Ask yourself the big questions. Are you seeking to support individuals – or drive sweeping change across organisations? Do you want a flexible lifestyle or do you love the grind of long hours in the office? Start with knowing what you value, advises Leonie Green, Director at Conscious Workplace and LPMC Coordinator with the College.
Then do your research. Ask the right questions. And trust your gut.
How Leonie aligned her values to amplify her impact
“When I walked into my first clerkship with a boutique employment law firm, I saw the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the meeting room wall. I thought: This is the right place for me,” recalls Leonie.
“And it was.”
Later, when Leonie was a Senior Associate, she started having conversations around becoming a partner. But before she made that next step, she took time to reflect on what she valued.
Leonie realised that she wanted to positively influence how people work together on a larger scale. She wanted to drive systemic change within organisations, rather than provide legal advice on discrete matters.
“I wanted to shape healthy workplaces. If people are happy in their work lives, they go home with more energy. So when the workplace is working well, that has a significant flow-on impact on how society as a whole functions.”
Instead of resolving individual matters, Leonie now has a much broader positive influence across organisations, facilitating better ways of working within and between teams.
And she has three tips to help you find the right role too.
1. Go into the interview already knowing what the firm values
Once you know what the firm stands for and how it could shape your growth, you can delve even deeper into targeted areas during the interview.
Consider, what topics are the partners championing? What’s the work culture like? Will the firm’s matter management style help speed up – or stall – your development?
As Leonie explains, you don’t have to wait until the interview to get answers to these questions.
“Start with the firm’s website and look through its social media. What type of posts are its leaders sharing on LinkedIn? What is the firm linking to on Facebook? What themes keep surfacing?”
The topics the firm is sharing will reveal insights into the workplace culture and the direction it’s taking. They’ll also equip you with talking points ahead of the interview.
2. Look for values beyond ‘collaboration’ and ‘integrity’
With the rise of NewLaw, more firms are doing things differently.
Often, they won’t fill in timesheets. They embraced hybrid work long before the pandemic. And they champion value-based pricing to better understand what each client is really looking for.
And with those shifts, more firms are shifting their values too. They’re moving beyond single word clichés – and embracing a more progressive set of values.
These could be expressed as more nuanced phrases in the firm’s strategic plan or in how they position themselves on their website.
“If you’re looking for something more substantial from your next firm, review what they’re championing online. And look at the types of clients they celebrate working with.
“As NewLaw spreads, firms now understand that traditional values – like flexibility and respect – aren’t aspirational. They’re the bare minimum.”
3. Don’t ask stock-standard questions at the interview
“I’m a big fan of questions that come out of left field. Sitting on the other side of the table as the interviewer, they’re the questions that stand out.”
So when you get to the interview, probe a bit deeper to gain an inside look at what it’s really like to work there.
Show the interviewer that you’ve done your research – and that you’re genuinely interested to learn more.
Instead of asking: Do you offer flexible working arrangements? Ask: How did your team handle the disruptions of 2020? What changes were beneficial and have been retained?’
Instead of asking: What’s the culture like here? Ask: I saw on LinkedIn that a few of your people recently participated in a charity event. What was that experience like? Will you be doing more?
When they respond, look beyond what they’re saying to how they’re saying it.
“There’s something to be said about the vibe you receive. When someone gives an answer that’s not congruent with their experience, it shows. If they give you a rehearsed answer and you feel like something’s not quite right, then trust your instinct.
“When the firm is the right fit, you’ll know. You’ll get that gut feeling that you can see yourself thriving there.”
Final thoughts: Know your values first
When it comes down to it, firms are businesses – not charities. And even the most progressive ones still need to balance their expenses to keep the lights on.
So if an organisation is only partially aligned to what you’re seeking, you shouldn’t write them off completely. Consider exploring avenues outside of work – like volunteering opportunities or pursuing a side hustle – to fill any gaps and meet your needs.
And for some final words of wisdom? Leonie advises that before evaluating a firm’s values, be clear on your values first.
“Too often, I see people looking for what they think they’re supposed to look for. Or chasing after positions at prestige firms.
“Instead, you need to start with yourself. What are you looking for? What drives you and matters to you? Only then can you assess the firm and what’s on offer.”