2022-0907 Legal Practice Networking Essentials - Why Law Firm Culture Matters Most
Harrison:[00:00:00] So, This is one of my favorite topics. And I honestly can't believe that I haven't done a webinar about this before. It's this presentation is based on really what was one of the firm or the first articles I ever wrote about practicing law and and is something that I have talked to countless attorneys about over the years.
And it's really in many cases the entire basis of how our company operates, which is we try to get people to speak to a lot of firms and a lot of different places in order to find the right culture, because culture is honestly among the most important things when you're looking for a job.
So I'm gonna do this presentation today. This is a what I consider an extremely important presentation for any attorney because it can change the direction of your career. And the tools we offer BCG for our candidates really try to help people make use of this, but this can significantly change the direction of your career.
It can also make you happy, have a better life. Make you successful. And if you get [00:01:00] this wrong, it can actually hurt you quite a bit. And I know attorneys that have had incredible careers and and most of the time it sits a lot of it's due to most of it is due to the culture where they end up and attorneys that have had poor careers a lot of times and equip the practice of law.
It's also about culture. So this is just an incredibly important presentation. Now the after the presentation what I'll do is take a short break. But if you have questions during the presentation and save 'em to the end and I'll answer all the questions you have and I'll answer questions Related to this presentation, but I'll also answer questions that you may have related to just general career questions and things that you have.
But my biggest belief and is that the, your happiness and success practicing law has a lot more to do with where you're working in the culture which is the firm personality than really any other factor. And this presentation is based on article that discusses, the importance from culture and why some attorneys who don't really consider this joining law firms, whether, during our after law school and [00:02:00] then how this can really either end your career or or provide a really good experience for you.
And many times if you're moving laterally I believe that's the best time to evaluate a firm culture and and see what's going to happen there. I, when I'm working with candidates and I recommend this to everyone I think it's very important to look at lots of different places, including ones that may.
Be as prestigious and or pay as much and, or ones that are more prestigious. I noticed when I was looking at firms that I would walk into certain places and have a sense right away that I could succeed there and others that I wouldn't. And and I think everyone Has that belief and it makes a huge difference.
There's another article that I wrote that's related to this, it's called finding your tribe. And I I like that's been a fairly important article as well, but but I will most of the ideas in there are that article are also here. Cultures of law firms are all incredibly different and the culture of a firm in different cities different cities have different cultures, different firms within [00:03:00] the cities have different cultures, different firms have different sizes, have different cultures.
There are all sorts of cultures all over different firms. There's firms where style is valued over substance, meaning the, the quality of the work just is not as important as whether or not it looks good and meaning no typos and things. And there's firms where substance is valued over style.
I had an experience that was, that kind of helped me form this belief. And it was not necessarily in the in the practicing law. But when I was in eighth grade, I was in this anyway, this private school and. It was a very kind of uptight and regimented school. And I wasn't doing well there with grades or anything really.
And I went to another school that was not quite the opposite of that, but much different and did very well. And it's like that with firms, I started in my career as well at a firm that at the time was very loosey goosey, but had really good people there. And people were very smart and I went to another firm that was the opposite.
It was a kinda an east coast culture and it was very different. And I was very unhappy at the second firm. There's [00:04:00] firms where people wander around in Birkenstock and call each other. Dude, I've been into some firms where I can't believe like how granola they are. I it's very funny. And how laid back the people are and others where they're the complete opposite there's firms even in this day and age where people call each other, Mr.
And miss I have a law firm representing me right now and everyone's referred to as Mr and miss, and they refer to other attorneys as Mr. And miss and the firm. And there's firms even where associates need to make appointments before with partners before speaking with them. And they need to, create a formal appointment at a certain time.
There's firms. One of the fir first firms that I worked at it was very funny. I walked in. And I'm from the outside Detroit and a lot of people that were, I grew up, I learned to chew tobacco and I walked into this office in Los Angeles and there were, there was a partner that had, gone to Harvard law school and was chewing tobacco and spiting in a cup and offered me some.
And I thought it was just the funniest thing I'd ever seen. I couldn't believe that firms were like this. And and it was a very good firm. So there are firms like [00:05:00] that and there's firms that value your family connection where they think that's more important who you are and stuff than your workability.
And there's other firms that are very secretive where associates don't know anything that's going on and they're kept in the dark and about finances, about work about everything. And then there's firms that are the opposite. And and then there's firms where pretty much if you work there six or seven years and are competent enough and work hard enough, you'll be made partner and firms where 16 to 1700 hours a year is considered a very good effort and firms where associates are hired and then almost universally Encouraged to leave after five or six years, or sometimes a little bit more than that.
And and then there's firms that have all sorts of financial and other problems and and problems holding clients and they but they try to look strong and powerful to the world. I can go on and on, but but the point is that the way you choose a firm and what you know about the culture of the firm will have a lot to do with whether you're happy there and how well you do if you are a an [00:06:00] athlete and you join a firm of other athletes, you're probably going to be get along with people there and like the culture, if you're someone that is a science type and there's a lot of other science type, there's so many different types of firms, but the point is that if you're around people that.
You like, then those people are gonna also like you, and if you're lot around people that feel comfortable with you they're also gonna feel comfortable with you. They're going to realize when you make mistakes where you're coming from, they're gonna realize when you do things right where you're coming from.
And and there's just gonna be a better match. It's like that with with relationships. It's you, there's certain types of personalities that are compatible and there's other types of personalities that are compatible. That's the whole point. It's interesting with these dating sites that is you E harmonies, an example they match people up based on all sorts of personality types and it tends to work.
