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Who is qualified to be a top lawyer?

Wednesday 05 June 2024

Anyone who wants a career must put in the effort. In some sectors, it is quite normal to work extremely hard and barely have a private life. In the Netherlands, this is observed in the banking sector (especially in Amsterdam's Zuidas), but also in business services. In the legal profession, working extremely hard is not an exception, either. Legal professionals do everything they can to win for their clients, something that also helps to boost their own careers.

International experience is an appealing option for lawyers

Most of the larger law firms regularly deal with international cases. This is hardly surprising, as the Netherlands is home to many multinationals with offices all over the world. For this reason, law firms ensure that they have top lawyers in all major countries who can look after their clients' interests locally.

Gaining international experience is indispensable for many lawyers to build an impressive resume. International positions are therefore extremely popular. For every position that becomes vacant in New York, a law firm will quickly find several candidates from its own circle.

Some young lawyers must go to extremes. Early in 2022, Intermediair published an article about young lawyers who are trying to reach the top in America. They see a huge difference: while it is common practice in the Netherlands for every lawyer to make a minimum of 1200 billable hours a year, in the US you only start to count if you bill for 1800 hours. And where in the Netherlands we still have free time on the weekend, in the US, you must remain available for your clients 24/7: "You have to go along with that, because that’s what the market dictates," says 32-year-old Wouter Hofstee in the article.

Extreme demands act as a filter

The extreme demands on professionals in the U.S. act as a selection tool. Hofstee explained: "People here are so driven, each in their own way and in every job." That drive stems from an urge for proof that, according to Hofstee, is typical of working in New York. Those who are not cut out for a career in the U.S. will soon decide to look elsewhere.

The Dutchmen featured in the article are thrilled that their Dutch law firm has offered them the chance to work in New York. Hofstee works for Stibbe and is able to balance hard work on complex cases with the exciting city life. Cherlene Blankson works for Houthoff and is thrilled with the diversity of the city.

"I really wanted to work internationally, also because of my international background. My parents are from Ghana, and I was born in the Netherlands, partly English educated with a cross-border study. I previously worked in Brussels, which was also great fun, but experiencing everything here in New York is fantastic," says the 32-year-old lawyer.

Despite their enthusiasm, however, they are not planning to work in the U.S. permanently. They want to get the work experience and fully immerse themselves in New York, and then return home to the Netherlands.

How do you select the right lawyer for that top job?

Although the extreme demands already have a filtering effect, selecting the right candidate for the job is far from an easy task. There are still many excellent, hard-working candidates to choose from.

The stakes are high: for the law firm, a chosen candidate is a calling card abroad. The client needs the best people on the spot, and it is also important for the lawyer that the right choice is made. For the most suitable candidate, a tremendously instructive and exciting time awaits. But for those who find international work disappointing, a time of abandonment awaits.

Online assessment for lawyers

Trial-and-error is out of the question when choosing which lawyer will represent your law firm abroad. Extensive selection procedures, with various rounds and committees, ensure a better-informed choice.

However, the best informed choice is made using an online assessment developed specifically for the legal profession.

This online assessment developed by TestGroup is the result of intensive collaboration between scientists, top professionals from the legal profession, and test specialists. It offers law firms a valuable tool that makes the recruitment of staff much more transparent. The test can be used both to vet outside applicants and to determine which lawyers are eligible for a promotion or for that coveted foreign experience.

The online assessment for the legal profession looks at various competencies that are important in the legal profession, such as analytical ability, flexibility, creative thinking, conscientiousness, customer focus, and so on.

Online assessment is relatively new in the legal profession

Assessments have been administered in the business world for decades. Over the past 20 years, online assessments have also taken off. In the legal profession, online assessments are still relatively unknown. Many selection choices are still based on experience and gut feeling. However, this turns out to be subjective and leads to many choices that, on closer inspection, are not optimal.

The online assessment is proven to be effective, even in the legal profession. The extensive scientific validation provides confidence in its reliability. The clever algorithms, such as the normative-ipsative split-technology, put an end to socially desirable answers, ensuring an honest look at any test taker.

But the value of the online assessment for the legal profession is mainly proven in practice: the number of bad hires decreases. It offers an objective way of making selection choices and recognizing the real winners among the pool of good lawyers.

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