Bill Seaton, founder of EmplawyerNet, an Internet-based legal career Web site, doesn't think there is such a thing as a best law firm.
"I don't think there is a best firm, objectively," he
said."There isn't any way to properly compare firms against one another.It really is a matter of what is the best firm for the individual involved."
That's what some associates who have made the choice already say.Many decided where to work by looking at more than figures in National Association of Law Placement guides
or adding up the bonuses.In each case, they weighed those and other factors-and ended up choosing the firms where they thought they would be happiest.
pointed out that when law students are selecting a firm fresh out of law school, they might not even be there long enough for partnership chances to matter.
"NALP has found out that the average lawyer is going to have three jobs in their first seven years," he
said."Because there is quite a bit of movement, focusing on partnership chances in your first job is not the right approach.It's not the case that very many people are going to join a firm, become partner and retire from there.That's very rare these days."
It's my life
Some turnover is unavoidable, Seaton
"I don't think you are going to find a law firm that doesn't have a significant amount of turnover, but while 20 to 25 percent a year is common, anything over that should make you wonder," he
advised students to find out as much as they can about associate satisfaction and retention levels.Look at the statistics not just for the last year or two, but five or 10 years, and compare firms in the same city or practice area.If one firm shows spikes when the other firms are stable, it might be better to steer clear.Those associates probably left for a reason, he
Another criterion that can help students assess how happy they might be at a given firm is the amount of time they will be expected-or required-to work each week.
warned not to get lulled into a false sense of security if a firm's required hours seem low.
"They are all sweatshops," he
said."All firms work very, very hard and all associates at those firms are expected to work extraordinarily hard."
It's no secret that with the exception of clinical programs, the typical law school does little to prepare students to actually practice law, Seaton
said.That means it's important to consider how much time and money a firm is willing to invest in on-the-job training of new associates, he
"In your first few years of work the most important thing to you is to gain advanced training," he
said."My questions would focus on what the training program is, and is there a formal training program.If there is not a training program, in my mind that would raise a red flag."Seaton
said students should look for a firm that will help them build a solid foundation in the law that they can use to their advantage.
"That buys you the ability to sell that expertise wherever you want to go," he
said."You may work very long hours to get that, but it's the only way to get the freedom and that takes some sacrifice.Just make sure when you are working hard, you are building something for yourself."