Legal Career Tips: 4 Critical Questions to Ask About Office Culture

Legal Career Tips

A company’s workplace environment or corporate culture, which includes management styles, business values and other factors, often can directly impact employees' job satisfaction and productivity levels. In fact, some legal professionals would go so far as to say office culture is more important than salary.

If you find that the workplace culture at your legal department or law firm doesn’t fit your personality or share your values, you’ll never feel truly passionate about your legal career — and you may even dread going to work every day. This is why it’s crucial to assess the workplace environment of a prospective employer before you accept a legal job offer.

Here are four critical questions you should ask during every legal job interview. They can help you determine whether the employer’s office culture is the right fit for your approach to work.

1. What three words best describe your company's workplace culture?

This question cuts right to the chase. Because the interviewer must summarize the workplace environment clearly and concisely, you’re almost certain to get a straight answer. But keep a close eye on the interviewer’s body language. If you sense nervousness or if the answer is somewhat vague, you may not be getting a completely honest answer. After all, the interviewer not only is trying to determine if you’d be a good fit, but also wants to sell you on this particular legal job.

2. What does it take for a legal professional to be successful here?

The answer to this question will give you valuable insights about what the company deems important. Does the firm value risk-taking or more careful, conservative choices? Does the company reward team players or commend legal professionals for working autonomously? When you learn which personality traits and work style the company values, you’ll have a better idea of how you would fit in.

3. What’s the office environment like here?

Pay close attention to the adjectives the interviewer uses to describe the workplace atmosphere. These words can give you a feel for whether the law firm or company culture is casual or formal, fast-paced or slow and steady, rooted in routine or more geared toward spur-of-the-moment flexibility. You may even discern if the staff is a close-knit bunch that sometimes enjoys socializing together or if employees tend to go their separate ways once the workday ends.

4. Can I meet other employees on the legal team?

If the employer hasn’t already built this step into the interview process, ask whether you can speak one-on-one with some of your potential coworkers. This is often the fastest way to grasp the office culture and get a feel for some of the team’s personalities and attitudes.

Remember: A job interview isn’t just an opportunity for the employer to learn more about you, the legal professional. It’s also a time for you to learn more about your potential employer. When the hiring manager asks you if you have any questions, that's your cue to dive deeper into company culture and gain information that will help you decide if you actually want the job once the company extends an offer.

How do you size up a company or law firm's workplace environment before accepting a legal job offer? Share your tips in the comments. 

Tags: Interviewing