8 deluxe networking events that only Oxbridge students will have heard of

Law firms’ desperation to attract Oxford and Cambridge students has spawned some dazzling evenings-out.

Sushi School — with Linklaters

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Cocktail Making and Tasting — with Clearly Gottlieb

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Chocolate Making — with Jones Day

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Pizza and Prosecco — with Burges Salmon

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Tapas and Sangria — with Herbert Smith

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Cocktails and Cupcakes — with Freshfields

Burritos and Mojitos — with Baker & McKenzie


Dinner at Two-Michelin-Starred Midsummer House — with Simmons & Simmons


Meanwhile, at other universities…

Cardiff Networking



‘Widespread shock as top graduate recruiters focus on universities that produce the best graduates’

Speaking as a Russell Group graduate – I could not care less. You only have yourself to blame if you’re not good enough to get into Oxbridge. And if you’re a late bloomer, you’re by no means barred from gaining a job with these firms.

Whether you’re an outstanding graduate is not determined by where you go to university. But you cannot blame recruiters going to those places where they’re most likely to find that calibre of graduate.


Tell me Wes, what objective test is there to show that Oxbridge produces the best graduates? They may be hardest to get into, but how can you tell they’re better on exit than anywhere else?

I’m not sure anyone was expressing shock. I wonder if the events are thought up by the law society and then they invite the law firms to get involved.


“what objective test is there to show that Oxbridge produces the best graduates? They may be hardest to get into, but how can you tell they’re better on exit than anywhere else? ”

Logic, common sense and a matter of proportions. Nobody would say that ALL Oxbridge students are better than graduates of ALL other universities, but a majority are. Its not just about the grades required to get in, but also about academic rigour, work ethic, intellectual acuity.

Not Amused

“Law firms’ desperation to attract Oxford and Cambridge students has spawned some dazzling evenings-out”

Either Mr Connelly needs to more or he needs to stop trolling his readers


“What objective test is there to show that Oxbridge produces the best graduates? They may be hardest to get into, but how can you tell they’re better on exit than anywhere else?”

I am not sure if you can realistically tell if ALL of Oxbridge graduates are better than graduates from other universities, but I think it’s safe to assume that they are very very good since studying at both Oxford and Cambridge is supposed to be more rigorous, even in comparison to Redbrick universities. It’s harder to get into, harder to pass examinations with very good grades, harder to stay into and harder to manage the workload.

I am a student at a Redbrick university and I don’t think that a 2.1 at my university is the same as a 2.1 at Oxford or Cambridge.

“I’m not sure anyone was expressing shock. I wonder if the events are thought up by the law society and then they invite the law firms to get involved.”

I think you’re right on this one. I also thought that the law societies are the ones to make the arrangements about the events. I actually believe it’s nice to have variety in networking events. It’s more fun than the typical meeting at a university room or at some law firm!


There is an interesting piece in Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath positing that top students in the second tier universities are more intelligent that the majority of Ivy league students (excluding the top percentiles / highest achievers). Whether it is reliable or accurate, I don’t know. There have also been books written on the cognitive bias that people have which leads to the assumption that going to Oxbridge or Harvard makes you more intelligent. Either way, I would hope that no Oxbridge student would be swayed by cupcakes or free booze.


I think this post is an absolute load of rubbish. I’m a law student at Durham and I can safely say that over 75% of these so called ‘oxbridge only’ events have been held here. It’s not a new form of recruitment aimed at oxbridge students, its a national drive to try and make firms stand out from every other firm that offers the bog standard wine and networking evenings.

Lucas Clover Alcolea

You mean the place that’s lambasted for being for oxbridge rejects, holds oxbridge like events?! Tell me it’s not true!


I’m a Birmingham graduate and we had several of these events advertised to us, including cocktail making and others! Not just for Oxbridge students.


