate recruitment teams, trainees and partners. You should aim to meet as many people as possible, but should obviously tailor your questions so that they are relevant to the person you are talking to.

But whatever you do, never ask the following questions, as they are guaranteed to create a very bad impression: “Are you a law firm?”; “Do you practise criminal law?” (when it is obvious a firm focuses on commercial work); “Where are your offices?”. Other comments that are equally offputting are “Tell me a bit more about your firm” and “Why should I apply to your firm?”.

If you can, spend as much time as possible talking to trainees as this will help you to get a feel for what a firm is really like. Indeed, you may find it less intimidating than talking to more senior people. That said, it is important to talk to partners and members of the graduate recruitment team. Whoever you speak to, never ask questions to which you can find the answers on a firm’s website or brochure. Legitimate questions for members of the graduate recruitment team include: “What are you looking for from applicants?”; “When is the best time to submit training contract applications?”; and “Do you recruit for vacation schemes throughout the year?”.

When you are talking to course providers you should try to find out how many places they offer, whether they provide any financial assistance towards course fees, what core ­subject areas they cover, whether they have split their Legal Practice Course in two, their stance on e-learning and which law firms they work closely with.
Many law firms, notably the large City players, have preferred course providers.

However, avoid asking too many questions. Law fairs are a forum for having a very quick chat with exhibitors, so you should spend no longer than five to 10 minutes talking to each firm.

Act professionally

Make sure you act professionally throughout the day. For example, do not grab freebies unless they are offered to you and do not approach a stand while talking on your mobile phone. Also, leave your jokes, especially those about a law firm’s name, at home. One student walked up to the Slaughter and May stand at a law fair a couple of years ago and said: “Great name.” His conversation did not progress much further.

Dress appropriately

It is not necessary to splash out on a brand-new suit, but do try to look smart, as this will create a good first impression. Also, we suggest you get rid of your tongue or eyebrow piercing and leave the baseball cap at home. Remember, if you dress smartly you will immediately feel more professional. And ladies – it is advisable to wear sensible shoes because a lot of walking is involved.

Freebies

Freebies are part of the law fair experience, so do not be surprised if you leave weighed down by highlighter pens and memory sticks. But do not let them cloud your judgement.

Finally…

It is also worth mentioning that law firms are generally on sell rather than buy mode during fairs. They will want to impress you as much as you want to create the right impression. Having said that, do not expect to walk away from a law fair with offers of work experience or invitations to open days. And although there is no harm in taking a copy of your CV, most of the larger firms will not accept them as they now have online application forms.

Last but not least, take a note of all the people you have spoken to. It is not uncommon to wake up the next day surrounded by brochures but with no clue of who you spoke to.

Fair City Date from
University of Edinburgh Scots Law Fair Edinburgh 26/9/2012
University of Aberdeen Law Traineeship & Work Experience Fair Aberdeen 1/10/2012
The Dundee Law Fair Dundee 2/10/2012
University of St Andrews Law Fair 2012 St Andrews 9/10/2012
University of Edinburgh Careers Fair Edinburgh 9/10/2012
SOAS Law & Justice Fair London 11/10/2012
Careers Placement and Postgraduate Fair (Business, Law , Management & Postgraduate Fair) University of Ulster, Jordanstown 16/10/2012
Graduate Recruitment Fair Ormskirk, Lancashire 16/10/2012
Placements & Careers Fair Bournemouth University 22/10/2012
City’s Law Fair City University London 24/10/2012
Queen Mary Law Fair 2011 London 29/10/2012
Leeds Law Fair Leeds 29/10/2012
Careers in Law Fair University of York 30/10/2012
Liverpool Law Fair 2012 Liverpool 31/10/2012
Sheffield’s Business & Finance Fair The University of Sheffield & Sheffield Hallam University 31/10/2012
Cardiff Law Careers Fair City Hall (Cardiff University Event) 31/10/2012
Meet Your Future 2012 Falmouth 31/10/2012
UEA Legal Careers Fair Norwich 1/11/2012
Law Fair University of Hull 1/11/2012
Law Fair London School of Economics and Political Science 6/11/2012
Business Placements and Graduate Recruitment Fair Plymouth 7/11/2012
Graduate Recruitment & Placement Fair Portsmouth Guildhall 7/11/2012
Career Opportunities Fair Great Hall, Lancaster University 7/11/2012
Careers & Jobs Fair 2012 Brighton, AMEX Community Stadium 7/11/2012
Law Careers Fair Palmer Building, Whiteknights Campus, Reading 7/11/2012
Law Careers Fair Bristol 7/11/2012
Northumbria University Law Business and Finance Fair 2012 Newcastle upon Tyne 8/11/2012
UCL Law Fair London 12/11/2012
Newcastle Law Fair Newcastle upon Tyne 12/11/2012
Law Fair University of Warwick 13/11/2012
University of Essex Law Fair University of Essex, Colchester Campus 15/11/2012
Durham Law Fair 2012 Durham 19/11/2012
Business Careers Fair De Montfort University, Leicester 20/11/2012
The Law Fair Manchester 20/11/2012
Bradford Careers and Jobs Fair The University of Bradford 21/11/2012
Sheffield Legal Fair Sheffield 21/11/2012
Law Careers Fair Exeter 22/11/2012
Law Careers Fair De Montfort University, Leicester 22/11/2012
UCLan Careers Fair Preston Campus 22/11/2012
Law Futures University of Salford 28/11/2012
Bradford Careers and Jobs Fair The University of Bradford 20/3/2013
Sheffield’s Summer Graduate Recruitment Online Fair Sheffield 11/6/2013