What's the Firm's Culture? Navigating the Subjectivity of Legal Workplaces
For many lawyers embarking on a new career opportunity, the burning question is often, What's the firm's culture?" This seemingly simple query, however, unravels into a complex web of subjectivity that varies from one employee to the next.
Candidates understand the importance of firm culture, recognising that it can significantly impact job satisfaction and overall career trajectory, but how do you gauge something as nebulous and personal as culture, especially when opinions differ within the same workplace?
Recruiters, the frontline information providers, can only offer so much insight. Their knowledge is gleaned from briefings with Partners, interactions with candidates, and liaisons with HR. Yet, the real essence of a firm's culture only reveals itself when you're immersed in its day-to-day operations.
During the interview process, prospective employees have a unique opportunity to get a feel for the firm's culture. Meeting with Partners and Associates, examining the firm's target hours, speaking with current employees via your network, and perusing online resources like Legal Cheek all contribute to a more informed perspective.
One key strategy is to directly address the question with Partners during interviews. It is a reasonable question to ask and their response will provide valuable insights into the firm's ethos and values. But it doesn't stop there—meeting Associates at your level, typically towards the end of the interview process, can offer a more nuanced understanding. These informal conversations, often conducted over lunch or coffee, provide a candid view of daily life within the firm.
However, it's crucial to remember that what constitutes a "good" culture is highly subjective. While others' opinions can offer valuable perspectives, they should be taken with a pinch of salt. Due diligence is essential, and candidates should conduct thorough research, leveraging multiple sources to form their own opinions.
Culture, though a pivotal factor, is just one piece of the puzzle. It's imperative to consider the broader picture when contemplating a move. Elements such as the nature of work, career progression opportunities, team and firm growth, salary, target hours, team structure, client base, and available training should all be factored into the decision-making process.
In conclusion, understanding a firm's culture is a multifaceted challenge. Even after joining a firm, the dynamic nature of team and firm cultures means that they can evolve over time. However, by taking a diligent approach during the interview process, consulting with recruiters, and considering a broad spectrum of factors, candidates can gain a clearer sense of the culture they're entering. It's essential not to hastily dismiss a role based solely on hearsay about culture, recognising that individual experiences and preferences vary widely. Approach the decision with a strategic mindset, ask probing questions, and collect the necessary information to make an informed and impactful career move.