A number of factors attract attorneys to a particular law firm. Obvious motivations might include an outstanding reputation, the opportunity to work with outstanding attorneys, competitive salary and benefits, and a strong book of business with local, regional, and multi-national clients.
The factors that attract law firms to a potential candidate are more complex, but often have everything to do with embracing the firm's culture.
"There's always an interesting pool of qualified attorneys, of all levels of experience, who are seeking employment or looking to better their current positions," said Janice Brown, founder and CEO of Brown Law Group. "They may be motivated by a first-chance opportunity that advances them from law clerk to junior associate, an aggressive attorney in a large firm looking for a bigger payday or even a former managing partner with 20 years of experience who's seeking a position after being laid off. What we're looking for at Brown Law Group, though, is an attorney with specific attributes."
Brown emphasized that people seeking an opportunity at Brown Law Group, or any other law firm, should do their homework. "Know who we are, what we stand for, how we work individually and as a team," she said. "In other words, become familiar with the firm's culture. Every firm is different."
At Brown Law Group, for example, the culture is closeknit with an emphasis on authenticity, growth and teamwork. This would not be the right environment, for example, for an attorney who relishes isolation, feels satisfied with the job but isn't motivated to take the next step, feels secure in a large law firm or has goals that are inconsistent with those of the firm.
"Each firm member contributes to our overall vision, and this is based on a spirit of mentoring and empowerment with a foundation of legal expertise and client advocacy," Brown said. "People seeking to improve their position within the legal community must have integrity (you come in the door with it); competence which, beyond skill, I define as a hunger for learning and becoming better; and quality judgment that includes thinking about the client's interest over one's own."
For attorneys entering the job market or looking for change, Brown offered the following tips:
Listen to your gut instincts. Ethics, integrity and pride all come from there. A lot of good can come from it as long as you can take time to settle down, get into a quiet space and listen.
Develop your own style. Copying someone else's will feel like an ill-fitted suit. Authenticity often leads to opportunity. Even if moving on is the best way to achieve that authenticity.
Be optimistic. There are several ways to view situations, i.e. glass half-full or half-empty. You'll go further if you pick the one makes you, and others around you, happier.
Minimize exposure to negative people. Despite our best plans and intentions, there are, unfortunately, people that we meet from time to time who spread ill-will. They are toxic, and it's in your best interest to minimize or eliminate your time with them.
Embrace difficulties. A wise person once said a "setback" is nothing but a "setup" for a "comeback."
Plan ahead. Think before you move. Examine the pros and cons. Consider the impact of your decision on your personal as well as business life. Welcome the unexpected. Be present and prepared. You never know where or when an opportunity may appear. Develop meaningful relationships. Cultivate your personal and business relations. These often lead to career advancements and introductions into new areas of interest.
Find mentors. Identify and work closely with people you admire. Learn through their influence.
Get involved. Join and stay active in bar associations, business networking groups and pro bono activities that keep you engaged.
Ellman is founder of Beck Ellman Heald.