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One of the biggest legal careers fairs in Australia will for the first time be held online via live video streams and chat rooms, in an innovative bid to adapt the experience within COVID-19 restrictions.

The Sydney Law Careers Fair, which is held every year in April, attracts students and graduates from around the state to meet employers from up to 50 organisations in law, government and educational institutions. Most of Australia’s top-tier law firms as well as a range of large mid-tiers have their career offerings – including clerkship and graduate programs – on display.

The fair is usually held in person at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. But this year, organisers faced the grim prospect of having to cancel the fair due to unprecedented restrictions on public gatherings in Australia.

Rather than cancel, the team from the Law Society of NSW moved quickly to turn the event into an online “virtual fair” that students and graduates could join by logging into live video chat rooms operated via Zoom. In less than two weeks, the organisers managed an impressive pivot to transform the entire operation to an online experience – to be held at the same planned time and date this Friday between 11am and 2pm.

“With universities and tertiary providers around Australia moving to online classes in a bid to minimise the spread of COVID-19, it made perfect sense for the Law Society to move the Sydney Law Careers Fair online,” said President of the Law Society of NSW Richard Harvey.

“These are unprecedented and uncertain times and we all need to adapt and adjust to the challenges of COVID-19, in ways we would not have imagined even a month ago.”

President Harvey explained that, this year, face-to-face exhibitor “booths” will be replaced by video chat rooms for students to join and chat with representatives from each organisation. Those organisations will feature on a dedicated landing page and students will be able to review employer profiles to prepare any questions they might have prior to the fair.

Much like a physical careers fair, attendees will be able to “wander” in and out of the chat rooms at their discretion – joining new rooms to ask questions and leave when their queries have been answered.

The Law Society of NSW will also have a mentoring booth for students and graduates to connect with experienced lawyers during their first year of practise. Those who sign up for the mentoring program will benefit from monthly one-on-one sessions with their mentors, easing the transition from student life into the profession.

Sophie Berton, a penultimate-year law student at UNSW and Co-President of the UNSW students’ Law Society, said many students were excited by the new format.

“The virtual careers fair offers the huge benefit of accessibility,” she said. “Students who were previously unable to attend the physical fair can now attend from their own locations. This improves accessibility for both Sydney-based university students as well as other NSW students not in the Sydney region.”

Justin Song, who is Berton’s Co-President at the UNSW Law Society, agreed and noted how important it was for employers to demonstrate agility and remote working arrangements for students considering a career with them.

“This pandemic has reinforced the importance of flexible working arrangements so that business can be carried on as usual with minimal impact,” said Song.

“Moreover, with the rise of globalisation, I believe working online will become common and essential for future businesses. Having the ability and skills to work online will be an important and desirable trait – both for employers and employees.”

The Sydney Law Careers Fair, which is this year powered by Prosple, will be held online this Friday 3 April between 11am and 2pm AEST and may be accessed via this website. Students are encouraged to visit the site prior to that time, to view the list of employers that will be operating booths on the day and to prepare any questions they might like answered.

The Law Society has posted instructions on Vimeo on how to sign in and access video chat rooms, which will open from 11am. In conjunction with Prosple, the organisers have even developed and published some etiquette guidelines for the virtual event. Attendees should also follow the Facebook page of the Law Society’s graduate services site, LegalVitae, to stay up to date news and updates.

President Harvey encouraged students and graduates to sign in at 11am sharp for the unique opportunity to get the “inside scoop” on clerkship and graduate programs.

“Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from getting all the tips and guidance you need to ensure you are on the right path to your future career in the law,” he said.

Learn more about the Sydney Law Careers Fair here.

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