10 Tips for Choosing a Law Firm

by Nicole Weber | May 27, 2015

  • My Vault

June is almost here, which means we are just a few weeks away from the release of the Vault Law 100 and Vault’s other law firm rankings for 2016--stay tuned! It also means that summer associate programs at law firms are well underway, and rising 3Ls are getting a taste of what it’s like to be a corporate attorney in the major leagues. Rising 2Ls, if they are not among the elite group of 1L summer associates, are diligently plugging away at their government or public interest internships. But they will soon face a flood of emails from their law school career offices and a daunting list of law firms attending the cattle call that is on-campus interview week. Either way, thousands of law students around the country are positioning themselves for a BigLaw career upon graduating.  

Here at Vault's editorial desk we are busy reading what more than 17,000 law firm associates told us about their firms and what life in BigLaw looks like in 2015. We asked all associates the following question: “Based on your experience, please share any information you think would be helpful to a candidate evaluating your firm as a potential employer. You may include information pertaining to workload, quality of life, compensation, business outlook, or other topics not addressed above.” They gave us some great insights into what candidates for coveted law firm associate positions should be thinking about before they accept an offer for a summer or permanent position:

1. “Be aware of the differences in compensation among the firms, and the more ‘free market’ firms vs. lock-step firms.”

2. “There is no way to know whether firm life is right for you except to do it.  If you don't already have exposure to it, as I did not, I would recommend accepting the offer that gives you the most flexibility in your career.”

3. “DO NOT BELIEVE what people tell you makes any firm ‘different’ from another. There are a lot more similarities than differences among peer firms. Instead look at the volume of work the firm does in areas that interest you and think about the individuals you have met who work there.”

4. “Your experience is very much what you make it. My experience at times is better, and sometimes worse than my colleagues who are of the same class year, so don't let one sour egg ruin the dozen.”

5. “Many BigLaw firms will try to tell you that they have a better quality of life.  It's likely not true.  It's hard being an associate at any BigLaw firm.  But it's a great experience if you enjoy the work.  So try to find a firm that does the work of work in which you're interested.  (And don't worry if you don't know what type of work you like yet!)”

6. “Come for the experience, hold on as long as you can, get out before you no longer enjoy the work that you do. Everyone will want you.”

7. “It's hard to differentiate firms as a law student, but it's important to make sure that you go somewhere where you're going to get good experience, which means not worrying about getting good work or getting enough of it, and someplace that will be a launching pad for you for whatever comes next.”

8. “Make sure you think about who in the group you could see yourself working with, especially mid to senior-level associates. (Once you have an offer, go back and meet more people in the group to get a better feel.) Also, you should ask the firm about their financial strength, their overall outlook, and if they did significant layoffs after the 2008 recession, what assurances they can give that they won't do that again.”

9. “My favorite question to ask in an interview is ‘tell me about your favorite project that you worked on in the last year.’ It's a great litmus test for the interviewer and the office. Interviewers love to talk about their work and if you don't like what they have to say (or they don't have anything to say at all), that is a big red flag about working there.”

And my personal favorite (more applicable for once you start the job permanently, but it’s never too early to start thinking about this one):

10. “Have a plan to leave. Update it regularly.”

Happy summer!

Read More:
Is the Legal Job Market Improving?
Does Money Buy Happiness in BigLaw?
21 Questions to Ask During an Interview for a Legal Job 

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Filed Under: Job Search | Law

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