There's a lot of people that talk about it. And and those sorts of matching systems work. I actually. It was funny. I asked someone out [00:07:00] once that I met in a yoga class. And and then and I had signed up for a trial account on this service in Los Angeles. And they kept emailing me saying that this person was compatible with you.
And it was, and I, it was only after the fact and which I thought was amazing, so it could work and someone I'm still with, to this day. The point is. People like Albert Einstein, for example, flunked out of a grade school. And I don't know the whole story there and maybe there's truth and not truth to that, but he may have been more concerned with theoretical things and practical things and and wasn't successful in that environment.
Obviously he was successful in other environments later on maybe the people couldn't understand where it was coming from. And so if you're unhappy in your firm there may be a very good chance. And if you were unhappy as a summer associate, and if you've been unhappy in different job, there may be a very good chance that the people you're with not understand you and you don't understand them because you're not compatible and that's fine.
You don't have to be compatible with every group. People choose colleges based on the fact, many choose colleges based on the fact that they think they're gonna be [00:08:00] compatible with the people there. They choose organizations in college based on the fact that they think they're gonna be compatible with the people there.
And you need to do the same thing with law firms. It's not just joining a law firm because it's the most prestigious or the best one. You get a job in or the city, or we wanna be in, it can be much more than that. And you need to understand the culture of the firm and and the people and feel comfortable with the people when you are good things will happen.
Advanced they will like you, they will want to they will wanna reward people like you and people that are different than you don't necessarily see you that way. So I'm sure that you have everyone has people in your life that like you and think very highly of you and and that you get along with, and you have people, everyone does that that you don't like, or that don't like you.
And sometimes it's just the way things click. I have plenty of people that that, you know that I wouldn't assume wanna be my friend really like me, for whatever reason that I have other people that I would think would like me really hate me for whatever reason.
So I just, everyone and there are different types of people with [00:09:00] different motivations and so forth. And so these are things that's just how the world works and it's what it is. And you need to find groups of people that you're going to be most compatible. And and happy with, and it's, there's nothing, honestly, when you're joining a firm the quality of work they do and other things are important, but I think this is among the most important things.
Cause why would you, if you're in, people, so many people are in they're in unhappy relationships, they're in unhappy jobs, they're in they're in these conditions that they're just not thriving in. And and there's no reason for that is you put yourself in situations where you wanna feel good about yourself and do well.
It's like one of the examples that I like to give that's fun is just imagine like a famous rapper who didn't graduate from high school? I don't know who would example, maybe I dunno, vanilla ice or someone. I don't know, but I don't know, but N I, but just imagine someone like that, trying to be a neurosurgeon, it wouldn't work out or trying to fit in to a a stuffy Southern country club.
It is just, you have to be around the people [00:10:00] that that, that make you comfortable and make you happy. And and that see the best in you. And if you don't do that, It creates all sorts of problems. It's the whole in society you have, if you just, all you need to do is pick up the paper.
It's amazing. If you look at the New York times, you see all these headlines that are obviously, very liberal. If you pick up the wall journal, you see all these headlines that are obviously very conservative and everybody sees the world in a certain way. And you wanna be around people that are seeing the world in a way similar to you.
Now it's not just political because you can certainly work in organizations that may have a certain political and not be that way. But it's the culture and the culture will will accept you or expel you like a virus. If you if you don't do well there our company, for example, has a culture.
The culture is you have to do everything you possibly can to get people jobs, and you have to be dedicated. You can drop the ball and you have to be more concerned about others than yourself. And and that's not the case that most recruiting firms and that's fine. But the point is that if you have the, whatever the culture [00:11:00] looks for, then that's good.
So a lot of attorneys, are motivated most of them, by the way. And I hate this. They're they're motivated by prestige and money and. More so than the culture of the firm they're joining when they make the decision of where to practice. So they do things like, they, they go to giant cities where they might not be uncomfortable where they might be uncomfortable.
They make career mistakes because of that. They evaluate offers based on money and and the prestige of the firm, not their long term opportunity, whether or not they like to people the best. And when you evaluate offers based on where you believe you fit and best you're far more likely to find happiness success in the practice of law.
One of the most disturbing episodes of the the of choosing the wrong culture. I've seen countless episodes of this, but one of the most upsetting to me was I was, I had this friend of mine that that worked for the same judge I did. And and and he he was very conservative and to the extent, he was the president of Federalist society.
And all this just very [00:12:00] conservative. And I think he even had an email address. It was something like, one more for the Gier. And it was just, it was very funny how conservative he was. And and and I didn't understand how but the point is that he's very conservative and he got a job with this other, with a small firm.
That was very conservative. And it was in the city, he got the job and it was really only one of the the, it was perfect fit. And because of all the people were like him and they liked him and he liked them and they'd actually hadn't even hired anybody in years cuz they, I think they were in San Francisco and couldn't find anybody like him.
But they really liked him and he ended up going to a very a firm that, interviewed him for maybe an hour and a half, a big firm in New York and and just had a horrible experience. And and and today is I think his serious, serious issues.
Problems that he's working as a contract attorney and other things are happen wrong. But the point is that I, that was a career mistake and lots of people make this mistakes. He went to the firm in New York, cuz it's more money and all sorts of things and walked away from friends and family and but heard [00:13:00] him.
So a lot of people make these decisions and it's not going to New York. It's a problem cuz that culture works for a ton of people. It's and it's a good culture, I think in a lot, in many respects and just to San Francisco for some people is but the point is that he didn't find success and hurt himself and and you can hurt yourself when you choose the wrong culture.
