Saturday, December 20, 2008


Someone asked for recommendations for how to behave in a review.   I have touched on this in an early post as it related to summer associates in mid or end of summer reviews, but there are some additional pointers for attorneys.

First, do not be a passive participant, just showing up and listening.    At a former firm, we associates could fill out a sort of self-evaluation report, where we could describe significant projects/achievements, as well as professional development activities, pro bono, firm activities (eg., recruiting committee) and community involvement.  Although this was voluntary, and it was time-consuming to do what I perceived to be a thorough job, I forced myself to do it, figuring that the primary evaluator (or any evaluators who received it) probably didn't know everything I had done all year, and this would help them understand the big picture.  Remember, the senior attorneys who complete written evaluations have several to do and it is an arduous task.  They appreciated that I gave them information that they could plug into their evaluations.  And, I felt better knowing that they were more aware of all I was doing.  If you are not aware of such a form at your firm, ask around.  I gave a junior associate a copy of one of my older self-evaluations that she could use as a model.  

If there are particular issues you would like to discuss (say, I am a junior litigator, but I haven't defended a deposition), you may wish to drop the primary evaluator a note with some things you would like to discuss.  Supervising attorneys generally like it when we see someone who is interested in furthering his or her professional development.  

Have a sense of your numbers before you go in (e.g., hours, client origination (if applicable), etc.  This helps if you get your evaluation and there's incorrect numerical information or numerical-based observations.  

If you get a copy of the written evaluation before, review it carefully.  Make notes of any incorrect statements or any items with which you disagree.  You can be prepared to discuss -- calmly.

Bring a notepad and pen, you may wish to take notes.

Listen to the evaluator.  Be appreciative of compliments.  Take in constructive criticism.  If there is something you do not understand, ask calmly for clarification.  Oftentimes the evaluator has collected various comments from other reviewers, and may need to go back to any underlying evaluation form to determine what is meant.  

If you have information to share -- like hours information is incorrect, or you actually did defend a deposition when they said you still needed to do so -- share that with the reviewer.  While you shouldn't be overly defensive or abrasive, this is YOUR career and you shouldn't sit passively like a pillow on a couch.  I often was able to get things added to my evaluation that were overlooked.

Feel free to express appreciation to the evaluator for his or her efforts.  These evals do take up a lot of non-billable time.  

If there are opportunities you would like to get, especially with the evaluator (e.g., work on the xxx case, or a xyz type of matter), go ahead and express that as well.  This is usually a good time to indicate the areas you are interested in, and to show that you are more than an employee -- that you want to develop your career and expand your capabilities and experiences.

No crying.  Doesn't help.

No whining.  Only hurts.

Be professional, be calm.

-- These words of advice assume that you are not getting canned in the evaluation or otherwise "set up."  We can address that situation another time.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

questions on early lateral moves

A commenter asked about the options:

- if you hate your first job
-- how long one can expect to have to stay at a firm before moving on
I'd say after 2 years is a good time to start working with a recruiter (ask trusted friends for recommendation, preferably someone outside your firm to avoid leaks). Most firms and recruiters think that you should stay 2 years before moving; you get a fair amount of experience and you don't look like and immediate job-hopper. Years 3-4 are probably the busy times for lateral associates, more movement, better focus by the associate as to what kind of practice they want, how firm B could be better than firm A, what they are really looking for long and short term. The recruiter calls do slow down as you hit year 6 and above.

-- how long grades are going to be following you around, etc.

E.g? great grades 1L and 2L, great firm for summer, and then C in 3L: cause for worry if want to lateral after 2 years.

E.g.: grades not great, but land job @great firm; at what point grades irrelevant.
Grades do become less important. Firms you are considering lateraling to will ask for a transcript as a matter of diligence (even HP had to give one when HP moves firms as a P). As an associate, your grades may be reviewed, but if you worked at a solid place, have a good reputation/references, as long as your grades aren't totally in the toilet, you should be fine. After a couple of years, at least in most places (I'm excluding special practices like Supreme Court practices where they may be partial to Yale Law grads and brainiacs), the HP is more interested in your experience in the workplaces and whether you are qualified for the position, and less concerned about the grades. Good grades are always a plus, but I can tell you in any mid size to large firm, if you pulled out the transcripts, there are a wide range of grades and even law schools out there.
If grades not great, keep plugging along, develop expertise, get known within the local and/or speciality bar, get out to bar and other events, grow your base.
I've even seen one guy with hideous grades get an associate job at a firm because he had very particular expertise and background that a practice group leader needed. Now, he didn't work out long term (and this HP wouldn't have hired him in first place because grades were really, really bad and he wasn't that far out of school), but the point is that experience can surpass grades when it comes to hiring.
I will aim to get back posting and I have to encourage my guest posters to start posting!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

BTW, did you folks vote for our blog over at abajournal?  I can't believe HP is getting a** whooped by the Temporary Attorney blog!  Somehow I am insulted.  Though in this market, I guess I see the interest in finding a job as a temporary attorney.  Anyway, please vote when you have a chance.  For no other reason than HP doesn't like to lose.

Layoff Questions

Hello all. Well thank goodness the overly sensitive types have gone away.  Now we can get back to actual advice.

A commenter asked about layoffs and whether they are generally less public than we have been seeing as of late.  Sure, there always have been, and will be, "quiet" layoffs.  There have always been and also will be "quiet" performance-based terminations.  When the economy is difficult, firms tend to say goodbye to people more quickly than when things are busy busy and you need more bodies. I have seen plenty of mediocre or non-hardworking lawyers in law firms in prior years.  Those people won't get to hang around as long in the current economy.

What used to happen when one is let go (assuming not "for cause") in BigLaw was the standard 3 month salary/winding down.  The individual being let go may or may not continue to do work. Basically, the firm would pay the person, benefits continued, secretarial support, etc., but the person would generally focus on new employment finding.  This wasn't horrible since the person could use the office/computer/phones etc and by outward appearances was just moving laterally.  Typically the firm would want a settlement agreement and release.  I know several people who have done these kind of arrangements, found new employment (other firms, in-house, etc) and moved on.  I've also known people who are so shocked at getting terminated that they never really got over it.  The bottom line is, in an economic situation, it is not your fault, and you need to do your best to move forward.  If it was performance based, you should try to understand the issue; perhaps BigLaw or law firms in general are not your strong suit.

Someone asked if most people who leave firms are actually being let go.  The answer is no.  People leave for a wide variety of reasons, which is why there is such high attrition in law firms.  Any of the following and others occur:  move to different city for spouse job/self job/need to be closer to relatives; move in-house; move to government or non-profit organization; litigator who wants more trial experience and gets prosecutor-type job; person who moves to a boutique; person who just moves laterally; mom who decides to stay home with children; dad who decides to stay home with children (see, HP very PC); person who leaves law entirely for new field.  Sure, some people are let go, but as I mentioned in the comments to a post, don't assume because someone is leaving that they had to, and don't gossip.  It only ends up getting back to them and they get pissed and might even complain to management.

