Making the right choice of a law firm to kick off your career may not be simple.
If you make the wrong choice of a law firm at the beginning of you law career, you’re going to be switching over from one law firm to another, lose confident on yourself, and finally be a total failure.
In this post, I will lay out some vital factors you should consider before making a choice of law firm. You will come across factors like
You Career Goals
Law Firm Goals
Area of Practice
Opinion of Other Lawyers
And you will learn some notable things about law firms that will guide you in your search for a law firm, so you will choose a firm that will measure up to your career goals.
When you want to make a choice of a law firm to start off your law career, you should make haste slowly. Going after firms you think will pay you well might be dangerous to your career.
So, it is important you take time to think and brainstorm.
Here are factors you should consider before making a choice of a law firm.
1. Your Career Goals
The first factor you should consider before choosing a law firm is your career goals. You should be certain where you want to be in the profession in the next ten years from now.
You might have goals like becoming a senior advocate in your state, expert in corporate practice or just be a successful solo practitioner.
Many law firms operate in a system that may not be helpful to you in reaching your career goals. For instance, if you want to be a senior advocate in future, you need a law firm that specializes in litigation and appeal matters. That’s where you will stand the chance of starting and concluding cases in the High Courts and Courts of Appeal which will help you meet up the requirements for becoming a Senior Advocate.
Or, if you want to be an expert in corporate practice, choose a law firm that specializes in corporate practice.
The best approach to it is to list out the things you will do before accomplishing your career goal. For instance, in my state, for you to become a senior advocate, you need a proof of ten matters you have handled in the High Court, five matters you have handled in the Court of Appeal and three matters you have handled in the Supreme Court. All these must be in place, together with other things, before you will be accepted.
Now, with all these in the list, you don’t need a firm where you will stay years without handling cases in the High Courts, Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Applying for and accepting any law firm that comes your way after law school, without considering your career goals, will be disastrous in future.
Remember, you will be the one to suffer if you make mistakes that will jeopardize your career goals in future. Not your employer nor those around who are pestering you. But, You! You! You!
2. Law Firm Goals
Many law firms set yearly goals. These goals affect their policies and the services they render to their clients. Things like the number of legal and non-legal staffs they will employ per year, the number of cases they will handle, acquisition and maintenance of facilities and attainable marketing height affect the policies and the services of most law firms.
Before you apply for a job in a prospective law firm, you need to inquire about its goals. And you should be convinced that what the firm is aspiring for will pair nicely with your career goals.
Surprisingly, young lawyers got involved in law firms only to found out that the firms’ goals won’t help them. You should be picky while making a choice of a law firm.
Most big or small law firms you see around have targets. And they are not going to change their goals just because of one employee like you.
It’s very easy and simple to locate a law firm goals. Some big firms publish their goals in the form of reports on their website. So, it’s up to you to look it up in their sites. However, others publish theirs in the official bar associations websites for lawyers to see.
3. Area of Practice
Another factor you should consider before making a choice of a law firm is your area of practice. There are areas like civil litigation, criminal litigation, intellectual property, personal injury, which every lawyer is expected to specialize in.
Long before you graduated from the law school, you should have concluded on an area of law you wanted to specialize in. You haven’t gotten your masters, but you’ve made up your mind to specialize in one or two areas of law practice.
Prospective law firms, though famous and reputable, that handle matters outside your area of practice or target practice area aren’t good fits for you. This is because they are not going where you are going or where you want to go.
Sometimes, you would’t know the main area of practice a firm specialized in by just glancing through their job ads alone. You have to dig deep by checking the firm’s profile in Linkedin or other similar places. Be holistic in checking the profile of your target law firm.
4. Firm’s Reputation
Many law firms have made names because of their long record of diligence and quality service delivery. They render quality services and as such have received good recommendations from their past clients. The size of a law firm and the number of employed lawyers working there do not determine its reputation.
Severally, young lawyers are attracted by the size of a law firm and the quantum of staffs working for them. They are enticed by the flashy cars and exotic dressing of lawyers working in these firms, that they sign up without considering their goodwill.
