In this series, we have been discussing the factors that students and young lawyers should consider when applying to law firms and offices in Nigeria. We have mentioned training and development, work environment, promotion and retention rates, among many others.
It is all well and good to know the factors that you should consider when applying for jobs at Nigerian law offices, but with a dearth of publicly available information, the real challenge is how to find the information that will help you to make your decision.
In this final part of the series, we discuss how young lawyers can get information on various law offices in Nigeria, and the type of questions they should be asking to make the right decision.
Lawyers & Alumni
The best way to get inside information on law firms is to speak to lawyers who have previously worked or are presently working in your law firm(s) of interest. It’s simple really; if you want to know how something is done- ask the people who are doing it or have done it.
Be careful who you reach out to though! It is not enough to ask questions from the panel at the end of your interview and make a decision based on the answers you are given. Your interview would most likely be conducted by professionals at management level in the firm, and the answers you will get from mid to senior management would probably be sugarcoated.
It is more beneficial to speak to NYSC associates and younger lawyers (1-3 years post call), as they are likely to be more approachable and to offer no holds barred advice.
The Firm’s Social Media Accounts
A law firm’s LinkedIn and Twitter account can give you a glimpse into what practice in that firm would be like.
These are especially useful to help you gauge the reputation of the firm, the work environment and the type of training and transactions you would be exposed.
Law firms that are active on social media often post the activities of their lawyers at court, seminars, conferences and even social gatherings. They also post about the matters they have worked on or awards they have won.
If a firm does not have a visible social media presence, it is probably a small or mid-size law firm that does not care too much about its online presence.
Take advantage of AskLE, and send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would do our best to put you in touch with someone who can help. This can be on a no-names basis if you prefer.
If you are on the Legally Engaged Mentorship Programme, you should also speak to your mentor. Even if your mentor does not work in the firm you are considering, he/she is likely to have a network of lawyers from which you can get the information you need.
Types of questions to ask
When speaking to lawyers and alumni of a law firm, it is essential to ask the right questions to enable you to get the information you need to make the right choice.
The questions that follow are intended to serve as a guide to steer the conversation between you and the person who has graciously agreed to answer your questions. So try not to make the session feel like an interview session but more like a two-way conversation.
Also, be very polite and avoid asking closed questions so you would be able to get all the information you may need. Any questions on “sensitive” topics such as salary and benefits should be asked cautiously and initiated at the later stage of the conversation.
Questions relating to Work Environment
How would you describe the culture at your firm?
What type of person do you think would fit in perfectly at your firm?
What do you wish you knew before you accepted the offer to work here? Would it have changed your decision? Why?
What is the worst/most inappropriate thing your boss ever said to you or any of your colleagues? How often do you hear such comments?
How would you describe your relationship with your senior colleagues?
How often do you relate with your colleagues outside the office?
Questions on Promotion Prospects
How many levels of Associate are there in the firm?
What is the pay difference between each level? On the average, how long does an Associate spend on a particular level?
What fraction of the firm’s current partners or managers began their careers at the firm?
How often do people resign from their jobs at the firm? Where do such employees then go on to work?
Training and development Prospects
What are the typical tasks assigned to a junior?
At what point can I expect to gain independence to handle small matters on my own? What do I need to do to earn such independence?
Would you say that your boss is a micromanager or more laissez-faire?
Were you given proper induction (formal or otherwise) at the start of your employment at the firm?
How free am I to ask questions of or seek guidance from my seniors?
Are juniors assigned to specific departments in the firm or do they work for any and all departments?
Does your firm nominate juniors to participate in conferences and external training?
Are junior associates given opportunities to co-author articles and other publications with senior colleagues on behalf of the firm?
Other General Questions
What do you like best about the firm?
What do you like least?
Why did you choose this firm/ over the others?
How did you become interested in X practice area/subject matter?
In summary, get as much information as you can about your law firm(s) of interest and when you get the opportunity to have a conversation with anyone from the firm, listen more and let your questions express interest rather than desperation (mainly when you are speaking with a senior).
Always start the conversation with praise for the firm – maybe, mention their last win in a big case. Make the initial stage of the discussion about them and when the time is right, ask the questions that you have prepared.
|Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged and an Associate in the Corporate/Commercial law arm of a top-tier Nigerian law firm.
She advises blue-chip companies on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, and compliance.
She seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers and make better career decisions. Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.
|Gabriella Ndu is a corporate, energy and projects lawyer with experience advising on traditional and renewable energy projects, facility management services, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, project finance and corporate transactions across Africa, Middle East, GCC, and South Asia. She is a law graduate of the University of Nigeria and was called to the bar in 2014.
She is currently a candidate of the Career Development Program at Middle East, South Asia & Turkey office of ENGIE, a CAC40 company with her first role in the legal team.