Remember, no one is indispensable.  You can work hard to make yourself as valuable to the organization as you think you can/connect with big rainmaker/develop needed niche specialty/develop ton of own business etc., but there are many variables out there -- e.g., loss of huge client.  We don't always have control over these things.  The best things to do are to try to create a safety net through building relationships, developing a solid reputation, developing great substantive legal skills and getting out in the legal and business and social community so you are not wedded to one practice group/firm/partner.  Remember no one looks out for YOU the way YOU need to.  And, don't piss too many people off.  People have long memories, and they are not apt to help (and can hurt) your career down the road when you need friends, not enemies.

Happy weekend!

Next post will try to address the questions raised regarding lateral movement

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Who has helped you along the way and who have you helped?  We can often be both mentors and mentees.  Some of us are lucky to happen upon a terrific individual who takes us under their wing simply because they like to do so, or believe they have a social responsibility to do so, etc.  Others find mentors spring from hard work.  HP once had a terrific mentor.  HP did a lot of grunt work for the mentor that ultimately built up a relationship of trust and admiration.  And, mentor stood up for HP when HP needed mentor to do so.  

If you don't have a mentor, how can you connect with one?  Well there are several ways to do so.  And remember, you can have more than one mentor at a time, or over time, you can have mentors who practice in your area, or other areas, you can have mentors who are both genders (OK everyone???).  HP's best mentors over the years have been men and women, corporate lawyers and litigators.   Mentors can be inside and outside of your organization.

Connecting....some firms have mentoring programs.  The results of these can be mixed, because it is not a natural evolution, at least at the are usually assigned based upon some connection or someone's reasoning why the pairing would be a good one, and considering any rules of the program.  I think in most instances, it is a good idea to participate to at least widen your network and see if it works for you.  

Otherwise, reach out to people...not "hello, will you be my mentor," but rather, in a way that builds a relationship.  Ask around as to what more senior lawyers tend to be good mentors; try to see who you may have some things in common with, whether it is bar association activities, or sub-speciality interest, etc.    I know some solid mentor/mentee relationships that began when the mentee offered to help with book chapters the partner was writing or articles.  These helped the junior attorney develop a deeper knowledge base in the area, get his/her name out there, and work with the intended mentor.

Now, who have you helped?  Yes, you.  We can all be mentors in some way.  HP tries to reach out to more junior attorneys to help them along the way; encouragement on client development, advice on firm social functions, explaining processes, and general strategy.  Aside from doing a good deed, doing right by others, it never hurts.  People remember people (well some, anyway) who help them, especially when they are down. You have a friend out of a job, think of some suggestions if you can.  I know a guy with a great newish client.  How did he get the client? Well when their GC lost his last job in a corporate restructuring, this other lawyer stayed in touch, put the GC in touch with others, basically tried to help.  He did not help place GC at new company but GC did land.  GC said "if this guy took such care when I was down, I know he will take care of me at new company."  You never know when doing good will bring good to you.  

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Holiday Party

Last night, HP attended a firm holiday party.  HP thought, this is a useful topic for a new post.  Many of  you will be attending holiday parties over the next couple of weeks (btw, I mean those associated with work, not the regular type with family or friends).  Some may be invited as summer associates, others as lawyers with the firm.  Actually, this advice really applies in professional settings generally.  

Let me start out by noting that none of this is rocket science. It is pretty much common sense.  But no matter, we will still see some holiday party train wrecks.  

Top 10 things to do/not to do at firm (or company) holiday party (not necessarily in order, but HP has a lot to do today:

10. Fail to RSVP -- in a large organization it may not be noticed, but in smaller ones, it may be noted as rude or especially inconsiderate if, say, someone is hosting at their home.  

9.   Dressing inappropriately.  Unless it is black tie, suits are fine for men.  The women tend to get into more trouble here since there's more ambiguity.  Low cut (read: bosoms hanging or more than a bit of cleavage) will get you noticed in the wrong way.  For guests, you may wish to advise similarly, since for years, people at one firm I know discussed a partner's wife and her hanging boobs and the xmas party of 1999?

8. Sitting/hanging with people you always hang with.  You guys and gals know that HP wouldn't like this.  The point is to get out and mingle.  Introduce your guest; make polite small talk.  It helps to have a guest who is outgoing but at a minimum, seems pleasant and don't say anything to piss off someone (e.g. ,a guest once insulted HP's spouse).

7.   Wild dancing.  At some parties, everyone is dancing. At others, just staff.  You need to kind of judge this for yourself.  The safe side is probably not to dance since so many of us look dumb.  In any event, NO DIRTY DANCING.  Yes, I have seen this one myself.  Of course, alcohol can be a factor; you know that is coming later.

6. Bringing your kids  Unless kids are invited (sometimes there are kids holiday parties), do not bring your children -- small or big -- to a firm party.  I am still perplexed by colleague who brought teen son (and wife) to black tie party. Teen son then proceeded to best-friend bartender and drink illegally.  Seemed odd and was very noticed.

5. Hook up with co-workers.  Please do not do the heavy flirt/obvious pick up at the holiday party. We may not know what goes on after hours, but attorneys and staff cavorting in front of us do not help your profile.  Co-attorneys may be a different issue and of course many issues involved there -- supervising attorney or not, etc.  The bottom line is, keep the sexy stuff out of the holiday party.

4. If clients are attending, be on special guard.  Pleasant, cheerful, stay away from controversial topics, etc.  

3.   Do thank the organizers of the party if you know who they are, it never hurts.  

2. Don't gossip about others in the mens/ladies restrooms; you never know who is in the stalls!

1. You knew this one was coming -- don't get toasted.  DON'T DO IT. People, remember.  It is unprofessional and can lead to a violation of several of my no nos above (e.g., hookups).  Just because the liquor is complimentary does not mean this is the frat house.  You can drink but take it easy and stop early.  A DUI would be a very bad career move; being a loud drunk is also a bad career move; hurling at the holiday party similarly not the best career move.

-- I should have made number 1 to Attend -- but this varies -- assuming lawyers do go and it is not a 98% staff function -- yes, you should attend. 

Have fun, be safe, and network!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

follow up on a tale of two associates

The two associates tale seems to have elicited some response and perhaps misunderstanding.

First, HP means no disrespect to women lawyers.  In fact, HP is known as an extremely supportive P when it comes to advancing women.  BTW, why do so many out there even assume HP is a man?  HP never identified gender.  HP could be a woman.  Why not?  Many HPs out there today are women.  I think there are some inherent biases here; since the launch of HP's blog, many people have just assumed HP is male.   That may be incorrect and a biased assumption.

On the subject of the two associates -- unless I didn't describe them the way I meant to, BOTH are hardworking -- Susan isn't "schmoozing."  In fact, if you read the description, she is the more hardworking one (at least that is what HP intended).  But, really my point was that Mindy is selling herself short in the long run -- and perhaps in the short run - but my point was to her overall reputation, status, and development.  Staff complained Mindy wouldn't acknowledge them; even women partners indicated Mindy didn't seem at all receptive when they reached out.  Now, hopefully Mindy has a good protector in her group -- but down the road, wouldn't it have made more sense for Mindy to have built her reputation in the office, beyond her practice group, beyond just the main people she works with?  HP is saying again not to be one-dimensional.  It makes sense to get to know more people for so many reasons, and have those people respect you.  

