How to survive: law firm presentations

With training contract interviews and summer vacation schemes all done and dusted, law firms are, once again, on the hunt for fresh new blood. Recruiters are looking to hire the strongest applicants, who are hungry for the opportunities they are offering.

Hosting presentations at universities across the country over the next few months, many firms will be selling themselves to the most eager candidates. So if you’re seriously thinking about applying to such firms be sure to attend as many presentations as possible for an insight into what type of candidates they are looking for.

For many students, presentations are the first encounter they will have with law firms and while it may seem daunting to meet graduate recruitment teams, it is in fact a great networking opportunity. However, before you go in and declare your desire to work for a particular firm it is crucial to know how to approach these events in order to get the most out of them.

What to expect

Law firm presentations are generally quite informal events and are normally targeted at second year law students and final year non-law students. However, this is not to say that freshers and finalists should not attend. Indeed, first year students are increasingly encouraged to go along so that they are in the know from the very start.

With some universities having up to four presentations a week, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed. However it is not essential to attend every single presentation and it is certainly not expected. It might be an idea however, to find out which firms are presenting in the week, read up on them and choose the ones you think will be beneficial for you to attend. Try and go to a variety of firm presentations including smaller, medium, regional and of course the magic circle.

You will be able to sign up to the presentation events either through your careers centre or your university student law society. Both are likely to post the list of upcoming events on their websites with a sign-up sheet for you to put your name down for events you wish to attend. Additionally, you might hear about the events through social networking sites, posters and leaflets provided by the firm, or simply by word of mouth.

Presentations take a variety of forms (see below) and are usually held in the evenings, lasting for approximately two hours. There is often a drinks reception after the event allowing you to mingle with the representatives on a one to one basis.

The firm representatives who attend consist usually of the graduate recruitment team. You will often find trainees there too and even a partner or if you’re lucky.

It’s key to remember that presentations are an opportunity for you to learn more about the firm in question. Whether you want to know about the specific work they do or life as a lawyer more generally, presentations are the place to be.  Do not be afraid to get involved and ask questions, especially relating to training contracts and vacation schemes after all they’re there to help.

Types of Presentations

Law firms are very keen to provide a variety of presentations to students so that they stand out. The format may vary from Powerpoint presentations covering key facts about the firm, skills workshops that prepare you for interviews and teach negotiation techniques, to topical talks about the credit crunch for instance. There may even be off campus events, which will give you the chance to visit a firm’s offices.

Preparation

Your first mission should be to identify your target firms and sign up for them as soon as possible. Then note their presentation dates and times and avoid turning up late.

There’s no such thing as over-preparation so if you want to leave a lasting impression, demonstrate that you have a broad knowledge about the firm. However, be careful not to simply regurgitate information from its website and brochures – try finding something original. You can do this by viewing the firm’s published information, the legal press and The Lawyer magazine and right here on this website.

It is also a very bright idea to prepare some questions beforehand. Everyone wants to be remembered post presentation but not because they asked a ridiculous question. So take some time out to really think about what you want to ask. Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

Don’t ask: Do you have an office in France?

Do ask: I have read that you have overseas offices, and have language experience in French, what opportunities might there be for me to work in the Paris offices?

Don’t ask: Do you offer vacation scheme placements?

Do ask: How do you expect recruitment to pan out next summer with the current economical climate?

Lastly, try and talk to students in the years above you to ask about the format of the presentations and what they consider to be appropriate behaviour at such events.

What you should be looking for?

Although it is important for you to make a positive impression it is just as vital that the law firm meets your personal requirements. So use the presentation to consider:

  • Location – it is not a necessity to work in London so find out where else it has offices.
  • LPC funding – with the current economical climate funding may be less or simply not provided, so be sure to ask.
  • The firm’s practice areas – not everyone is interested in competition law; some may even want to work in tax.
  • Reputation – in terms of client care and in the way it looks after and develops its staff.
  • Ask yourself whether the representatives of the firm seem like the sort of people you could work with.
  • Future prospects.

What firms are looking for?

Most firms will have similar requirements with regards to who they are looking to recruit. They want people who:

  • Fit their academic requirements – at the very least this will be a 2:1 in your degree. However, if you don’t have a 2:1 don’t be put off and perhaps consider applying to those firms that do not stipulate a minimum requirement.
  • Commercial awareness – most firms who attend will be corporate orientated and will expect you to have some general knowledge about the business world.
  • Have a positive attitude with the enthusiasm to learn.
  • Are a team player but also have the ability to work independently when required.
  • Individuality.

Attire

Although it is not necessary to be suited and booted at presentations, it can’t hurt to look smart. So leave the baseball caps and tracksuit bottoms at home on this occasion.

What NOT to do

If you have signed up to an event, make sure you go. The most inconvenient situation for law firms is letting them think they are going to be presenting to a full room of students, but only a handful of people turn up. It’s likely that the law firm will have a record of the names of those who signed up and not turning up would be a bad move especially if you are considering applying to that particular firm. A low turn out may also create an overall bad impression of students at your university.

Be prepared to wait your turn to speak to the graduate recruitment team as no doubt there will be a bit of a queue. When your time comes, although you’ll want to make an impression, remember not to hog them. This may be very frustrating for recruiters as they too will want to speak to as many students as possible. So keep it short and sweet and if you have personal question, for example about visa applications, save it for an email or a phone call at a later date.

Finally…

There is no harm in sending a short email after the event to the graduate recruitment team to say thank you for their presentation – it may help them remember who you are, which may consequently work in your favour.