Finding Your Ideal Law Firm Culture

You spend a LOT of time at work, and while much of your job satisfaction comes from the actual work you do, a large part of it also come from the work culture you’re in. The term “culture fit” gets tossed around as one of the most important factors for both job seekers and employers. But, what does culture fit actually mean? How can you evaluate a law firm’s culture?

Finding Your Ideal Law Firm Culture

For clarification, a healthy law firm culture isn’t about everyone getting along, hanging out on the weekends together, sharing the same interests, or working exactly the same way. Studies have actually shown that the variant perspectives derived from social, racial, and gender diversity, lead to more innovation, better problem-solving, and an improved bottom-line. So a healthy culture isn’t about sameness, but rather about operating from a shared set of values. For example, one law firm may have values of being results-oriented, compassionate, and client-focused, while another values employees who are detail-oriented, respectful, and have fun.

While there is no foolproof way to determine with certainty during the interview process that a potential partnership between an employee and a law firm will work well, our tips below are a good start for evaluating culture fit during the interview process.

What Do You Read?

Before the interview, do a little online research on the law firm to learn more about their values and personality:

  • Are you able to find the values, vision, and/or mission of the law firm on their website? If so, do they align with your own values and vision for your work?
  • What kind of tone does the website use—is it factual and to the point, or more friendly and casual?
  • On their careers page, what words do they use to describe their employees or team? What benefits or perks does the page highlight?
  • Do they promote press about themselves? What do these articles say about the firm?
  • Look at the leadership page and read the bios if they are there. How does what’s highlighted in these bios reveal the law firm’s values?
  • Can you find videos created by the firm? Does the firm have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram? What do these other channels reveal about the law firm’s culture and values?
  • Do they mention pro bono work or charitable efforts? Is this important to you?
  • Look for online reviews from employees and clients. Take these with a grain of salt—the majority of online reviews are complaints, not compliments—but take notice of any patterns in the reviews. If something really jumps out as a potential red flag, prepare to address it before accepting or declining an offer.

Keep in mind, what you see online might not be the whole truth. What a firm claims on their website might not actually exist in the real world and an online review from a disgruntled employee doesn’t reveal the whole story. Still, this online research is a good starting point for developing questions to ask in the interview, observations you’d like to make, and ultimately assessing if the law firm is a good fit for you.

What Do You See?

As you enter a potential future work environment, be ready to take notice of specific choices made by the law firm about the space:

  • Is it an open office set up, or more of an office environment?
  • Is it buzzing with activity, or relatively quiet.
  • Are there private meeting spaces and/or soft furniture areas designed for collaboration?
  • Does the decor give a sense of the culture of the place—are wall decorations inspirational, fun, or traditional?
  • What is the lobby like—bright colored, modern, muted, or dated?
  • Are employees dressed casually in jeans or in traditional business attire?
  • Is there a shared eating area? How is it laid out and furnished?

Set your observations aside as you begin your interview, but plan on assessing them later. Maybe you know that you work better in quiet privacy or that having a nice place to take a break during your day makes you more productive. These environmental things might not seem like they reflect a companies values, but they are usually related. For example, an open office set up is more common at a law firm that values collaboration while as enclosed offices imply that privacy is more highly-valued. The work environment is not the most important aspect of a job, but it is worth considering before accepting a job offer.

What Do You Hear?

Some aspects of culture can easily be discussed in an interview and you should come prepared to ask questions that help you understand the culture of the law firm:

  • How are decisions usually made and communicated at this law firm?
  • What motivates people to stay at this firm long-term?
  • What challenges is the law firm facing and how will those challenges be addressed?
  • What do successful employees look like at this firm?
  • What is the leadership style here?
  • What’s your favorite aspect of working at the law firm?
  • How do you feel the values of the organization are lived out?

In addition to these specific questions, you can understand more about the law firm’s culture by evaluating the questions your interviewer asks you, their interview style, and the things they share with you about the job. There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to these questions—what might be a nightmare culture for one person could be an ideal culture for another. Notice if any parts of the conversation raise alarms for you, or conversely, sound highly appealing.

