It's pretty important to research any job you're considering going into, but in the context of 1L law students, you might not really know how to do that. You'll get some guidance on resources available to you from your law school's career services, and it's pretty likely two of those major resources will be the NALP Directory and Chambers and Partners. Since you've probably never used either of these resources, we're here at LSL to help.
What NALP Directory Gives You
This is the place to look into individual firms, individual offices, and get particular demographic and practice area information about firms. When you're developing a mass mailing strategy, you'll want to use NALP Directory heavily to generate your cover letters and to figure out who you should be contacting when you apply to firms for jobs.
After clicking on the above link, you'll come to home screen that looks like this:
I've gone ahead and included an introductory search by using Wachtell, but you can type in any firm name you want, or if you'd rather research just based on a market, you can leave the employer name field blank and only put in city, state, or any other field. No single field is required. In order to best research, I would recommend at minimum using the state field, and would prefer you use city and possibly even practice area in order to get the best results in your search. But this should be used as narrowly or broadly as you see fit for your particular research.
When you click search, you'll reach the search results screen:
With this particular search, there was only going to be one result, but if you just search based on city, state, practice area, or some combination thereof, your results will obviously differ. This is pretty simple: click on the links for firms that interest you.
That will lead you to this screen:
Each firm decides what info will show up on their NALP profile, so don't be too dismayed if the information on your search is less/more than what is provided in this guide. This format recently changed, and that's for the better. Formerly, none of this introductory information based on practice areas was provided. There is really good info to be gleaned from even this screen. First, you can see how substantially the firm plays in your particular practice area. Second, if the search yielded a satellite office of a firm with multiple locations, you'll see what practice areas they have in that office, how big that office is, and a general insight into how robust that office will be. So if the firm has a total of 900 attorneys, but the office you just searched only has 27 attorneys in 2 practice areas, you should appreciate that you'll want to target those practice areas if you want to work for that firm in that market.
Your best information from here is in the "Organization Snapshot" link located on the right side of the screen. Click on that link, and you'll get a .pdf outlining the firm, as seen below:
As you can see, you have important information here such as recruiting contact information, pay for first year associates and summer associates, and other information of interest such as pro bono program and attorney development. Again, the firm decides how much they want to provide to this, so each firm's profile will be different. So, for instance, Wachtell has left their pro bono section mostly blank, which may or may not be telling you something about that particular firm's approach to pro bono focus. It's not meant to be good or bad, but it's worthwhile data in your research. Depending on what particularly interests you in picking a firm, such as having unlimited pro bono, or having structured attorney development programs, or not having a two-tiered partnership track (the last one probably shouldn't matter to you at all, but I'm just illustrating the point here), this information can be helpful.
Scroll down and you'll find more useful information about firm demographics:
Of particular note here should be the diversity of the firm's ranks, especially noting the amount of diversity amongst both the associates and amongst the partners. This profession remains overly male, white, and non-diverse, but some firms undoubtedly put more genuine effort toward diversity than others. I personally think that has some serious value, so it's worth at least noting in your research.
Scroll down further, and you get to the meat and potatoes of what will probably matter to you most as a law student: the practice areas and hiring and recruitment:
You may have already seen the practice area breakdowns on the previous screen, but it's a very important factor in your job search. If you really want to do M&A, you better look for M&A or at least general corporate attorneys doing that work in that office. Otherwise, you're really missing the mark in targeting your job search. The recruiting and hiring is really helpful, in that you can figure out whether they hire 1Ls (if you're a 1L), how big their expected class is as well as how big their previous summer classes have been, and finally/most importantly: did they offer to all of their 2Ls who were considered for an offer. All of this should let you know something about how the firm does its initial hiring. There are things such as cold offers so that they can say they offered to all of their 2Ls on this report, but that will be discovered in your other, non-institutional research (such as following threads in the rest of our growing employment forum!).
Chambers and Partners
What Chambers and Partners Gives You
Chambers and Partners will let you know who the most well-regarded firms are in a given practice area. The market will somewhat dictate how granular this type of information is, but it's a really helpful tool in understanding the primary players in the market that interests you in the practice areas that interest you.
Upon clicking the link above, you'll hit the home screen:
Considering you're likely looking for a US firm job, I would recommend you choose the USA guide. It should be the first guide in the dropdown menu.
That will bring you to this screen:
You'll want to pick a market first (I've gone ahead and picked Southern California, but choose your own adventure). Then you'll have to pick based on a practice area, but thankfully for my search, Corporate/M&A was the only practice area discussed for Southern California. Each market is different, and the guides will occasionally be under-inclusive like it is in my hypothetical search, but that's just a limitation you'll have to deal with. If a particular practice area isn't discussed for the market you want, you can go back to NALP to search and see if firms are doing the practice area you want. That won't speak to the relative quality of their performance in that practice area, but it'll at least give you indication of what firms are doing that practice area in the market that interests you.
Now that we've picked Southern California (or the market you're interested in), you'll need to pick a practice area. I picked the only option, Corporate/M&A:
This will be your launching off point for learning about the firm in that practice area. You'll note that everything is headed by different "bands." Chambers define these generally, and really don't give a great definition of what it means, but it does a decent job of providing ordinal ranking/tiers of firms practicing in that area, letting you know who are generally regarded as the better firms in that practice area in that market. Keep in mind that firms can and do put concerted efforts to find themselves in an upper "band" of Chambers in their practice area, but it's a good proxy for knowing who is doing the top work in that market. You can then pick each firm, which will give a brief profile of the attorneys doing good work in that firm, the big clients they service, and some review from clients about how the firm has served the client. This doesn't mean the firm will be awesome to work for as a junior associate necessarily, but generally speaking, if the firm is highly regarded in the market for that practice area, it's more likely to have some stability in that practice group, should you get the opportunity to work for that firm.
Just because a firm you're researching doesn't show up on Chambers doesn't mean the firm doesn't do substantial work in that practice area, but it's just another data point for your consideration in determining which firms you should be targeting in your market.
I hope you've found this helpful, and if you have additional questions about researching firms including and beyond what I've outlined here, please feel free to ask. We have users who can help in learning more about practice areas, markets, and specific firms. If you have questions, bring em on!
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