I, for one when I was young, I was working at a firm. That I started out where the culture was for me was perfect, which is Quin Emmanuel. And I went to a firm that's now out of business Dew, we Valentine from there because it paid at the time double what I was making. And I thought that was a smart decision and I ended up leaving the practice of law.
So the point is that if you don't think this way it can really hurt you. Now, I'm trying to use the bad things that happened to me to help you because I had a bad experience and and that's a lot of the drive in my career. It's one reason I like this presentation so much, but the point is that you.
You choosing the best paying firm? The the most prestigious firm is not always the right thing. And when I went to this firm, it was the, I think that firm ISCA [00:14:00] and paid that paid double what all the other firms that LA paid. That was it. And and so it was a bad decision. And in today, most of the salaries are very similar at the big firms, but there's typically a lot of pressure that people have to join the biggest firms, the best firms, the highest paying firms regardless of the culture.
And and law students believe that attorneys believe it all sorts of people believe it. And I, I don't know why people are so into this and why they think it's so important. I've seen people do things that I consider amazing to, to try to get into big firms. I've seen people not gonna get into it, but do things that are very sad.
To, whether it's anyway but it's not worth it if the culture doesn't, if it doesn't work for you for everyone. And and and this is what people tend to judge themselves based on how they appear to others. And. And what the money they're making and they believe that's going to give them happiness when when really you're spending your entire day with people.
And and your happiness is going come from the sense of comradery and [00:15:00] contribution and other things you get 80, there's a lot of studies and there's a famous study from it's a Stanford study. Now. I don't know how true it is. I've heard it quoted several times. But the study says something like 85% of our happiness and success comes from our relationships with other people.
And 15% comes from our technical ability. And I think that's true. I honestly believe it now. Maybe if you're an athlete or or some other profession it's all technical, I don't know, but in the practice a lot, I think it's the same thing. It's your ability to get along with other people, your ability to feel to, for other people to recognize you.
And so why wouldn't you choose culture is the number one thing? Why would you emphasize something or, and not think about that because you're not gonna get a you're, you can get ahead based on hours maybe, but if you don't get along with other people it's not gonna work out for you and you have to be liked by other people and you have to be sponsored and you have to have partners vote in your, you have to get ahead, then you have to get clients.
So the ability to feel comfortable around other people liked is [00:16:00] more important than anything. And and attorneys believe a lot of them that their success can be based on technical things. So law school is very funny. It's it's pretty much not a hundred percent but pretty much based on grades in your outset scores.
That's, it's amazing to me how much that's true because and so that's the lesson that a lot of people get is it's all technical. And those who get those good numbers tend to get into the best law schools. Now, I don't think you can get into Yale law school, but just good numbers or Stanford or several others.
But but most of them you can, and that's all it's about. And that's sad because it gives you the impression that's what things are about and they're not. And and so a lot of times people will make decisions to where to work based on numbers as well will think who pays the most.
Who's the most prestigious, what's the biggest city, the best city to work in. What and and if you think in terms of that and how you're going to appear to others you may Actually be making the absolute wrong decision. So the cuz the people that you're around are the ones that are going to [00:17:00] determine your success.
And there, there's certainly not a lot. There's certainly a lot of advantage by the way of working at a big law firm. If you do get a job at a very good law firm, you will define yourself. And you will talk about that for most of your career. I meet people all the time that are that are 40 years out of law school or 50 years.
And tell me this big firm they worked at years ago. So people who are very serious about it, they'll even talk about where they were a summer associate or where they clerked when they weren't a summer associate or where they were a paralegal. And and their whole I had a meeting not too long ago with with just this, I was at this meeting and this person spent two hours telling me how they were a paralegal at some very well known firm 30 years ago or 40 years ago and were very proud of it.
And so people define themselves based on that. But I don't think it's, I don't think it's right. I don't think if you look at the most successful attorneys, they don't care where they went to law school. I haven't told anybody where I went to law school and I don't talk about it ever.
It's not a big deal. I don't, I talk about where I've worked, because this is what I do [00:18:00] for a living, but I certainly never talk about it otherwise. And and, you talk about you wanna be happy and you wanna be around people that make you happy. The stereotype that a lot of the public has about attorneys is fairly negative.
And I think a lot of attorneys also have a negative shared type of other attorneys, but attorneys are often very competitive. They're often and not all of them are of course they're often very money hungry. Some of them are power hungry status hungry. And and that's a lot of what's BR into you by law school and competing with your peers.
And and that's fine. And then there's even a whole pecking order among attorneys. I, it was funny when I remember the second firm I worked at was this was not as definitely did not have as good of attorneys in is Manuel. But the second part I worked at the funniest thing I ever saw was in the law library there was a, it was like, if you have a grasp, if you have a path like through a yard where.
Where it's all worn down. It's like dirt because people are walking across it and cutting across it a grass path or something. There was the, there was a path in the carpeting [00:19:00] to the Martindale Hubble, which used to not be online where people would go read about the prestige of the people they were up against in different matters, which I thought was very funny.
There would just be people walking back and forth all day. And more concerned about the prestige of the attorneys they were working with than knowing maybe the law and cuz there certainly wasn't those past different legal books. It was funny. But a lot of attorneys do base their happiness on the largest house, the most expensive card, other trades, they base it on grades and where they went to law school and all this stuff and where they worked.
And and I I don't know that is, is in your best interest. I think your best interest is really the people and and and the people that you're around and the culture that you're in, whether or not you're happy. And if you are with a culture of people that are interested in the same things you are, that's perfectly fine if it's grades or Prestige things, but it I don't know.
