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Choosing the Right Employer for You

We make myriad choices everyday. We choose what to have for dinner, what type of car to buy, whether and where to attend law school. In making each of these choices, we undergo a similar thought process. Take planning a vacation—we ask ourselves, “What type of weather do I want? Do I want solitude or companionship? Can I afford it? Will the activities offered interest me?” After contemplating these issues, we decide whether to spend the weekend with family at the shore, take a Mediterranean cruise, or go camping with friends.

The same type of thought needs to go into your search for the right type of employer for you. This handout should get you thinking about the factors involved in this decision-making process. For each of the factors listed below, note the statements that are true for you.

Location

• I prefer to live in close proximity to family.
• I prefer to live in an area with an ethnically/politically/economically diverse population.
• I prefer to live in an area with many cultural/social opportunities.
• I prefer to live in a city/suburban/rural community.

Things to consider:
» Many employers prefer candidates with geographic ties to their city.
» The legal work in some cities lends itself to certain practice areas.


Practice Areas

• I do not know what area of law I wish to practice.

Things to consider:
» Enroll in a law school clinic, assist a professor with research, select particular courses to gain some experience in different types of legal practice.
» Seek employers with a variety of practice areas.
» You may want an employer with a rotation system for summer associates or interns and new associates.

-OR-
• I am sure I want to practice (to name a few):

Antitrust 

Criminal Law

Product Liability

Banking 

Employment/Labor 

Real Estate 

Civil Rights

Entertainment Law

Securities

Commercial Litigation

Environmental Law

Tax

Constitutional Law

Health Care

Trusts & Estates

Corporate Transactions

International Law

Other


Things to consider:
» Concentrate on employers that will allow you to specialize early in your career.
» Determine the likelihood that a potential summer employer will give offers to that practice group or department. 
» Be sure to meet attorneys from those practice groups when you interview. Are they impressive? Could you imagine one or more as a good mentor?
» If you may relocate at some point in your career, try to select practice areas that are available in other cities.

-OR-
• I am not sure I want to practice law at all.

Things to consider:
» Enroll in a few classes elsewhere in the University.
» Consider spending all or part of a summer with a non-legal employer.
» Reach out to YLS alumni in non-legal fields to seek their advice.


Lifestyle

• I do not mind working a lot of hours. Think about how much you are willing to work. When a large firm indicates that you will be expected to bill 2,000 hours year, do you know what that really means? Refer to the Truth About the Billable Hour information to understand the idea of billing your time.
• It is important that I earn a lot of money. Think about how much money you really need to make. Are you concerned about living on a public interest salary? Learn about how COAP can work for you. Find alumni in Career Connections who are in the public sector and talk with them about your salary concerns. Understand the cost of living in cities of interest to you.
• I would enjoy having numerous social opportunities at my place of employment. Larger employers, such as large law firms, the U.S. Department of Justice, and larger district attorneys’ offices have large summer and incoming classes. The summer programs typically involve numerous social events. Determine whether there are attorneys who have similar interests to you and are at similar stages of life.
• I would like an employer that enables attorneys to pursue other interests. Does the employer allow attorneys to work part-time or other flexible work arrangements? Are there attorneys at the organization who are very involved in outside pursuits?


Work Environment

• I enjoy having a lot of autonomy in the workplace. 
• I want an employer that has a mentor system. 
• I want an employer that will provide me with productive, frequent feedback. 
• I enjoy a “work hard/play hard” mentality. 
• I work best in a supportive, collegial environment. 
• It is important that I have a nice office. 
• I need an employer that has plenty of support staff and other resources. 
• I enjoy receiving a lot of responsibility quickly (“jumping in with both feet”). 
• I want an employer that has a formal training program for attorneys. 
• I would like to have a reasonable chance of making partner. 
• I want the option of working at an international office. 
• It is important that the employer has a commitment to supporting diversity in the workplace. 
• I must feel that I am working in an ethical environment.


Clients

• It is important that I work for high profile clients. The largest law firms typically represent the largest international companies that are often in the news. Similarly, the national public interest organizations take on issues of national and international importance. Many boutique litigation firms defend high profile criminal matters that U.S. Attorneys and District Attorneys prosecute.
• I want to be able to work on pro bono matters. Consult CDO’s Choosing a Law Firm: Critically Evaluating Pro Bono Policies and Programs to learn about how to select firms committed to pro bono work.
• I would like my clients to trust me as a counselor/advisor. This is possible in any employment setting, but more likely with employers who provide earlier client contact and more opportunities to be involved in all aspects of the client’s legal matters.
• It is important that I believe in the causes/issues of my clients.
• I would prefer to serve individuals instead of corporations. Think about working for public service employers, smaller law firms, or in practice areas more involved in assisting individuals such as estate planning, family law, or plaintiffs’ work.
• I do not want to represent clients but instead wish to be involved in legal issues on a broader scope. Consider politics, government work, policy organizations, think tanks, and certain nonprofit organizations espousing particular legal matters.


Additional Resources

• The Self-Assessment section of the CDO website
CDO Career Guides
• CDO’s advice, Assessing Law Firms: Culture, Clients, Compensation and Beyond

-Updated July 2014