How to use the Law Fair to get work experience

Original URL: http://nickbaines.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/

I am a postgraduate researcher in an arts subject (not Law!) but last October, at the Careers Service Law Fair, I managed to get a week’s work experience in a mid-sized City firm – the Holy Grail of the would-be lawyer. I got this purely through chatting to the people I met on each stand. As networking and meeting people is a great way to get a foot in the door, especially for law, I thought I’d share a bit on the blog about how I went about it.

Just ask!

I chatted to a few employers at the firm, and got (alongside a lot of free stuff) 2 business cards, and 1 offer of work experience. At the stand of the firm in question, there were a partner, a trainee and an HR person, and I tailored my questions to each of them. After talking to all three for some time, I asked the lady from HR if there was any possibility of a week, or even a day, of shadowing. She’d already offered to take my email address, and suggested I drop her an email with my CV and the practice areas I’d be interested in. She actually emailed me with a reminder before I’d had a chance to get in touch with her, and once I’d sent my CV, she arranged for me to sit in my preferred department for a week in January.

The lesson here is an old one, but it’s true: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you feel a conversation is going well, then why not ask? Some firms, of course, will say no, but you’ve lost nothing, and it’s worth it to get even one yes.

Research, research, research

You’ll probably have heard this already, but research is key to securing legal work experience – even informally. And preparation is vital for law fair success:

  • Before the fair, I made a list of firms I was interested in, why I was interested in them, and what questions I wanted to ask in order to find out more.
  • I also had a think about more general questions I could ask. For example, it’s always good to ask about the structure of a firm’s training contract, as this differs from firm to firm.
  • As I mentioned, I tailored my questions to each person – when talking to a partner, I wouldn’t ask about the structure of the training contract (put that to trainees or HR), but I would ask about practice areas or the firm’s structure.

I met this firm for about 15 minutes and impressed them enough to get a place, and I can only assume this was because of my research. I was enthusiastic and interested, and it showed that I had prepared beforehand.

For more on researching employers, see the Careers Service pages about how we can help with your research. You can come into the Careers Service in person and talk to Information Specialists at our Resources Help Desk, who can help with this.

The Careers Service also runs talks on how to prepare for the Law Careers Fair. You can read our blog post about preparing for Careers Fairs and our blog post with tips for becoming a solicitor or barrister.

Don’t forget to come along to the Law Fair this year: 5 and 6 November at the Wills Memorial Building. See a list of the different firms attending each day on our website.

Lucinda, a previous Careers Service Information Assistant Intern

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