26 August 2022

This article was written by Jordan Russell.

In March, I assisted the Burges Salmon People Team in-person at the Bright Network's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Event. This was my first in-person outreach event at the firm and the first in-person networking event since the start of the pandemic.

More and more we are seeing the world revert back to in person events, but for many, this is quite intimidating. Getting back out there after studying or working behind a screen for two years is quite the challenge - especially if it is your first time networking.

Before attending in-person events such as law fairs and presentation evenings, you might ask yourself the following questions:

  • What should I wear?
  • What research should I do to prepare?
  • What if I make a mistake?

Fear not, this blog post seeks to inspire confidence to start networking in a post Covid-19 world.

What should I wear?

We are in a changing world where many firms have loosened their dress policies to reflect the modern world. At Burges Salmon, the dress policy is to “dress for the occasion”. This requires us to dress appropriately when dealing with clients, or in court, but allows flexibility for day-to-day working in the office (or at home).

At networking events, you should dress for the occasion. You want to make the best impression possible, as either a promising candidate or a respected professional. You should therefore err on the side of caution and dress conservatively – think suit & tie or other formal clothing.

What research should I do to prepare?

Here are some points to consider for researching the firms at the event:

  • What type of firm are they? Consider if the firms are a commercial full service firm, a niche firm that specialises in one area or a high street firm that covers a spectrum of work for individuals.
  • Identify the locations of the firm’s offices. Burges Salmon operate primarily from Bristol and that is where all the current trainees are generally based (though there are some upcoming secondments to the Edinburgh office). If a candidate wants to work for Burges Salmon then we would expect them to have an interest in living in Bristol, as opposed to London where many of our competitors are based.
  • What sectors do the firms work in and who are their major clients? There is nothing worse than expressing an interest in a firm because of their expertise in a sector they do little work in. This should be ascertainable easily from marketing materials on the firm’s website or legal directories.
  • What distinguishes the firm from the rest of the legal market? Is it expertise in specific sectors, an emphasis on being a diverse and inclusive workplace or cross-jurisdictional expertise? If you can show you understand what is important to the firm, you are well on your way to make a good impression and determine if your values align.

Prepare questions based on your research and your own interests/circumstances. Have a list of questions ready to ask the firms so that you can utilise the opportunity to ask direct questions which you would otherwise have no answer to.

You should ask the right questions to impress. Avoid asking questions that marketing materials address, instead ask questions that dive deeper. Often it is helpful to ask something more personal – about you or the trainees at the firm. An example might be, “how do you find the six-seat rotation?” or “are there many trainees from non-russell group universities in your intake?” – when I am asked these questions, it shows a genuine intrigue from the candidate and shows that the candidates are also considering what firm is a good fit for them as an individual. Remember, these events are just as much about you identifying if a firm will be a good fit for you as it is about you being a good fit for a firm.

What if I make a mistake?

I know from being in the same position a few years ago that you can be worried about making a bad impression, saying the wrong thing or asking a stupid question. Though asking the right questions to impress is good, firms also understand that you do not know everything about networking or the profession yet – I will let you in on a secret, no-one is the perfect networker and even partners are still refining their networking skills!

Throughout these events, firms will meet hundreds of potential candidates and the likelihood that they will remember your mistake is small, and even if they do, we have all been there and it is not something to worry about. Firms are more likely to remember those who impressed by dressing well and being well researched.

Key contact

Headshot of Penny Bowring

Penny Bowring Resourcing Specialist

Legal Resourcing

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