Young Lawyers: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Recently I read a piece which was prepared as advice to young black women lawyers but has a broader application beyond that group. The piece addresses the right questions to ask when interviewing with a firm in this post-pandemic world. Experiences with COVID-19 have changed so much in our society, and that certainly is true when it comes to the post-pandemic practice of law.

You cannot assume that some of what you learned about interviewing pre-pandemic will any longer hold true. One of the most far-reaching changes in law firms, that of remote work, is especially important for firms with offices located in highly-populated urban areas where many of the firm members must rely on overcrowded mass transit for commutes.

Allowing firm members to work from home — or from Starbuck’s — has been the solution for many firms, and also has proven to be very profitable. So, it will be no surprise if remote work continues as at least a partial option into the future. As attractive as the opportunity to work remotely appears to many lawyers, it also presents significant challenges for new hires in terms of integration into a family of lawyers. And those challenges cannot be overlooked.

The essay, which was written for the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, is based on the author’s experiences interviewing during the pandemic when everything, including meeting new colleagues and clients, communication with colleagues, clients, and staff, and developing rapport with members of those cohorts was done remotely. She emphasizes the “two-way” street of responsibility for positive outcomes and the importance of keeping new hires engaged to assure successful assimilation — and, I would add, to retain talent.

This is very sound advice and will continue to be important as “new normals” develop in law firms. So, here are the questions you should be asking (with a bit of editing on my part):

1. How has the firm handled the transition from office to remote work?
2. How are partners maintaining communication with associates?
3. How is the effective communication achieved between lawyers and support staff?
4. What does the firm do to ensure employees stay connected?

Asking questions in advance can alleviate a lot of pain down the road. Be prepared!

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