But what I don't is the fact that when you go to the wrong culture like the example I gave you of my friend it can often destroy your career and and it can often end your [00:20:00] career or it can make you very unhappy or because you can't cope you may get into substances and have problems and divorces and it's just not good.
The it's very superficial to think that everything about a firm is about the firm billable, our requirements and superficial how much they pay and prestig level. It's it's less difficult and more difficult to find out about the firm's culture and whether not that culture's a place where you'll be happy and least over the course of your career.
And honestly, there's a lot of ways to evaluate culture. It, sometimes you can know people that worked in the firm and they can say good things about it or you can interview there. And most cultures, by the way, one of the my core beliefs is that anytime you're looking for a job, you should be applying, trying to talk to as many people as possible.
And the reason for that is as fairly simple, it's because first of all you Law firms. You don't know who has a job many times. So even if the law firm doesn't have a job opening, they may, if they like you they'll bring you in or if they have a need, they'll bring you in. But also law firms will look at your [00:21:00] resume and will identify you based on the type of attorneys that they hire.
And I can, I know the type of attorneys that different law firms hired based on my experience working with tens of thousands of attorneys. I can look at a resume and get a very good sense of who's gonna interview them. That's how law firms are too, because they can tell if you look like a good cultural fit for them and they can tell if you're not, if you have if you say you were president of your fraternity or something on your resume, or there's certain firms that will look at that and say, is this guy kidding or this, or, what the, who does this person think they are?
And other people look that and oh, this is great. We love people that were in fraternity. There's just different cultures and it's just how things work. And money is just definitely not something you should consider. And and and I think it's it really doesn't make that much of a difference.
In in your happiness over the course of your career you, you honestly should not be practicing law, probably if you, if your whole goal is to make money. It's a good way to make money if you're in the right practice area, but you have to actually enjoy a lot of what you're doing.
And and I think the big thing [00:22:00] that, that I would offer along these lines as well is if you go to the right firm the odds are that you'll, that's a good cultural fit because you're around people that will encourage you because you're around people you enjoy being with, because you're around people that, that see the best in you that because you're around people that you see the best in them, because you understand the mission because all these different things are going to make a massive difference.
And and you will probably be practicing you could practice your whole career if you go to the wrong firm with the wrong culture, just because of money or something. The odds are you're gonna be very unhappy and probably end up believing. I see people that are incredibly talented all the time leave the practice law just because they had such a bad experience.
I I saw one woman that was not too long ago that I don't know, she was making $380,000 a year in a big firm in New York. And I was very unhappy and and and I was working with her to find another job and then ended up moving to San Francisco and taking classes to learn how [00:23:00] to be a computer coder.
Which is cool. I think it's pretty cool actually. And she was a really cool girl. And but the point is that, and she was a cool girl, but the point is that that that's how disgruntled people get, cuz she could have certainly worked anywhere else, but she'd only worked at one big firm and thought that everything was negative.
And and it is many times this is the people that come to these webinars and tend to be people from big firms. It's often the best attorneys and the, this particular girl I'm thinking about what to Columbia and was a, very, did very well. It's often the very best attorneys that go to the very best firms that that have such bad experiences that they end up leaving.
I a guy in my high school class was incredibly smart guy, wait, list Harvard when he was 14 or something. Ludicrous. And and then, went to Princeton and top of his class at Columbia and and went to KBA and by all counts should have been, one of the more successful attorneys, I was incredibly smart guy.
And now he's in finance or something, so people will leave. If they're in the wrong culture, they'll [00:24:00] stay. If they're not, and they'll stay if they are. And and so I've seen people that have worked in, again, I've say New York here, but it could be Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, anywhere.
But people started at these incredible firms like these just really good firms. And then they have such bad experiences. They run so far. They dislike it so much. They end up doing things like selling cars, which actually is a very good job. I have nothing against car salespeople, but but even postmen, I've seen truck drivers.
I've seen I, I can't believe it. I see this stuff all the time. Lots and lots of career contract attorneys, again, nothing wrong with that. You can do very well being a contract attorney and be very happy, but the point is, it's just not their. And and the potential should be it realized and can often be realized when you're in the right environment.
And and I don't like seeing that. I think it's, I think it's sad. I don't understand it. I don't and I, but I, what I understand about it is the same thing that happened to me, which is going to the wrong environment. Can really give you a poor taste of practicing [00:25:00] law and make you feel like maybe this is not something I wanna do.
Because it's just, there's the culturally. Just so you understand. And I guess the, and you can anytime someone and a lot of the mistakes that I've made in my career are related to yelling at people, getting mad, belittling people, telling people that make stupid mistakes, cutting people off.
All, not talking to people like all these sorts of things that happened to all of us and the people that have done that stuff to me I can remember them not in from when I was, 10 years old, I remember people that were mean to me or mayor, people that are mean to everybody remembers it.
And so if you have a bad experience with people and people are not nice to you, that makes you think that maybe the environment or the just practicing law is the problem. Or a lot of times people will go to college and not good first semester grades and drop out. They'll think college is the problem.
And it's just the problem is not practicing law. The problem is often the, in the environment and when people are not nice to you [00:26:00] it's often the environment. It's just, that's the way that environment works. The environments are law firms have different cultures. Some of them are.
The just, I could talk about law firm cultures for hours, but the different types of law firm cultures, but the point is you need to find one that works for you. And if you don't it can be horrible for you or can be and you may actually be very happy right now.
And and if you are, that's probably and think, but maybe some things wrong. Maybe you are in the right culture. That's probably true. And I every day I speak with attorneys that and I see resumes every day. But people that started practicing law at great firms and then stopped some practices stopped in one year, sometimes every year.
