One year after his 3 Job Myths for Immigrant Lawyers in Israel, Yehuda gives more insight to life in the Israeli lawyer's workplace.

Israel Immigrant Lawyers and Television

This is a guest blog post by Yehuda.

Last year I submitted an entry for JobMob's 2007 Guest Blogging Contest on myths encountered by lawyers who want to find work in Israel. I was a mitmacheh (articling student) at the time and, since then have joined the not-so-exclusive ranks of Israel's 49,000 lawyers. Over the course of the year, I have learned a great deal more about the legal culture in Israel, and thought I could discuss a few more law-work tips in 2008. Disclaimer: this post is not about the Olympics.

Don't have a beautiful resume that works

I have a thing for Israelis. I find them fun, hip, well-rounded, smart, and straightforward. I also know many lawyers, Israeli and non-Israeli, who are are fun, creative individuals with varied interests and a sense of humor. One would therefore think that Israeli law firms are bastions of hipness. In reality though, whatever qualities are held by the individual lawyers who make up a firm seem to disappear when you take the firm as a whole. In general, law firms are inherently conservative-minded.

JobMob recently posted about beautiful resume ideas that work. With all due respect to the JobMobber-in-Chief, I do not think that some of these designs are appropriate for applications to law firms. The aforementioned conversative mindset of law firms is such that funky, colorful designs are likely to turn off, rather than impress, the recruiting lawyer.

That is not to say that the CV should be bland. I agree that some originality in presentation is good. Go ahead, take a risk. Heck, you can even change the font from “Times New Roman” to “Arial”. But remember who your target audience is; while Israeli law firms have a distinctly Israeli “edge” to them – they are more blasé and less formalistic than North American law firms – but they are still, after all, law firms.

“The Hours”, featuring You

Every firm is different, but if you work for a firm doing large corporate transactions, the chances are that you will be working long hours.

Firms in Tel Aviv tend to expect longer hours than Jerusalem firms. I recall a mitmacheh in one firm saying that nobody leaves before 9pm unless they have a very good reason. Even if their workload is lighter, they stretch it out in order to stay in the office until 9pm by taking a very extended lunch and a few extra coffee breaks. That does not sound to me like a lot of fun and based on conversations I've had with other mitmachim from other firms, I think it's an extreme example. That being said, the work does require a certain level of time-commitment as with any North American law firm.

One thing I found interesting was that most firms allow mothers to work on a different work schedule. For example, they work until 3pm three days per week and 7-7:30pm, two days per week. This arrangement is widely accepted and respected by Israeli employers, including law firms, but the employee must also show flexibility and be prepared to make alternative plans if a particular file requires extra work.

Will You Be My Friend?

In a pre-aliya stint in an Israeli work environment, I found that as a non-Israeli it was hard to integrate socially with the locals. I have heard similar comments from other olim (immigrants). After more than a full year in Israel, I can say that the there is some truth to this.

Like most people, I am neither overly shy nor a networking pro – I fit somehere in the middle, and I found the employee social circle hard to enter. Ultimately: I met some great people and have forged bonds with the Israelis in my firm, but it was not a smooth process from the beginning.

  • For starters, the Israelis spoke in slang that I was not familiar with, despite good knowledge of Hebrew. I was never taught sachten, sachek ota and amama in Hebrew school.
  • They have inside jokes and make pop-culture references that I do not get. I learned, for instance, that there are many, many Banai's in the cultural scene (the Banai's are like the Israeli Wayan brothers, except with talent).
  • Israelis share a common history and stories about the army to which I do not relate.
  • Based on my personal experience, I also found that Israelis do not make overt attempts to make the “new guy” feel at home – it was up to me to make my place and to force myself into the social circle, so to speak.

All this naturally made my social integration more challenging.

Thankfully, things have changed in the last few months (thank you, Keshet TV, for supplying me with the pulp I need to make my integration a success). I feel much more connected with the Israelis in the firm and they sense it too.

A key to integration is connecting with what's going on socially. Newspapers, radio, television and the Internet help a lot. It may sound like a cliche, but it's true.


Practicing corporate law in Israel is like eating a shawarma in a laffa. No, wait, it's like watching Michael Phelps at the Olympics.

Ok, maybe not exactly.

Despite everything, if you like corporate/commercial law, Israel is a fantastic place to work in those fields because of the constant activity in a number of industries, hi-tech and bio-tech in particular. The blend of Israelis and foreigners at work makes things interesting and nothing beats getting a shawarma laffa for lunch.

On a more personal note, there was a special feeling when I took the oath in Hebrew and sang Hatikva, along with all the other new lawyers.

All this to say, beyond the challenges, I feel proud to be an Israeli lawyer. I hope that lawyers and law students contemplating aliya will one day feel the same.

This article is part of the 2008 JobMob Guest Blogging Contest.

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. josh

    I don’t get it. Lawyers work late hours and still have time for TV? When do they do email and surf the net? Do you guys read books or have time study torah?

    I think that the ‘talk around the water cooler’ depends on the age and social status of the people. Are they single/married, have babies or not, non-religious/religious, etc… ‘Secular’ people living in Tel Aviv will want to talk about different things than married religious people in Petach Tikva.

    I don’t have a tv, so I do not know what is happening with cochav nolad, survivor, srugim, or follow most of what is happening in pop culture locally or international either. I am also not following the olympics.

    Given that, I did go through a period of Israeli pop culture, I did the army and still serve in miluim so I might understand a lot of slang though I might not use it.

    I find that you can get by without knowing ‘stuff’. Networking does not need to involve only talking about what was on tv or what movies are at the cinema.

  2. Yehuda

    I should start by saying that the title of this guest blog was chosen by Jacob, not by me! 🙂 It’s true, the title overstates my point.

    I can’t speak for every lawyer but I admit, I don’t have that much time to do other things. I use watching tv as one example one way among many others to connect with what’s happening in Israeli society. Maybe for you, and others, the army helped. For me, it was listening to the radio and watching the occasional tv show (I was exempt from army service).

    I also agree that age and social situation are a big factor, but in my firm at least, we have people of all types sitting at the same table and talking about a bunch of different things. The conversation and friendships are not neatly cut along the lines of religious/secular, married/single, etc. Which is fine. But it just shows that to connect people with widely different views and life situations, you need some common ground, such as pop culture.

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