I’m not sure the Oxbridge angle is the most striking thing about this anyway. Isn’t it more significant that, in a profession that isn’t exactly famed for its diversity, 5 of the 8 firms have gone with recruitment events that are explicitly based around alcohol (meaning, among other things, that Muslim students for example are disproportionately less likely to want to attend)?

If it's not Patrick Swayze it's nothing mate

I know, its Appalling with a capital A! And even at the events that don’t deliberately exclude anyone who doesn’t drink, there’s no guarantee that the food will be kosher or halal. If that’s not a shot in the fact of diversity I don’t know what is.

Bloody fat-cat, white, middle class lawyers trying to keep their gravy train racket to themselves.

Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells.


A+ comment
I don’t particularly like drinking (not for religious reasons) so looking through these I just thought ‘ugh, I wouldn’t end up going ‘ – but you’re exactly right with the Muslim (and presumably Hindu/etc?) angle leading to fewer students from those backgrounds making connections/applying/etc


I agree with the above. At warwick university there are several events like these.

Not Amused

“Not sure what point Mr Connelly is trying to make here”

Oh he knows that any story about Oxbridge gets a lot of views and a lot of comments, that means higher individual hit rates and user numbers, which is better for advertisers etc. etc.

I wouldn’t want the publication to be boring or unpopular (and hence die) but the other writers seem to get the balance slightly better. This is a desperate attempt to crowbar in Oxbridge. It’s as bad as the Daily Mail. I’m sure others will say “if it works it works”. Might I modestly suggest that anyone who does think that is not someone you want to speak to at parties.


“Speaking as a Russell Group graduate”

Sorry, Wes, I didn’t read the rest of your comment as I was trying to clean the coffee I’d spat out in hilarity when reading this intro off my screen.


Oxbridge can keep their pizza and prosecco, I’m more than happy with the champagne receptions and summer parties Swansea and Cardiff, and I imagine many other universities organise.


Good grief, what a sorry state the profession is in. Oxbridge/Cardiff/Stoke Poly whatever self respecting student would want to attend one of these events?


This mainly shows that Oxford’s Law Society is good at advertising law firm events on facebook.

That said, it isn’t too surprising that Oxbridge get a lot of top notch recruitment events. Not because the lawyers from either are by definition the best in the land (from seeing how good most of the non-Oxbridge candidates who I did the BCL with were I think Malcolm Gladwell’s point mentioned above might have some validity). But because Oxford and Cambridge don’t just have one or two elite faculties but are excellent across the board. So law firms can access not only some excellent law undergrads but also a lot of excellent undergrads in other subjects. Similarly, law firms doing events for Oxbridge will know that they are competing not just with other law firms but also with investment banks, management consultancies, accountancy firms and other prestige employers so need to make the events appealing. It’s a vicious circle. Or perhaps a virtuous one if you don’t have a chip on your shoulder about it all.


I go to a London university, and we had a Tapas event with CC not so long ago too, echoing what a comment above said about the same happening at Durham. Not sure what this article is trying to get at (and the last one with Cardiff was particularly distasteful).


I can speak as an Oxford law student who attends lots of these events.

There’s no shock.
Every university’s law society will try to put on events which are sponsored by firms.
Why do people go? Partly to network and show their faces (grad recruiters remember these things) but also partly for free food an drink. Most of them are fun events to attend in their own right, regardless of the law.

As has been said already, many similar events are held at other universities. More are held at Oxford (I can’t comment about Cambridge) because Oxford’s law society has thousands of active members. In some colleges the majority of people will join it, paying a fee to do so. The reason is mainly because it puts on great events.

Because the law society is so large and has so many members, it proves an ideal tool for firms to access the greatest number of students possible. This is one reason for there being so many events at Oxford.

Why hold more at Oxbridge (UCL, LSE, Durham, etc. in turn) than at Newcastle or other good universities? It’s hard to say without sounding arrogant, but Oxbridge makes exceptional graduates. Firms spend significant amounts of money on researching trends in performance etc. with graduates from certain universities. Differences in quality may be evident to them when considering applications.

