We understand that the route from application to in-firm interview to cocktail party can be long, hectic, and nerve-racking. How do you go through it without coming out the other end as a frazzled, nervous, and thinly-stretched applicant? Get prepared by reading our tips and advice section learn about what type of attire is appropriate at an in-firm interview, how to address your cover letter and how to get some great on-campus interview tips. It will let you know what it takes, and how to get it done.
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You are not alone if you hate cocktail parties. Even extroverts find it hard to introduce themselves to strangers. Realistically though, you are going to have to attend cocktail parties for business, social or political reasons long after you land a summer job or become a lawyer. Here are some tips to help you gain "schmooze control".
If your interview schedule permits, arrive on time rather than fashionably late. This will give you an opportunity to speak to the recruiter or members of the student committee before they're swamped with other guests.
Don't take the easy route at a law firm cocktail party by finding your friends, relaxing and sharing a few laughs. This will not assist you in landing a job.
Force yourself to meet the lawyers and students at the law firm. Often it's as important, at least at Cassels Brock, to meet our articling students as it is to meet our lawyers. One industry war story goes as follows: a student guest starts chatting with a law firm articling student. The student guest then spots a lawyer he wants to talk to. He simply walks away from the articling student mid-sentence. Needless to say, the story spread throughout the firm and the student committee; the student guest was not offered a position as a result.
There certainly was a better way to handle it. The student guest could have asked the articling student to introduce him to the lawyer he wanted to meet. The articling student would then have nothing bad to say about the student guest. In fact, the articling student could say that the student guest was pretty savvy, had done his homework on whom he wanted to meet, and was smart enough to turn his chat with an articling student into an opportunity to target an introduction.
When introducing yourself to someone, smile, shake hands firmly and state your name clearly (even if you're wearing a name tag). Pause briefly between saying your first and last name. Even if you've met the person earlier that day, you should still state your name. You can safely assume that the person has spoken to at least a dozen other students over the course of the day and would appreciate a memory prompt such as, "Hi Sam. We met earlier today. I'm Perry Lee."
Keep your drink or food in your left hand. Your right hand should be available to shake hands.
Make sure that your purse or briefcase strap does not obscure your name tag and that you have placed the name tag in a spot where it is easy to read.
You may find it's easier to transition into a cocktail party by targeting someone close to your own age with a friendly smile as your first approach.
It's fine to keep your conversations to five minutes or less. You have a lot of people to meet. You can excuse yourself by saying you'd like to refresh your drink or go to the washroom. Or simply say, "It was a pleasure meeting you. Excuse me." If you're trying to meet people, researchers say that the food table is a better bet than the bar. Apparently, when we eat we release endorphins that relax us and make us more receptive to conversation.
Dos & Don'ts
- Don't sip your drink when someone is talking to you. Give them your undivided attention.
- Maintain eye contact and don't let your eyes wander to see who else is in the room.
- Steer clear of issues like religion, money and personal crises.
- Don't gossip.
- Avoid off-colour jokes.
- Stay on top of your game: restrict yourself to one alcoholic drink.
- Don't ask general questions about the law firm. It suggests that you haven't done your research.
Don't apologize when it's time to go. The law firms all know that you have multiple commitments. It's not necessary to find the recruiter to say goodbye. If you've connected with anyone in particular at the firm, and there is a clear path available, say goodbye to that person (for example, the lawyer who conducted your OCI or your in-firm interview).