When you’re in the process of applying for or interviewing for a new job, it can be easy to get preoccupied with whether or not you’re suitable for the position. However, it’s equally important to think about whether the law firm you’re applying for is suitable for you and your career.
Cultural fit has a big impact on job satisfaction and productivity; if a firm isn’t a good fit for you, you’re less likely to enjoy working there, won’t be as productive and will be more likely to leave.
Before you work for a firm, it can be tricky to distinguish between it and from another. If you are applying or interviewing for a position, it is possible to figure out whether a firm is likely to be right for you.
But by delving a little deeper in your post-interview research, you should be able to get a better feel for the corporate culture and workings of the firm so you can work out whether they’re the employer for you. If you decide that you would like to work for the firm, you will also be a position to provide an articulate and authentic response to the question “Why do you want to work for us?” at the interview stage.
But where should you go to find the information you’re looking for and what sort of details will help you to decide if the firm’s the one for you?
The firm’s website
This should be your first port of call when it comes to researching any prospective employer. Begin by reading the Careers pages of the website where you’ll find information about the firm’s corporate and progression structure as well as employee case studies.
Also, be sure to check out the news or press sections. These will provide an insight into the latest goings–on at the firm, from new hires, office moves or openings, financial results, and significant deals or cases. Whether or not the firm publishes stories about the practice area you work in or would like to go into, will help you determine whether or not that area is a commercial priority.
For instance, if you’re a paralegal hoping to work in Trusts and Probate, but the majority of stories on the website are about the successes or growth of the commercial litigation or banking teams, the firm might not be for you. You might instead prefer to work at a specialist private client practice or at least a firm with a significant private team that’s likely to allow you to handle better-quality matters and offer more in the way of development opportunities.
Many firms nowadays have a Glassdoor profile to help showcase their employer brand. On their page, you’ll be able to read testimonials from past and current employees and really get a feel for what it’s like to work at the firm. Be aware, however, that sometimes a firm will ask their staff (particularly new starters) to leave positive reviews so it’s worth taking what you read with a pinch of salt.
Its social media accounts
Having a look at the firm’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts will also give you useful insight. What kind of news/ content are they sharing and what sort of tone are they using? Does the firm post about CSR or charity initiatives or networking/social events as well as promoting its services?
It’s also a good idea to have a look at the LinkedIn profiles of senior solicitors or partners you could potentially be working with. You’ll be able to learn about their career history and also see what kind of content they are sharing or engaging with.
Employees (both past and present)
During the recruitment process, you might have the chance to meet existing members of the team and learn more about the firm from their point of view. If you aren’t given this opportunity, it is not unreasonable to request such a meeting before you accept a job offer. However, the employees you meet are likely to have been specifically selected by the recruitment team and so you may not get an entirely unbiased insight into the department. If you have connections to the firm elsewhere (perhaps an old colleague or university friend who used to work there but has moved on), it’s worth reaching out to those contacts to get a more balanced view.
By keeping an eye out for stories about the firm on websites like The Lawyer, The Law Society Gazette and in the local press, you’ll be able to learn about what’s being said about the firm in the media. It’s also a good idea to Google the firm and see what appears in the News search results.
Useful information to look for
There are a number of things you will spot when reading up on the firm that might help you to come to the conclusion that the firm is right for you.
The background of its lawyers
How diverse a firm is will have a huge impact on its culture. Considering whether there’s a good balance in terms of gender, education and ethnicity at Partner level (or in fact, throughout the firm) may help you decide whether you’d enjoy working there.
If the firm you’re considering is a fairly small or newly established practice, the backgrounds of the founding partners and the law firms the founding partners worked at previously will give you a good idea of the calibre of the firm.
Its legal practice areas and clients
Arguably, the makeup of a firm’s client base and its primary practice areas have a significant effect on working culture. For instance, a firm that mainly services wealthy private individuals or large corporations will have a very different culture to a high street practice or legal aid firm.
Office maturity and retention levels
If the firm (or office you will be working in) is relatively new, there may be significant growth plans in place, which will inevitably have an impact on working environment. The firm may be looking for commercially minded trainees or junior lawyers who have an interest in business development and are keen to be part of the upcoming expansion. Unless you are this way inclined yourself, the culture might not be what you’re looking for.
It’s also a good idea to try and find out how long existing members of the team have been working at the firm. A business that has good retention rates and long-standing staff members is likely to be a good employer that values its employees.
As you can see, it pays to do your due diligence…
By considering the points above, not only will you be able to provide more detailed responses at interview but if you are presented with a job offer, you will be able to come to a more well-informed decision about whether to accept.