Case in point, HP has a friend who is a woman partner and a solid business developer.  Friend not slave to law firm. Friend has a family, works a reduced schedule, volunteers in the schools, etc.  Friend by all accounts has a good balance.  How did friend get this?  Well, friend worked hard as an associate.  Friend showed respect to all and was extremely responsive, pleasant and cordial - to other colleagues in her office, to colleagues in other firm offices, even to opposing counsel.  Friend now gets all sorts of referral work.  From where?  From former colleagues (even those not in practice group) who have moved in house, from former clients, even from former adversaries.  Friend has developed  reputation as a terrific, top notch lawyer who can be trusted and who is respected.  Mindy was not on her way in this scenario.

I am not sure why people thought Susan was just schmoozing.  Getting out of the office, getting involved in bar activities, professional organizations, etc, isn't just schmoozing.  I even said Susan developed a sub-specialty.  A wise lawyer with a huge client roster once said "you can be the best lawyer out there, but if no one knows who you are or what you do, you won't be a very successful lawyer."  Susan was working hard and developing her reputation.  She wasn't just hanging out at Starbucks with her friends - that is more of a Mindy thing.

I hope that has cleared up a few items.  

I will try to address the burn out (Rachel?) comment and also the "what if Susan has kids"comment  ( so what? - see note re: Friend above). She can have kids and still be dedicated, successful and see those kids -- bad bias on your part.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

a tale of two associates

An interesting story from HP's former firm provides some good material for today's example of how to be a great "all around" associate who helps advance her own career.

Associate 1.  Let's call her Susan.  Susan joined the firm laterally a short time ago.  Susan is a pleasant, cheerful person, but definitely at the firm to work hard, do whatever needs to be done to get the job done -- working late, weekends, etc.  Susan is pleasant and respectful to all -- partners she works with, other partners, counsel, and attorneys in the office, staff, etc. Susan does make an effort to attend firm events, such as holiday party, group meetings, women attorney meetings, etc.   Associate Susan is known as an extremely hard working attorney who is highly professional, trustworthy and personable.  She has also shown some business development potential by inviting her contacts to appropriate firm events and by developing a sub-specialty.

Associate 2.  Let's call her Mindy.  Mindy started with the firm as a summer associate and is now a mid level associate.  (Btw, no offense meant to our women lawyers here, these could be two men; they just happened to be two women at my former firm).  Mindy is a bright woman, with a strong pedigree.  Mindy does seemingly solid work for her group.  Mindy is seen socializing with her practice group, but not with others.  Staff complain that she does not really acknowledge them.  Other attorneys feel the same way.  While Mindy may be a good lawyer, we don't get the sense that she cares much about the firm (since she doesn't really participate in firm events), the other lawyers and personnel outside practice group, or really growing her career.  We don't see her involved in firm committees, or outside groups. Best we can tell, she bills her time, hangs with her friends at firm, and leaves.

So, if times are tough, who would you choose if you had to lay off one?    Well assuming both are fairly occupied on client matters...I would choose Susan as the one to keep of course.  She's got more long term potential -- solid firm citizen plus business development potential. And people like her, and she's building her network, reputation, knowledge base, etc.  

Second question, who has a brighter future?  Well, of course Susan.  She's getting out of the office, she's interacting with colleagues outside her group, and she's not causing any waves or creating bad feelings.

Third question, if I move in-house tomorrow and have a need...who would I call?  Duh...Susan.  Because I can trust her, and know that she will do a good job and know that she will make me look good -- because I have interacted with her and seen her interact with others.  

Fourth question, if my former colleague who is now a senior in-house counsel calls me down the road and says he is interviewing Mindy for a position and what are my thoughts on her...what do you think HP will say?  HMMMM.  

Mindy - for a smart gal -- is behaving dumb dumb dumb.  Perhaps finding a rich hubby is her game plan.  But, her behavior in the workplace -- being aloof (if not rude), clique-y, not getting involved in firm through committees, not getting to know her other colleagues, etc., is short-sighted in so many ways -- advancement in firm, advancement elsewhere, etc.  

Build your reputation, expand your friends, be respectful to all, get involved, be a good firm/company citizen -- be someone others respect, like, and trust.  Don't be a Mindy.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

small and mid sized firms

People sometimes ask HP if it is possible to make the move to BigLaw from a small or mid sized firm.  The answer is yes.  As prospects at BigLaw for entering and lateral associates shrink (my recruiter friends tell me hiring is pretty flat and very slow), many of you will need to expand your base of possible employers, as we have discussed.  In the boom days, with good grades, a good law school, and a decent personality, BigLaw is in sight.  However, these are different days and require some further thinking, creativity, and go-getting if you haven't landed through BigLaw recruiting channels -- and I don't believe BigLaw is for everyone anyway.  HP is just saying that the fall on campus recruiting process is a relatively pain fee process of finding a solid job.  It is more difficult to branch out.  But, that is what many will need to do, especially first years.

So, you ask, can I go from a smaller firm to Big Law eventually (assuming that is a goal)?  Yes, you can.  But how?  Well, wherever you are, you want to do great work and build your reputation.  Get involved in bar activities (you can often get involved even as a law student).  Reach out to potential mentors.  Offer to assist with committee work such as newsletters or meeting preparation.  Yes, it is grunt work and takes up time you could be doing other things, but it is a great long term investment.  Get your name out in the community.  Work in an area you love (ok, at least like).  Try to develop sub-specialties in growing areas. When recruiters call you, be polite -- call them back and establish a relationship.  If they don't call, ask friends for recommendations and reach out.  

Where does Big Law come in?  Well, a couple (few?) years down the road, slots will open when associates depart through the normal course or an area picks up and the firm needs additional bodies.  Firms will reach out further to fill these slots.  I have recommended several candidates we interviewed from smaller firms because of the experience in a certain specialty area where we needed help.  

Familiar tune here?  HP hopes I don't sound like a broken record when HP says that you need to push forward even harder during more difficult times to build your reputation, network, and seek opportunities.   

More on connecting with the small and mid sized in a later post.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Vote for HP's Blog

HP interrupts the usual career advice to share some exciting news...

The ABA Journal announced that it has selected Hiring Partner's Office as one of the top 100 best websites by lawyers, for lawyers!  

Now, my friends, you can vote for your favorite blog.  To vote, go to    We are under the Careers section.  Please don't let Gerry Spence beat HP (not that HP is competitive or anything)

Voting ends Jan. 2, 2008.  Vote early; not sure if you can vote often!  Wow, who would have thought HP's original rantings regarding flip flops would lead to minor fame, if not fortune.  As HP has just spent hours on firm administrative stuff, and had a lonnnng day, HP needs a little pick me up.  Thanks again for your support!  HP has to say that I am most impressed when my commenters give each other advice -- a lot of it very helpful and on the money.  So, you folks should be darn proud of yourselves. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Advice for the Anxious

First, let me say that F-3, a frequent commenter here, has been giving some solid advice.  HP can't always blog as HP has client duties, administrative duties, and a personal life.  So, HP appreciates it when others step in to help out.  

