We believe that an attorney's happiness and success in the practice of law have more to do with a particular law firm culture (which is sometimes also referred to as the personality of a firm) than with any other factor. This article discusses (a) the importance of firm culture, (b) why some attorneys do not give strong consideration to firm culture when joining a firm either during or after law school, (c) the reason a failure to seriously consider firm culture prematurely ends many legal careers, and (d) why making a lateral move provides the best opportunity to evaluate firm culture and the course of your career.
One of the largest mistakes attorneys make when evaluating competing offers among firms is believing that money is the most important factor they should be considering. While money is certainly an important component of any analysis, it is not the most important factor in determining a given attorney's happiness over the course of his/her career. If you think money is an important consideration in joining a firm, you may be making a horrible mistake. If you go to the right firm, you may be practicing law in four years and have a stable career and life. If you go to a firm just because of monetary considerations, you may wind up so disgruntled with the practice of law that you are not working at all.
The above observation is compounded by the irony that many attorneys wind up in the largest and most prestigious firms precisely because they show so much promise and have excelled to such a degree in their legal careers. We have seen resumes of attorneys who worked in first-rate New York law firms, but ended up spending their careers as car salesmen, postmen, career contract attorneys, or on a variety of career paths that do not sound compelling to many highly educated attorneys. None of this is to say that there is anything wrong with this type of career path. The problem is that many of these same attorneys may believe they are finding happiness in jobs apart from the law, when there is a possibility they could have found happiness in practice if they had chosen a firm that matched their interests culturally.
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