The Rookie Lawyer
Reading time: five minutes
Open days are a good way of making your interest in a firm known – or so I've heard. They're a useful stop along your application: firstly, for the firm, to assess who's interested in joining them; and secondly, for you, the applicant, to not only gain some experience in applying but also learn first hand whether the firm’s a good fit for you. So, if you're looking to attend (or at least, apply for) some open days this year, read on!
If we're talking about open days – especially as novices to the field of law – it's good to start by establishing some of the basics. An open day is exactly what it sounds like: a day where the firm’s 'open' to hosting future applicants, showing them around and answering questions. Occasionally, you may even participate in workshops set up by the firm or shadow a trainee lawyer for the day.
It's a great chance to not only meet lawyers, trainees, and graduate recruitment representatives at the firm you're interested in, but also to get to grips with the kind of legal work they do daily. It's also an opportunity to observe first hand what the company culture is like – and whether you think it's a good fit for you.
Hear from law firm recruiters about the recruitment process at different firms with LCN’s Meet the Recruiter profiles.
Finally, if you're planning to apply for vacation schemes or training contracts at the firm, open days are a good chance to ask about the application process and get yourself noticed – making a lasting impression to boost any later applications you’ll make. It's worth noting, of course, that not all open days are held prior to vacation scheme and training contract application deadlines. Regardless, the overall purpose of the open day remains the same: it’s a chance for you to get to scope out a firm – and for the firm, in turn, to examine you.
For most (if not all) firms, you'll have to submit an application to attend an open day. Every firm's application process is different – for some, it's a simplified version of training contract applications, which requires you to submit your CV, sixth form and university grades, and answer some questions. For others, it entails filling out a simple form. Regardless of the kind of application you'll be filling out, it's good to have a solid foundational understanding of the firm you're applying to. So, it's worth doing some extensive research on the firm: you can set up some Google alerts to keep up with any deals they might be closing, or any other firm-specific updates; dig around on their website (and others, if you can find them); and follow their LinkedIn or other social media accounts.
There's no point doing all that research if you're not eligible, so make sure to also check whether you can attend that open day at all. Some firms have open days for first-year law undergraduates only, while others host subject-specific open days, exclusive to those interested in specific legal practice areas (such as IP or digital law).
Most importantly, make sure you know your deadlines. Give yourself enough time to do the intensive firm and commercial research, complete and perfect your application, and send it off – preferably well in advance of the deadline! When applying for training contracts and vacation schemes last year, this was a mistake I made all too frequently and hopefully learned my lesson from. To avoid this happening again this year, I'll be attempting to send off each of my applications at least a week before the final deadline – though I suppose only time will tell if I'll actually stick to that rule…
Once you've secured that acceptance and you know for sure you'll be attending (well done, by the way!), it's back to researching and note taking. If you've been sent an agenda of the day, research the names of any representatives mentioned and any topics you'll be discussing – it's worth trying to come up with at least three questions per topic to ask. Know the backgrounds of the people you'll be meeting as well as you can: do they come from a law or non-law background? Have they always been at this firm? Are they involved in the firm's pro bono and D&I initiatives – and if so, how have they contributed to them? The more you know about not only the firm, but those in it, the better your experience of the open day will be.
Read LCN’s tips for preparing for a law firm open day, presentation or insight scheme.
Keep building on your understanding of the firm's main practice areas and keep up with them on any podcasts or blogs that they run. Commercial awareness is another thing to keep in mind – but, if you're a regular LCN visitor or a law student, you probably don't need that reminder from me. Familiarise yourself not only with legal news and updates but with commercial news more generally – business, finance, and anything else the firm’s directly involved in!
Finally, it's worth having a look at the firm's vacation scheme/training contract application process and jotting down any questions you might have – the open day is a perfect opportunity to get some insight from the very people who’ll be reading your application.
Once the open day’s over, and you've said your goodbyes, it's worth connecting with the firm members you met that day on LinkedIn and sending them a thank you message. See if you can connect with any of the other applicants you met that day – there's no harm in expanding your network. And, finally, make a mental note of how you felt after your time at the firm. Is it a company you can see yourself working at? Do you want to take your applications further forward past this point?
If the answer’s yes, then you already know where to go from here. Take note of the vacation scheme and training contract deadlines, review your notes from and before the open day, and get to work!