Prior to a law firm extending an offer to an attorney, one thing is for certain. The law firm will spend considerable time on reviewing the lawyer’s background – including, at the very least, performance in past jobs, law school grades and rankings, interview performance, and what references say about the candidate. Law firms invest significant time in reviewing candidates because they don’t want to commit to a candidate that will not contribute to the success of the firm.
Candidates should invest the same amount of time when reviewing a potential firm prior to employment. This includes gathering every piece of information they can on the firm. An often-over-looked piece of data pertains to the firm’s interaction with clients, or, “the client experience.”
A Lawyer’s Typical Research Pre-Employment
While applying for a position, or before accepting an offer, smart lawyers research their targeted law firm. They do this for the same reason people view a home before purchasing one. They want to know if the firm will be a good fit, and whether it’s a place where the attorney can grow and develop.
In researching a firm, most lawyers look at the following:
- The financial condition of the firm;
- Billing expectations;
- Partnership structure and track;
- Work-life balance;
- Potential for furthering education;
- Quality of support staff; and,
- How well the firm treats associates.
This is an exhaustive list. Any candidate that accomplishes two-thirds to all of it definitely deserves a B+. While this is a great grade, if you’re after an A, then you’ll have to consider…
The Client Experience
We use the phrase, “the client experience,” to mean how well law firms treat their clients. When researching a law firm, this is a huge consideration that is worthy of focused research. The client experience is important for two main reasons. These are:
- For attorneys making a lateral move with an existing book of business, the client experience will inform how existing clients will get treated (and the chances they’ll remain clients); and,
- For new attorneys, the client experience will provide insight as to how good, or unpleasant, the lawyer’s life might be when working and communicating with clients.
How does an attorney get information as to the client experience? They simply ask for it. One of the best ways to gather intel on how well a firm treats its clients is to ask the right questions during an interview. Some smart questions include:
- Is there a welcome package for new clients that informs on firm policies and procedures?
- How long does it take the law firm to complete conflict checks?
- How long does it take the firm to set up new files for clients?
- For new attorneys, how long until I can work directly with clients?
- If a lateral attorney, does the firm have a list of rates that the lateral can evaluate and provide to clients?
Candidates can also conduct extra research to formulate interview questions that meet their specific situations. The goal, though, is for the candidate to actually contemplate how a firm views its clients. Typically, the more a law firm values its clients, the more enjoyable life will be for the lawyer.
For a similar article focused exclusively on Lateral Candidates, please view Karen Kaplowitz’s article, “Lateral Candidates Must Explore How Target Firms Treat Clients,” (at page 10). QUID PRO QUO Is always on the look for ways to make our candidates lives more productive and their careers more rewarding. When researching your next great work opportunity, please keep in mind how well a firm treats its clients. If you have questions along the way, simply contact us and we’ll provide the answers!