Ask an Associate: Why Did You Become a Lawyer?

Why did you become a lawyer? It’s a straightforward question that can be a simple — but effective — tool in law firms’ war for talent.

That’s because lawyers’ answers to the question of what motivates them may provide insights into how firms can retain them. Not all young lawyers are motivated by the same things, despite the generalizations we all sometimes make about millennials and zoomers. Maybe something from their personal biography prompted them to pursue a specific practice area. Maybe in school they were fascinated by the interplay between technology and the law. Maybe they love to write. Maybe they want to make as much money as they can, or they don’t care about money at all but love crushing opponents at trial.

Asking associates why they became lawyers and genuinely listening to their responses may help firm leaders better understand and manage their talent. And these conversations could also be excellent fodder for a marketing initiative that spotlights your firm’s culture.

Here’s how to develop an interview series showcasing younger lawyers — and making them feel heard.

  • Choose a channel and create a calendar. Decide if you want to highlight associates’ stories in video, articles or a mix of both. And determine whether to target an internal or external audience — or both. Then, identify which associates will be included and explain the ask to provide context: Your firm is invested in them and values their stories! Next, schedule interviews. The format could be quick takes of associates responding to only one question, or an extended interview with related follow-ups (see below).
  • For video profiles, ask firm leaders to serve as interviewers. To get the most out of the interviews, prepare leaders with follow-up questions to ask like, How do you find meaning in your work? Who inspired you to pursue a career in law? What motivated you to do pro bono work?
  • Share their stories. If you feature the interviews internally, give them prominent placement on your firm’s intranet or in the newsletter. To spotlight these stories externally, consider creating a LinkedIn series or featuring them in a newsletter that goes to clients. And don’t forget the most obvious place for this content — recruiting materials. 

Younger generations place a high priority on finding meaning in their work. Asking associates what drove them to the legal profession may reveal some valuable insights — and help your firm support their fulfillment in ways that bolster retention.