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“What’s the culture like?”

July 2022

This is a question I often get asked when speaking to Associates about different opportunities. Although I try my best to provide as much information as I can to help candidates in their decision making, when it comes to offering my views on culture, I tend to avoid it. Workplace culture is a very personal thing.

A recent SRA article stated that ‘workplace culture defines the character of a working environment and is built by those who work there.’ I agree, as ultimately the culture is set by the people and personalities within a workplace. This can obviously be very subjective and what one Associate might find a perfectly suitable working environment within which they thrive, another might think it resembles some sort of nightmare.

To give you an example; a colleague placed two disputes associates at the same leading US firm in London, after a few months of them starting they met up again independently, to see how they were getting on. One of them was very happy and loving the environment, style, and pressure, whilst the other wasn’t settling in at all and felt the hours were unsustainable. They were both in the same team, working with the same partners and at the same PQE level. This shows how within the same group one personality type can flourish and the other can struggle. I am sure you can see similar examples in your own teams too.

There is no doubt that some firms, and indeed teams within firms, are known to have a particular working style which it is helpful for Associates to be aware of. However, in my experience the optimal way to find out whether an opportunity has the right culture for an individual is to meet the people you would be working with and make up your own mind.

BBC News