Going back to old haunts

Students of Britain: do you aspire to a career in law? Would you like the opportunity to quiz law firm employees to get the low-down on what their firms are like? Are your stocks of stationary dangerously low? If the answers to these questions are “yes” then you probably either have some experience of law fairs or should plan to get some soon.

The law fair is a mainstay of the law student’s calendar.  Once a year you have the opportunity to wander around the fair, chat to reps from different firms, try to make an impression and, of course, try to out-do your mates to see who can bag the most impressive freebies.  In case you have not had the pleasure, PM have a nice line in clicky pens and pint glasses, a nicely balanced twosome which together ticked both the “helpful while working” and “helpful after work” boxes when I was a student.

In October I represented the firm at the University of Dundee Law Fair.  I was a student at Dundee for five years so was glad of an opportunity to head back to my old haunts.  In my latter years at Dundee I was an annual visitor to the law fair and found it to be an invaluable source of intelligence on the visiting firms.  This was because most firms would send along one or two of their current trainees, and they were quite prepared to spill the beans on what trainee life at their firm was like – far more impartial than the firm’s recruitment website!  And no, the irony of relaying this information via this medium is not lost on me.

Assisting at the fair was much simpler than I had been expecting.  For a start we did not have to assemble the stand ourselves, which for some reason I had always expected would be part of the job.  This was a definite plus because, as stands go, ours was enormous: think of one of those large projector screens some pubs use to show football on.  Our main task was therefore to seem open and approachable and chat to people wanting information about the firm.

This was more difficult than it sounds; watching some of the passers-by studiously avoiding eye-contact reminded me of my early forays into the law fair.  Despite this, I noticed that, compared to the surrounding stands (with the exception of one firm who were shamelessly bribing students with bars of chocolate: the holy grail of law fair freebies), we received a lot of interest from the passing crowd.  It occurred to me that it is because the firm’s profile among students in Dundee (and probably Scotland) has increased markedly since I was a student.

PM has invested a lot of resources in having a presence at Scottish law fairs for a number of years now and my impression from the questions we were getting was that the investment is starting to pay off.  As for the students themselves, for the most part they were well-prepared and chatty.  Many had clearly thought about the firms they wanted to speak to and, crucially, what information they were actually looking to elicit, which gave them something concrete to talk about.  I was asked for information about our trainee secondments to the Dubai office, what seats I had done and what I wanted to do, how I had enjoyed working in intellectual property (my first seat) and so on.  It was clear that many of the applicants knew what they wanted and were scoping out which firms would be best for them.  I came away from the fair having thoroughly enjoyed the experience and impressed by a number of the students I had met.

The trainee market is so competitive right now, probably more so than when I was making applications (and it was no picnic, I can assure you).  However by doing things such as going along to law fairs, noticing which firms are out there, doing some research and chatting to firm reps, prospective trainees can start to make themselves more attractive to firms by doing the right things, getting the right experience, and so on.  They can also gradually identify which firms for whatever reason they have a good feeling about.

I currently plan to volunteer for the fair next year so that I can once again share my “wisdom” with the trainees of tomorrow and, of course, try to stock up on stationary and freebie chocolate, just like in my student days…

Jamie