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updated on 08 September 2020
I’m going to be attending a virtual law fair – do you have any advice?
Whether it is virtual or in-person, there are two kinds of conversation you can have with a firm at a law fair: functional and insightful. In the first, the firm’s representative answers your basic questions about the firm and wish they were somewhere else. In the second they feel that they are meeting a keen, well prepared, realistic employment prospect with whom they are establishing the first connection that could lead to a training contract in the future.
To illustrate how the conversation might go both ways, let’s look at some basic questions and how to develop them into much better talking points.
Do not ask: "Do you have an office in X city?"
This information is found easily online, along with other basic facts about the firm.
"I see you have a network of offices worldwide. Where would you say is the genuine heart of the firm and do you see a geographical shift in this focus over time as the world economy adapts to the rise of countries like China and India?"
Do not ask: "Do you do human rights law?"
If you are interested in a particular work area, you should identify in advance the firms attending the fair that have this specialism.
"Your key practice areas seem to be corporate, property and energy. How do you structure your seat rotation to give trainees experience of all these areas and enable trainees to find the specialism that will make best use of their talents?" And a follow up might be: "Do you find that new trainees' preconceptions of different work areas are reinforced or shown to be wrong by actually working in those departments?"
Do not ask: "What can your firm offer me?"
This is recruiters' single most hated question - it displays no preparation, no eye for detail, a lack of understanding of how teams work, poor communication skills, and no commercial awareness.
"I've been involved in setting up some very interesting projects while at university and find that I thrive on working hard with a team of like-minded individuals to successfully achieve our aims. Would working at your firm help me further develop these skills?"
Do not ask: "What's the money like?"
This is information is available online and talking about pay is a little presumptuous when you are having your first ever conversation with a firm.
This one is ideally for a trainee rather than a recruiter: "How is the work/life balance at the firm?"
As you can see from the above examples, the more research you do about a firm in advance of a law fair, presentation or open day, the more you will look like you know what you are talking about and the more you will both gain from the conversation and impress the law firm’s representative.
It is crucial to ask questions in a way that people can engage in a proper conversation where you can talk about yourselves and each other. This is where the rapport develops and you get noticed.
Finally, it’s natural to be nervous ahead of talking to a firm that really interests you – you want to make a good impression. Do your best to appear confident, be unfailingly polite and well briefed, and anything else will be forgiven!