Law students — try both positioning and letting life happen (part three)

To refresh, LegalJob suggests you position yourself for maximum job opportunities by “picking a major,” excelling in classes in that major, and obtaining relevant work experience in the area.  In addition to positioning, LegalJob suggests that it does not hurt to be open to opportunities you had not previously considered.

While letting life happen and being open to various opportunities, remember to ask upfront about the people with whom you will be working, the quality and type of projects on which you will be working, and the extent of professional development opportunities available.  Each of these concepts is discussed in more detail below and in Making Partner.

The people with whom you will be working.

Some people say the question is whether you would be up for having a beer with the person. Beer drinking and items in common, such as same hometown and similar hobbies, are good but perhaps a more relevant way to determine a potential fit is whether you can see yourself comfortably spending long days (and sometimes, depending on the employer and the project, long nights) with them. It is hard to know for sure when everyone is all smiles in the interview but go with your gut here. How do you feel when you are around these people? Have any of the lawyers gone out of their way for you in any way during the courting process? Perhaps someone has been extra helpful concerning information on timing and next steps (and any other lingering questions about the employer) such that you felt a sincere interest on their part.

The quality and type of projects.

Do you have the opportunity to do some heavy lifting at this job? If so, how soon? Will you have the opportunity to focus on an area of work you enjoy? How many attorneys are practicing in the specific area in which you want to focus? Note that the quality of the work is still second priority to the people with whom you will be working. Consider the extreme case. If you have great work but dislike your colleagues, you will be miserable. On the other hand, if you do not love your work but you enjoy the people, the job will not be perfect but it is unlikely that you will be miserable.

Professional development opportunities.

Does the potential job provide an opportunity for you to grow and develop? Are there specific training programs offered at specific times during your career or is it up to you to seek training out? Has professional development been emphasized in your conversations with the employer? Will you be able to take on increasing responsibility here in terms of type of work, interface with clients, mentoring younger attorneys, leadership roles at the employer, etc.? Can you get strong sense of whether speaking and writing is encouraged? Does the employer have a transition plan such that senior lawyers (partners if at a firm) can train younger lawyers to eventually take a lead role on client matters? What is the general track for advancement (partner at a firm)? What are the alternative tracks? What is the compensation structure? If a firm, is the compensation lock-step? Merit based?

What is the make up of the group in which you will be working? Mostly junior folks? Mostly senior? Even split? Working with several junior attorneys could be helpful in terms of going through life together at the employer and bouncing ideas of each other. On the other hand, your professional development opportunities may be increased at an employer with mostly senior people in that you may be able to work directly with senior attorneys (partners at a firm) more frequently (and have the potential for increased client contact) and you may have more chances to mentor younger lawyers since you do not have much competition. Different people will have different preferences here.

Image courtesy of Michal Marcelo at