Have you been made an offer to join a law firm as an associate? Before you make any decisions, there are several questions to ask yourself. Joining a firm is a big commitment, and what appears to be a good offer can turn out to be a disaster if you don’t ask the right questions before you make a decision.
The Law Firm’s Reputation
You need to ensure that the firm you are joining has a good reputation in the legal community. You can research the lawyers and the firm by connecting with the bar association. You can also take the time to read the online reviews, and it is suggested that you do so. YOUR reputation can be enhanced or take a hit if you join a firm that has a poor reputation for ethical practice and results, or worse – is scorned by others in the legal community. Know before you go.
What is Expected of You?
Law firms take on other attorneys for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the goal is associated with your own ability to bring business to the firm. Find out exactly what will be expected of you. If you have a family and the firm expects you to work 80 hours a week to pick up the slack in their business, take a good look at how much you are willing to sacrifice in personal time. Do they expect you to bring in new business as part of your responsibilities, and be a major contributor in business development? You need to know exactly what will be expected of you.
Do you feel you could get along with the other attorney/attorneys at the firm with regard to personalities? You have a specific way of dealing with people your own social and business skills. Will you “mesh” with the existing team? If you don’t feel admiration, a budding friendship and common interests, it may be difficult to have a decent working relationship in the future.
What sort of support can you expect at the firm? Will you have access to the staff at the firm, or be expected to make a go of it on your own?
Will You Be Restricted?
Will you be able to maintain your own clients as your own, or are you expected to turn over all of your business to the firm? The exact plan for your activities should be made clear at the outset.
Associate or Partner?
What are the hopes for the future for you in the firm? Will you ever be a partner, or be relegated to being an associate for the duration? It is worth finding out early, rather than putting in years before you realize there is literally no hope of advancing to partner, no matter how effective you are, or how hard you work.
Additional Firm Activities
Will you be expected to participate in marketing activities such as seminars, workshops, community events, bar events and so on? Find out. These are time-consuming and not directly remunerative, although meeting people outside the office can be one of the most effective ways to find new clients. You need to know as these activities will also eat into your personal time.