It’s that special time of year again…. The season of the Summer Open House! Many firms will be opening their doors to students across the country this summer and just the thought of that can be terrifying. Never fear – CBB Blog Team is here. This post aims to demystify these events, including what to expect, what to gain, and how you can make a positive impression.
So, what is a Summer Open House?
I’m glad you asked. A firm’s Open House can take a variety of forms, a couple of which are listed below:
(1) After-Work Cocktail Hour
Many firms host an after-work session around 5pm which often involves networking, wine, and hors d’oeuvres. Often, these events begin with a few lawyers, the recruiter, and/or student committee members telling you about the firm. This normally takes the form of a presentation at the front of the room while the students are seated. This is followed by a networking session in which lawyers and the firm’s students are scattered throughout the room happy to chat with you about their experiences.
(2) Lunch Session
Other firms may host their Open House over the lunch hour from 12-1pm, normally with food served. From the events I attended last year, the lunch sessions involved a panel wherein lawyers and some of the firm’s students would answer questions about their experiences to date and offer advice for the upcoming 2L recruit. This is the format of Cassel’s Open House, both on July 12th and August 16th this year. At Cassels, you will have the opportunity to hear from a number of lawyers from the Student Committee, and current Summer Students. Following our panel, open networking will take place whereby you can ask us your questions individually and try to get a better sense of what Cassels is like (answer: it’s awesome)!
What’s in it for me?
Of course, there is the hope and possibility that attending these events will get your name out there and allow you to meet the recruiter and hopefully stand out in a positive way. But arguably more important than that is the information that you can gain from an open house.
Be engaged when listening to the panel or presentation. It is likely the case that many of your initial questions will be answered by the speakers.
- Tip: It is best to avoid asking lawyers or students in the networking portion of the event questions that were already answered. That being said, no need to stress or take notes furiously scribbling down every word that is said. Definitely take notes if you want to, but know that it is completely optional.
I found what worked best for me was paying full attention to the presentation or panel and speaking to as many people as I could at the event, then taking notes on my phone afterwards. For instance, I would often write a note or two about what a student said made the firm unique or why they chose to work there. These are points that you may find useful when drafting your cover letters.
- Tip: Never underestimate how short your memory can be. It is probably wise to take notes as soon as possible so that you don’t miss out on key details such as the names of those you spoke with. You may want to drop a name or two in your cover letter (assuming they sparked your interest in the firm), but you also may want to follow up with these people in the future. Grabbing business cards is an easy way to help jog your memory.
You can also look at these events as an opportunity to learn more about law in general, different practice areas that may fascinate you, or what it is like to work at a firm of that size. These are all things that may inform decisions like what kinds of courses you pick next year at school or whether or not you decide to apply to boutique vs. full service firms, global vs. national firms, small vs. large firms, etc.
A final take-away of these events is the opportunity to solidify a connection with a potential mentor. Whether or not you end up working at a certain firm, it will benefit you to have a few mentors in the industry who can help guide you throughout your career. Of course, wherever you end up working, you will likely find more mentors, both through formal mentorship programs and informally. But to have mentors at various firms can never hurt you. If anything, it will allow you to hear from a variety of perspectives when it comes time to pick your summer or articling rotations (if applicable), and eventually your practice area. The people you meet at open houses are all great contacts to have and you may end up working alongside or across from some of them in the future.
What should or shouldn’t I do at an Open House?
Try to be as engaged as possible from the moment you step foot in the firm to the moment you leave. As a guest of the firm, be sure to thank the host (likely the recruiter in this case) for inviting you to the event.
As well, try to push yourself to talk to as many people as possible. There will almost always be summer students or articling students present at these events which can be less stress-inducing than talking to a lawyer. Regardless of their title, remember to be polite, enthusiastic, and appreciative of their time. There is no “secret” to networking or how to ace one of these conversations. I always took comfort in knowing that I was there to gain information for my own knowledge and benefit. As the firm is trying to get to know you, you too are trying to get to know the firm
The questions you do want to ask at these events however depend on what you are interested in learning. I was always interested in knowing how students made up their minds about firms in the recruiting process so I would often ask why they chose to work at that firm, as well as if they have any general tips for the recruiting process. Don’t fret too much about the questions you ask though. The most important thing is that you take something away from your time there and try to get a sense of what the firm is like. When you leave, you should ask yourself: Could I see myself working there? Could I relate to the people I talked to? Were any of my interactions awkward or unpleasant today or did everyone seem like someone I could work with?
What if I can’t attend an Open House?
Don’t worry if you can’t attend an Open House or any of the open houses for that matter. Many students will be unable to attend and that’s totally okay. If you want to make up for it though and still be able to get a sense of the firms before the interview process begins, you can always reach out to a few of the firm’s current summer students, articling students or lawyers, and request a quick phone call wherein you can ask them questions.
None of these things will be completely determinative of whether or not you will be hired, so again, don’t worry.
- Tip: The process will not be identical for everyone so don’t concern yourself with how your peers network or how many events they are attending. Do what you can and do what works best for you.
If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the current Summer Students. We would be more than happy to speak with you about our experience thus far at Cassels or give you general tips for the upcoming 2L recruit.
Best of luck, and may the odds be ever in your favour.
Cassels Brock & Blogwell