updated on 22 October 2019
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.
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 and evening events that law firms put on for students.
Open days provide the opportunity to see what firms are actually like before you apply, while 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
Firms hold presentations on university campuses, in swish hotels and in their own offices. Your careers service or student law society should 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. 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
The firm is trying to impress you, while 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 talk followed by socialising 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 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. For more on how to do this, read this ‘beginner’s guide to networking’. 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 spoke to 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." She also talked to a partner about the firm's established Islamic finance practice.
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 over 2,000 applications a year, so mentioning your attendance at an insight day will both help you to stand out and demonstrates that you have done your research and are serious about the firm.