5 Things Law Firms Look for in Prospective Associates

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on January 24, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Maybe you're unemployed and looking for a job at BigLaw, or maybe you've put in more than a year at your BigLaw firm and want to try out another BigLaw firm (say, one of the top fifty law firms for women). I recently came across an article in Careerealism that listed the seven qualities law firms look for in recruits. While the writer brings up some good points, I think that some of the points -- namely, commercial awareness, teamwork, and entrepreneurial instinct -- are off base.

Take if from me, I worked at NYC BigLaw and from what I remember, commercial awareness, teamwork and entrepreneurial instinct were not high on the list of qualities looked for in prospective recruits.

In fact, a recent study by Susan Wawrose, of University of Dayton School of Law, established exactly the opposite. According to The Wall Street Journal, prospective employers are more interested in "the softer skills, like work ethic, collegiality and a sense of individual responsibility," rather than seeking graduates with great practical skills.

Back in December I gave five tips on how to be a great associate -- now, I'll share how you show you are a great associate on paper, and/or in an interview.

1. Have a Strong Work Ethic

The way you show your strong work ethic is by backing it up by your past experiences. You don't get ace grades and pass the bar without a strong work ethic. If you are already at BigLaw and looking to move, then you must stay at least one year. If you lasted a year at BigLaw, and are looking for another BigLaw job then the prospective employer will know that you what type of work ethic is required, and you're ready for more.

2. Have a Positive Attitude

Positive attitude will come across in your cover letter, and in your interview. Keep things light and don't get grumpy about anything, or speak negatively about past employers during your interview.

3. Work Independently

According to the study, lawyers did not want to "spoon feed" new associates -- so how do you show that you can work independently? By highlighting activities and past work that required you to work solo and take initiative.

4. Know How to Research

You can show that you know how to research in three ways: researching the firm, researching the people you will interview with, and by highlighting past projects. Researching the firm and interviewers will help you craft more relevant questions and show that you really want to be there. Highlighting past writing or legal projects that involved research will show that your research skills are strong.

5. Know How to Write

Your writing ability will come through in your resume and cover letter. Most legal applications also require a legal writing sample of some kind. Make sure it's good, and absolutely typo free.

These tips will help you show how great you are on paper, and in an interview. At the end of the day, law firms are looking for nice people that they won't mind spending 70+ hours a week with at the office.

How do you show how great you are on paper? Tweet us @FindLawLP.

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