There has never been a predictable path from law school to small law firm work. They don’t come to interview on campus, they don’t uniformly care about good grades, journal or other traditional indicia of academic performance, and they don’t hire regularly. Even though it’s gotten harder over the last few years, getting a job at a big firm at least has a predicable route. So what are small firms looking for in candidates?
A recent post on Above the Law, written by Jay Shepherd, offers some advice, but it might be somewhat surprising. In his list of ten traits that the best candidates for small firm jobs share, not one legal skill appears. The traits that Shepherd lists have much more to do with the kind of person you are than about the kind of student you are. And while all small firms may not use the same criteria, many do rely on the kids of things Shepherd lists. Many Public Interest employers look for similar traits, in addition to a passion and dedication to serving the disenfranchised.
To close the piece, Shepard writes “I’m glad you got decent grades, went to an OK law school, and work hard. But what I really care about is your personality, and whether I’d be comfortable having you interact with my clients. And whether I could stand to work with you every day. These ten traits would show me that I could.”