Ready money: The official Lawyer2B.com guide to getting your hands on law firm dosh
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Yes, law firms, like fairy godmothers, make the student utopia of free booze an all-too-earthly reality. Balls, drinks nights, dinners and shindigs of that ilk often see a law firm stumping up either some cash towards it or fully arranging social events with the help of the law society. In return, they usually get their name on the tickets and send along a few trainees to chat to interested students.
It is not just about booze, though. For those of you wanting to come out of university with more than just an alcohol-saturated liver, firms offer opportunities for you to brush up on your legal and professional skills by supporting events such as mooting competitions and interviewing sessions. Firms also sponsor sporting events which, where kit and training tops are concerned, has the added advantage of a longer shelf-life than a one-off social event.
Magic circle firm Linklaters, for instance, sponsors the entire mooting regime at University College London (UCL), while CMS Cameron McKenna and Taylor Wessing sponsor UCLs Easter and Christmas balls respectively. Elsewhere, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) supports the law ball at the University of Sheffield, a garden party at the University of Cambridge and the law society elections at the University of Exeter.
BLPs graduate recruitment and trainee manager Jennie Moore says the events that give access to the students rather than those that simply involve handing over a cheque are most likely to attract sponsorship.
The firm will usually want to be present at the event so they can either do a quick speech, or mingle with the students during or after the event, explains Moore. Firms want candidates to understand what it is like to work there, rather than just see their name on the marketing material.
According to Moore, firms are least likely to make a financial contribution to activities that seem disorganised and involve no input from the firm. Weve pulled out of events before because the organisation and management of it has been poor, which in turn could reflect badly on the firm, says Moore.
Because of a law degrees direct link with a profession which, lets face it, is not short of cash, law students are in the enviable position of being both courted and groomed by their future employers. When asked, firms were coy about the amount they spend on this sort of activity, but it is safe to assume that the bills run into tens of thousands of pounds.
To get to first base the considering stage as it were you need a good proposition and you need to sell it well to the law firm. Christian Osborne, the president of UCLs law society, recommends that students should start with a well-thought-out pitch. Firms will want to know how many people are going to attend and how the event will help to raise their profiles, explains Osborne.
It is true that there are some law schools get more attention lavished on them anyway and will find it easier than others, but no society can expect to have money thrown at any harebrained idea they dream up.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringers head of graduate recruitment Deborah Dalgleish says her firm is unlikely to sponsor purely social events with no career or law related angle. We dont feel that our name on the programme at a ball or on a hoodie of a sports team is likely to have a sufficiently direct impact on recruitment to justify the cost, she explains.
So what is a sensible amount to ask for? Caroline Walsh, head of graduate recruitment and trainee development at Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, says it depends on the activity and the profile it is going to generate. Be realistic in what youre offering and how much youre seeking. Rather than a phone call, set out a proper proposal with a breakdown of costs and how the figure has been reached, rather than plucking a figure out of the air. And be prepared to negotiate, we are lawyers after all, advises Walsh.
And do not forget to do your homework because, as Walsh notes, if a firm is already involved with the university it may be less likely to sponsor something else in favour of targeting another university.
Getting a share of the spoils also depends on where you are. The magic circle and top commercial firms which are the ones that can afford to splash out on sponsorship spread the bulk of their funds around the top 15 or so universities. Consequently, if you are at a non-target university you will have to do a lot more persuading if you want to get firms to part with their cash.
BLPs Moore suggests that one way around this is through alumni, because a firm is much more likely to sponsor universities that they have had success with in the past. Make contact with any trainees that came through from your university and talk to them about the event possibilities and ask them to make contact with the graduate team, advises Moore.
Alternatively, highlight the profile of the students the firm might be meeting and their academic levels, so a firm can see the kind of calibre of student that may be present. This might make them consider a university they do not usually target, she adds.
Our research found that firms are continuing to spend vast sums of money on student law societies. However, whereas in the past graduate recruitment teams may have handed over a cheque without asking too many questions, this is unlikely to be the case today meaning you will have to work harder for it. But with good planning there is no reason why your university cannot share in the spoils.
Top tips for attracting law firm cash
Get planning and perfect your product. In most cases law firms are not just going to throw money at you. Plan out a clear submission and be prepared to fit around what they might want to do. Be flexible and don't ask for too much because firms will only want a break down.
Find the right medium One graduate recruitment manager recounts how a student emailed her requesting 2,000 to sponsor some hoodies. Given their association with juvenile delinquents, it is unlikely that a firm will want to have their name emblazoned on one.
or create an attractive new one. Events/activities that are unique or innovative are more likely to attract hard cash.
Sing your own praises. If your law society has traditionally been overlooked for sponsorship, get some information about the law school or the candidates that might overturn perceptions. Did your school get a high rating in the Higher Education Funding Councils Research Assessment Exercise? Or does it have a good academic record with a respectable average class of degree and a healthy amount of firsts? Or does sponsoring your society offer the chance for the firm to target a diverse set of students?
Team up with a neighbouring university. If you have a relatively small law society you could run joint events with a university nearby that may be in the same boat. This would mean double the exposure for a sponsoring law firm.
Ask at the right time and fit your elections around it. Budgets are done at the beginning of the calendar year in preparation for the new financial year in April. You want to be hitting the firms with requests early in the year. If you can hold your elections fairly early then the new committee can start thinking about applying early on or they may find they have missed the boat.
Get them returning for more. Once you have secured sponsorship, look after any trainees or lawyers sent to attend the event, give feedback on how it went and make sure you check out the firms stand if it visits your university for a law fair. It will be more likely to repeat a sponsorship if it felt it was treated well.
Look elsewhere. If the law firms are not forthcoming then it might be worth considering bringing in some other sponsors for your society. A local pub might be prepared to offer some free sandwiches or discounted beer if you can guarantee a certain amount of people for an event. Or it might sponsor your sports kit. And do not forget that other professions may be interested in getting to know law students. After all, only 50 per cent of law graduates end up as lawyers.
Finally. Dont forget your manners. They go a long way.