Job Fair – In France!

Today, I went to the Assas Job Fair, and BOY was it an experience! I was hesitant to go at first because of two reasons: (1) I had NO idea what I would be up against, and (2) I’m embarrassed by my French. But, at the urging of my professors and peers, I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did!

The first thing I learned is that no matter where you go, big law firms are big law firms. I saw a LOT of firms I was familiar with from the US, and even got some of the same brochures¬†(and pens!) that I received from meeting those firms in the US. But the similarities stopped there… To begin, every firm had a large area with a counter and two stools, and most also have a small table with two chairs. When you walk up to a firm, you introduce yourself, give them your resume, and tell them what departments you are interested in. I, of course, added a timid “Parlez-vous anglais??” to that routine. And guess what?¬†EVERY associate spoke English. Not just conversational English, but polished, advanced, business English. While it confirmed for me that English really is the language of business, it also made me feel a bit inadequate since I realized how mainstream being bilingual, trilingual, or being a polyglot is in the rest of the world! The associates also had FAR more knowledge of internal US law than I had even on French internal law. I was impressed by their education.

After you introduce yourself to the firm, they take out a form, review your resume, and take notes on the form. They ask you questions about your career interests and why you like the firm, and for me, they talked about my background, my LLM, and my job experience in the US. The associates take notes based on what you say, make some notes on your resume, and then put your resume and the form with notes in a file. Your file will get passed on to the proper department at the firm, and then the firm will email you for a further interview if they think they have a stage or position for you.

My main takeaways were to be confident in not just your abilities, but in your uniqueness, and that a smile and a handshake is universal communication. Some firms were upfront about it being impossible to work entirely in English, or about their ability to accommodate an American in a traditional and regimented French process (French students do internships called “stages” once they graduate from university with certificate in law, often do stages at different firms, and then have the potential to be hired on following their stage contract). But every firm was warm and friendly, willing to have a conversation with me, and were enthusiastic not just about me, but for me and my future! I’m not sure whether I will return to Europe to do a stage after the bar exam or will go the traditional US employment route, but I’m grateful that I got to experience job searching in another country and that I made so many networking connections!

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