Law firm open days and insight evenings
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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. City firm Norton Rose Fulbright regularly opens its outsize rotating glass doors to students for evening presentations. Kesh Kularatne, Norton Rose Fulbright's graduate recruitment adviser, says: "Pick which presentations to go to. If you've got an idea of which area you want to work in, pick the relevant firms. I think if you went to, say, 20 presentations, I'm sure it would start to get tedious after a while, so try to pick and choose."
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.
A quick glance at the LCN Diary reveals insight evenings and presentations aplenty. Sometimes the choice can be overwhelming, so it's a good idea to research the firms before you choose by taking a look at their brochures, their listings on LCN and browsing their websites.
You don't need to fish out your 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:
- Does this firm match up with my way of thinking and doing things?
- Does this firm have a good reputation in terms of client care and staff development?
- Does this firm do the sort of work I am interested in?
- Does this firm accept applications from people with my academic grades?
- Does the location of this firm suit me?
- Do the representatives of the firm seem like the sort of people I could work with?
- Do I feel as if I would fit in here?
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, but many use straight-talking presentations.
Norton Rose Fulbright favours a simple, friendly format: attendees listen to brief talks from a partner and Kesh, and then get the chance to mingle with associates, trainees, future trainees and the speakers. Kesh says: "These events are about students understanding the firm, what we do and what makes us different from other law firms because on the face of it, we all look the same. So for them, it's about meeting people on a more direct basis. We try to make it more personal."
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 bravely approached Kesh and 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." While some attendees networked with the trainees present (which is certainly a good way to learn more about a firm), Shanela talked to a partner about the firm's established Islamic finance practice.
Meanwhile, Kesh explained to others exactly what she looks for in applications. This is probably one of the most valuable features of the event. Remember to ask the recruiter your questions (don't be shy about things personal to you - "nothing's too silly!" says Kesh). Kesh notes: "The first thing that impresses me is when a student comes up and actually speaks to me. I think you have to be quite brave! They think that everything they say has to impress but it doesn't. The purpose of this is a fact-finding mission; it's not an interview."
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 Norton Rose Fulbright 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."
Just think about it: Kesh receives over 2,000 applications a year. So the handful that mention actually going to the firm's presentation undoubtedly make her smile. "I love it!" she says. "It's really good because it shows a sustained interest over months or even years. And also, it goes to show you've done your research."
Having attended an open day can be proof that when you say you'd like to work at the firm, you know what you're talking about.