Once upon a time there was a huge Oxbridge bias. This still exists but it is based on merit, most of the time but not always, rather than random prejudice. The cold hard truth is that Oxford, and I assume Cambridge, works you into the ground. You have around 2 essays a week, are expected to work (academically) for most of your holidays, and the standard expected is very high. You are taught by the people writing the textbooks on the subject and consequently the quality of teaching is very high. I have spoken to many esteemed solicitors, barristers, judges, all of whom say that Oxford Finals are the toughest thing they have ever had to do. Oxbridge graduates are more likely to be better quality applicants from other universities. It’s the simple truth.

We mustn’t, however, get ahead of ourselves. A significant amount of luck is involved in getting into Oxbridge, and many candidates who were good enough and who would have thrived here didn’t get in. Then there’s the late bloomers and those that simply didn’t apply. To suggest you are a better applicant just because you go to Oxford and X goes to Kings isn’t correct or acceptable. The reality is that statistically it is more likely that the Oxford grad will be better than the Kings etc. grad.

So, not shock really. Oxford’s law soc is the uni’s largest social society. Oxford graduates are highly sought after. Makes sense to hold lots of graduate recruitment events here.

To the person that said these events are somehow discriminatory because they involve alcohol; the alcohol isn’t compulsory. There is no funneling. If there was no alcohol no one would go. It’s just a fact. People (usually) don’t get completely pissed, and a bit of alcohol makes the event more adult and formal when done well.

Finally, these luxurious events are experiencing a downturn especially at Oxbridge. Firms with big budgets have realised that the most effective way to get in with students is to target college law societies. Give a presentation and take them out for a meal. The students only come if they are genuinely interested in law and they actually network instead of sitting in a corner chatting to their friends. Free meals are also great.


Welcome, please come in, eat, drink and relax for the evening. This event is designed to show you what you’ll be giving up by joining us.


What about those who did not go to oxbridge but also wrote 1-2 essay a week, (often) had the equivalent of teardown tutorials, were taught only by oxbridge educated lecturers or those who had previously taught at oxbridge, and who graduated with a 2:1 where the papers were second marked by oxbridge examiners? Are those russell group graduates less good, or less academically capable or hard working?! Of course not. Do they get recognised as much as an oxbridge student would? Sadly not. *sigh*

Not Amused

External markers don’t set the standard. Each university sets its own grade boundary. As an external marker you are required to learn that boundary.

So as an external marker you are often aware that one university’s 2:1 is another university’s 2:2

This is not in any way controversial – indeed when a certain university decided to lower their 1st boundary recently they announced it in the TES and sent fresh guidance advice to all their external markers.

Your beliefs are, I’m afraid, unfounded if you believe that having an Oxbridge external examiner means you are examined to Oxbridge standards.


Our papers are marked by Oxford professors, not externally. It’s not to do with different boundaries, it’s to do with one uni’s 66 being another’s 73 and another’s 61


“To the person that said these events are somehow discriminatory because they involve alcohol; the alcohol isn’t compulsory.”

One doesn’t need to go to oxbridge to know that have alcohol at networking events will put off a certain proportion of students, including religious ones. Moreover, it may not be deliberately discriminatory but in this day and age, and given that these are legal firms, it should be obvious that having alcohol present or using it as a marketing ploy will inevitably rule out many good people from attending. This kind of thing really shouldn’t be acceptable nowadays….

Juan Pertayta


You’re not seriously suggesting that offering alcohol to adults at an event is unacceptable, are you?

More to the point, whatever one’s views on alcohol I can’t see how its availability at a recruitment do should rule out anyone attending, other, perhaps, than recovering alcoholics. If you don’t drink, don’t drink.


@ Juan – a hilarious yet utterly daft comment. If I thought it was unacceptable I would have written exactly that, an yet, that’s not what I wrote!

