Young, gifted and tack

Freebies are fun and most people won’t turn them down, but are they a worthwhile marketing tool or do they just represent a cheap bribe that will soon be forgotten? Jennifer Farrar reports


It is an odd quirk of human nature that if someone offers us something for free, our immediate reaction is to look for the catch. What are they trying to sell us? we wonder. Will I be tied into some intricate life insurance scheme if I accept this carriage clock? What kind of deal is lurking behind this offer of a lifetime’s supply of tea bags?

Yet all such reserve flies out the window when it comes to the freebies handed out by potential employers at law fairs. Instead of being slightly in awe of the fact that they are in a room full of people who could be offering out training contracts in the not-too-distant future, students rush headlong into a mad scramble for free stuff.

Ranging from branded pens to cuddly toys to handy post-it noteholders, students seem to love the freebies that law firms dish out at law fairs. Or do they?

In the name of scientific research and for the good of the legal profession, Lawyer 2B has conducted a two-pronged study. On the one hand, we asked law firms’ graduate recruitment department to identify the reasons why they do or do not distribute free gifts to students. On the other (and where appropriate) we asked a crack squad of students on the receiving end of the freebies exactly what they thought of them. Free gift or free garbage?

Weil Gotshal & Manges
L2B: What freebies do you dish out at law fairs?
WG&M: We vary our freebies each year. For the 2002-03 campaign these include mini voice-recorders, sticks of rock, tangles, ‘sticky-men’ [dart men], bags and brochures.

L2B: Why?
WG&M: Bags are useful for students as there’s so much to collect and carry at law fairs and they provide brand awareness for Weil Gotshal & Manges at such events. The mini voice-recorders tied in with our theme, ‘We Speak Your Language’. Our campaign focussed on deals that students could relate to in the music, sport and food sectors. The tangles, rock and sticky-men were fun.

L2B: Are there any other incentives for students, aside from financial packages?
WG&M: Yes, we sponsor various events throughout the year. Taking the 2002-03 year as an example, we sponsored the Burns Supper at Edinburgh University, held presentations in Glasgow – with lunch & drinks – and Oxford – with supper and drinks – and we gave an interview skills workshop at Cambridge University. We’ve given various raffle prizes at Warwick, Nottingham, UCL and Kings, and played football with Cambridge University on 25 April.

L2B: Do you find that the gifts or events lead to an increased number of applications?
WG&M: Yes, definitely

L2B: And the student view?
WG&M: The sticky dart men are funky freebies, but it took a while to work out what they were. They’re definitely original. As for the voice-recording keyring: it’s an innovative gift, although to be honest we’re not really convinced that anyone would be bothered to replace the batteries once they ran out. As for the green tangle: we weren’t really sure what it was for, but we liked twiddling with it.

What does it say about the typical Weil Gotshal lawyer?
They clearly have too much time on their hands to develop so many, albeit pretty cool, toys. Probably also have a bit of a James Bond complex.

Richards Butler
L2B: What freebies do you dish out at law fairs?
RB: Lollipops, pens, pencils, puzzles and carrier bags.

L2B: Why?
RB: They’re fun, different to what other firms offer and the carrier bags are useful.

L2B: Are there any other incentives for students, aside from financial packages?
RB: We don’t lay on drinks or dinners, but we do provide overseas and client secondments and benefits package while undertaking training contracts, as well as overseas scholarships for students to gain work experience.

L2B: Do you find that the gifts or events lead to an increased number of applications?
RB: Yes.

L2B: And the student view?
RB: The novelty puzzles are always popular and are a clever giveaway. We like the rock lollipops because they’re a bit different. The only drawback is that it only advertises the law firm for as long as the lollipop lasts.

What does it say about the typical Richards Butler lawyer?
Practical, problem-solver with a sweet tooth.

Baker & McKenzie
L2B: What freebies do you dish out at law fairs?
B&M: Gifts include Baker & McKenzie mouse mats, keyring bottle-openers, pens and mints.

L2B: Why?
B&M: We’ve chosen a combination of quirky and practical gifts, which we understand are popular and which will be kept for longer than other types of gifts.

L2B: Are there any other incentives for students, aside from financial packages?
B&M: We arrange presentations at many of the milkround events where refreshments are available, and we sponsor events at universities for example, this year we’re sponsoring the Nottingham Law Ball. We also arrange social events for our future trainees. Graduates who accept a training contract at Baker & McKenzie will be offered a laptop in their LPC year, or a 2,000 alternative.

L2B: Do you find that the gifts or events lead to an increased number of applications?
B&M: It’s difficult to accurately monitor the effect corporate hospitality and gifts have on graduate applications. However, many graduates do refer to meeting Baker & McKenzie lawyers in their application letters, so we believe that there is a positive benefit in visiting universities.