Reputation is another vital factor you have to consider before choosing a law firm in your region. A firm with a good reputation is most likely to treat you well. While a firm with a bad reputation shouldn’t be in your list because it will ruin your career.
Also, in considering a law firm’s reputation as a factor before choosing a law firm, you should understand that not all that glitters are gold. Appearance most times is not reality.
If your target law firm is situate in your state you will know its reputation by asking other lawyers or by asking Court staffs and legal staffs around you.
Again, while considering the reputation of your prospective law firm as a factor, your focus should be on the head and management of the firm and not on the lawyers working there. This is because a firm might have credible, reliable, and nice management. But some lawyers working there are insatiable and ingrates who are bent only to spoil and tarnish the reputation of the firm.
5. The opinion of Other Lawyers
One of the ways you can assess the reputation of a law firm is by the opinion of other lawyers in your region. Through what majority of lawyers in your area are saying about a proposed firm, you can ascertain the goals of the law firm, the quality of their services and the dos and dons of a firm.
Lawyers know themselves, they will be able to tell you the intricacies of what is obtainable other law firms. So, you should network with other lawyers ahead of you before making a choice of a law firm.
There is nothing wrong visiting two or more law firms which specialize in your area of practice for inquiries before making a choice of a law firm. That will put you in the right position.
Also, you will know what other lawyers are saying about the target law firm by attending bar meetings. Lawyers discuss their affairs mostly during bar meetings, so you are likely to stumble on a colleague who has worked in the law firm you have singled-out.
If you want to seek the opinion of other lawyers, you should consult the senior ones. Young lawyers, like you, may not give you the correct information about-to-be law firm.
6. Employment Benefits
Part of the things that attract young lawyers looking for jobs in a law firm are employment benefits. This is not restricted to lawyers alone, but to other applicants looking for jobs.
Employment benefits like medical, disability, and life insurance; retirement benefits; paid time off; and fringe benefits should influence your choice of a law firm.
You are not looking for a job just to work for the benefit of your employer and their clients, you should ensure that the proposed firm is capable of paying you and securing your future expenditures.
Most big law firms do not disclose their employment benefits in their job ads. They may state what your salary will be per annum, but most times they don’t publish their employment benefits. That’s why you should know your benefits before making a choice.
To be sure of employment benefits you are likely to get from a law firm, you need leverage with the past employees of the firm. If you can locate a past employee of your soon-to-be firm, ask him about the benefits employees in the firm receive. Remember you should do this before choosing the firm, and not when you are called to start work.
7. Work Hours
The quantum of work in some firms are enormous that sometimes their employed lawyers stay beyond work hours without additional benefits like overtime.
Normally, work hours for an average lawyer is 9.am – 5.pm. But, the nature of work in some firms can make lawyers work overtime.
Before you sign up for a job in any law firm, ask yourself “how many hours you want to stay off work for leisure in a week, outside holidays and weekends? If the number hours you will be release off work in the firm does not measure up with what you really want, it’s an indication that the law firm is not a good fit for you. Unless you are prepared to adjust.
While some law firms give their employed lawyers ample time and weekend to attain to other things, others don’t. The later ones mandate their lawyer to work even on the weekend. You should avoid these ones.
I’ve seen firms where young associate lawyers overstay in the office doing nothing. They just stay beyond work hours because they want to maintain the status quo. This type of law firms shouldn’t be in your list because they are straight paths to ending your career in a rut.
As a young lawyer, you need a working environment where you will have time to attain to other things. You need a firm where you can travel on the weekend and have time for your young family.
In this post, I have carefully discussed 7 factors you should consider before making a choice a law firm. It is vital you take some time to think and brainstorm over these factors before filling your job application. Because if you get a job in a law firm and later find out you have made a mistake for not putting these factors into consideration, you will be disappointed and unfulfilled.
The factors discussed in this post is not one-size-fits-all for young lawyers out there like you reading this post. I believe there are still other important factors which you may like us to know. Drop your comment below. I wish you a successful law practice.