Your second statement demonstrates the problem nicely – it isn’t about someone’s “views” on alcohol. Arguing that it is simply “an opinion” is where one starts to look daft and uneducated. An opinion is a very different matter vs a deep seated religious belief, even if one thinks the belief is wrong. And these type of events are also what matters e.g. drinking post work may rule out some people but that isn’t as serious as ruling them out of recruitment events.

Juan Pertayta

Ooh, that’s not good. Re-read what you wrote. Then decide whether you said that serving alcohol at a do – in the context, a recruitment event – for adults is unacceptable. I think you’ll find you did.

I didn’t say ‘opinion’ I said ‘views’. ‘Views’ is compendious: it embraces opinions, beliefs and attitudes.

I make no judgment about any reason that might lead people not to drink alcohol – why would I? – but I consider it the organiser’s right to cater as it wishes and the guest’s right to make up his or her own mind to accept drinks or not.


As someone who can take or leave a drink, and does so depending on the situation, I was put off by alcohol-related events at my uni.
And I’m someone who, on occasion, does drink!

(and let’s be real about this, a non-drinker may be able to just ‘make up his/her own mind to accept drinks, but I can’t imagine many will go to a cocktail-making session…)

It’s utterly horrible being the only person in a group of drinkers. It really is. I cannot really explain how, but it’s something like being the odd one out/not being able to share the experience. Something like that.

Regardless of your views on whether or not that is ‘right’ or ‘reasonable’, the fact is non-drinkers *are* put off by alcohol-related events, and firms which are aiming for diversity and getting the best students should be mindful of this. At the very least, how about they don’t advertise it in the name? For example, instead of ‘Pizza and Prosecco’ and ‘Sangria and Tapas’, they could simply be ‘Pizza night’ or ‘Tapas evening’ – attendees are still free to order beer/wine/prosecco/whatever, but it wouldn’t be seen as inherently part of the event. It’s all psychological, and firms should make efforts to not put off as many people as possible before they even attend the event…


See my comment below. It may put off a small number of students but the number of students it attracts is far greater than the number lost. The problem is with the fact that students need alcohol to be motivated to do anything.

Not suprised

Well my uni certainly never has any events like this. I guess these type of events are reserved for students at top 20 unis. [s] Great to see law firms are committed to diversity as they constantly say. [/end sarcasm]

Not Amused

Going to a less good university is not a diversity characteristic. There’s no reason to specifically target you.


Serving alcohol at networking events is not a problem. But events named “Cocktail making and tasting with Clearly” are certainly alcohol centred. They are very different from networking events where wine is served.

Many of these events are held in nightclubs or bars.

Personally, I have no problem with events where alcohol is served. But I would not go to one which is centred around boozing. Many of these law firm events usual mention alcohol in the name of the event – making it very clear that it is just a bit of piss up for students. I suppose students enjoy the free booze and also find that alcohol creates a more chilled out environment in which to network with solicitors at top firms. But there can be no doubt that these events will put off a lot of students from attending, and will in turn mean that those students will be prevented from benefiting from these networking events.

This is something that law firms should take into consideration.


The use of Oxbridge/Russell Group merit is sadly something of a sham, either deliberately or unconsciously used by top law firms and probably barrister’s chambers to project a certain image based on class, to the exclusion of many people who would make great lawyers. I recommend those doubting me read a paper by Louise Ashley and Laura Empson ( http://kar.kent.ac.uk/30891/ ) concerning social class in the City of London’s top law firms. One observation interviewees offered was that in heavily technical areas such as securitization, there is less concern about social class, while in areas like corporate finance it’s about your accent, your dress sense, which Oxbridge college you went to. They put it down to intense competition, not at the recruitment end but the client end – law firms that aim to charge the most money, they argue, are consciously making the decision to attract Oxbridge not based on merit but on purely reputational terms, and so on with Russell Group. One Partner at a law firm – apparently ‘Head of Diversity’ – said they wanted the best, AND they wanted more Oxbridge, to keep up. In areas like corporate finance where the skillset is ambiguous, and more to do with an ebullient personality and people trusting what you say than legal analytical skills, the Oxbridge factor carries a lot of currency. And they theorise, finally, that this is why the ‘business case’ for diversity, so often made – that the best candidates come from all kinds of backgrounds, not just typical public school-Oxbridge middle class ones, which is surely correct at least to some extent – in fact falls on deaf ears in City’s top law firms. While it may succeed in banking and accountancy, where the difference between an Oxbridge and Redbrick’s brilliant maths ability may be palpable, the city law firms are consciously building a brand that revolves around factors directly linked to social background.

