A university law fair is a great way to find out about careers in law and law firms, a chance to meet lawyers and law firm graduate recruiters, and a way to take a few significant steps forward on the path to a career in law.
Here Caroline Sarson, Graduate Recruitment and Development Manager at global law firm Mayer Brown, explains how to approach a law fair, what not to do, and how to make the most of a good law fair experience.
How do graduate recruiters see law fairs?
For me, law fairs are about sharing information. They're a way for students to find out more about the career opportunities that law can provide, and for us to tell students about Mayer Brown and the kind of law firm we are and to invite them to consider applying to us.
I don't recruit or interview students at law fairs, but if I have a good conversation with a student I will remember them if they subsequently apply to Mayer Brown. I have met students at law fairs who have gone on to become trainees and then associates at the firm.
What should you do to prepare for a law fair?
Before you go, check which law firms are attending the fair, then find out a little bit about them and what opportunities - such as open days and vacation schemes - they offer students.
Then, think about what else you'd like to know, and come up with a list of sensible questions to ask the firms that you're interested in.
What are good questions to ask a recruiter when you speak to them at a law fair?
Avoid very simple questions like "Are you a law firm?", or "Do you offer training contracts?" - if the answer was no to either of these, we wouldn't be at the law fair. You should also avoid asking anything that's easy to find out from a firm's website or brochure.
Instead, ask questions that it would be hard to find answers to without talking to someone from the firm - for example, "What's it like to work at Mayer Brown?" or, to a trainee, "What kind of work are you doing at the moment?" - you can get a really good feel for what a law firm is like and what people do there by speaking to employees.
What should you not do at a law fair?
It's frustrating to see students wandering around, picking up some freebies, and walking out again. It is worth remembering that the graduate recruiters and lawyers who attend the law fairs are keen to tell you about the firm they work for and to help you kickstart your legal career, so do use the opportunity!
You should also make sure that you dress sensibly. You don't need to wear a suit, but it's a good idea to look smart and tidy - remember that commercial law is a business-focused industry and dress codes can be conservative.
How can you stand out at a law fair?
The students who have impressed me the most are the ones who already know a bit about Mayer Brown and have come with a list of specific questions. You'll stand out if you can show that you are genuinely interested in the firm.
It sounds very simple but, as many students get it wrong, it's very possible to stand out with a little thought and preparation.
What should you do after a law fair?
It's a good idea to email recruiters or lawyers that you met who you found helpful. When I get these emails they help to remind me of students that were particularly impressive. I'll then put their name into our application system so that it'll be flagged if they apply for an open day, vacation scheme or training contract.
Keep doing your research - a law fair should give you some new ideas about the kind of law firm or legal work you're interested in. Following these leads up will give you material for application forms and interviews.
Next, see if any of the law firms you're interested in have open days, vacation schemes or further campus events coming up that you can apply for.
About Mayer Brown
For more information and to apply for an open day, work experience or a training contract, visit the Mayer Brown graduate site.
We've also spoken to Caroline about what law firm open days. Read the article here.