How to Make a Great Career Move in a Hot Legal Tech Job Market

Make the right legal tech career moveGreat news for IT pros working in the legal industry: you’re more in demand than ever before. An estimated 75% of companies are planning to increase the number of full-time IT employees on their teams in 2019. And one recent survey revealed more than 50% of firms and legal departments plan to increase their investment in technology in the coming years.

The hot legal tech job market not only means increased job security and higher pay—it also means now is the ideal time to make a move that advances your career. The following five steps will help you leverage your skills and expertise to land your next great fit.

Step 1: Develop a Strategy

Despite the hot job market, when seeking a new opportunity, you still need to do the due diligence required of any job search. Start with an honest assessment of your IT skills: evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and your favorite and least favorite facets of your current role. Then consider how you would like to advance and grow professionally.

Once you’ve honed in on what you’d like to do, consider where you’d like to be doing it. Conduct research to get a sense of the firms you might work for and their reputation in the legal industry. Determine the kind of workplace culture you’re looking for, and see if any of the firms you researched align with your ideal.

Finally, address the how of your job search. Do you have any professional connections at the firms that most pique your interest? Would you prefer to work with an industry expert recruiter who can help you leverage the market and provide the inside scoop on companies and managers? Being intentional about how you plan to take action will help you land an interview faster and propel you toward step 2.

Step 2: Present Yourself Professionally

This step is about highlighting your skills and interest level to your prospective employer and positioning yourself for success down the road during step 5 (hint: it’s all about negotiating).

Here are a few specific tips to help you put your best foot forward from the start to the finish of your job search:

  • Ensure your resume is error free and formatted professionally.
  • Update your technical resume’s content, highlighting any skills that align with the job description requirements listed for the position you are applying for. (Yes, this means you have to tweak your resume each and every time you apply for a new gig).
  • Review and update any virtual professional resources, including your LinkedIn profile and any digital portfolios. And don’t forget to do a quick scan of your personal social media accounts to ensure there isn’t any less-than-professional content to be found!
  • Add additional specific, applicable details about your unique qualifications in your cover letter (which, like your resume, should be error free and formatted professionally). Answer the question: Why are you a good fit for this opportunity, and why do you want to work for this firm?
  • Dress up for your interview (even a video interview) whether or not the firm has a casual dress code. Make sure everything about your appearance is in line with the industry you are working in.

These small but significant choices can make a huge impact on a prospective employer. Plus, when you present yourself professionally, you increase your chances of being heard and taken seriously. Which brings you to . . .

Step 3: Make a Lasting First Impression

Even though your skills are in-demand, you shouldn’t approach your interview with the expectation of being wooed by the law firm. During your conversation, focus on the firm’s needs and how you can assist them—not your needs. You will get a chance to address your needs later in the process.

Show the firm you are informed and prepared by asking thoughtful questions inspired by your research (step 1). But try to keep a 50–50 balance between talking and listening. Be aware of your body language, and show your interviewer that you are interested and engaged by maintaining eye contact.

Come prepared with upbeat, articulate responses to a handful of potential interview questions. ESP Legal’s interviewing tips for job seekers address the three biggest ones: “Tell me about a time when . . .,” “Tell me about yourself,” and “What is your greatest weakness?” Read up to learn what key information your interviewer may be trying to uncover by asking one of these questions, and then spend some time crafting your responses.

When you put in the work and come to your interview prepared, you’ll leave feeling confident. But there’s still one more step for you to take before receiving an offer. 

Step 4: Follow Up

Send a professional follow up email or handwritten note. This is a very important step and should not be overlooked as an empty formality or outdated courtesy.

Your follow-up is an opportunity for you to show you were paying attention by touching on some of the topics discussed in the interview. It’s also a final opportunity for you to remind the firm of your strengths and promote additional qualifications that you may have forgotten to mention during the interview.

Keep the tone of your note positive and professional, and maintain that positivity and professionalism even if you need to wait a while for a response. Remember, you may have been their first—and hopefully best—interview. Filling a role takes time. 

Step 5: Negotiate

If you’ve shined during steps 1–4, chances are you’ll soon be presented with an offer. But you haven’t reached the finish line of the job search process just yet. This is the step where the opportunities afforded to you by the hot job market really come into play.

A quick disclaimer: negotiation is not about upping your financial requirements once you’ve won a firm over. Be honest and up-front with your compensatory expectations prior to the interview so there are no surprises. The only exception to this rule happens when unplanned circumstances create variance, i.e. you just got a raise that was unexpected in your current job or received a competitive offer from another firm.

That said, sometimes a firm will come in below the target salary you presented, and when that happens, you should discuss and consider the other benefits and financial incentives being offered that could offset the difference. These may include perks such as profit sharing, 401(k) matching, a great medical plan, a flexible and/or remote working schedule, and greater vacation allowances and/or PTO.

Finally, keep in mind that sometimes making a career move isn’t about money. Sometimes you’ll move because you’re looking for a different company culture or looking to make a switch to a different tech area of focus. In these cases, be honest with yourself about your decision. Landing an opportunity that offers you the career potential you’re seeking at a great company is often worth a small trade-off financially.

 

In a hot job market, you don’t need to stress about landing a gig simply to pay the bills. You have the freedom to focus on your long-term career goals and make moves to help you achieve them. The only thing standing in your way is you. Get started today, and happy hunting!

If you’d like to streamline your search and receive additional support, our ESP Legal technical recruiters are always here to help:

Get in Touch with a Recruiter

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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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