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Attending a law firm’s open day, insight scheme or presentation is a great way to meet lawyers and recruiters, and gain valuable insights that’ll improve your applications. Read our five tips to help you prepare and make a good impression on the day.
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If you’re attending open days and insight schemes, it’s most likely that you’re at the start of your legal journey. In which case, identifying how to make the most of these opportunities is really important. These events give you the chance to gain a real insight into life at particular law firms, and the opportunity to identify whether you can see yourself building a career there. Plus, it’s a great way to start building your understanding of what lawyers do, and how the legal profession works.
Recruiters and partners also take careful note of those who attend open days with the right attitude and use the time in between talks/activities to chat with people from the firm – and those who don’t – so an open day is a great chance to make a good first impression.
Here are our five top tips to help you get the most out of law firm open days and insight schemes.
As with most things in life, research is absolutely key.
It’s worth checking specific firms’ websites to identify when and how they plan to hold these events. Your careers service or student law society should also have a calendar listing firms’ presentations and open days. Also check the comprehensive listings via the LCN Events page, and sign up to MyLCN to create a personalised diary of law fairs and other important dates with MyCalendar.
However, before you start applying for law firm open days and insight schemes, understanding your options (in terms of firms and their practice areas) is a good place to start. For example:
If you’re not sure which type of firm you want to build your career at (eg, magic circle, US or boutique), attending a range of open days, presentations and insights schemes with different firms is a good idea so that you can compare and contrast their differences in person, rather than just from the information you’re able to glean from their websites.
Find out more about the types of law firms with LawCareers.Net’s guide.
So, having conducted research prior to applying or booking onto the open day or insight scheme, you can then use this as your base and build up your knowledge of the firm, its practice areas, position within the market and its clients, for example. LawCareers.Net has put together some advice on researching firms, which you can refer to during this process.
The research you do before applying or attending the law firm open days and insight schemes will be crucial to your success and will help to show that you’re enthusiastic, and committed to the profession through the understanding you’ve gained. And don’t forget – attending the open days themselves are as much a part of the research process for your future career too.
Planning without research can be difficult. So, our first tip is essential for our second tip to work to your advantage. Once you’ve built up an understanding of the firm, you can start to pull together some tailored questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the firm and your interest in its work. Identify what it actually is you want to get out of the scheme.
It might be that you want to find out some information about how the firm is adopting the Solicitors Qualifying Exam because it’s not available on the firm’s website yet; or perhaps you want to speak to a trainee about the specifics of the firm’s training programme; or you might be interested in the international working/secondment opportunities on offer.
As ever, it’s strongly advised to avoid asking questions that you can find the answers to on the firm’s website. This is the easy option and demonstrates that you’ve not taken the time to get to know the firm before attending. Recruiters and other firm representatives at the open days and insight schemes will see right through this and you’ll not leave the impression you probably hoped you would.
It's also important to note that firms will offer different types of events. Some will offer interactive experiences or workshop-style events, while others will hold presentations designed to explain what the firm does and what makes it different from all the other firms out there. These are all incredibly valuable opportunities to socialise, network and find answers to the questions you’ve planned out to help you make up your mind regarding what a firm is really like.
Both you and the firm should be vying to make good impressions on each other, so make the most of these networking opportunities. The personal aspect of these events is key – yes, you should be taking in as much information as you can about the firm, but you should also be paying close attention to the way representatives at the firm interact with you. How do the partners speak to you? Are they engaging, open and friendly? What impression do they give of the firm’s culture. By making a plan of your day and your aims, you’re better able to focus on the nuances of each firm.
3. Practise networking
The preparation advised above will no doubt help you to feel more confident when it comes to networking with law firms and their representatives at open days and insight schemes.
If you’re particularly nervous about networking, which most people naturally are, it might be worth doing some additional prep. This could be in the form of practising asking your questions and thinking about follow-up questions you might want to ask too. However, before you even start asking your questions, you’ll likely have to initiate the interaction; this means introducing yourself and no doubt getting involved in a little bit of small talk. Thinking about conversation starters for this type of situation is a good way to alleviate some of the nerves. If you head into a conversation with an idea of what you’re going to talk about, you’ll likely feel a lot more confident.
You should also think about what it is you want to get out of the networking opportunities and the ways in which you can follow up with the people you meet (see ‘How to make the most of LinkedIn as a law student’ for suggestions). It might be that you just want to get a bit more information about the firm or an individual’s journey into the profession or at the firm, while other people might be thinking about the ways they can make their applications stand out from the crowd. Lots of these thought processes need to happen throughout the preparation you’re doing so you can plan how you’re going to spend your time. Plus, while networking with people at the firm is important, you should also make sure you network with your peers too.
Read ‘LawCareers.Net’s guide to networking’ for more advice!
If you’re looking for ways to boost your confidence with networking further, you could always ask a close friend or family member to practise with you. This will no doubt feel awkward at first but once you get past that, it’s a great activity to undertake so you can get used to asking your questions and bouncing thoughts around.
4. Take something with you to take notes with
Hopefully you’ll learn lots about the firm while you’re there, so make sure you have something to make notes with (ie, a notebook). As mentioned previously, the content and structure of each individual firm open day and insight scheme will vary – some might be more workshop-focused, while others might include practical experience skills sessions and networking. However, with each one, there will be lessons you can take away and writing them down is a great way to store these lessons somewhere physical, rather than just in your head. The act of physically writing something down is also a great way to improve your memory.
5. Review what you’ve learnt about the firm
Once the scheme has finished, you can use these notes to help you to review your experience at the firm and identify the aspects you liked (or didn’t), and determine whether it’s a firm you’d consider making an application to. If it’s not the firm for you, it’s not a wasted opportunity because you now have an idea of the sort of firm you’d rather avoid. If it’s a firm you’d like to pursue, these notes (along with the research you’ve already done) will be a great starting point to show the law firm what interesting insight you already have about them in your applications. This combination of research will help you build up a better understanding of the firm to support your application.
Remember to include your attendance at the event on your application and if you spoke to someone who helped to cement your decision to apply to a specific firm, mention it.
It might also be that when you look back on the day, you realise, for example, that you perhaps didn’t make the most of the networking opportunities that were on offer – you can then use this summation to improve your networking at the next one you attend.
Be yourself on the scheme. You might feel that there’s a pressure to conform to this archaic idea of what a solicitor is, but firms want you to be authentic. They don’t want to hire 10 lawyers who are the same, so demonstrate what you can bring to the table and be true to your skills and interests.
You’ll soon find out that this whole process is one big learning curve; you’ll get better at networking as time goes on; your applications will improve with each rejection; and your understanding of the profession will only grow.