There's people that start in big firms and leave after a couple months, even though they went to great Ivy league schools and stuff. And and because they're disillusion, when they say, I would never work in another law firm, I'd only go in house and as if in-house is a completely different culture which I guess it is, but there's different in-house cultures as well.
And these resumes are often littered with just [00:27:00] job after job. So sometimes people that go into the wrong culture will go to another firm and then another firm and then another firm. And and often all they're doing is moving to what a, a firm that's gonna have a similar culture.
Sometimes people will do what are called geographic moves, thinking that they're gonna be happy if they move from Texas to Miami, because it's gonna be completely different. And honestly, the there's firms in Miami that are extremely uptight. Oh, actually quite a few. And there's firms in Texas that are extremely easygoing quite a few.
So it's just sometimes you just get into the wrong firm. And and most attorneys will choose one type of firm and we will try to work in a similar type of firm and and they may work in a law firm culture. That's just a bad fit. And they never got the opportunity to find out what it was like practicing law with a group of people, they like respect and profit emotionally from.
And I tell the story I, I don't tell it on every webinar, but I tell it on a lot of webinars. When I was when I got outta law school, I went and clerked in a town [00:28:00] that's called bay city, Michigan, which is about I don't know, maybe an hour and a half from Detroit, maybe a little less than that.
And and it was part of the Detroit district. I actually interviewed Detroit and then ended up the judge clerk, wor whose chambers were there. But the, and that's where I'm from, by the way, I'm from Detroit. So I was working there and it was funny cuz there were some law firms in this town.
There were people that graduated from like Michigan and Thomas Cooley and these other local law schools. And and that were young and had all start were starting on these law firms. And some of 'em were, had been there two or three years and others were new. So I met several attorneys that were local and they wanted, they would come into the court as associates of partners and things, arguing cases, and sometimes argue cases on their own.
But the funny thing was is I met several of them and then I looked them all up several years later meaning recently. And they were all at the same firm. They all looked healthy and happy and healthy for the most part. And but they were almost all of them that I'd known, which was quite a few, not a [00:29:00] lot, but a handful were still the same firms and still practicing.
And but I don't think I've known anyone except very few people that have ever started at a firm that I've known in a big city that are still there. And and it's fascinating to me that when I saw that and I, and a lot of times when you people go to smaller markets, I know all sorts of people.
I went to law school with, it might have been from Georgia or small town in Georgia, or I know some people I went to college with that were from, smaller markets and they moved home and they're still at the same firm they joined. And it's people that kind of get into this rat race that end up leaving.
And and I don't know, it's I think a lot of it has to do with cultures and different size firms and large markets versus smaller markets. It's just something to think about. But when you can fit in with a computer, a community of lawyers and make up a particular law firm it really can make a big difference in how happy you are and if you don't fit in it can change your whole career path.
I don't it's fascinating. It's it makes such a huge difference. [00:30:00] And how successful people are. It could be it's it could be, the school you go to can make a difference. The if you go to one college versus another college, you might do well on one or not the other, and the firm is the same thing and the and and the choice of the area you're in.
And and the type of people you identify with neighborhoods are the same. It's it's, there's neighborhoods in LA that are that were, that are really funny. They're just very the people are very uptight and serious, and there's others where the people are just ridiculously I'm uptight, and there's others where people are.
It's just that, it's all it. It's just, you need to be in a community of people where you feel accepted and where there's people around you that, that share the same goals and aspirations and where you feel comfortable. People of different races and will move to different areas.
There's areas of LA that. People of, that are from those areas, Thai people, there's areas for meaning people. People will often move to areas where they're comfortable because of their race. They'll move to areas where they're comfortable because of their religion.
They'll move to their area. And it's the same thing with employers. Like you need to, [00:31:00] whatever you think you are, you need to find a group of people that are very similar to you and and work in a in an environment that matters. And when you're interviewing with firms, think about it.
Is it, do you feel like you'll be accepted there or do you feel like you, you won't be one of the dumbest things that I've ever seen and I'm, I don't know why to say this, but I'll just, I, as I was working with a woman, not too long ago, that was a I think she was a trademark attorney, but she was in a small firm and and she really wanted to go to a bigger firm.
And so she got an offer and took it that I helped, I think I helped her get it, but I didn't. Representative for it. But she got an offer as a, in I don't know where she was. She might have been Chicago or something, but she got a job as a contract attorney or staff attorney in a big firm when she was in a good, a respectable firm in the same city working as a trademark attorney as an associate where she could have been partner and she was on.
And so she decided she wanted to go to a firm and be a contract attorney just cause it was a bigger firm. And, is [00:32:00] that a good idea or staff attorney? Is that a good idea? I don't know. Would you wanna, they're not gonna, I don't know, but that you understand what I'm saying is that if somebody wants to be accepted where they're going that maybe you're better off sometimes working in a firm that's not as good.
I was in a firm once where they hired someone that I was in a firm. It was it was all what I guess I'll say it. I was at Quin Emanuel and the at the time I was the only person that ever hired from university. It doesn't matter what law school I went to, but I went to a decent law school and and I was the only person that they'd ever hired from this top 10 law school that I went to.
And and and most of the people there were from very, even better schools, much better schools than I went to. And they hired someone from a law school. That's no longer in existence. It's called wittier. That's a with, and it went out, basically went out of business, cuz people couldn't pass the bar, come out and they hired an attorney from there and everyone was like, what the hell?
