How to network at law fairs
So you've got the date of your first law fair in the diary—and for many students, it's also the first taste of professional networking. As terrifying and professional as this sounds, networking is a key component of these kinds of event. Make sure you know exactly what you're in for before you get to the hallowed room of stands...
Law fair season may be approaching, and that means work on the old law CV is becoming more and more frequent. As you put together the final pieces to your master plan, such as which law firm stands you’ll visit to chat about vacation scheme or training contract opportunities or which barrister chambers you’ll have a natter with about pupillages, one hurdle that keeps cropping up is how exactly you’re going to network with the graduate recruiters and trainee lawyers.
It’s almost as if you’re crying out for some top networking tips. You are? Well I guess that’s what we’re here for…
Have a plan
There will be countless firms and chambers at any given law fair, so it’s a good idea to have a list of firms you definitely want to visit and talk to. Print out a CV for each one of these firms. Don’t just approach the law fair with an “I’ll just talk to everyone” attitude. This could take hours and there will be countless other students trying to do the same thing. Make a list of firms you definitely want to visit, a list of firms you wouldn’t mind finding out about a little bit more and then also allocate some time for some firms you may stumble across (they might be handing out the best freebies…).
Know what to expect
You aren’t going to walk out of a law fair with a guaranteed training contract (and if you do, let us know because we’d like to know your technique). Networking at law fairs is all about you finding out about what the firm looks for in an application and getting your name out there. Graduate recruiters will remember your name if you have an informal but informative chat and show an interest in their firm.
Ask the right questions
Never, ever, ever ask a graduate recruiter, “What areas does your firm specialise in?” It shows a lack of research and even if you haven’t researched that particular firm, the answer will be contained in the brochure they hand out. Rather you should ask about the application process, what they look for in a candidate other than strong academics and commercial awareness, the culture of the firm and the experiences of current trainee lawyers or former vacation schemers. Some firms might bring along a trainee lawyer, so there will be a chance to ask them questions too.
Make notes if you wish but engaging in fluent conversation is more impressive than listening, nodding and simply making bullet points.
Put on your shades, cover up your eyes, jump in your ride and head out to the law fair on your own (it’s probably best not to wear shades). It’s okay to walk to a law firm with your mates, but don’t cling to each other like birds of a feather. Recruiters want to speak to independent and confident people. You can’t do a joint interview with your mates, so why network with them?
Don’t be shy
This is perhaps the most difficult hurdle to overcome but you just need to bite the bullet. Don’t launch into an elevator pitch but be prepared to talk about why you’re interested in law, what experience you may already have and why you’re interest in a particular firm. If you feel the conversation beginning to peter out, bring the conversation to an end by saying, “It’s been good to meet you, thank you for the chat and I look forward to sending in my application.” Give your CV, and if you get a business card in return, a follow-up email is a good idea.
Networking at a law fair is a fine art, and no student will be perfect. However, if you follow the tips above, you’ll put yourself in good stead with the law firms out there.
Next article: Law fairs: top tips for following up afterwards