I know that many of you are anxious.  On the subject of 1Ls, let me say that BigLaw jobs will be few and far between.  You guys and gals know that.  They always have been, and this year will be a heck of a lot worse. So, what to do?  If there's an area of law you are interested in, i.e. a specialty, I would recommend you try to find a paid (or unfortunately unpaid) internship at a governmental (state or federal) agency that handles these matters, at a corporation, or a smaller firm.  HP's friend who is an HP at another firm hired a gal for 2L summer from a decent (but not top tier) law school with pretty good, but not top of the class grades.  Why did this gal get the offer?  Well, a particular practice area has indicated they need a junior associate.  This gal spent her 1L summer at a governmental agency that oversees the industry served by practice group.  The gal also had prior work experience in the industry.  This gave her the edge over others who may have had better credentials but less "connection" to the specialty area.   Playing this out another way, let's say you may be interested in employment law.  There are tons of state anti-discrimination agencies out there where you could get experience helping to investigate matters under various civil rights laws.  

And, btw, we do often check references -- even if you don't provide them to us.  Oftentimes, either HP or someone in the firm will know people at the places you worked.  We may very well call up a contact there and get their assessment of you.  These are buyer's times again and we are buyers, so we can be extra cautious and careful about who we hire.  HP's friend had a gal who worked in-house last summer at a place where HP's friend knew a senior in-house counsel.  HP's friend called up the counsel and asked about the summer associate's work, demeanor, etc.  This goes in the advice category to do a good, solid job no matter where you are because -- HP ALREADY  SAID THIS: YOU NEVER KNOW WHO KNOWS WHO -- it is your reputation and career -- guard it -- work hard, be honest, treat people (supervisors, colleagues, opposing counsel, and staff) with respect.  What you do in one job or situation may come back to bite or help you. 

I know you are wanting more advice and I will try to get back on track on being a more frequent blogger.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving!  

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Summer 09

One of our commenters asked about next summer and whether everyone is "screwed."  The answer is, no.  I assume you mean for those of you who have offers?  Well, let's start there.   The majority of you will head into your summer jobs as usual. Some programs may be shorter than before.  This wouldn't alarm me.  Remember, firms view summer programs as a long term investment, not a money making enterprise.  So, it is understandable that they may limit the number of weeks summer associates spend in their offices.  

My advice for you is similar to what I did when I was a summer during a tough economic time (note: I was the only one in my summer class to get an outright offer...others were on "hold.").  Keep your head down.  Work work work ... like a dog.  Yes, you should take part in social activities  But, if there is a non-command performance and you have a project to finish...finish it.  It would be helpful to get in early, stay late, have people view you as the type of person they would want to work with longer term.  We often ask, is this someone I would want to work with at 2am if I had a deadline that took us into an this someone who I can spend time with...and who I can trust to put the time in, not blow stuff off, and do a solid job?

Yes, this summer will be tough.  You need to show that you are tough (but pleasant), bright, dependable.  Double-check your work, be enthusiastic about your projects.  If an important partner invites you to watch his or her depositions, negotiations, etc.  - GO.  Look interested.  Help with whatever is needed.  You need to make even more of an effort to show you are a STAR.  The fun is over, it is time to bear down.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

networking again

HP returns, sorry for the delay there.  The news out there in the legal market is grim.  HP's firm has not had economic layoffs and did plan conservatively for next summer and fall incoming class. If you are a law student and anxious, I would say stay in touch with your firm.  For instance, if you are invited to any firm events (such as a holiday party) and you can make it, show up and socialize (no drunks though, not helpful to future employment).  Keep your eyes and ears open about how the firm is doing -- google searches, etc.  

For those of you out there, you need to continue to develop your personal and professional network.  A couple weeks ago, I witnessed a master networker in action.  This guy was at a community service event and he was connecting with all sorts of people - in house, private firm, etc.  He sent an email the next day circulating different people's emails to each other.  He explained to me that as a GC, it is so important to network because you never know when your company will be sold, go out of business, etc.  Get out of your offices and connect with old and new friends.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Staying Afloat: Michelle Obama's lesson

HP is not a political person. In fact, I am tired of all the political polls, analysis, etc., and just ready for the election to occur.  But, a recent article regarding Michelle Obama and her time at Sidley provides me with some guidance for our audience here.  Reportedly (and I am just summarizing the article a friend sent me), Michelle's supervising partner thought highly of her and tried to give her solid work assignments.  However, Michelle was not happy with these assignments (she was a second year associate) and eventually reportedly went over her supervising partner's head to the HR department.  The supervisor observed something like "Michelle complained about doing second year association assignments.  But she was a second year associate."  

Lesson here?   Unless you are getting ready to possibly be the next First Lady, in today's legal market, don't complain about doing tasks appropriate for your level.  Yes, it is great to be ambitious, a go-getter, and eventually a rainmaker.  But, if you want to stay afloat, the best thing to do in these down times when we are seeing layoffs is to keep your head down and DO YOUR WORK.  Don't cause waves.  Don't be a complainer, whiner, etc.  BE A TEAM PLAYER.  Try to keep your work plate full by going through the assignment channels to get work.  Seek out potential mentors you might like to get to know and ask them if they need help.  Volunteer for emergency and other projects.  Sometimes I would get the "big win."  This is where you volunteer, you look like such a great team player, yet the project goes away or for some reason they don't need you.  No effort, but great goodwill.  

Aside from client work, you can work on articles, firm client alerts, etc.  This will help get your name out inside and outside the firm.  Your goal is to remain occupied and build your positive reputation as a hardworking, solid firm citizen.  Michelle Obama is an accomplished woman, but do not follow her example if you want to survive in a law firm in this legal market.  Do not complain that you are doing second year associate tasks as a second year associate.  Head down, positive attitude, team player.  Complainers get canned.  Goodwill can save.  

Thank you for all your comments to the last post.  HP will be reviewing them and incorporating your ideas.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Your Ideas

Hey gang.  

I feel like it is time to get some more input from you.  What questions do you have for HP .. please no more on thank you notes.

How can HP and other HPs make the interviewing and hiring experience better?

What was the best place you interviewed and why?  What really made a difference?  

Give me your insights.  Should we try to get on more blogrolls?  Other ideas for expanding our base?  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Professionalism Part II

Remember:  you are your reputation.  Even in big cities, the legal world is a small world.  I've said it before here, and I will probably say it again:  people know people.  You never know who is friends with who, whose husband or wife works at X company, etc.  There are ways to be a zealous advocate for your client yet a fair and decent attorney.  HP has been on the other side of many attorneys over the years.  If you surveyed those people, HP would hope they would say that HP is a diligent, smart, tough but fair counsel.  These are the kind of attorneys people respect.  HP has received client referrals from former colleagues, former adversaries, and former clients.  Keep in mind that whatever matter you might be working on, whether it is "your" client, or if you are a first year associate working on a larger matter, there are implications down the road. Of course, implications for the client.  But also implications for you:  how you perform is assessed by your supervising attorney, your clients, people your clients may tell (their colleagues, friends, family members in business etc.).  Someone said recently to HP's friend "I'm referring you this matter because I know you will do a stellar job and you will make me look good to my client (who was the referral)."  This is a huge compliment.  It is based on one lawyer's high respect for the legal skills and client handling of another lawyer.  Acting as a jerk, being less than careful, logging tons of excess time will not get you to this point. Remember, law is more like cross country than track. Yes, we occasionally sprint but we need to keep a swift, even pace to finish the race.  