This is insane. And no one would talk to this [00:33:00] person and so why would you wanna go to a, and I certainly did, I didn't care, but why would you wanna go to a firm while you're not accepted and where people just suddenly don't think highly of you and they hired this person? I think because his I don't wanna talk about it, but the point is that and the person didn't last long there and didn't keep up with the work.
But the point is why would you wanna go somewhere where you're not accepted? If you, or you're not light. Why would you wanna go to somebody that's firm where there's not people like you just like this contract attorney person dead or you're why would you wanna go to a firm like that or.
I just don't understand it. You have to go to a firm where you're comfortable and where the culture matches, what you wanna do. And and geography of course is not the same as culture. But you wanna be happy and accepted wherever you're going. And and you need to be able to identify with those people and you need to feel like there's people that will have your back and and that you understand it.
And and and and that's very important. Yeah. The best time to really find a good culture when you're trying to move, I think is when you're moving laterally you [00:34:00] can when you're moving laterally one of the nice things is you have the ability to talk to lots of places and see if there's a place that matches what you wanna do.
You can often if you work with us as recruiting firm or use or if you search on your own, you can look at tons of places. You have the ability to. Go out and look at big firms and small firms in different markets and see who who's going to where you feel most comfortable and and and you need to think if you'll like it or not and what you're your potential is there and get a sense of it.
And and and the culture may vary from practice group to practice group. And and it's impossible often to pin down without any meaningful certainty whether or not the firm was gonna be a good fit for you. I was thinking that was funny when I was in college.
I after my first semester, I think they assigned these guidance counselors to you, or even, or to help you choose classes and things and and the, this guidance counselor said, if you wanna go to a good law school [00:35:00] and back then, I think the average grade point in my college was like a 2.7 or something.
This is univers of Chicago, and you're gonna need to get at least a 3.3 or something. And I was like, this is crazy. And and so when I would take class, when I would take classes, I would always go in in the first couple days, and I would get a sense of the teacher's outlook and whether or not I thought that I could identify with that person and they would identify with me and then therefore get a good grade.
And that worked. I don't know how I did it, but I would see certain types of people where I could identify with them and vice versa. And you need to do the same thing with and it worked and you need to do the same thing with the firms. You need to get a sense of these cultures match you and what you like.
And and and so you go into the interviews and you speak with people and you get a sense of what they're like. And and and what, what would be like working there. And and it's much different when you're interviewing laterally than as a law student interviews, they're certainly looking at culture and you can look at that.
But in a lateral search law firms, [00:36:00] you have really the ability to get a better sense of the culture many times. And and and and I think it can be much different and then just interviewing this law. Now, law students can also get a sense of the culture. Many law students will go to the best firm.
They can get a job with. I think that there's some validity to doing that if but over time after one or two years if you're not happy where you're at legitimately not happy, then can make sense to go to another firm and and find a better culture. And and because it's going to make a big difference.
And and also the summer associate, obviously, if you have a choice between two firms similar prestige levels, you're often better off you're definitely better off choosing the one with the best culture. So how do you evaluate from culture. You can research it.
You can that the culture of the firm is often going to be due to can be due if it's a branch office versus a a a main office, a branch office often has a different culture than the main office. But there's, hourly billing things. You can read reviews online, [00:37:00] you can all sorts of things you can find.
But the biggest thing often is just is going to be less, is more subjective. So some of the ways the culture can be formed in firms will be the partner associate ratio. You can get a sense of. You know what that, what the firm's like often because of that you can understand the competition level, the firm you may feel more comfortable many times when there's more associates than partners.
And that, that can make a difference. You may be more interested in a place for few associates where you can work directly with partners. And and and you just have to think about what type of environment's going to help you thrive the most. And and you may be better off a situation where you're just working with one partner, a few partners.
It just depends on what works for you. Diversity is very important for a lot of people. But diversity has to also work for you in terms of how that diversity works. You want, you wanna make sure that not just that with race and sex and religion and different types of diversity, but you have to be in an [00:38:00] environment where you feel like that it's going to be helpful for you and and where you're not gonna feel.
Discriminated or or lack out because because of your background and that can make a huge difference. I wrote a book few years ago, maybe four or five years ago about diversity and was just amazed about how how the whole kind of process plays out behind the scenes.
I talked to lots and lots of people around the country and meaning experts in it. And and it was very interesting. And and then, home versus satellite office, a lot of times the, if it's a satellite office, there can be less security for the attorneys there. There, there can be the, the attorneys may not be the same quality may be difficult to make partner, or it could be a better office.
It could be a much better place to work because the demands aren't as much. And so the but most of the time, the personality, the main office will carry over. In most cases, not all large law firm, satellite offices do better in these associate satisfaction type surveys. But not always it's much harder in most cases also to make partner in satellite offices.
[00:39:00] So that's something to think about. And you just need to understand that a lot of times people will always talk about that they would never work in this firm. They would never work in that firm. What you need to understand is each practice area in the firm is different. So I've known people that have worked in the most demanding worst reputation for hours firms.
There are and have had incredible experiences, meaning they really liked them. And and it was very not stressful and very easy going and other people have taken jobs and different types of. Firms and been in other practice areas. So the practice area, the firm often has a big impact on how happy you are as well.
So if you are a litigator and go to work in a corporate firm, it's gonna be that you may not be as happy in the culture because you may be one of few litigators and you may not be getting working on serious cases and you may not have a lot of advancement potential. And there may be there, there may not be as much, there may be more pressure to, I don't know, but it's just, it depends.
So you have to think about that. You have to think about how [00:40:00] management decisions are gonna be made and how close you are to management. I've known people that were in the main office of a firm and had no prospect of making partner, but then all of a sudden we're put on a trial in a far away city with a, the hiring partner or not the hiring.