L2B: And the student view?
B&M: For poor, deprived, computer-less students this freebie is not actually much use other than as a table coaster. The bottle-openers are a good idea, as they’re linked to alcohol, but we’re not sure about the mints and why we’d connect them to a law firm.

What does it say about the typical Baker & McKenzie lawyer?
Enjoy a drink, but the mints indicate a more devious side – thinking ahead to the need to mask the smell of alcohol from their breath.

Allen & Overy
L2B: What freebies do you dish out at law fairs?
A&O: We give out large, black, A4 bags with our logo and web address and pens.

L2B: Why?
A&O: The bags have always proved to be popular with students to carry brochures while they walk around the fair. The bags are reusable with long handles and can be hung over the shoulder and used around the university, therefore increasing brand awareness.

L2B: Are there any other incentives for students, aside from financial packages?
A&O: We hold presentations at key target universities throughout the UK. This will typically involve a short presentation by a partner and trainees, followed by informal drinks and a buffet, giving students to opportunity to talk with employees one-to-one. We also sponsor some specific dinners and drinks parties held by law societies and send along trainee representatives to talk with the students.

L2B: Do you find that the gifts or events lead to an increased number of applications?
A&O: A significant number of candidates who are interviewed have attended our presentation evenings and find the evening extremely useful when it comes to answering specific questions on why they’ve applied to Allen & Overy and for their own research. Careers fairs also offer a good opportunity to talk directly with trainees who attended their university, and students can feel encouraged to apply.

L2B: And the student view?
A&O: Drawstring bags are very practical, useful at law fairs and are a particularly good freebie for gym fans. Pens are always handy for lectures and are a popular choice with many firms.

What does it say about the typical A&O lawyer?
Studious and athletic.

CMS Cameron McKenna
L2B: What freebies do you dish out at law fairs?
CMS: Over the past few years we’ve used shot glasses as our main giveaway at law fairs.

L2B: Why?
CMS: Shot glasses were selected following focus groups with students and research with our advertising agency. In particular, we were looking for a freebie that was slightly unusual and one that would appeal to the target audience and be used on a regular basis.

L2B: Are there any other incentives for students, aside from financial packages?
CMS: Yes, we do lay on drinks evenings and dinners for students. We actively target 15 universities and have an individual sponsorship budget to help raise awareness about career opportunities at the firm. These events provide undergraduates with a forum to ask questions about the firm and find out more about the profession. Those students that are offered a position with the firm are also invited to the firm’s annual trainee solicitor ball.

L2B: Do you find that the gifts or events lead to an increased number of applications?
CMS: Sponsorship events do contribute to improving awareness and have a reasonable impact on the number of applications we receive.

L2B: And the student view?
CMS: Shot glasses have a definite appeal, as anything connected with alcohol is likely to get the thumbs-up from the student population. The fact that it comes in a posh presentation box also makes it a bit special.

What does it say about the typical Camerons lawyer?
The good-time guys.

Herbert Smith
L2B: What freebies do you dish out at law fairs?
HS: Herbert Smith-branded triple highlighter pen, along with a graduate recruitment brochure.

L2B: Why?
HS: The pen is useful due to the amount of reading/editing that students have to do and is something that they’ll have with them while they’re working, which means brand awareness.

L2B: Are there any other incentives for students, aside from financial packages?
HS: Yes. Together with corporate workshops on campus, we also sponsor drinks evenings and debating events organised by universities and the Law Society.

L2B: Do you find that the gifts or events lead to an increased number of applications?
HS: As a leading international law firm there’s no problem attracting a high number of applicants; it’s more a question of attracting quality. This is why our campaigns are executed in a highly targeted way.

L2B: And the student view?
HS: Highlighters are an essential in every law student’s pencil case, particularly in the run-up to exams, when statutes and notes require highlighting. It’s an unusual shape and a quirky freebie and will be used a lot because it has three colours. Thumbs up.

What does it say about the typical Herbert Smith lawyer?
Very practical, if a little dull.

And a couple that don’t…
Freshfields:
We don’t believe that freebies or gifts have a valuable contribution to make to our graduate recruitment programme. We prefer that our graduate recruits make their decisions based on the quality of training, opportunities for development, challenge and variety of work available and the working environment and atmosphere.
In order to obtain sufficient information to draw their conclusions about these issues, students need to talk to representatives of the firm, those who’ve spent time here and generally to ask lots of questions.
To facilitate this we arrange presentations, drinks and dinners, as well as attending the law fairs and offering summer vacation places. The trainee package is very competitive and includes a wide range of in-house services, but again, we wouldn’t expect students to distinguish the firm on this basis.

Macfarlanes:
We’d rather a student came to talk to us because they want to rather than because they want a bouncy ball.