It’s almost time for The University of Law’s National Law Fair (NLF) again. This huge annual event gives law students a great opportunity to meet with exhibiting firms and recruiters from across the country and a range of legal areas. Take advantage of the chance to introduce yourself to the right firm in the right way, and you could be on the way to getting yourself a coveted training contract. To find out how best to approach the fair, we asked ULaw’s Director of Employability John Watkins for some top tips on how to shine at the NLF.
Do a bit of recon
Get ahead of the game by checking out the NLF webpage to find out which firms are attending the fair in advance. Then you can research them online to identify which ones are offering the kind of training contract and career you want. You can find out a lot in advance, like what areas of practice they cover, who some of their recent clients are, and what their work culture is like. Shortlist your favourites so you can make sure you definitely get round to meeting them on the day. Be strategic, though: do a couple of warm-ups with other firms first to get the blood flowing, but don’t leave it too late so that you’re not flagging by the time to get round to meeting your top picks.
Get commercially aware
When you’re chatting with representatives from firms, they’re going to not only be interested in your legal acumen; they’ll want to know how switched on you are about what’s been happening in the wider world too. Keep up-to-date with news about legal firms and the sector by reading the industry press, but also brush up on the big topical issues of the last 12 months. Demonstrate your understanding of the legal and wider issues of current affairs and you’re going to be on to a winner.
What to wear?
When it comes to what you should wear, view the NLF as a giant job interview where you’re showcasing yourself as a smart and professional candidate. Dress like you’re working in a top City law firm and make sure that you’re neat and groomed. Whether you’re networking in person or online, employers will generally view the people they speak to as prospective employees more than as students so dressing smartly will only benefit you.
Stand out from the crowd
It’s really important to leave a lasting first impression when you’re meeting firms, especially when they’ll be speaking with so many potential employees throughout the course of the day. Ensure that first impression is a good one by being personable and attentive. Show a modest level of confidence and ambition in the way you present yourself and talk about your achievements and goals, but don’t be brash. After all, you want to be remembered in the right way.
Be calm, be confident
Before the fair, ask yourself: what are your key strengths? What areas do you need to develop, and what are you doing (or planning on doing) to remedy this? Be honest and keep reminding yourself of these in the lead up to the fair. Then when it comes to your conversations, you’ll be able to drop these bits of information in naturally without getting flustered or not knowing what to say.
You’ll also have the chance to demonstrate some key attributes like the ability to listen and present yourself well in a professional situation. Be attentive and ask insightful questions, showing you understand current issues from what you’ve researched.
Bring your CV
The University of Law Employability Services team will be on hand throughout the day to provide CV clinics, so it's worth bringing yours along to get advice on how to make it stand out. Once you get to talking to the firms, don't worry about handing out your CV, though. Some of the exhibitors might be alright with taking a copy on the day, but it’s better to ask for their details so you can email them after the event. This way you can bespoke your CV for different firms, and it provides a neat way for you to continue contact with people you’ve met. Remember to mention that you met them at the NLF in your email.
Get mentally prepared
Think about the questions you want to ask before the fair. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget a question you really wanted to ask, so write them down and remind yourself of them throughout the day. Stands are usually staffed by a mixture of recruiters and current trainees, so you can ask questions on a variety of topics.
It’s OK to ask about the social life as well as the workload but don’t rush in straight away. Plan your strategy of approach between visiting each stand, and always lead with questions about the work.
Be yourself... on a really good day
Firms are going to be looking for potential recruits at the fair, so it’s important for them to know that you’d work well with them. Firms are looking for potential, not perfection. And above all, they’re looking for someone who shows a genuine interest in them and what they do. It can be easy to go over the top with trying to present yourself in a professional manner but remember that it’s still important to be yourself. Just be yourself on a really good day.
To find out more about the fair, and to book your place, visit our dedicated National Law Fair webpage.