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A student I met at a law fair recently asked me what happened at an open day. Does it just involve a tour of the office? she enquired? Absolutely not, I joked, you also get tea and biscuits.
Seriously, open days are an excellent way to gain more information about a law firm, especially its culture, which is something thats very difficult to glean from its glossy graduate recruitment brochure and snazzy website.
I was invited to attend an open day at international law firm Baker & McKenzie just before Christmas and this time I was more prepared as Id already experienced a similar event at CMS Cameron McKenna last summer.
The format was quite similar to Camerons open day and kicked off with a presentation from graduate recruitment partner Vincent Keaveny. This was then followed by an informal chat with trainees from the firm, who were refreshingly honest even when asked whether they had ever done an all-nighter and if they were worried about the credit crunch.
After meeting the trainees we launched straight into a negotiation skills exercise. My team decided to adopt a co-operative approach but was blown away with the somewhat confrontational stance taken on by the other side but we soon shut them up when we refused their demand for an indemnity, which was almost the value of the entire deal.
Although the negotiating against a confrontational team was great fun Bakers graduate recruitment and development manager Justine Beedle warns students not to be aggressive during an interactive session as it may hinder other peoples experience.
Following the negotiation exercise we were treated to a lovely lunch, which provided an opportunity to meet more people from the firm. The room was heaving with partners, associates, trainees in attendance proving just how seriously Bakers takes graduate recruitment.
The afternoon sessions included a commercial awareness exercise, which provided a deeper insight into the types of work handled by Bakers and a talk from the graduate recruitment team.
So what did I learn from the Bakers' open day? Well lots. Firstly, they're a brilliant way of finding out more about a law firm and the culture it operates in. Secondly, the exercises are great practice for when you have to attend an assessment centre for real. Thirdly, they obviously look good on your application forms so it's worth doing several with different types of firms. Last but not least be prepared to do work!