-- check and double check your work.

-- return calls and emails promptly.

-- if you say you are sending a document, order, etc (yes, even to the other side), send it promptly.  Follow through on your promises.  If there are delays, let the recipient know why and when you will deliver.

-- don't overpromise.

-- if you don't know the answer, don't fib.  It is ok to say you have to look into something.

-- yelling, cursing, and bullying don't usually help. In fact, if someone becomes obnoxious to me, I immediately go in my "you are getting nothing" mode.  

-- keep clients and others informed of developments.  

-- if you change documents, send redlines.  Don't just say "we had a few minor changes."  If you want us to sign off on something or pass along to our client, you got to show us what you did.  We don't like surprises or sneak changes and it makes you look untrustworthy.  Remember, even adversaries today can be clients tomorrow (job changes, referrals).

-- in the end, it is your reputation -- not your partners, not some other associate -- yours.  Over the years, I have adopted the good traits of some fine mentors while recognizing that other traits were either not my style or not good for my reputation.  Own your reputation. Remember -- and I know HP said this before -- no one is looking out for your career but you.  

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I digress from my traditional advice on "hiring" to spend some time on professionalism.  Over the years, as firms have become more obsessed with billable hours, as associates have become more obsessed with salaries and bonuses, and "laterals for hire" have moved from firm to firm in search of the biggest PPP, I feel many folks have lost track of professionalism.  I guess what I am thinking here is that I don't believe firms are teaching our newer lawyers how to be good lawyers.  When I say good lawyers I mean careful, smart, professional lawyers.  And, the associates have become in some instances "Stepford lawyers," just moving from project to project, timesheet to timesheet, without focusing on the big picture and without questioning when something a higher up is saying is wrong or perhaps unethical or even unlawful.

So, I would like to spend some time in our posts focusing on these issues.  HP spent many years at a solid AM LAW 200 firm. During the time HP was growing up there, HP will say that HP did have great mentors who taught HP these important professionalism traits. I don't think these same lessons are necessarily being taught there now, and I am concerned they are not taught at other firms. So, maybe I can pass along some here.

First, you are bright, diligent people. Don't become a Stepford Attorney.  Let's say a partner wants to keep his or her group hours up and tells you to record time in a way that you are not sure sounds right.  Do you just follow his or her instructions?  If you've got a concern or actually feel it is unethical ...i.e. billing for work not done.. then do something about it.  The partner is putting you, himself, and the firm at risk.  Someone once told a group of associates "our clients may go to jail, we are not going to jail for them."  Similar story here.  Do not do something you think is unethical or illegal just because someone is telling you to do it. Go consult a department chair, an office managing partner, someone to ask their advice.  I know this is risky but it is better than getting involved in shady timekeeping or other unethical issues. Do not sacrifice your ethical obligations and professionalism for someone's profit.  

Second, when I was a first year associate, I had an orientation program. I still remember one important line from that program:  "everyone here, at some point, will make a mistake.  Do not attempt to hide it, don't think it will go away, and don't have a heart attack.  Tell someone."  I think of that to this day. Once, it happened to me.  I thought I forgot to do something in connection with a appellate brief.  I fessed up to the senior associate, thinking I was about to die.  I am sure I lost sleep.  He said, oh, I remembered that and took care of it yesterday. Crisis averted!  Remember, a lot of mistakes can be cured, but if you try to bury them -- like my brother used to do with his bad report cards in the front yard so our parents wouldn't find them  -- sometimes the mistakes will become bigger and bigger problems.  

More in a later post.  Hope you are having a nice weekend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Proper professional action:  You haven't heard from a firm since you got a call back, other than the recruiting coordinator checking in.  You have another offer and you decide to take the sure thing.  You accept other offer.  You send a short, nice note to recruiting coordinator withdrawing your candidacy and thanking the firm for its consideration.  Recruiting coordinator copies HP.  HP says, yes, I liked that guy, it is too bad I was stuck waiting for pain in the neck candidate to accept his offer.  HP will remember that the good guy was professional and should HP come across good guy in the market again (e.g., lateral applicant), HP will have good feelings.  

Crappy actions:  You have offer.  People from the firm email you to say congrats.  No one hears back from you.  What is so friggin hard?  Hit reply and say "thank you, I enjoyed meeting you during my visit and will definitely get in touch if I have further questions."  (This assumes you are still considering firm).  We don't understand when people go silent.

Dumb action: You are still interested in firm but we haven't heard from you in weeks. Yes, you are probably on hold, but if you like us why not let us know you are still interested.  Candidate A got an offer a couple of weeks ago because candidate B had gone silent and we figured not interested.

Crappy actions:  You accept offer, or after you get offer, firm sends you a goody basket of treats, firm toys, whatever.  Drop an email and thank the hiring coordinator, the HP, someone.  I realize I sound like your mom telling you to send a thank you note to grandma for the bday gift, but these are common courtesies that seem to be missing. Same goes for stuff sent to you when you pass bar, graduate law school, etc.  Acknowledge and express appreciation. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Call backs but no offers

A few of you have wondered what to do if no offers have been made, despite several call backs interviews.  As I mentioned before, you may still be on hold.  Yes, you might be the second or third choice, but in the end, if you end up at a firm you like and they hire you full-time (because you've proven yourself), then who cares if you weren't the first choice.  My suggestions would be to stay in touch periodically with the recruiting coordinator and let the know of your continued interest.  This week, a candidate got an offer from me because the other potential that I had in mind had gone silent and I figured he or she wouldn't take our offer since didn't seem that interested.  You may also want to drop an email to the Hiring Partner, especially if you met that person.  We like people who show a strong interest because it means you are likely to accept.  But remember, don't hound us, and please don't attempt to go over our heads with managing partners of offices, etc.  We know what is going on and are doing the best we can to manage the numbers, particularly in this economy. We do not want to run into an oversubscription situation because we want to be able to give everyone full time offers at the end of the summer.  We are being more cautious this year because we can't risk over-capacity.  If you hear from our recruiting coordinator, it is probably because the HP has asked her or him to check in with you to see if you are still interested.  This means we still are thinking of you.  

Now, what else should you do.  If you think things are not going well, I would expand your search -- look for company internships, governmental summer positions, smaller/mid-size firms.  Find something that will add to you resume and may have some potential of future employment.  I realize the law firm route is more direct but with the market being as it is, you will need to be more creative.  And yes, ask your contacts in the legal and business world for advice.  HP got a IL summer job because HP asked HP's uncle if he knew any law firms with openings (uncle was in transportation business).  Resume went to a law firm and HP got interviews.  It turned out that HP's uncle sent it to his friend, who happened to be a private investigator for the firm.  Sure, it wasn't an AM LAW 100/200 firm, but it was great experience and got a law job on HP's resume to position HP for 2l hiring.  So, you never know. Don't be shy - make the ask!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Answering Some Questions

I have to say, HP isn't that inspired as to a particular topic, so I thought I would answer some questions you've had.

