Law firm open days
A law firm open day is a sort of “open house” for students who are curious about what it’s like to work in a law firm. Many law firms offer open days—in fact, almost all of the major firms have some type of programme in effect. Law firm open days operate on an invitation-only basis, and admission can be quite competitive. If you can secure a spot, however, it’s definitely worth doing.
How are open days structured?
If you’re invited to attend a law firm open day, you don’t need to worry that you’ll end up wandering around, hands in your pockets, searching for a way to look busy and purposeful. Law firm open days are typically quite structured. Although it is up to each firm to design its own programme, the same features tend to show up on most agendas. Your day might include:
- An initial introduction to the firm and its practice;
- A Q&A concerning the firm’s vacation scheme or training contract systems;
- A tour of the firm’s offices and practice groups;
- Testimonials from the firm’s trainees regarding their experiences at the firm;
- Workshops on critical vocational skills such as negotiating and networking.
You may also be given the opportunity to “shadow” one of the firm’s trainees for part of the workday.
How should I prepare for an open day?
Given the competitive nature of law firm open days, it is imperative that you do your homework first. You need to:
- Decide which general area of practice most interests you (commercial law or private law, for example). It would probably be a good idea to break it down even further into specific practice areas (media law, corporate law, intellectual property law, etc.).
- Determine the size of the firm you would like to visit. Life in a big firm can be quite different from life in a small firm. Equally, US firms, City firms, international firms and regional outfits each have a different culture. If you’re not sure, try to apply for open days at a range of firms.
- Determine your preferred location—London is not your only option. There are legal hubs in Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol—plus many more UK locations.
Once you gain a clear idea of your preferences, it will be time to create a list of all the firms that meet your criteria. Narrow this list down by researching these firms’ reputation, clients, cases and personnel. Now is the time for you to be just as choosy about selecting your favourite firms as these firms will be about selecting you later on. Detailed knowledge about the firm will also help you make a good impression if your application is selected.
The application process
Firms typically offer one to four open days per year. Most firms allow you to apply online, and applications are subject to strict deadlines. Remember—opportunities might not be limited to first-year LLB students. One you have selected your targets, check their websites for information on how to apply. If your application is selected, you may be expected to participate in a video or telephone interview before you’re offered an invitation.
Open days: helpful tips
Here are some tips that can help you make the most of your open day opportunity:
- Research the career background of the people you anticipate meeting on open day, to the extent that you’ll recognise these people when you see them.
- Dress for success. If you’re not sure exactly what this means, consult with someone who does!
- Don’t be late—not even a few seconds.
- Turn off your mobile phone!
- Maintain a professional but friendly demeanour. Don’t be too stiff, but watch what you say to anyone.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your questions, however, should reflect your pre-existing knowledge of the firm without making you appear too eager to impress. It might be a good idea to prepare a list of questions in advance.
- Carry a notebook and pen, and take notes.
- Don’t forget to follow up with thank-you notes to the people you interacted with—LinkedIn is a good resource for this.
Mishandling a law firm open day is not the kind of disaster that mishandling a training contract might be. Nevertheless, an impressive open day performance is a great way to position yourself for a future vacation scheme or training contract or with that firm, or even with one of its competitors.
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