I am an attorney in Miami. I have been out of law school for five years. I worked with a small firm for a year and then went solo and have been doing contract work for other law firms for the past four years. For the past year I have been trying to get a position as an associate with a small firm – but have not had any success. Recently, I had an interview with a 2 attorney (2 partners in their early 70s) firm and I thought the interview went well – I believe that I impressed them with my legal knowledge and skills. However, I did not get the position. They advised me that they were looking for less of a lawyer and more of a business person. What am I doing wrong?
I help many of our law firm clients hire lawyers for associate and lateral positions as well as search for merger candidates. One of my favorite questions is – are you more of a lawyer or a business man or woman. Small firms are more often than not looking for candidates that are both. In a small firm you must be able to bring in clients, manage people (clients, lawyers, and staff), and perform quality legal work. There are a lot of good lawyers available on the market – there are less good lawyers that are also good business persons.
I suspect that the firm you interviewed with is looking at this hire to be part of the firm's succession strategy and the partners are looking for a lawyer/business person that can carry the firm to the next generation of practice.
Next time you interview with a firm in a similar situation – blend in a discussion of business topics as well. Even though you are a solo doing contract work you can still share some business experiences. You have had to bill for your services, manage your receivable and payables, market yourself and your practice, etc. Share your thoughts.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC