LegalJob has recently received many questions about what to ask before joining a new firm.   Here are some thoughts about possible questions above the usual about money, benefits, and hours.  Note that some of the items on this list were taken/modified from the information provided in The Business of Practicing Law, an insightful book written by a lawyer who was a managing partner of the Chicago office of a major accounting firm (not a law firm but the nuggets are applicable to both).  Note also that some of these questions below cover areas that may not be important to you.   Use what works for you.

  • What is the process of assigning work projects?  Are you responsible for keeping your plate full?  Is there someone else there with that responsibility?  You have to reach billable hours targets so you probably want to know there is a working system in place for dividing projects (versus no system which could result in you having periods of time with little or nothing to do).
  • Is face time around the office important or is telecommuting acceptable sometimes if the work gets done?
  • How is each attorney’s performance measured?  Are there more metrics than the statistical information such as billable hours, and collections?
  • How much face time will I have with clients as a junior associate, a mid-level associate, and a senior associate?
  • Do you have an “up or out” policy or alternative career paths?  In other words, if I do not want to sell work (or choose not to) can I still be successful here in the long term as a service partner?
  • What type of training can I expect to receive at the firm both in terms of substantive skills (i.e., how to write a contract, etc.) and so-called soft skills such as how to run a successful conference call with the client or other attorneys or both)?  Related to that, does the firm reimburse continuing education either through PLI programs or other?
  • How often will I be reviewed?  By whom? According to what criteria?
  • What is the firm’s (and perhaps even more important, the practice group’s) turnover statistics over the past two years, five years, and ten years?  Get the stats for associates and partners.
  • Is the firm (and practice group) growing?  What is the firm’s growth target?  What steps is the firm taking to reach this target?
  • How is the firm managed?  Where is the firm managed from?
  • Does the firm have a strategic plan?  If so, who contributes to the plan?  Are there sufficient resources in place to support the plan?
  • Is the firm in sync with recent trends in the market?  If not, this fact is not necessarily a negative.  Some firms have high-highs and low-lows.  That is great when the market is booming.  Some may have low-highs (firm does not do as well as others in good times) and high-lows (firm does well in down economy which may look attractive to you at this time)
  • How would the partners and associates you meet with rank the following three items:  1) people at the firm, 2) quality of work (both clientele and opportunity to do heavy lifting), and 3) opportunity for growth and development.