I await the research into the Bar, where Oxbridge dominates to an even greater extent.

-Will (MA Oxen, LLM Can’tadd)


While reputation certainly plays a part, do you not think it likely that your further education COULD make you a better lawyer? Undoubtedly the better universities offer harder, better taught degrees. Studying law at Oxford isn’t that different to working for a big firm when you consider the multiple deadlines, no excuses accepted, and the crushing pressure to succeed. It also definitely gives you the analytical and written skills that you need. Just a thought.


Firstly, firms aren’t obliged to seek diversity. They arguably should but they just don’t have to.

Second, with regard to grades, a 66 at Oxford could well be a 73 at Anglia Ruskin. Papers are marked internally and to internal standards. No university wants everyone to get 2:2s or below. Every university also wants some people to get 1sts. It makes it look better. Can we really say that the 8% of Oxford lawyers who get 1st are the same level as the students from Newcastle, Cardiff, or even Durham, Bristol etc.? Of course not. SOME will be just as good, of course, but it simply can’t be the case that ability is similar just because they get the same grade. This isn’t me being snobby – I’ve acknowledged that it doesn’t apply to all within that bracket, but it is true without doubt.

Third, if you go to these events you don’t have to drink, there is no pressure to drink (I’ve gone to many sober) and anyone who is genuinely motivated and intelligent enough to want a career in the city will be able to realise this. If anything it provides a good opportunity to chat to grad recruitment while everyone else is drinking up.

The reality of the situation comes in the form of context – the Law Society organises these events and gets firms to sponsor them. As I said in my earlier post, there is a trend towards preferring more college dinners rather than these big events, but some firms can’t afford to take out every lawyer at every college for supper and for them one heavily publicised event a year, complete with emails, photos of the event, and the event itself, represents good value for money. Pay a few grand but keep your name fresh in the minds of anyone interested in law at the uni, if only by them seeing the invitation. It reminds them that you exist.

If the alcohol was dropped the interest in the event would wildly decrease from the students. Law soc wouldn’t be able to guarantee a high number of students attending the event, the event would be drastically downsized into a drop in chat session, and no one would go because there are too many of these going on to count.

So if you want to blame anyone, blame the students – not those organising the events, who are under much pressure to succeed – but on almost every student in the UK, as well as many teenagers and ‘adults’. There is a preoccupation with booze in this country and it is depressing. Feeling left out at law soc events? What about the poor freshers who don’t want to drink during freshers week? What chance do they have? Our obsession with alcohol is tragic and this is certainly not the fault of the law firms or the law society.


Just to add to this – there are very many events held that don’t involve alcohol. There are probably MORE events of this type held than those with alcohol. They take the form of drop in sessions, presentations, workshops etc. But they are not as glamorous, far fewer students attend, and they don’t end up in the public spotlight. So it’s not like there aren’t alternatives – there are.

The big firms will do all the events – alcohol and other. They can afford to. The smaller firms tend not to be able to do the big money events and the other small ones. This is understandable. At Oxford, for example, your firm is competing against huge law and other city firms. You don’t have the budget or time to do absolutely everything because you put more focus on other unis seeing as not as many oxford students apply to you as to the bigger firms.

For these firms, anything outside of the top 10 really, you need to do one big event a year just to stay in the minds of the students and remind them that you exists. Sad but true.


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