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Summary: Knowing how a law firm hires its lawyers can be a key factor for you to get a legal position with them.
By the time graduation comes around, the next stop for many law students in their legal endeavors is to get a job with a law firm.
However, not all law firms conduct their hiring processes in the same way.
Some firms even hire law school graduates before they are certified as lawyers.
The takeaway: How and when you get hired depends exclusively on the law firm to which you apply.
Law careers are by no means universally fluid. Sweet spots in one’s law career, such as raises, bonuses, or ascension to a more senior level of associate or even to partner occur on at best, a random basis.
The same randomness is also a large part of being hired as a lawyer, particularly once you graduate law school. In fact, so arbitrary are the hiring practices from one law firm to the next, it can seem that no two law school graduates hiring saga are alike.
This can be difficult for a number of former law students, particularly as they graduate from law schools which emphasize process and structure, two qualities that legal outfits tend to lack in their hiring processes.
What young attorneys need to know about being hired by law firms is that much of how an attorney is on boarded depends upon the law firm itself.
Different Firms, Different Processes of Hiring
Okay, you’ve covered the basics, those basics being your completion and graduation from law school. You have done what is required of you by nearly every law firm before there is even the whisper of negotiation that may lead you to a job offer.
While all firms require by law that a lawyer who practices law within that firm be certified by successfully passing the bar exam, this does not necessarily preclude a lawyer who has not passed the bar from being hired.
Some law firms will hire law school graduates who have not yet passed the bar, and employ them to do everything but represent a client as a lawyer. Those new associates who have not yet passed the bar will generally do the following:
Administration work, such as filings
Preparation of briefs
Giving advice to others working on the same case, but as a noncertified attorney
This is particularly true for large private practice law firms. When a firm employs more than 500 attorneys nation or worldwide, there also tends to be an enormous amount of work that funnels into the law firm which may need immediate attention.
This is how some large prestigious law firms approach hiring law school graduates. In a sense:
Law firms simply can’t wait for the year’s crop of law school graduates to take their bar exams, particularly if an exam isn’t scheduled for a few months to a year in the future, and
If the law firm senses something special within you, they may feel it is in their best interests to hire you now even if you’re not yet a full-fledged attorney.
Of course other firms utilize other practices that budding attorneys will simply have to endure as they seek out law firm jobs or wait for law firm offers of a job.
With that said, there are law firms who operate their hiring processes much differently from those firms that hire new associates before they pass the bar.
As stoic and old school as this may seem that a firm will require you to not just graduate law school, but to have passed the bar as well, how that firm operates in its entirety needs to be considered by the recent graduates.
For instance, maybe that firm which requires you to have passed the bar maintains a heavy caseload that needs certified legal assistance by qualified lawyers on an ASAP basis. Therefore, once hired at a firm like this, they clearly expect you to hit the ground running and immediately chalk up billable hours during your representation of a client.
The importance and seriousness of the law firm’s clients and cases may also play into their practice of hiring only attorneys who have passed the bar.
In short, you need to know the law firm and how it hires its new lawyers to see how your qualifications line up with theirs.
How you performed and conducted yourself in law school can have a bearing on when you get hired.
Of course, there are other factors that go into when a law firm will hire you after you finish law school. The operative word in this, however, is “hire,” which in some respects can be subjective.
Some law firms might hire you while you’re still in law school. The thing is they won’t hire you as a lawyer, and particularly won’t hire you at a new associate’s salary. Instead, some law firms will hire law students to work summer internships with the intent to elevate these students to full associates’ status once they graduate and pass the bar exam.
Hence, the law firm is reserving the law student, making sure he or she does not get the opportunity to take their talents elsewhere.
To be sure, though, there are some law students who think negatively about this process, stating that the law firm is using students for petty legal work while also monopolizing the law school’s talent pool.
Other legal students think the polar opposite; rather than feeling insulted or used, they are grateful that a law firm would put that much faith and trust in someone who was only in their second year of law school. To know that a law firm wanted you to work for it two years before graduation, then continue to work for it after you do graduate and pass the bar is flattering to say the least.
Another deciding factor in how soon a law firm will hire you either once you graduate law school, or while you still attend law school, is of course, grades. High marks will get you hired more quickly as well as how you conduct yourself as a lawyer. This can be shown through successful internships and/or clerkships during your law school education.
So how long will it take to get hired?
No one can say. Really, it depends upon the law firm. Some hire prospective lawyers before they graduate, while others wait until all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed, as in having already graduated and passed the bar before presenting a job offer.
Do your due diligence early, preferably around the same time you commit to concentrating within your practice area of choice, and start researching law firms who work in your chosen practice area.
Familiarize yourself with what their hiring practices are, and if the law firm seems to be a fit to you as a lawyer and a person, assimilate yourself to attract that law firm to you as a soon-to-be graduate from law school.
It’s not a tall order to ask. After all this is your legal career we’re talking about, which without a doubt you’ve worked very hard for.
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