The managing partner or one of the founders of the firm and became part, there's all sorts of things that can happen when you're in a main office and not a satellite office that can help you. And most of the time satellite offices can be a little bit dangerous to work in not always, but a lot of times.
And and there's certainly not that, and there's a lot of articles I've written about this. I would recommend taking a look at some of that you should understand the type of clients, the firm has the the stability of those clients, the. You know where the clients come from.
And these are a lot of questions. I don't need to go through all of them but you know that but you do need to do the best you can to understand cultures locations can make a difference, but again, locations can have positive and negative connotations. Some [00:41:00] people think that working in I dunno Hawaii would be great and there's some very laid back firms in Hawaii, but there's also some extremely demanding firms in Hawaii.
So the location of the firm can often make a big difference. And Washington DC firms typically are more heavy on litigation related stuff. And not very not as much corporate and same New York is much heavier on Corporate related stuff and not as much on on litigation.
So it just depends on many times the office you're working in. And and these are all important questions. So these are not questions necessarily that I need to go through with you because I think you probably understand most of them but the clients of the firm will shape the way the firm, the culture is so many times what'll happen is your firms that tend to be more entrepreneurial will be often representing smaller clients or mid-size clients and bringing in new clients.
And and that has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Your firms that are less entrepreneurial and more stayed and established will often have large [00:42:00] institutional clients. Both of those have positives and negatives. If I was working in a giant firm for example, where the only clients I could bring in were huge clients like that that, just major clients.
I, I don't know that I would be as happy then if I could develop a lot of small business, was talking to someone I dunno, a year or so ago about representing us and Some sort of trademark dispute or something. And they said we would only take the case of that was gonna at a minimum, the fees would be at least 500,000.
And I was like, wow, this is how some firms are and other firms would take a very small case you case. So it just doesn't, have to think about that and the different size clients. And these are just all kind of questions that you need to ask and you will often be comfortable or less comfortable depending on the answers to these.
And and but the the more, the larger the clients and the larger the firms the more the firm tends to be run almost like a large corporation with lots of rules. And and it's often very hard to advance and very hard to bring in clients and the smaller the [00:43:00] firms less. So those are just, and these can shape the culture a lot.
And in big firms, you can lose your job for making a mistake that sets a big client. I saw I was at a firm once and they were having a summer associate event. I don't know what it was. And some summer associate had a little bit too much to drink and said something that was a little bit offensive to one of the firm's clients and, wasn't hired and which is sad, cuz he was a very, hot top of his class, Harvard law school and all these things.
And so it just depends. Whereas if that happened at a, with a small client at a smaller firm, maybe nothing would've happened. So you have to just understand what the culture is like and how risk a adverse things are. So these are in the article that this presentation is based on you can read a lot about this, but there's, obviously dress codes and and all sorts of other ways to think about.
Firms are governed in different ways. Many times the firm governance will have a lot to do with whether or not you're happy. Some firms are very democratic and want your [00:44:00] input and decisions. Others don't want anything. And basically you're in the dark and then that can be stressful for a lot of people.
Many cultures are very inclusive. Others are not it's just these are all issues to think about when you're working in a firm. And these are lots and lots of issues, and I don't need to go too much into it. But one of the things I would recommend being very careful about is negative reviews of firms.
So most of the time when they're negative reviews of firms, what firms do just like all businesses with the people that don't work out is they push them out or they they basically get rid of them because they're trying to. Maintain a certain type of culture or they're trying to make sure that they keep around performers and they push out non-performers.
So the people that are performing have more income and and can advance and the people that aren't performing it's the opposite. So the people that lead that reviews for firms are often the people that were pushed out or didn't get along with that type of culture. That doesn't mean [00:45:00] it's a bad firm.
It means it was a bad firm for that sort of person. And and that's okay. So you have to realize that anytime you see a negative review about a firm from people that worked there, these could just be people that had sour grapes, because they didn't do a good job. I was talking to a law firm partner I dunno, a couple days ago.
And and she was telling me that. She's been frankly, firing a lot of her attorneys because a lot of what she's been seeing and she was saying, this is recently I don't know why this is changing, but she's seen a lot of smoke and mirrors, meaning people acting like they're billing and not people, not available when they're supposed to be available.
And and those people are mad and of course they're leaving bad reviews for her firm. And and she's just looking out for the people that are working there by pushing those kind of people out. So people many times will not get along with firms and and the people that are the most vocal often are the people that are having those problems.
So I would just caution you to be very careful about what people are saying about firms. And and if they're saying bad things then you need to [00:46:00] make sure that that it's not just someone that's has sour grapes because they may not done well in that environment.
And and often the best firms hate to say this, but the very best firms will bring everyone in and have clear expectations and people that are unhappy will self-select and leave. And and that, and and not be upset because they real realize they weren't able to do that. But the worst firms.
Or the next level down are firms that are very aggressive about maintaining their culture and will push people out that aren't working but may not necessarily do in the right way and upset people. And then of course the worst firms are the ones that have arbitrary standards that no one can understand.
And that upset people. One thing I would say about culture I hate, I don't want to talk too much about this. But one thing that's really important about culture is a lot of firms to maintain their cultures. Won't do a lot of lateral hiring. They won't hire a lot of partners. They're very careful about any type of lateral hiring they do.
And they tend to have often very large summer associate programs are [00:47:00] very well at the design cultures and and just very careful. And and the reason for that is because they're trying to maintain their culture. A lot of other firms are more focused on, we need to bring in money, we need to make money.
