Legal job descriptions and interviewers don’t always say exactly what they mean. In fact, sometimes it’s as if they speak in code. But fear not, legal career seeker! With a bit of decoding, you can figure out what they really mean behind their artful language.
Let’s start with the phrase “fast-paced environment.” Sure, it sounds positive. But it actually means you’ll be fulfilling many roles, not just one. It’s safe to assume you’ll be doing the work of at least three or even five lawyers. Buckle up and get ready to multitask like a pro!
Another phrase to watch out for is “passion is a must.” Sounds nice, right? Who wouldn’t want to work for a company that values passion? But here’s the catch: when an interviewer says this, they really mean that the pay probably won’t be great. But hey, if you love what you do, who needs money anyway? Right? … Right?
Moving on, let’s talk about “flexible hours.” This one can go either way. On the one hand, it could mean you’ll have some control over your schedule and can work from home at least occasionally. On the other hand, it could mean that you’ll be expected to work 24/7 and have no off switch. Before you jump for joy at the thought of flexible hours, make sure you clarify exactly what it means.
And then there’s the “team player” — another warm phrase that can quickly turn into a red flag. Team players are expected to do whatever it takes to get the job done — even if it means picking up the slack for less-motivated colleagues. If you’re not a fan of group projects and don’t want to be held responsible for other people’s work, this might not be the role for you.
Then we have the infamous call for a “self-starter.” What an employer likely expects is that you’ll automatically know what needs to be done. No one will tell you anything about anything. No pressure, right? If you like clear instructions and a well-defined role, you might want to think twice before applying here. But if you’re up for a challenge and love taking the initiative, go ahead and show them what you’re made of!
At the end of the day, job hunting in the legal market can feel like trying to crack a secret code. But with a bit of practice and some careful listening (and maybe some decoding help from yours truly), you’ll be able to read between the lines and figure out what employers are really saying. Good luck out there!
Olga V. Mack is the VP at LexisNexis and CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat, Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security, and Blockchain Value: Transforming Business Models, Society, and Communities. She is working on Visual IQ for Lawyers, her next book (ABA 2023). You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.
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