Law fair freebies

Which firm is giving away the best swag?

Every summer the marketing boffins at law firms across the country devise trinkets with the goal of seducing students at the autumn's law fairs. It is a truth universally acknowledged that there’s no better freebie than the Chambers Student Guide – but the runners-up still warrant some attention.

On our tour of the 20 best fairs this year, we sampled a cross-section, chewing our way through a life-shortening volume of sweets, concussing our colleagues with branded yo-yos, but devoted as always to bringing you deep insight into what law firms are all about. Our team of experts assesses how well these baubles managed to stamp the firms’ branding permanently on your memory as well as what they tell us about the firm.


Fun bags


Bags are not fun, our research showed. But you will pick up kilos of glossy brochures at these fairs, so they serve a purpose. KennedysShearman & SterlingMorgan LewisNorton Rose Fulbright and Clyde & Co were all handing out sturdy jutes this year. Bold branding on the shoulder of every career-savvy student: tick. Novelty factor: it’s a bag. 5/10 for the bag brigade.

Then there’s the ubiquitous branded pen, but is a pen interesting? No. Only Slaughter and May scraped through, giving away its premium brushed steel offering nestling on a bed of velour in the firm’s trademark opulent purple. This pen means business; so does Slaughters. A read of the True Picture on Slaughters will explain further. For an unbreakable carrier of the brand, steely Slaughters gets 5/10. It is just a pen, let’s remember.

Many hit the law fairs just for a lifetime’s supply of stationery – only be mindful that the brazen looters don’t usually get the jobs. Firms like Bond Dickinson, Dentons, Edwards Wildman, Mayer Brown and Freshfields were all dispensing the Notebook with Pagemarker Post-Its. Before we dismiss this as unoriginal, we must remember the high-achieving, stationery maniacs out there in academia who go weak-kneed over such things. A lot of these people end up becoming lawyers. So good thinking, Dentons et al., only you didn’t brand the Post-Its themselves, they will eventually end up in a bin, and they tell us very little about the firm’s character. 5/10

There must be a word for them – training tankards? – the plastic refillable vessels people take out on their sporting jaunts. BLP, Herbert Smith, Hogan Lovells, KWMSJB and Michelmores were all peddling them. Portable mugs were favoured by Charles Russell and Morgan Lewis, while Kirkland & Ellis, Reed Smith and Travers Smith led the chalkboard mug movement. Most innovative was Reed Smith for running an online mug-related photo competition with a week's work experience as a prize (what a mug), while Watson Farley’s recycled plastic beaker achieved a stylish retro simplicity. But still, we learn nothing about the firms. 6/10

This research was carried out in a blue food colouring-fuelled frenzy, courtesy of Freshfields and its blue pick ‘n’ mix (shedding its blue-blooded image in favour of blue-tongued?). Like Kirkland and its branded M&Ms, a sugar high with a logo is more effective than the tens of firms with their afterthought tub of Heroes. 6/10

2013 will be remembered for the individually wrapped jelly bean (Allen & Overy and Baker & McKenzie). Having to peel off the firm logo with every measly mouthful is the most intensive of all the branded bonbons campaigns – score to these two global behemoths. Might this monobean austerity package hint at an internal culture or policy? Alongside the firms’ other curios on offer (USBs etc), probably not; it just left a sour taste in the mouth (cherry). 2/10

Ward Hadaway’s yo-yo: YOLO

It’s not 1990 anymore, but Ward Hadaway thought it was time to bring back the yo-yo – ideal for the bored student who needs a toy whilst filling out vac scheme applications (28th Feb for WH). The yo-yo was so retro that it broke during trials. 7/10 for being a yo-yo.

What was the message behind Nabarro’s velour pouch with miniature dice in it? Gambling with your career? This is in fact a nod to the firm's slogan: 'Your future as a lawyer. Leave nothing to chance.' Surely then, dice is the wrong gift for Nabarro’s risk-averse candidates. These mini dice notch up points for being quirky – and useful if you end up playing Cluedo with the pixies this Christmas. 7/10

This year’s fairs marked a shift tech-wards: iPad mini competitions; free headphones (KWMSJB); but the seasoned law fair looters headed straight to Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie and Gibson Dunn to pick up USBs. Taylor Wessing's credit card USB stole the show (if you can call it a show) with better branding and a 1GB flash drive. Useful for storing dissertations? Certainly. Awesome fun? Not so much. 8/10

Then step forward Simmons & Simmons and your silicone egg iPhone speaker. Relying on acoustics alone, does this power-free party egg tell us Simmons is seeking candidates who are prone to impromptu carousal at moderate noise levels? Possibly, suggests our True Picture article, which reports a firm choir and vigorous social life. It also doubles as a stress ball – equally handy. 9/10

After a hard night’s partying with the Simmons egg and a broken yo-yo, you will no doubt have trouble meandering your way home. Having run out of Freshfields’ glow-in-the-mouth sweets, shipping legends Stephenson Harwood come bearing a solution with their mini torch. Student Guide’s deputy editor was led home in the small hours by this beacon of hope – projecting the SH logo for all to admire (and website url). 9/10

King of the techy trinkets was Olswang. These media and technology experts were giving away a universal adaptor plug that neatly folds into a branded cube. With equivalents retailing from £4.50 on Amazon, this travel companion is a powerful plug for the firm and hints at its exotic locations (Madrid, Singapore, Reading…) and their promise of opportunity. 10/10


This feature was first published in our December 2013 newsletter.