Many junior lawyers find themselves unhappy at firms for different reasons. The overriding theme seems to be that the experience turns out to be inconsistent with their expectations. One way to potential avoid this outcome is to ask the five questions listed below before starting the job. These questions are taken from the helpful blog post linked here, which suggests asking these and other questions during an interview.
LegalJob notes that these questions can be useful even when networking for the purpose of trying to figure out what kind of legal job (and practice area) most suits you.
- Which practice areas are growing and which are declining?
This seems like a useful question to ask a prospective employer or a networking contact during an informational interview. The information provided could help you decide your “major” as a law student and/or which practice area(s) are in demand. Note that the answer could be particular to the firm but even so it is valuable information to have up front. The currency at a firm is the billable hour and a growing practice area is helpful for generating lots of hours.
- What do you look for in a prospective employee?
This question can help you in at least two ways. If you are interested in the firm or the practice area, it can help clue you in on the type of experience or academic background one needs to be an attractive candidate. Alternatively, to the extent you do not have what the firm is looking for or you are not interested in beefing up your credentials, it can help you cross off your list a potential firm or practice area.
- What type of training program do you have for new hires?
Be wary of potential employers that do not have a formal, structured training program. Your professional development is a top priority for you and if the employer does not agree, perhaps that firm is not the right place for you.
- Do you have a mentoring program?
This is a follow-up question to the preceding one. Same thinking as above. It is likely that the employer will have some kind of mentoring program. Listen closely to the response (including tone), which may indicate the priority placed on mentoring.
- How is the firm responding to current economic pressures?
The answer (or non-answer) to this question should provide you a lot of information about a prospective employer, including the long-term strategy and how the firm deals with the constantly changing business environment. For example, there is increasing client pressure to do more work at less cost and perhaps move away from hourly billing altogether. Does the firm find itself assigning only experienced attorneys to a project to deal with this issue? If not, what is the firm doing? If so, how will you obtain heavy lifting experience working on sophisticated matters for sophisticated clients, one of the big draws to a top firm?
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