And so they will, they'll emerge. They'll absorb practice groups from other firms and they end up with this mishmash people that left different firms that were unhappy there and are really only United by money and not culture partners won't share work with each other.
And it just can be a fricking nightmare. And those are horrible cultures many times. And and so you need to understand what that means and and how that can affect culture as well. It's just a a warning that I would give everyone to, in terms of how you look at things.
So then you have lifestyle firms honestly I'm not gonna talk too much about that. You have white shoe lifestyle firms but let's see here billing hour requirements. One of the warnings I would give you, I would give you two warnings. One lifestyle firms there really are some lifestyle firms, but if it's a lifestyle firm what that means is it's probably not gonna have a [00:48:00] lot of business or it's not gonna be hard to do very time sensitive things.
Clients are always going to go to firms that are gonna be the most responsive and able to help them being a doctor is similar to being a lawyer. Whereas if you have to go do surgery, you need to do surgery. And and that, that can't be helped. It's not you're taking time off and therefore no surgery.
So the you need to be able to depending on the firm realize that most firms that call themselves lifestyle firms, if they get enough work, they're not gonna be a lifestyle firm anymore. Most firms that call themselves boutique firms. If they get enough work, they're not gonna be boutique firms anymore.
Most firms that call themselves white shoe firms what that typically means is they've got a business model that's working and they're not gonna mess with it. It's just the, most of these stuff that people say about firms is not necessarily always true in the long run.
And you need to understand that so that in politics, this is just a lot of information here. But my, my advice is that I, with all this stuff [00:49:00] you need to go into the firm. You need to talk to people. You need to ask questions, you need to take the The the ideas you get in the interview, whether or not you feel comfortable.
A lot of times the comfort is just a natural thing. People don't have to say anything negative for you to be uncomfortable. They often don't have to say anything positive for you to be comfortable. So you need to be comfortable in the environment. You need to make sure that when you're talking to firms that you're asking interviewers to maybe ask them to, sometimes you can ask them what their firm's compared to other firms.
If someone came there from another site or another firm, you need to ask them why they're there, what they, why they came over, what they liked about it. A lot of times you'll just get these real bland off discussions. And that don't mean anything. And, but you can often tell a lot by the type of people.
And and you can often tell a lot about how the support staff seems. So you will go certain firms. I went into one firm once in LA. It was very funny. It was I feel wasn't funny. Everyone just seemed, it was so quiet and everyone seemed so unhappy and offices were beautiful, but it was, it [00:50:00] just seemed like very like unhappy place.
And and these, and and I was interviewing and after one of the interviewers, they sat me in a hall. On this, Victorian type of chair and and and I was sitting there and I sat there for 15 minutes and I couldn't hear anything. I didn't, I couldn't only thing I could hear was like the hum of a I don't know, air conditioning somewhere.
And it was this giant firm. And and so I, I realized that, it was very quiet. It was the people weren't happy that it was tight and you can get a sense just from that. You can tell when doors are open or closed, what that means people are happy. You can say, you can tell by work styles and all these sorts of things.
So you just have to understand what makes you the most comfortable and when you go into a place and that's really what I would recommend. And I think you have to interview with a lot of places. I think you have to talk to a lot of places, see what makes you comfortable and and apply to as many places as you can when you're looking for a job as cuz you need, want to get the right culture.
And and and many times an offers a really good [00:51:00] opportunity to understand if a firm's a good fit. If you you can often go back and ask some questions, you can. You can call and talk to people and other things you can research some more.
A lot of firms are very accommodating in offering different, posting of your lunches. And you can do that or meetings. That's one way to tell about the culture if you're still unsure. But if you are unsure often that's not a good sign, but that's one option.
Just to kind wrap this up in order to be happy you need to find the right culture. It's not about salary. It's about culture. It's about the people that you're working with whether or not you feel like you could be happy there with the people it's about the environment that you're in whether or not the environment makes you happy.
It's about whether or not you feel like you have long term potential there. And it's not about it's ex it's not about externalities. It's not about things like the salary the office location it's about whether or not you feel you're around a group of people essentially that will protect you and look out for you in your career.
And and if they're not those sorts of people then and it's not to [00:52:00] say that you're ever going to find that especially as you're an associate right away, but then you need to take pause. You need to make sure do you meet people like that? And do you like speaking to them, do you, do they make you comfortable?
Do you talk about the same things? Do you connect? Cause if you don't connect, that's a problem. And and that's where you. You need to understand that something could be go wrong for you. There's no rapport. If you just feel like you're just a cog in the wheel, maybe you need to find a place where there is that rapport.
And again, remember that 85% success is not about technical things. It's about the ability of you to connect with others, other people, to like you to to get along with others, to and that's, and so your BCG is knowledge about very small cultures that, I guess that's true, but at the same time, the culture is something that is a feeling that's going to, that you're going to get.
And it's really more about that and than anything. And if you don't get a good feeling typically you have to trust your first instincts and those instincts are going to most often be right. And I would [00:53:00] recommend if it was me and I was looking for a position after a couple years of practice you really do want to find a place where you're comfortable and you need to talk to lots of people.
It's you, when you're when you're making friends is it, do you have one friend and that's it, or one romantic partner. And that's it. You can, a lot of people do have one romantic partner in their whole lives, but the, but maybe there's other people or other that are more compatible, maybe there's other things that are more compatible cuz you need to be comfortable with the people that you're with.
And it's it's really what it's all about. It's more important than than anything. And law firms are businesses. They will say they will offer money. They will talk about things like snacks and retreats and bonuses and all these things. But but that doesn't buy happiness.