Ways to Assess the Workplace Culture of a Potential Employer in a Legal Job Interview

The law firm I’m working for is not a good fit for me, which I didn’t realize until after I accepted the position and started working here. Now that I’ve applied for another legal job and have been invited for an interview, do you have any legal career advice for how to avoid falling into the same situation again?

That’s an excellent question. During job interviews, most professionals are so focused on answering thehiring manager’s questions that they frequently forget to assess the company culture while they’re there. Even if the salary, bonus structure, benefits and perks are ideal, you won’t enjoy a legal job in a place where you feel you simply don’t belong.

While you don’t say why you feel the job isn’t a good fit for you, here is some legal career advice for evaluating prospective employers during the hiring process that may help in your next endeavor:

  • Assess the staff. During the check-in process and the actual interview, are your interactions with employees friendly or formal? Is the office atmosphere seem calm or high-energy? If possible, ask for a tour. Are you excited or put off by the possibility of working there for the next few years?
  • Consider the physical environment. Take a look around. Do you see clutter, tired furnishings or outdated technology? While you can’t draw firm conclusions on appearances alone, work areas that are tidy and modern indicate a firm or department that cares about its workers, their comfort and overall productivity — not to mention keeping up with the times.
  • Gauge the hierarchy. Pay attention to the people you’re introduced to. If you interview with a large number of staff, including possible future colleagues, then the firm is likely consensus-driven. If you speak with just the law office manager or a few key seniors, that suggests decisions are made at the top and trickle down.
  • Ask solid questions.Near the end of the interview, many hiring managers ask whether candidates have any questions. Take advantage of this opportunity.Ask about the office culture, such as the description of a typical day, whether the preferred work style is collaborative or individual, and other questions based on your own preferences. Important legal career advice: The first interview is not the time to ask about vacation days, flextime or anything else that suggests you care only about your own interests.

While there’s no substitute for actual experience to know what a particular legal job is truly like, you can gain a great deal of insight by keeping your eyes and ears open and asking thoughtful questions.