Jim Nortz has worked in law for many years. He has spent time at many different firms over the years and, as such, has given me some insights and advice, not only about working at a law firm but also about the work involved to get there, through law school. Many of these insights tie into the culture of the law industry.
When he was at his undergraduate school, Nortz was studying to become an engineer. However, halfway through, he decided he wanted something more people-oriented and interactive than technical and switched his career path to go to law school. He noted that he was happy he switched career paths in undergraduate school because he is very satisfied with where he is now. He enjoys working with people and helping them reach their goals.
In addition to people-oriented, another aspect of culture is that to be a lawyer you have to be hardworking. This starts with law school. Though he called it a great education, he said it was incredibly difficult and required a lot of reading, studying, and critical thinking. This work hard mentality doesn’t stop when you graduate law school, however. It can also be critical to work hard at your firm. However, this can vary from what type of firm you work at. With this, he mentioned his time as a criminal defense counsel. He said that at times he worked 60 to 80 hours a week and couldn’t get cases out of his head. It was also fast-paced and he didn’t get a lot of support. He said that, though it is important to work hard and complete the job you were given, it is also important to leave the work at the office and not let it consume your life.
One of the last aspects that he notes about the industry is how incredibly varied it can be. There are many types of interesting specializations of law and each come with their own sets of rules, norms, and cultural expectations. Not only is there variation across fields, but also within them. The firm you work at can have its own culture particular to them. Therefore, though being people-oriented and incredibly hardworking can be absolutely critical at some places, as they have been in Nortz’s life, they may be less important in others, making law an incredibly diverse industry in terms of culture.