Opinion | 24-07-19

Legal Job Fairs for Graduates – how valuable are they?

SSQ regularly sponsors and attends legal job fairs to showcase our varied roles and expertise through our relationships with well-known universities. They are a great way for graduates to find out more about a range of opportunities but what else should those graduates be doing to maximise their chances of securing a job? Betty Chen, an experienced recruiter with SSQ, explores what other options are available and how best to use the fairs.

A number of graduates from mainland China studying for their LL.M abroad come to SSQ for advice on finding a job, often having attended the New York Job Fair in the spring. Most of these graduates struggle to find work through these events and want to know if there is a better solution or avenue to secure job opportunities.

As an example, The New York Job Fair is held at a New York University every spring for LL.M students. The event is a great starting point for students who wish to have a snapshot of various firms, roles and to seek advice regarding how to embark on their new career. Many well-known universities offer these job fairs across the year, and going to them can be a great first step towards finding a position but it should be recognised that unless you are very lucky they are unlikely to deliver a job.  Why is this?  Well, you have to bear in mind some of the following limitations:

  • The number of domestic law firms and foreign law firms with China offices that participate in these fairs is not that large – I was told of no more than 20 this year – and I am aware of a number of law firms with recruitment needs in China who don’t attend.
  • Often the representatives attending on behalf of the foreign law firms are unaware of the recruitment needs in their China offices.
  • Law firms do not necessarily attend with clear recruitment objectives; they are often there more to publicise their firm.
  • Each law firm will receive thousands of CVs and it is hard to stand out from the other applicants – even if you get the chance to be interviewed at a fair, the face to face interview will only last about five minutes.

So what else can students do to grow their network and find a job?

  • Use reliable legal recruiters: a reliable legal recruiter will have excellent local legal market knowledge and be able to offer consultative career advice, not just to send out applications.  At SSQ we love to help people work out what they are looking for and find the best position for them.  We have great relationships with a wide range of law firms and in house legal departments which give us a breadth and depth of knowledge that is hard to match.  Tapping into this sort of resource is invaluable.
  • Use your contacts: The legal market is relatively small. You should use your social connections, for example classmates, alumni, ex-colleagues and your law school professors. If they can help make a recommendation, you will undoubtedly have more opportunities for interview.
  • Social media: use LinkedIn as a tool to expand your network by connecting with fellow students and law firm/business contacts.
  • Direct approach to hiring partners/HRs: This can work but make sure you take time to research the hiring firm, the partners and the active job openings.

So while graduate job fairs are a really useful tool to help you explore your options, not only giving you the opportunity to see what firms can offer you but also to start connecting with people in your industry and expand your network, they are not likely to produce a direct result.  You will need to use the information you gather at these fairs to inform your decisions about how to progress your career and help you at interview but you should bear in mind that there are more likely ways to find a job.

If you want to explore legal job opportunities in China and want to discuss the graduate market, please contact our consultant Betty Chen at [email protected].