Whether you’ve been burned by a poor culture fit in the past, have had such a good fit you hardly know what we’re talking about, or are somewhere in between, we firmly believe you’ll be your most productive and happiest self when you’re working for a law firm that’s the right culture fit for you. We love helping technologists, litigation support professionals, and attorneys understand what they’re looking for when it comes to law firm culture.

Chat with one of our recruiters today!

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Nonverbal Techniques to Impress Your Interviewer in 8 Easy Steps

Nonverbal Interview TipsDid you know some interviewers say that within the first 30-90 seconds of meeting a candidate, they already know whether or not they’ll hire them? How can this be possible? Nonverbal communication has a huge impact on the impression you make on your interviewer. Before you even begin to talk about your skills, your interviewer is watching your behavior, and deciding whether or not to write you off.

Unfortunately, more often than not, law firms are looking to screen out potential candidates, which may mean that great candidates could get passed over because of something small. The good news is that nonverbal communication is easy to practice – and we’ve got some tips for how to make a great first impression:

1. Smile!

It may seem obvious, but smiling at the start of your interview (and even before when you’re waiting in the lobby) will not only have an effect on your interviewer’s first impression of you, it will actually impact how well you do in the interview. Research has shown that smiling can decrease stress, lower your blood pressure, and make you feel more relaxed and happy. What a great help at the start of an interview! 38% of surveyed bosses said that not smiling is a common interview mistake. It might convey nervousness or even make you seem unfriendly. In fact, people see smiling people as more intelligent, sincere, and reliable than people who don’t smile. Try to think positive, friendly thoughts so that your smile comes naturally as you’re greeting your interviewer, and try to maintain a positive expression on your face throughout the interview—without letting your smile become fake.

2. Make Eye Contact

Another commonly reported interview mistake is the candidate’s failure to make eye contact with their interviewer. In the first 15-30 seconds of your interview, eye contact is your first opportunity to make a connection with your interviewer. Often when candidates are nervous, they have a tendency to avoid eye contact, or, of equal concern, stare intensely without blinking at their interviewer. Throughout the interviewer, work to make natural eye contact like you would if you were having a conversation with a friend.

3. Give a Confident Handshake

We’re sure you’ve heard before that a weak handshake is an interview ‘No.’ As with the two tips prior, moderation here is key: you neither want to present a limp grip, nor one that is too strong. A good handshake demonstrates your confidence, assurance, and personability. Your handshake will go hand-in-hand (apologies for the pun) with your smile and eye contact to make that first 30 second impression that could make or break your interview. Practice these three tips in tandem with your family, friends, and at networking meetings to make a perfect nonverbal impression at your next interview.

4. Strike the Right Posture

Once you’ve nailed your greeting, you’ll usually be invited to sit, and your posture is important. Slouching actually makes you smaller and gives you the appearance of lacking confidence. If you lean back too much in your chair, you might come across as disinterested or overly confident, but if you sit too straight, you might appear nervous. This might seem like a lot to remember, but if you aim for straight but not stiff, natural but engaged, you’re likely to hit the right tone with your interviewer.

5. Don’t Cross Your Arms

Crossing your arms over your chest can feel like a natural, comfortable way to sit, but non-verbally you’re giving off the message that you’re closed-off or ready to go on the defensive. Keeping your arms and hands relaxed in your lap or rested on the table, will prevent you from making this unwelcome impression (and can actually help you perform better in your interview).

6. Minimize Hand Gestures and Fidgeting

Using your hands too much in an interview can be distracting for your interviewer. You want them focused on your skills and stories, not the way your hands are moving in front of you. Similarly, fidgeting in your seat, readjusting your position too many times, touching your face, or playing with your hair, can make you appear distracted, disinterested, or nervous. To prevent yourself from these behaviors, clasp your hands in your lap. You can use them from time to time, but starting from this position – and returning to it after you’ve made your point –will keep you just conscious enough of your use of them, without distracting you from answering well.

7. Wear the Right Attire

Of course one of the first things that will create an impression is what you’re wearing. Do as much research as possible before the interview to find out what the dress code is at the law firm and try to dress in line, or one “step-up”. Most managers prefer candidates to avoid bright colors or wild patterns, but the most important thing is that you look polished—no matter what level of dress code is appropriate. Avoid wrinkles, flashy jewelry, chipped fingernails, ill-fitting clothes, etc.