1. A student asked about whether he/she should transfer from a not great school to a more prestigious school.  I would say, particularly in the legal market the next few years, it probably is a good idea to upgrade schools.  The one caveat I would have is if your grades are superb, you like the current school, and you plan to practice in the region where that particular school is viewed favorably, you may want to stay.  If you want to work in a big market and you are not there, or you are there but at a mediocre school, you've got a tough rode.  I saw someone who transferred from a mediocre school to Georgetown. We interviewed them. They would not have received an interview if their resume indicated they were still at the mediocre school.  That said, if I were a regional firm in that mediocre school's region and this candidate had top grades, law review, etc., the person probably would do just fine.

2. We've had several questions on following up after callbacks.  I have to say, there are several candidates "on hold" at HP's firm because HP is waiting to see if other people accept their offers. It is perfectly acceptable to check in after a couple weeks, and even a couple weeks after that.  Of course, there's a fine line between obsession and professionalism.  I like when people check in because it shows me they are still interested in us. So, if I am deciding whether to give an offer to Student A or Student B, part of what I am thinking of is who is likely to accept (perhaps before the NALP deadline!) and I may choose based on who seems most interested.  I haven't heard from someone in a while and figure he's moved on while we have seen other candidates.  Maybe he thinks we are not interested in him?  In any event, I am probably going with someone else who I think will take the offer. 

3. This actually isn't answering a question, but putting out a request.  If you've got multiple offers and -- since you have firm X you aren't taking firm Y, please go ahead and politely decline firm Y.  We understand people make choices for different reasons. We may ask you your reasoning just so we can understand and if it is something we can improve, to find out what that is.  In this economy, it would really help your colleagues and others if you decline early so that we can move on.  I realize I am calling on your altruism but, as my high school foreign language teacher used to say "it's nice to be nice."  If you are waiting on other firms, we usually understand that, but do keep the other firms informed of upcoming NALP imposed deadlines on your offers.

I hope that helps guys and gals.  HP is going to go watch some baseball.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Some commenters wondered how diversity factors into our thinking and noted there seem to be "looser" standards for women and diverse candidates. I can only speak for this HP, but I will tell you my standards are not "looser" when we are speaking with diverse candidates.  Rather, all things relatively (or nearly) equal, furthering the firm's diversity goals may come into play if we are considering Student A vs. B. However, a diversity factor won't - in my book - get you a call back if you weren't lauded by the screening interviewer.  You might get a screening interview if your grades are outside the cutoff slightly. But, if you are far away from the cutoff, being diverse isn't helping at least at my shop.  We have too many other candidates - diverse and non-diverse - who have great resumes.  

On the subject of women, just being a woman doesn't really buy any easier route these days. We see plenty of women in our screens and call backs.  It is more so the diversity factor that might be considered, assuming all else is equal.  I assure you that there are no "looser" standards for women.  If you see them getting call backs and offers, it is because they are highly qualified and -- as if often the case -- they tend to shine more in the callbacks personality-wise.  Many women have an easier time connecting with people they are just meeting than men.  Again, these are my observations. When I was on campus a couple of months back, the women were terrific.  The men, more mixed. 

I know I promised to discuss women's issues in a later post, and I will do so.  The law firm world is a difficult place for working women - especially working moms. It has gotten better over the years. If you are considering a family life down the road, you do need to think about selecting firms/companies/other organizations that appear to promote women -including those with families (ie. not just those who give up lives to devote selves to firm).  You do not want to be in a place where the lawyer moms are ghettoed to senior associate or of counsel forever.  Lack of power = lack of respect.  And, try to beware of that particularly evil brand of woman lawyer -- women who do not support other women.  My lawyer/mom friend says "there is a special place in hell for women who denigrate other women (without any basis for doing so). " 

Just HP's two cents for the day. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

quick input re thank you notes

Questions regarding thank you notes have been asked several times in the comments.  My quick take is:

(1) not necessary after an on campus screening interview.  But, if you want to send a short note expressing continued interest, enjoyed meeting interviewer, etc., this is AOK and might help. Since these decisions are usually made quickly regarding callbacks, you need to be prompt.  An email is ok.  I received one from a candidate that same afternoon while I was still on campus.  In the end, his grades weren't high enough, but it did give me pause because he seemed like a good guy who was sincerely interested in firm/practice and I liked the very quick follow through. Had his grades been a bit higher, I would have given the callback and the speedy thank you would have played in my decision-making.

(2) after call backs, not totally necessary, but doesn't hurt.  Needs to be timely, i.e. within one or two days.  I don't mind emails; but you should do them within 24 hours since they can be sent more quickly than regular mail.  I take a quick look then forward them on to the recruiting coordinator for the file and to our committee.  To me, it shows follow-up and a continued interest.  Now, if the candidate is so-so or didn't do well in interviews, it won't change anything. But if candidate is pretty good and we are choosing between a couple of people, we will factor in that this candidate seems really interested (i.e. perhaps more likely to accept than others) and that person may get the nod.  Formal thank yous are fine also, just try to get them out quickly because there can be U.S. mail delays.  I don't think we would choose one person over another because of the email versus hard copy thank you.  That's me -- perhaps I'm less formally inclined on this one.  But we do note a sincere thank you note and include it in the file. Again, if we have someone who sent a thank you versus someone who didn't and their reviews are similar, the thank you person may get the nod because we think they may be more likely to take the offer than to leave us hanging through the NALP waiting period.  Especially in this economy, we need to be careful about offers and most of us are cutting back on class sizes.  

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Heller Serves as a Good Reminder

HP is sorry to hear about Heller's impending dissolution.  I worked with some of their attorneys and found them to be talented and dedicated.  Alas, they will be out in the legal job market now, too.  Unfortunately, they are out at a time when firm hiring is pretty flat.  My legal recruiting friend tells me (even before Heller's announcement) that lateral associate hiring is quiet.  Partners with books of business (of course) can find new firms.  But, worker bee partners, counsel, and associates (aka "grinders or minders") are going to have a difficult time finding new firms, unless the rainmaking partner friend takes them along or they fill a very particular niche at a firm that is willing to hire them.

I realize most of you do not work at Heller.  But, this situation presents a good lesson in remembering that the boom days are over and none of us are indispensable.  You need to set yourself up, the best you can, for alternative situations.  This applies equally to involuntary moves as well as to voluntary moves -- e.g., you need a change versus firm dissolving.  Or, the firm brought in three lateral associates from a lateral group who are now above you class-wise.
Things happen.  Yes, even to star associates.  As they say, life is not fair.  It is not always the most qualified person who advances. 

