Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from prospective Associates...
"How is Associate-performance assessed?"
Because the role of Associate is often seen as the route to partnership, chargeable hours, billing and business development are all likely to be measured. That said, a firm's expectations of its Associates can vary greatly depending upon the size, structure and market position of the firm.
"Will I be expected to win work?"
Whilst there will not usually be an immediate requirement to bring in work, business development is likely to be viewed as a key part of the Associate role in most commercial firms. The ability to win work is a key indicator of the potential to succeed at Partner level.
Consequently, key introductions and work won will be taken into account by firms when the opportunity to promote arises.
"Will my business development and marketing initiatives be given support?"
Whilst the support and investment that will be allocated to Associates varies from firm to firm, any firm committed to the development of its Associates will provide as much support as is practicable. After all, the firm has a vested interest in developing future talent, and enabling Associates to deliver against their business plans.
If you are being interviewed for an Associate position, this is something that you may wish to discuss when the opportunity arises.
"How will I be supported in my personal development and ambitions of partnership?"
This is something worth raising at interview. Most firms measure Associates against key performance indicators such as chargeable hours, recovery, billing, work winning and so on. You will be keen to understand how and when the firm reviews progress, and what their partnership recruitment process looks like.
Most commercial firms will have a formal, structured process in place for partnership applications.
"Do Associates have managerial or non-feeing earning responsibilities?"
Most firms expect Associates to be ambassadors for the firm. In practice, this can involve contributing to corporate social responsibility initiatives and promoting the profile of the firm in the market place.
Enthusiasm for these non-fee earning activities will assist in your career progression.
Associates are also likely to be tasked with supervising more junior members of staff working within their team.
"What if I don't want to be a Partner? Are there any alternatives open to me?"
Today, many commercial firms recognise that there should be an alternative path for career progression tailored to outstanding lawyers who do not aspire to partnership - and all that comes with it.
Many appoint such lawyers to Legal Director roles, which are usually associated with a lesser business development requirement and without the time, administrative and financial commitment that comes with partnership.
"Will I have management responsibility?"
Yes - it's likely that you will. The nature and extent of this will depend upon the size and style of the firm, together with the markets in which it operates.
You will almost certainly have some supervisory responsibility, particularly for Trainee Solicitors.
Whilst the extent of your management responsibility may depend upon your previous experience, you may wish to consider asking the firm about what support you will be given to help you develop as a manager.
"What should my salary expectations be?"
For more junior fee earning roles, salaries are usually determined by set 'bands'. By contrast, Associate salaries are often negotiable.
When joining a firm, your ability to negotiate will depend on your level of experience and whether you have a client following, or can offer anything else which is over and above your peers.
In the future, delivery against key performance indicators and your wider contribution to the firm will all be taken into account upon review of your salary.
"What is the present outlook for aspiring Associates?"
The downturn in the economy has meant that it has become increasingly difficult for both firms and recruiters to predict, with any certainty, what roles and work will be available in the long term.
However, it remains important for a prospective Associate to ask the right questions - to ensure that any position taken up is perceived as long term by the recruiting firm.
You will be keen to know about the firm's business objectives and priorities in the coming year and beyond. For instance, any plan to introduce additional Partners into the team may negatively affect your own career progression. Alternatively, the intention to 'bolt-on' teams of different disciplines may bring exposure to a new client base and positively raise the profile of the firm.
Our recruitment consultants have expert knowledge of the markets in which they operate together with access to an enviable client base. Give them a call today to discuss your aspirations and receive advice tailored to you.