Careers > Students > Legal Scoop > Part 2: Finding the Right Law Firm Fit - How to Use Career Profiles
27 Jul '17

Welcome to Part 2 of our series on using career profiles to find the right law firm fit. In Part 1, we outlined seven different career profiles: The Thought Leader, The Entrepreneur, The Ladder Climber, The Humanitarian, The Team Builder, The Explorer and The Balancer. In Part 2, we'll show you how to use your career profile to gather and prioritize the information you need to choose the right firm for you.

Questions to Ask

Below is a list of questions for each career profile. Some of these questions can be asked in law firm interviews; for others you may get more valuable information from the sources mentioned in our Tip Sheet How to Get the Real Scoop on a Law Firm.

In Part 1, we asked you to rank the career profiles according to which sound the most like you. Now, you'll create a chart using the questions below that apply to your top two. A sample chart appears at the end of the list of questions.

The Thought Leader

  • How many lawyers practice in the substantive areas that interest me?
  • How many do so in the office where I am interviewing?
  • Has the firm identified my practice area as a focus area for growth?
  • Does the firm (and my office of choice) have lawyers who are ranked as leaders in the field?
  • Who will be responsible for my training?
  • Does the firm (and my office of choice) have clients who need services in my area of interest?
  • When will I start to get hands-on opportunities and real responsibility?
  • Are training and project opportunities provided for associates at various stages in their career?
  • How does the firm count time spent on research, publishing and speaking?
  • Does the firm provide attorneys with a budget for business development?
  • Does the firm offer business development training for attorneys at all levels?
  • Does the firm support associate membership/participation in bar association committees and other industry organizations?
  • Are lawyers at the firm considered thought leaders in their fields?
  • How much client interaction can I expect to have as a junior-level associate?

The Entrepeneur

  • Does the firm use advanced technology to improve efficiency and client service?
  • What percentage of matters involve alternative fee arrangements?
  • Does the firm participate in organizations that are on the cutting edge of law firm best practices?
  • What are the types of activities and sponsorships that the firm is committed to with respect to diversity and inclusion?
  • Does the firm's strategic plan include launching or expanding practice areas or offices that interest me?
  • Do the firm's history, values and culture focus more on tradition or innovation?
  • Has the firm been recognized for innovation or forward thinking?
  • How long has most of the firm's management group served in their positions
  • Does the firm embrace alternative work arrangements such as part time or working from home?
  • Does the firm provide any unique benefits?
  • Does the firm publish an annual report? If so, does its contents make it seem like the type of firm I would like to join?

The Ladder Climber

  • What is the partnership structure at the firm?
  • Does the firm have equity and non-equity partners, or equity only?
  • What percentage of associates have become equity partners in the past three years?
  • What percentage have become non-equity partners?
  • What percentage of the new partners were hired from outside the firm in the past three years?
  • What percentage of the partnership is ethnically diverse? What percentage of partnership is female?
  • What steps is the firm taking to increase the number of diverse lawyers in the firm?
  • How long does it typically take to become a partner at the firm?
  • How many partners are there in the office where I'm interviewing?
  • How many partners are in the practice areas that interest me?
  • Will I work with partners from other offices of the firm?
  • What is the partner-to-associate ratio in the practice areas that interest me?
  • Do associates participate in firm committees?
  • Is firm management concentrated in a certain geographic or practice area of the firm?

The Humanitarian

  • Does the firm have a pro bono partner?
  • Does the firm maintain ongoing relationships with community organizations?
  • Is the firm open to starting new pro bono relationships with organizations that inspire me?
  • How many pro bono hours do lawyers at the firm average per year?
  • Does the firm have a maximum number of hours allowed for pro bono matters?
  • Has the firm committed to programs like the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge (requiring signatories to devote at least 60 pro bono hours per lawyer per year)?
  • Are pro bono hours counted toward my billable hours target?
  • Are pro bono hours counted for bonuses?
  • Does the firm have billable clients whose mission and point of view are consistent with mine?

The Team Builder

  • Are office doors kept open or closed?
  • Do lawyers interact during the day or keep to themselves?
  • Do associates participate in important meetings and committees?
  • Will I have one or more assigned mentors at the firm?
  • What are the mentor's responsibilities?
  • How does the firm ensure a good fit between mentor and mentee?
  • Does the firm use industry and client teams?
  • Are collaboration and cross-selling rewarded?
  • How are matters staffed at the firm?
  • Are matters staffed with a diverse group of attorneys?
  • Do lawyers at the firm eat lunch together?
  • Do lawyers at the firm socialize with one another outside the office?
  • What opportunities does the firm provide for spending non-billable time with clients in order to solidify relationships?

The Explorer

  • What is the firm's reputation in the legal and business communities?
  • Who are the well-known clients of the firm?
  • Do associates work on high-profile matters?
  • When will I start getting hands-on experience and responsibility in client matters?
  • How much direct client contact will I have?
  • Who are some the firm's alumni in my practice area and where are they now?
  • Do alumni participate in firm functions?
  • Does the firm offer client secondments, stints in foreign offices, teaching opportunities, or sabbaticals for associates and partners?

The Balancer

  • What are the firm's billable hours requirements for associates?
  • Can I meet these obligations and still have enough time for outside interests?
  • Does the firm allow associates to work remotely? If so, how does this affect their chance for partnership?
  • Does the firm allow associates to work part time? If so, how does this affect their chance for partnership?
  • What are the firm's parental leave policies and practices?
  • Does the firm provide on- and off-ramps for lawyers who take time to start a family, teach or go into public service? How do these activities affect their chance for partnership?
  • Does the firm offer alternatives to an on-track associate position? What kind of work do attorneys in these roles do?

Sample Career Profile Chart

Creating charts based on your top career profiles will give you an at-a-glance comparison of how different firms stack up in the areas that are most important to you. While you will likely collect more information than what's in your charts, each chart will help you prioritize. See below for a sample chart that you may use based on your profiles.

The Ladder Climber

  LAW FIRM 1 LAW FIRM 2 LAW FIRM 3
% of associates who have become equity partners in the past three years?      
% who have become non-equity partners?      
% of new partners who came from outside the firm in the past three years?      
How long does it take to become a partner?      
Steps to partnership? (clear or variable?)      
# of partners in the office where I'm interviewing?      
# of partners in my specialty?      
Will I work with partners from other offices of the firm?      
Do associates participate in firm committees?    

 

Is power concentrated in a certain geographic or practice area of the firm?      
Do I like the firm lawyers who are around my age?      

If you wish, you can convert your answers to numerical values—1, 2 or 3, depending on how well the firms rank on each criterion. Total the columns and you will see which firm may be best suited to meeting your needs. If there are questions that you are unable to answer from the sources readily available to you, those may be areas you want to focus on during the interview process. Overall, we hope this will make the process of finding the right fit for you a bit easier!