So, what can the Heller attorneys do?  My advice on this one applies to any attorney who needs or wants to move laterally.  First, find yourself a reputable headhunter.  Ask respected friends for advice.  I used a headhunter when I moved and several former colleagues asked me months, even years, later, for the name of my recruiter.  Listen to what he or she says about the market, your chances, etc.  But, if you want something and they are not enthusiastic, you may need to find another recruiter.  I had a former colleague who wanted to be a reduced schedule partner and her firm did not allow those arrangements.  She consulted a recruiter who said that he had never placed a part time partner.  So, she got another recruiter.  Guess what...found a firm who made her a partner and let her have the reduced schedule.  Why did this work out?  The lawyer was committed to the advancement, she had portable business that would and did move with her, and the recruiter thought outside of the box.  

Next -- this may sound obvious but it is really important -- network.  Reach out to people in your network and let them know you may be interested in a move.  Be cautious of course because you want to keep this quiet if you are still at your job (of course, the Heller attorneys don't have to keep quiet).  Sometimes, a contact in your network will put you in touch with a contact in their network.  Go ahead and reach out.  Many people will be surprisingly helpful.  Plus, if a law firm lawyer connects you with a great in-house job, there's a potential benefit for that attorney since you may send business.  

Who is your network?  Former colleagues who have moved to firms, companies, etc.  People you know in your community (e.g., parents of kids on your kids' sports teams who are also professionals).  Case in point.  HP's friend had a great job open in friend's organization.  Friend asked HP did HP know anyone.  HP thought a minute then emailed a parent/lawyer friend at another firm.  That person wasn't looking to leave but had a friend who was.  That friend got the job.  

We will discuss networking and strategies for exiting in greater detail in further posts.  

Some keys are:  maintain a strong reputation - make sure people inside and outside your firm/company/organization like and respect you -- i.e. don't be an a-hole; stay in touch with your former colleagues, classmates, etc. through the years; get involved in firm/company activities, bar activities etc.  This will build your reputation.  

Of course, having some portable business if you want to move firms is always a huge plus and will give you more options.  Since this is a junior audience (I think), I won't harp on it, but we will explore how one develops business.  It is possible, even for those who don't come from $$$ or professional families and who don't see themselves as rainmakers.  Again, we'll discuss later.  The bottom line is that "minders" and "grinders," of course, have fewer options than "finders."  A good lesson to keep in mind.  

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I've Returned

My loyal readers -- I have to apologize for being so out of touch. Next time I will try to give you word that I am taking a week or two off.  Things were really busy at the firm, combined with recruiting and a death in the family -- not immediate family, but a close relative.  Thanks for being patient.  I am touched someone was concerned that I lost my job in the financial crisis.  I'm fine, and thank goodness do not work at Heller.

It looks like I will have a lot of items to address.  Someone asked about what is going on behind the scenes when you have come in for a callback, had what you perceive to be good interviews, yet haven't heard anything for a couple of weeks.  You may still be in the running.  In fact, we ding faster than we offer, in many instances.  So, there's still hope.  If you got a quick ding, it usually means it was not a fit.  You had too many negative reviews, it was an obvious no go, etc.   So, for those who haven't heard, what is going on?

Well, it could be a number of things.  Perhaps the HP is out of town and needs to sign off.  Or, HP wants to consult with a practice group leader of a group you expressed a strong interest in, and that person has been unavailable.  It also may have to do with how the recruiting committee is run.  Ours has weekly meetings.  Unless we think we need to move on someone immediately (very special cases), we wait till our weekly meeting and then discuss each of the candidates who visited during the past week plus any we are holding.  We may be comparing and contrasting students, and ranking our choices.  We may decide to issue offer to Student A, but hold Student B and C, and ding D.  If you just came in during the past week, we feel we can hold you longer than someone who was in a few weeks ago.  Our recruiting coordinator may reach out to you to let you know you are still under consideration.  This is to give you an update and possibly to get some sense of how your situation is panning out -- e.g., our coordinator will often ask you to let us know if you have an offer that needs action under the NALP rules -- that may force us to decide sooner.  Finally, some firms have national recruiting committees in addition to local office committees, so they may need to wait until that meeting As I said, it can be any number of reasons. 

You may wonder if the HP gets the ultimate veto.  Again, depends.  Someone may not "wow" me, but if everyone else loved them, I will go along.  If it is more a split bag.  Some people thought ok, others said "definitely offer," I may be the tie breaker.  I try to be egalitarian on my committee to get different views and recognize that I tend to like a certain type of candidate and perhaps others like other types and different types will work fine in the firm.   

So, what to do?  After two weeks, it is AOK to check in with the recruiting coordinator, assuming that person was your main contact. Let them know you are still definitely interested.  Don't look desperate, but do express your continued interest in the firm.  Be respectful to the recruiting coordinator, these things are noted.  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Attire Part II

A male commenter asked about male attire and how "formal" it should be (e.g., colored shirts?  suits in colors other than black or navy).  This may vary coast to coast, but take this HP's advice and stick with the traditional navy or navy pinstripe, or dark grey, with a white or plain blue dress shirt and a tasteful tie.  Especially in this legal market, why distract from your substance with your dress?  You want us to notice your resume, your credentials, your bright personality.  Do you really want us to notice your eggplant colored shirt?  If we are noticing it, then it is probably because it is distracting us.  You have plenty of time to play fashion Ken. Do it on the weekends.  

I had a friend with a very strong New England accent. She got sick of people stopping her when she was speaking and saying it was cute, etc.  She got rid of the accent.  She explained "I would rather people listen to what I am saying than how I am saying it."  She understood the accent was distracting from the message.  Take it or leave it, but I think it is an interesting lesson. 

I think you asked about shoes and whether loafers are OK.  As long as shoes are clean and professional, I think they are fine, though most interviewees (I think) wear lace ups.  I said I think because I do not believe I have noticed any one's shoes this interview season.  That said, no need to distract. Go with something traditional - and get a shoe shine. 

Future Impact of Turning Down Offer

A couple of you asked about the future impact of turning down a firm's offer.  For instance, if a firm gave student Adam a summer associate offer that Adam declined, would Adam hurt his chances of getting an offer from the firm if he tried to join laterally some time later.  I can't speak for every firm out there, but I think it unlikely Adam's turning down an offer, say, in 2008 would hurt him in 2011.  The practice may vary from firm to firm, but I am not away of firms that research every lateral's prior employment inquiry (versus history) with the firm. The instance in which the "past" could catch up to you is if you acted in a perceived jerky way -- e.g., not responding to offer, submitting odd and inflated expense reimbursement requests, etc.  If you act professional and classy when dealing with the firms, you should be judged on your merit going forward.  FYI the same goes for the way you treat people when you are an attorney.  A few posts back, I warned that it is a small legal world and "people know people."  If you've been a total nightmare with whom to deal (e.g, never giving courtesy extensions in litigation, being nasty or dishonest in negotiations, etc.), there is a pretty good chance that word can get out on the street about you.  Lateral hiring does involve diligence.  In addition to credit and criminal checks, diligence regarding your legal acumen, personality (for fit with firm and its attorneys), ethics and professionalism may be explored.  Bear that in mind as you undertake your career.  Your exit strategy will be hampered ...or your reputation in the legal community.  

