Being the neurotic law student you are, you've probably already started thinking about OCI even though it is still July. Considering the state of the legal market in the past few years, that's a good thing. Also given the market, we OCI starts up, we would suggest applying to as many law firms as the OCI process will allow. Then, after you have all your offers (and hopefully you will have at least one, and even better, a few to choose from), you'll need to decide which firm is right for you. And, just how exactly are you supposed to do that?
While there are many factors that go into deciding which firm's offer you should accept such as niche practices, or industry-specific standing, one of the main factors that will determine how happy and how far you will get at the firm may be one of the most important factors: firm culture.
What Is Firm Culture?
A law firm's culture is like its personality. You can learn about a firm's culture by looking at its policies and values. For example, does the firm have a strict business dress code, or has it adopted a casual Friday policy? Law firm culture can often depend on geography, though not always. I worked at a "lifestyle firm" in New York City in the early 2000s and it was probably on par with a firm with no "lifestyle" anywhere else -- that is to say, there was no life for its associates. But, compared to other New York firms, well, it was better (Sidebar: yes, it's that bad).
Things You Should Look For
If I haven't scared you off, here are some of the things you should look for when it comes to researching law firm culture.
- What are the law firm perks? Are there discounts, events, free booze?
- What are the billable hours
- What is the average career trajectory for associates? Are they expected to make lateral moves elsewhere? What are the chances that you'll make partner?
- What is the word on the street when it comes to actual associate experiences at the firm?
- How is the law firm ranked? For example, as a woman, I'd be interested in the rankings for law firms that are the best places for women.
- Is there an option to telecommute? Or, is the firm simply more interested in face time?
These are just some of the types of questions you should ask yourself when determining which firm to work for. But most of all, you should listen to your gut. After going through a few rounds of interviews, and visiting several offices, you'll get a feeling for each law firm's culture and you'll naturally be drawn to one of them. Your gut doesn't lie -- listen to it.
We wish you the best of luck.
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