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What to ask as you look for that first law firm job

As I have now been practicing law for over 16 years I’ve started to crowdsource what information and advice young lawyers would find useful based on my experience. I was reminded today that when a young lawyer is first looking for a job it’s hard to figure out what to prioritize in order to decide where to go.

I recall specifically looking for a job and investigating and asking around about the law firms’ reputations. Beyond that I didn’t do any other research or ask specific questions that I now know would’ve help me decide if the firm was the right fit for me.

If you are fortunate enough to have multiple offers to choose from here are a few questions that you can ask in order to figure out if this is actually a place where you want to work:

— How often will I be going to court? How long until I might be able to go to court in an independent role as opposed to being second chair?

— How many partners will I be working for? How many people will be delegating to me?

— What is the billable hour requirement? How many of the hours can be billed to pro bono? This will give you an idea of how many hours you need to work. If you were going to be billing hours you will soon find out that you cannot bill every hour that you are physically present in the office and working. You need to be sure that you were comfortable with the expectations of the firm.

— What is your policy on CLE? How many can I take? Will the firm pay for all of them and if not, who decides? Does CLE count toward the billable hour requirement?

— How many people will be working in the office? I never asked this question but I think it is significant because a four-person office is very different from a 15-person or a 30-person office. If you are very social you may not enjoy working with only three other people.

— What is the mentorship and what are the performance reviews like? Some firms are better than others at providing constructive feedback. Will you have a weekly or monthly manager meetings? Some firms have daily meetings. Hear what this firm does and WHY they do it that way.

— Does the firm socialize? Do they do team-building events? Do they have a human resources person? These are aspects of your work life that don’t relate directly to practicing law. However they will inform your career development in meaningful ways.

— Does the firm value diversity, equity and inclusion? How so? How would you see that on a monthly or yearly basis? Examples?
What is the parental leave policy? Do employees “check out” during leave or are they expected to stay in touch?

Best of luck to all of you awaiting your bar results! It’s an exciting time in your life, when you can actually go forth and be the lawyer you’ve been training to be.