Law firm Open Days – a recruiter’s view

A guest post by Lara Machnicki (Trainee Resourcing and Alumni Officer at the Law firm Bristows):

While there is no doubt that competition between students for training contract positions is extremely high, law firms themselves are in competition to attract the best candidates. In an attempt to reach out to students at an earlier stage, many firms are now offering open days to first-year students to raise the firm’s profile at an earlier stage.

So what is a first year open day?

On Wednesday 27 March, a group of enthusiastic and slightly nervous-looking first year students descended upon Bristows. The trainee-led day was the first of its kind at Bristows, and aimed to give first-year students a taste of life as a trainee solicitor in a city law firm. The entire day was focused on presentations and interactive sessions to help students make up their mind as to whether a career in law is for them, and if so, to consider at what type of firm they might like to train.

Should you be applying to attend a first year open day?

First year open days are an excellent opportunity for candidates who are still considering whether a career in law is for them and/or are unsure about what type of firm they might like to eventually apply to. Open days will only take up one day of your vacation but will provide an enormous amount of information to help you complete those long and tiresome application forms for longer work experience and training contracts when you are at the right stage. They also get you in front of top employers early on, and while most will be un-assessed it certainly doesn’t hurt to make a good impression to partners and trainee recruiters, who will no doubt then look out for future applications from you!

Top tips for applying for and attending first year opportunities

Application stage:
1. As with any application, ensure it is specific to the firm you are applying to – cut and paste jobs are easy to spot
2. NO SPELLING MISTAKES PLEASE!
3. Get your application form in early (if firms operate rolling recruitment schemes, you may miss the boat if you wait for the deadline)

On the day:
1. Arrive on time
2. Dress professionally
3. First impressions count – make eye contact, have a firm shake and SMILE!
4. Be polite to everyone you meet – from the receptionist who welcomes you initially to the senior partner you meet over lunch
5. Be interested – look at the presenters when they are speaking and ask lots of questions
6. Interact with attendees – most firms will be looking for good team players and students that communicate well

After the event, a thank you note can go a long way if you want to be remembered…

And whatever you do… be yourself at all times! You will end up at the firm that is right for you so don’t pretend to be something you are not, at any stage of the process!

Good luck!

For more information on opportunities with Bristows, please visit http://training.bristows.com/ or contact Lara Machnicki, Trainee Resourcing and Alumni Officer at trainee.recruitment@bristows.com

Lara Machnicki is Trainee Resourcing and Alumni Officer at the Law firm Bristows (http://training.bristows.com/). Lara completed a chemistry degree at Exeter University before undertaking the GDL at BPP Waterloo, and the LPC at the College of Law. She completed a training contract with City law firm Nabarro before deciding to pursue a career in the graduate recruitment field. Lara’s first role in graduate recruitment was in the London office of a US firm, and she has been the Trainee Resourcing and Alumni Officer at Bristows since January 2012 where she deals with anything and everything relating to the recruitment, selection, training and development of trainee solicitors

Guest blog from @ParalegalTony “Paralegal Pyramids”

A guest blog from Paralegal and part-time LPC student Anthony Lyons (@ParalegalTony) sharing his thoughts on the best ways to break into the legal profession whilst searching for a training contract:

“A CHANGING OF AGE: PARALEGAL PYRAMIDS

The hunt for a training contract from the grass roots up will soon become a frivolous dream for most. Paralegals are taking over the legal profession but with most biding their time by gaining experience whilst searching for a training contract; law firms have something very different in mind for them.

On trawling job sites and speaking to legal recruitment consultants a word has consistently been annexed to the job role – “career”. A career paralegal seems to be what law firms are looking for in light of the significant changes in legal practice. Business models are gearing up to restructure in pyramid forms having a proportionately smaller number of qualified solicitors taking on the complex legal tasks and paralegals dealing with the bulk of legal administration.

The model logically makes sense with the legal profession coming under scrutiny for their costs, most particularly in private client matters where individuals are burdened by the higher fee rates of solicitors. Although what does this have in store for law graduates and those who have bundled their way through the LPC and not yet secured a training contract?

Being a paralegal is an exciting and varied role. Depending on the type of firm and particular area of law the work can be both challenging and stimulating. At a recent interview for an international law firm they were impressed by my understanding of certain practical issues in property law which they would not expect even their own trainees to have knowledge of.

The most obvious drawback for law graduates looking to gain legal practice experience as a paralegal is salary. With less than 6 months experience it can be a fight to negotiate anything over £16,000 and recruitment agents will often overlook your CV. Salaries do pick up but not at the rate you see in most graduate positions. Competition is rife with the flood of students completing the LPC and not securing training contracts so anyone with a basic understanding of supply and demand should factor this into their salary expectations.

Having worked with paralegals who have indeed now chosen the role as a career it is daunting to think what was once considered a “stopgap” might now be the pinnacle of many a law graduate’s career.

If you have any questions about becoming a paralegal feel free to ask me directly on Twitter @ParalegalTony.”