Karen Sargent

Karen Sargent

While Richard Susskind urges law schools to address the academic and skills-based education to equip law graduates, he also addresses job-seeking young lawyers and extols them to ascertain how prospective law firm employers are planning and adapting to the future practice of law. Does a firm have what it takes—the business plan, the forward-thinking adaptation to client needs, the openness to technological advancements—to move the firm, and hence the careers of their attorneys, forward?

In this excerpt from Susskind’s book, he offers insightful advice to young lawyers applying for a job, directing them to ask a few pointed questions to uncover a firm’s preparations for the practice law in the future. Two of those key inquiries include whether a firm has articulated a long-term strategy and whether the firm is incorporating or has a plan to incorporate technology.

Whether the young attorney is seeking a job with a large, global firm or a smaller, local law firm, these questions are relevant and valid to ask. A young attorney should always try to learn how well a firm is managed as a business. Susskind aptly points out that any going concern should have a business plan. Attorneys who cannot demonstrate that their firm has thought through a business plan will not be equipped to tweak their plan for changes in the legal market. However, in probing about a long-term strategy the young attorney needs to demonstrate an open communication style. Key will be asking the questions in a non-confrontational way. There is no quicker way to lose a job opportunity than appearing to be an arrogant inquisitor.

As important to the young attorney should be whether the prospective firm is incorporating technology into their legal work. As I work with students, I see students who have grown up with technology, leveraging it to save time and gain access to new knowledge. What a great opportunity to work for a business or firm that embraces technology and can get the most out the new associates. Firms that are not adapting to technological advancements will be sorely underutilizing the young associate workforce. I would caution the young lawyer if a firm is slow to use technology, this might signal long hours and old thinking.

While no law firm is immune from unexpected changes in our world such as the international and national economy or local laws and regulations, it is only through forward-thinking preparation that firms will improvise, adapt and overcome such changes and thrive. A smart young lawyer, in addition to posing these questions to their prospective employer, also needs to be prepared in the interview to answer for himself the same questions posed by Susskind to be able to contribute value to his firm in the future.

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