It’s that time of the year again. Students are graduating, studying for the Bar, and dreaming about that perfect legal job. Since that job is probably your second most important goal besides passing the Bar, it’s important to give it more than a little thought if you are about to enter your second or third year of law school. Ask yourself:
- What type of attorney do you plan on emulating when you start your first job as an associate or as you go solo?
- Are you looking at your first job as a place to show your initiative?
- Are you interested in being a lawyer to help people because you’ve always been told you are an empathetic person?
The answers to these questions and more show the type of personality traits and interests that are important to you. You will likely want to join a firm, small or large, that recruits people with similar traits and interests to your own. The culture of that firm and your match with that culture is probably one of the best predictors of whether you will stay with that firm for a number of years or for just a few years.
So what is law firm culture?
Several practice journals define culture as how a firm does business and how the firm’s written and unwritten rules for behavior dictate how you will be expected to interact with clients, partners, and other firm employees. So, it’s important that you dive in and ask some hard questions of yourself, if you are going solo, or, if you are applying to a law firm, of those who conduct your interview. What traits and interests are the people in this new setting looking for? Do they want an associate who exhibits strong verbal reasoning, manageability, sociability, energy levels and assertiveness or something else? How will they find that associate?
Some firms have begun to introduce personality testing into their hiring processes. So don’t be surprised if they ask you to take some type of predictive measurement of whether you might be a good culture fit for that law firm. One of the tools for determining cultural fit is the Sheffield Legal Assessment. Built for the legal profession, it assesses personality traits and patterns that distinguish lawyers from the general population and distinguishes lawyers working in different practice areas.
For a brief analysis of traits specific to lawyers or students aspiring to become lawyers, and the niches they might be interested in see an article about How to Curb the Law Firm Exodus published in the ABA Journal late last year. It may give you the insights you need to make just the right move in your career trajectory.