Law firm presentations and open days: network and prepare for applications
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Presenting… law firm presentations. They're beneficial for all concerned, as they give firms a chance to showcase their offices, people and knowledge, and you the chance to show that you're super keen and eager to learn. Read on to find out more about how to prepare and how to impress.
Law fairs have already taken place throughout the autumn. The new edition of The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook has been published and made available at careers departments. Reading lists and coursework have seen the work mount up. But even with all this going on, make sure that you don't overlook firm presentations. They offer the chance to get a real idea of the individuals in a law firm. And your attendance might just be the making of you.
How to prepare: selecting firms and organising your schedule
Firms hold presentations on university campuses, in swish hotels, or sometimes in their own offices. City firm Norton Rose Fulbright regularly opens its outsize rotating glass doors to students for evening presentations. Kesh Kularatne, Norton Rose Fulbright's graduate recruitment adviser, says: "I think you should pick which presentations to go to. If you've got an idea of which area you want to work in, pick the relevant firms. I think if you went to, say, 20 presentations, I'm sure it would start to get tedious after a while, so try to pick and choose."
Your careers service or student law society should have a calendar listing all the firm presentations. As an alternative, check out the comprehensive listings in the LCN Diary, and to create a personalised diary of law fair and other important dates with MyCalendar, sign up to MyLCN. A quick glance at the Diary reveals open evenings and presentations aplenty – sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. Thus, it's a good idea to do a little research into the firms you choose, by taking a look at their brochures, their listings on LCN or just browsing their websites.
You don't need to fish out your cocktail dress, but it's advisable to look tidy and well presented. Feel free to wear what you wear on a daily basis, but nothing too outrageous. Prepare some questions before you go; they'll help you to get your thinking cap on while you're there. Here are some ideas:
- Does this firm match up with my way of thinking and doing things?
- Does this firm have a good reputation in terms of client care and staff development?
- Does this firm do the sort of work I am interested in?
- Does this firm accept applications from people with my academic grades?
- Does the location of this firm suit me?
- Do the representatives of the firm seem like the sort of people I could work with?
- Do I feel as if I would fit in here?
What to do on the day
It would be cynical to say that presentations are merely a vehicle for seduction. While the firm is trying to impress you, presentations do offer an invaluable opportunity to apply your own criteria to a firm. But be aware of the firm's plan: to boost its image to students and identify and encourage their perfect candidates. Different firms go about it differently. Some offer interactive experiences or workshop style events, but many use straight-talking presentations.
Norton Rose Fulbright favours a simple, friendly format: attendees listen to brief talks from a partner and Kesh, and then get the chance to mingle with associates, trainees, future trainees and the speakers. Kesh says: "These events are about students understanding the firm, what we do and what makes us different from other law firms because on the face of it, we all look the same. So for them, it's about meeting people on a more direct basis. We try to make it more personal."
Open day networking
You and the firm’s recruiters and solicitors only have a limited time to get to know each other, so open days are a not-to-be-missed opportunity to network and make a good impression (if you’re nervous about this, see our advice video on how to network and our guide to developing crucial soft skills for lawyers).
Remember to ask the recruiter your questions - don't be shy about things personal to you
Shanela Haque had her visit all figured out. A law and anthropology graduate, she went along to Norton Rose Fulbright with specific questions and an inquiring mind. During the presentation, Shanela made attentive notes and then bravely approached Kesh and the trainees. "I was really interested in the trainees," she said. "They can help you on your application much more because they're fresh, and they know exactly why they said they wanted to come here and they've had experience of the training." While some attendees networked with the trainees present (which is certainly a good way to learn more about a firm), Shanela talked to Stephen Parish, partner and chairman of Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, about the firm's established Islamic finance practice.
Meanwhile, Kesh busily explained to others exactly what she looks for in applications. This is probably one of the most valuable features of the event. Remember to ask the recruiter your questions (don't be shy about things personal to you - "nothing's too silly!" says Kesh). Kesh notes: "The first thing that impresses me is when a student comes up and actually speaks to me. I think you have to be quite brave! They think that everything they say has to impress but it doesn't. The purpose of this is a fact-finding mission; it's not an interview."
Attending open days can boost your applications
A firm presentation, especially one held in the firm's offices, is the perfect way to get a good, initial look at the firm. In his presentation, Stephen sat casually on the end of a table and said: "This is the firm's chance to impress our personality on our audience: to try and get our personality across."
Have a serious think about what you have heard and, put together with your own research, you'll soon realise whether you want to apply to the firm in question. If you do decide to apply, remember to include the presentation on your application. Stephen says: "We all like to be flattered, so if you can demonstrate why you applied to Norton Rose Fulbright specifically, that will make an impression. And of course, it's great if you can say you're applying because you spoke to someone at a presentation."
Just think about it: Kesh receives over 2,000 applications a year. So the handful that mention actually going to the firm's presentation undoubtedly make her smile. "I love it!" she says. "It's really good because it shows a sustained interest over months or even years. And also, it goes to show you've done your research." Ultimately, it's proof that when you say you'd like to work at the firm, you know what you're talking about.