updated on 22 June 2021
Attending a law firm’s open day, workshop or presentation is a great way to meet lawyers and recruiters, and gain valuable insights that will improve your applications. Read on for tips on preparing and making a good impression on the day, whether it’s virtual or in person.
Although coursework will be taking up an increasing amount of your time during the Spring term, you should still try to go to a couple of the one-day, evening or virtual events that law firms put on for students.
Open days provide the opportunity to see what firms are like before you apply, and they are also the perfect way to gain insights that you can use in your applications, which you would not have had access to otherwise. 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 to people from the firm – and those who don’t – so an open day is a great chance to make a good impression.
How to prepare: selecting firms and organising your schedule
Before the pandemic, firms would hold presentations on university campuses, in swish hotels and in their own offices – with everything being forced to move online in March last year, some firms also moved these opportunities online too. It’s worth checking specific firms’ websites to identify when and how they plan to hold these events in future. Your careers service or student law society should also have a calendar listing firms’ presentations and open days. Also check the comprehensive listings in the LCN Diary, and sign up to MyLCN to create a personalised diary of law fair and other important dates with MyCalendar.
You don't need to fish out a cocktail dress, but it's advisable to look tidy and well presented – the same applies to virtual versions of these events. Don’t be tempted to just dress smart on top either. As well as making you feel the part, getting dressed properly will also avoid any potentially awkward mishaps.
Prepare some questions before you go so that you can get the most from the experience. Here are some ideas:
What to do on the day
While the firm is trying to impress you, you have the chance to get a better idea of whether it could be right for you. Different firms put on different types of event. Some offer interactive experiences or workshop-style events, while many others hold presentations designed to explain the firm and what makes it different. Given that many firms look very similar if all you look at is their websites and brochures, an in-person or virtual talk followed by socialising and networking can be a valuable chance to make up your own mind about what a firm is really like.
You can often expect a simple, friendly format with attendees listening to brief talks, perhaps from a partner and a member of the recruitment team, and then chatting with associates, trainees, future trainees and partners. The personal aspect is key – you have the chance to speak to trainees, as well as more senior lawyers about their work and career paths. It’s a chance to make a good impression, but also an opportunity to think critically about the firm. How do the partners speak to you? Are they engaging, open and friendly? If they are not, what does that say about the firm’s culture?
Open day networking
You and the firm have only 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. For more on how to do this, read ‘LawCareers.Net’s guide to networking’.
Meanwhile, Kirkland and Ellis associate, Syed Mahbub Murshed knew what he wanted to get out of attending open days when he was on his journey to a career in law: “Given my interest in commercial law, I attended a number of open days and decided that I wanted to look for experience in firms with an international focus, with a larger network of contacts and clients who needed cross-jurisdictional advice.”
Art graduate and Trowers & Hamlins solicitor Tamsin Lim also highlighted the importance of networking at open days. She advised budding solicitors to attend “as many law fairs and open days as you can, even virtually”. She added: “This applies even if you have already graduated – you should still be able to attend your former university's law fairs or access careers advice. Speaking to trainees and recruiters will give you an insight into the firms that you would only otherwise get through a vacation scheme, which is really useful for applications.”
Make your applications better
A firm presentation, especially one held in the firm's offices, is the perfect way to get a good, initial look at the firm. Have a serious think about what you have heard and put it together with your own research – you’ll be sure to have decided whether you want to apply to the firm in question by this point. If you do decide to apply, remember to include the presentation on your application. One partner says: "We all like to be flattered, so if you can demonstrate why you applied to our firm 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."
The top commercial firms receive more than 2,000 applications a year, so mentioning your attendance at an insight day – virtual or in person – will both help you to stand out and demonstrates that you have done your research and are serious about the firm.