The Cardiff Law Fair is a valuable source of information for anyone who is serious about training as a solicitor or barrister.
Whether this is your first face-to-face contact or not, it may be quite overwhelming. But with careful planning and plenty of research you should come away feeling more clued-up about the profession and the application process.
The fair is open to everyone; however you have to book a place to attend the employer talks. To avoid the risk of disappointment, book as soon as possible.
There are over 40 exhibitors in this years’ fair, including law firms, barristers’ chambers and other potential employers, such as the Government Legal Service and Lawyer 2B, as
well as course providers. You may have to join lengthy queues before you are able to talk to an exhibitor, but be patient and make sure you do not jump queues or interrupt conversations. Alternatively, return to the stand later when the queue has died down.
The reality is that, there may not be enough time for you to talk to every exhibitor. The fair only lasts 3 hours. The good news is that we have published a list of exhibitors on our website and facebook page!
Therefore, in advance of visiting the fair, have a look at which firms, chambers and course providers will be present and put together a shortlist of the ones you would like to speak to. You should then do some research on each of them by looking at their websites. The legal press, including The Lawyer and of course Lawyer 2B, is also a useful source of information on law firms and chambers and will help you get up-to-speed on the latest developments in the market.
For each firm you should try to identify the following basic information before attending a law fair:
- where the firm is headquartered;
- how large it is in terms of partner numbers and turnover;
- how many overseas offices it has, if any;
- how many trainees it typically recruits; and
- the practice areas it focuses on.
Exhibitors’ stands will be staffed by members of their graduate recruitment teams, trainees and partners. You should aim to meet as many people as possible, but should obviously tailor your questions so that they are relevant to the person you are talking to.
If you can, spend as much time as possible talking to trainees as this will help you to get a feel for what a firm is really like. Indeed, you may find it less intimidating than talking to more senior people. That said, it is important to talk to partners and members of the graduate recruitment team.
Whoever you speak to, never ask questions to which you can find the answers on a firm’s website or brochure. Legitimate questions for members of the graduate recruitment team include: “What are you looking for from applicants?”; “When is the best time to submit training contract applications?”.
When you are talking to course providers you should try to find out how many places they offer, whether they provide any financial assistance towards course fees, what core subject areas they cover, whether they have split their Legal Practice Course in two, their stance on e-learning and which law firms they work closely with.
Many law firms, notably the large City players, have preferred course providers.
However, avoid asking too many questions. Law fairs are a forum for having a very quick chat with exhibitors, so you should spend no longer than five to 10 minutes talking to each firm.
Make sure you act professionally throughout the day. For example, do not grab freebies unless they are offered to you and do not approach a stand while talking on your mobile phone. Also, leave your jokes, especially those about a law firm’s name, at home.
It is not necessary to splash out on a brand-new suit, but do try to look smart, as this will create a good first impression. Also, we suggest you get rid of your tongue or eyebrow piercing and leave the baseball cap at home. Remember, if you dress smartly you will immediately feel more professional. And ladies – it is advisable to wear sensible shoes because a lot of walking is involved.
Freebies are part of the law fair experience, so do not be surprised if you leave weighed down by highlighter pens and memory sticks. But do not let them cloud your judgement.
Finally… It is worth mentioning that law firms are generally in sell rather than buy mode during fairs. They will want to impress you as much as you want to create the right impression. Having said that, do not expect to walk away from a law fair with offers of work experience or invitations to open days. And although there is no harm in taking a copy of your CV, most of the larger firms will not accept them as they now have online application forms.
However, some firms may ask you to get in contact with them after the event regarding an interview. Contacting the recruiters you built a good rapport with at the fair shows initiative. Firms will take notice when someone follows up with an email thanking them for their time if they have gone out of their way to be helpful. Firms won’t be able to keep track of everyone’s names so if you send them an email then they’ll have a record of you.
Last but not least, take a note of all the people you have spoken to. It is not uncommon to wake up the next day surrounded by brochures but with no clue who you spoke to.
Enjoy the Fair.
Lowri, 2nd Year Law Student