8. Watch Your Tone

Your tone of voice can also have more impact than you know. Try to make yourself sound cheerful, friendly, and confident. Avoid “up-talking” at the end of your sentences, as that will make you seem uncertain or young. Vary your tone to keep your interviewers engaged.

If you haven’t interviewed in awhile, or aren’t finding success when you interview, your nonverbal communication could be the key to getting your interviewer to lean in with interest. Make a great first impression by dressing the part, being friendly with your facial expressions and body posture, and minimizing distractions in the interview. Practicing with a friend, family member, or recruiter will give you the confidence you need to nail these nonverbal techniques in your next interview and have the law firm offering you your dream job.

Contact an ESP Legal Recruiter for Personalized Interview Advice!

For more job seeking tips, check out these articles:

·      Are Counteroffers Really a Bad Idea?

·      3 Ways For Legal Tech Pros to Succeed at Interviewing Your Interviewer

·      7 Tips To Make The Most of Your Skype Interview

 

This blog was originally published in 2014 and has been updated to reflect current trends. 

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3 Ways For Legal Tech Pros to Succeed at Interviewing Your Interviewer

Don’t be fooled when your interviewer turns the tables, usually near the end of the interview, with an innocent “do you have any questions for me?” Your questions, or lack thereof, will be used to analyze at least three things: 1) Did you research the law firm? 2) Did you listen effectively in the interview? 3) Do you want this role?

Not only can this important opportunity to ask questions be used to assess your eligibility for the job, it’s also a great opportunity for you to determine if the role is right for you and if this law firm is where you want to work. In this market, legal technology professionals often have their pick of offers and deciding which one is best for you can be tricky. That’s why making the most of your interview is essential.

In addition, your questions are an opportunity for you make it clear why you are perfect for the role. According to John Kador, the author of 301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview, you want your questions to make a statement in the form of a question: “Highlight your qualifications. Demonstrate your confidence. Reinforce your commitment. Understand the employer’s challenges. Make yourself accountable. Advance your candidacy.”

As one of the best ways for you to learn about a law firm and a great opportunity for you to seal the deal, we’ve got three ways to make the most of interviewing your interviewer:

1. Show You’re A Culture Fit

Your website emphasized that ___________. What would you say is the most important aspect of your culture?

What are your law firm’s values and how do they play out in the workplace?

I’m really excited you emphasized how important a healthy culture is here. Can you tell me more about what you like about the culture, and how it impacts your day-to-day work?

While “company culture” can often be mistaken for the “perks” a company offers or the personalities and interests of members on the team, it is really about the values a law firm upholds. In asking one of these questions, you demonstrate not only a desire to align your values with that of the organization, you also show that this is a top priority for you to be at a law firm that has great values and has woven those into their culture.

Increasingly, employers are embracing the concept that having the correct people on their team, from a culture fit perspective especially, may be the most important thing for their success. The surest test for how committed a company is to upholding their values and building a strong culture, is how hiring managers and employees talk about it. Once you’ve heard what they share, be sure to relate to their response and express how you share those values as well.

2. Show You’re Ready to Make an Impact

What challenges is the law firm or department facing that someone in this new position could help overcome?

What types of skills is the team missing that you’re looking to fill with a new hire? 

What personal characteristics do you think would be ideal for someone in this position?

Most law firms are looking for legal IT professionals who are ready to take on challenges and get results. By identifying the law firm’s challenges—and how you can help alleviate them—you show your potential employer that you don’t just want a job, you want to make an impact on the tech department and the company.

These questions also have the added benefit of giving you a clear window into where the team stands today, why they are hiring, and what they look for in their legal technology employees. Asking what qualities a candidate needs to do this job well demonstrates your desire to understand how you as an individual can uniquely contribute to the organization beyond the job description. In addition, your interviewer may realize that the person they just described sounds a lot like you.

3. Show You’re Results-Oriented

If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the top priorities on my to-do list?

What are the most important things you’d like to see someone accomplish in the first 60 or 90 days?

What metrics or goals will my performance be evaluated against?

