Judging a firm by its freebies – the view from the Oxford law fair

Blow up chairs, organic chocolate, free mugs and copious information, take your pick…

The Oxford law fair, which happened on November 10 at the Exam Schools, offered different things to different attendees, depending on your perspective. In the heavy recruiting whirl that is Michaelmas term the Fair is a key event for both firms and students.

For law firms and chambers it is a chance to meet candidates, assess the new crop of potential applicants and check what they are doing is still relevant to the student population.

For students it is a way to ask the questions you cannot find information about on the website, meet recruiters and partners and get a ‘feel’ as to if the culture and focus of the firms fit with your career goals and personality. It is also a chance to nab some serious freebies for your room.

Along the lines of Roll on Friday’s Firm of the Year biscuit ratings… you can judge a firm by their giveaways (and by who was on stand when you went).

In keeping with its property focus Nabarro invited us to ‘take a seat’ with a blow up plastic chair and Linklaters showed their conscience giving plastic tokens and the opportunity to choose a charity donation by placing them in a choice of plastic boxes. Travers Smith let us say what was on our minds with mugs with a chalkboard surface and accompanying stick of chalk and Freshfields offered organic chocolate.

So much was on offer that my housemate and I had a competition as to who could pick up the most unusual giveaway. The variety of items to be had leads the candidate to ask, are the gifts a sign of the firm’s personality and how you may potentially be treated in a vac or training scheme, or are they merely the random choice of the recruiting teams?

On the other hand, if students had serious questions the best strategy was to try and identify the partner on the stand, as first seat trainees may not have been able to tell you about the mix of TMT work happening in the London office, for instance, or international expansion plans. Several recruiters, when confronted with the same question, referred students to their websites. Personally one would have hoped that coming to the law fair one could get that information in person however it is sound integrated marketing to push students to visit their websites and related social media pages.

Nevertheless, there was plenty of information and brochures to be had on the more general questions relating to the firm or chambers, the nature of their work and its attractions, particular strengths of the organisation, likely developments in their line of work, recruitment targets, selection criteria and the type and amount of training paid for.

The mad dash around the South Hall (for aspiring solicitors) and the North Hall (for aspiring barristers or those looking into education providers) gave a concentrated opportunity for four hours to meet the firms, press the flesh and gather the goods, whether they be of the informational or organic chocolate variety.

You ask who won the ‘best giveaway’ competition? My Nabarro blow-up chair had a strong seat at the table but the premium desk speakers from Davis Polk may just have pumped out the winning tune for my housemate.

Claire Hansen is a second year law student at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. She is in the process of changing careers from international technology marketing into law, hopefully with a TMT focus.