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Assessing a Law Firm's Culture

Candidates often ask me what a particular law firm’s culture is like and how one firm differentiates from another. Given there are hundreds of law firms across the country seeking to hire lawyers at all levels, it can be hard sometimes to decide which firm will be a good fit for you. I have written this blog to set out some useful rules of thumb and suggestions you may wish to consider when selecting a law firm to apply to.

Firm Culture

For better or worse, you will spend on average more time with work colleagues than with many of your family and friends (a scary thought I know) so it is essential to determine which firm will be a good fit for you. Firm culture is becoming more important than ever, with firm’s spending lots of time and money presenting themselves in the market and on social media in the best possible light.

I recommend that at the outset of any job search, you establish the factors that are most important to you in a law firm and keep them in mind as you go through the application and interview process. You can then assess the firm’s culture against your personal bucket list which will also help you keep a record of whether the firm, the offices and the people you meet at the firm actually live up to your values to achieve the right fit for you.

Assessing the Culture

A firms reputation and the culture often varies from department to department so you can’t take for granted that an award winning brand or reputation in real estate will translate into the same culture in corporate, for example within the same firm.

To help you assess the culture, as you go through the process and interviews you may wish to ask yourself/the interviewer:

  • Is there a sense of collegiality?
  • Are the doors in the office open or closed?
  • Are there photos of friends, family and personal achievements on the office walls?
  • What is the firm’s dress code?
  • How does the firm treat their support staff?
  • Do they offer dress down Fridays?
  • How committed are they to charity initiatives and local community engagement?
  • Do they play team sports you can get involved in?

These are some of the factors to think about in analysing a law firm’s corporate culture and your fit within that environment.

Another useful approach is to reach out to current or former lawyers at your target firm in question to ask about their experience to date (which is very easy on LinkedIn). You may surprise yourself at how receptive people are to talk about their current and former firms. I can attest to this as I reached out to a lawyer when I was considering taking a job at an international firm on qualification. I was able to get the real picture of the firm, which was mainly positive and which gave me an insight that I certainly would not have gleaned from the website or social media.

The types of client you work for and the amount of client contact you will also have a large impact on job satisfaction and the overall cultural feel of a firm. Make sure you address this at interview to get an understanding of life on the ground at the firm.

Further Resources you can use to learn more about a firm’s culture include:

Legal 500 website which you can view by region, for example

The following can provide a sideways view of different law firms (as well as the dirt)

Talk to recruiters about the different firms – it is our job to know all the law firms inside out. It is a myth that recruiters want to sell you on any job. The reality is that if the cultural fit is not right then you are not going to stay at the firm which reflects badly on us as the recruiter. We can be a fountain of knowledge on the different firms and can give you a fuller picture on the culture. Please feel free to reach out to the BCL Legal team to ask us about your next move and how we can assist with finding the right cultural fit for you.

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