One of the most essential things you can do in an interview is gain an understanding of what the job is actually like, day-to-day. At the same time, you want to show your interviewer that you understand that “a day in the life” is only a part of the equation. By asking about priorities, long-term accomplishments, and how performance is measured, you can get a real feel for the job, while also making it clear that you value planning, prioritization, and being measured on results. In addition, asking these kinds of questions will give you insight about your day-to-day tasks, while also making it clear that you understand not all tasks are created equal, which is key to success in any position.

 

Any Questions for Me?” is usually your last opportunity to impress the interviewer and what you ask matters. The questions should be mutually beneficial: they allow you to make a statement about yourself that helps the interviewer learn more about you and they give you the opportunity to assess if you’re a good fit for the law firm’s IT team.

Go prepared to your next interview with several questions in mind, as the worst thing you can tell an interviewer is that you don’t have any questions. If much of what’s been detailed here as been covered in the interview and you’re willing to be bold, ask: do you have any hesitations about my qualifications? Asking this question means you’re willing to talk about your weaknesses and vulnerabilities and receive coaching, which is highly valued by employers. It also gives you the opportunity to address concerns upfront. Instead of leaving your interviewer ruminating on those hesitations, they’ll be focused on all the reasons you’d be an asset for the law firm’s tech department.

If you’re looking for your next legal tech opportunity and want personalized interview advice:

Contact one of our IT recruiters today! 

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7 Tips To Make The Most of Your Skype Interview

Tips for Your Next Skype InterviewIn recent years, video interviewing has become a popular strategy for law firms and companies alike when it comes to their hiring process. They might use it to interview candidates that would work remotely or for candidates open to relocation. Or it might be used as a time saver for first round interviews. Whatever the reason, it appears to be here to stay. For legal technology professionals interviewing via Skype poses a few unique challenges and extra preparation.

Here are 7 easy tips to prepare you for your next Skype interview:

1. Check Your Technology
You want to make sure your computer is fully charged and plugged in and that all aspects of Skype are working, especially the audio and microphone functions. Make sure your wi-fi connection is strong, or if possible, use an Ethernet cable to ensure you’re connection doesn’t break during the interview.

2. Get Your Lighting Right
One of the more unique challenges of Skype interviews is your lighting. You want to be easy to see, not shadowed. Take advantage of natural light by setting yourself up near a window, ideally facing the window, or to the left or right of it. Use any lamps you have in the room to your benefit as well; use a softer light aimed toward your face, a backlight to add dimension to your space, and fill lights to balance the light on either side of your body. 

3. Clean Your Space
It’s also very important that your interview space is tidy and distraction-free. Look for clutter and any other potential distractions for your interviewer, including possibly offensive décor, and remove it. That way the interviewer will be focused on your answers rather than your space.

4. Eliminate Technology Distractions
You don’t want to overload your computer or get distracted by an email popping up. Close all programs on your computer except for Skype. Print a copy of your resume, as you would for an in-person interview. Turn off your other devices or put them in a different room, you shouldn’t need them during your interview, and a buzz could keep you from hearing a question or answering well.

5. Dress to Impress
As with any interview, dressing professionally is very important. But when it comes to video interviewing, you should also consider what looks best on screen: avoid patterns and wear neutral colors. Don’t only consider your torso-make sure all of you is dressed to impress so if you need to stand up for some reason, you’re not embarrassed by your sweat pants.

6. Chat Professionally
Your Skype user name also creates an impression so you may want to create a new one just for interviewing. Upgrade your Skype user name to something professional and make sure to use a professional looking picture as well.

7. Consider Your Nonverbals
Before you start your call, test your distance from the camera, making sure your head and shoulders are visible and that your occasional hand gestures could be seen. Imagine you’re sitting across from your interviewer and gauge the appropriate distance accordingly. You should also practice greeting your interviewer with a confident and friendly smile for a great start to your video interview.

Preparation is key to interview success, and it’s no different when it comes to Skype interviews. By making sure both your space and your own appearance are optimized for video interviewing, you increase your chances of getting an in-person interview and landing a great legal tech opportunity.

Our IT recruiters would love to be your career advisor. For personalized interviewing advice and resume recommendations:

Contact Us 

Note: This blog was originally published in 2014 and has been updated to reflect current trends and practices. 

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