Friday, September 12, 2008

new NALP rules, etc.

Anonymous (I seem to have a lot of friends here named Anonymous) asked whether HP thinks that the new NALP 45 day rule will have an effect on how quickly firms will notify people of offers after callbacks.  (For those who are not familiar with this new rule, candidates have 45 days from the date of an offer to act on that offer -- this is for summer associate positions).  My experience is that it is making us act more quickly in giving offers so that we can get a clock started and have an ability to move on to other candidates if a candidate declines an offer.  

Anonymous also asked if firms generally try to wait until all candidates from a particular school go through callbacks before making decisions as to which candidates to hire.  This varies.  We do like to see all the candidates from a school so we can compare and contrast. We prefer to have a mix of law schools in our summer programs.  However, even if we have not seen all candidates from a particular school, if we have a candidate who we perceive to be in demand and who we know we want, we will go ahead and issue and offer ASAP.  My theory is that hot candidates are more inclined to go to firms that show they are very interested.  One year, we had a candidate who we really wanted (good grades, solid undergraduate institution, great outside activities, diverse candidate).  We issued the offer about a day after the candidate came in for a callback.  The candidate accepted shortly thereafter.  Candidate now works for firm.  

One other point.  This year's market is cooler than in past years.  What that means is that I don't feel we need to act on all candidates so quickly.  It gives us the opportunity to keep people in "hold" longer than we normally would do so.  Thus, if you haven't heard back after a callback, and it has been some time, check in with the recruiting coordinator to express your continued interest.  You are probably still on hold and this will help us know that you haven't accepted another offer.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Proof Your Docs, People

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but today's 2L blunder is worth repeating.  Our recruiting coordinator passed along the resume of a 2L male at a good law school.  He grades were quite good; he was on law review.  His work experience and language capabilities were also very interesting.  Normally he would merit a screen, or maybe even a call back because he is local. But, I dinged him.  Why??  No, HP wasn't just in a crappy mood.  This supposed law review dude put in his e-mail cover 2 references to a different law firm as in "Attached is my resume for consideration for XYZ law firm's summer program (let's say we are ABC firm). If that mail merge disaster wasn't enough, he then said something like "my research has confirmed that XYZ firm's xxxyyy practice (a practice we DON'T have) would fit my interests and experience."  To make matters worse, when you opened the actual cover letter, it had our firm name, sort of. The firm name was not correctly spelled and the name was off.  So, to quote the dearly departed Bernie Mac, "I ask you AMERICA"...what kind of law review student is this?  ATTENTION TO DETAIL PEOPLE!    GEEZ


A woman commenter asked whether it is still necessary to wear a skirt suit vs. a pant suit to interviews.  In most larger cities, a nice pantsuit is perfectly acceptable.  Perhaps there are smaller markets where the traditional skirt reigns, but most of the women attorneys  I know and surveyed think a tailored pantsuit is appropriate.  Should be paired with appropriately fitting shirt -- no gaps, cleavage, etc.  Accessories tastefully done.  The main point is that you want to present a professional, serious appearance and if there's a big gap showing your bra, this will distract from the interview.  A little silly to discuss, I realize, but since you asked, I answered (plus it was kind of an easy one). 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Outing Self on Resume

One of our commenters asked a terrific question.  This person said they really want to spend their 1L summer at a gay rights organization or similar group and is concerning about the "outing" effect this would have on their resume as they interview for 2L firm slots.

We HP and recruiting staff are very used to seeing people self identify on their resumes as gay, lesbian, member of certain minority groups, etc.  No biggie in most big cities. In fact, we are told to increase diversity, so we are often looking for attorneys from diverse backgrounds.  Our clients want diversity, many recruits want diversity, and we have to list our female/minority/gay/lesbian/transgender attorneys on various forms and surveys. So, self-disclosing may actually benefit you.  And, if that is what you really want to do as a 1L, i.e. your dream 1L job, then go for it...but I caveat...

There will be some reviewers who will be biased.  Of course, they are not supposed to be discriminating.  If they turn you down because of your self-identifying, I would say you wouldn't want to work for that person or at that place anyway.  The bigger issue -- and this applies not to alternative lifestyles but to any public interest gig -- is that the HP or other reviewer may wonder about your commitment and interest in working in BigLaw.  We know most people do not make it to partnership, but we don't want someone who comes in ready to go. And, we wonder about whether someone who is so vested in certain issues could properly advocate/counsel clients who may have diverging interests.  We don't like or agree with all our clients, but we have to represent them zealously within the confines of the law.  Some years back, I interviewed a bright young woman from a top law school who had worked in many women-oriented organizations, women's advocacy, etc.  She claimed she wanted to work in the employment practice of a law firm.  I had my doubts about her ability/interest in representing employers (i.e., the clients) in defending them against the claims of say, a lady who alleged pregnancy discrimination.  This candidate answered that she saw herself working on advising clients before any troubles, helping with employee handbooks and policies, etc.  But I told her that kind of work was only a small part of what the employment lawyers did.  Most of it was dog eat dog litigation.  Someone alleges discrimination of some covered type. We defend them, usually digging up dirt on employee (e.g., falsified resume in first place, or sent email saying how much she enjoyed working with alleged nasty boss man).   I ended up dinging the woman, not because of her work at a women's organization but because I did not see any even medium (not to mention long) term potential at the firm. 

So, the long and short of it is that you will be outing yourself, but so be it.  Just be aware that the public interest/private interest issue may arise.  My advice would be to try to do some work at the organization that might translate in the private sector -- e.g., contract review, interviewing witnesses, drafting affidavits and declarations, research and drafting memoranda, etc.  That way, when you write it up next summer on your resume, you will have substantive items to list and discuss that can go beyond the obvious public interest and that you can relate to your law firm interviewing.   

I hope that helps. Please keep the good questions and comments coming.  Oh, and do we have experienced attorneys out there as well as law students?  

Sunday, September 7, 2008


One of our commenters asked about how believable the comments by HPs and others are when one is interviewing.  He/or is it she since I have now learned there are several fine women attorneys or attorneys to be out there wondered whether it is all spin/some true/false, or what.  

My friends, remember, we HPs and interviewers are selling as well as buying.  So, of course we do sell.  This means different things at different places and yes, this does apply to laterals as well as law students. This HP does not lie.  But I do sound enthusiastic about certain groups and people that I may not personally like.   Let's say there's a partner or practice group I personally would not want to work in.  Do I still recruit people for that group/partner?  Yes, I do. That's my job.  That said, I try to look for candidates who will fit personality wise with that group/partner.  

All firms are spinning.  If you think we are not, you are fooling yourselves.  I know of a firm that treats women (particularly those with families) like crap.  Are they selling themselves these days as family and women friendly?  Of course they are.  What are they going to say, we only want She-men who will sell lives to firm?  At HPs current firm, I think we have good policies and a good work environment, and I don't have to do a whole lot of spinning because I believe in what I am selling, usually.  But do keep your eyes open.   At my prior firm, a candidate once asked me about what I didn't like about the firm, or what I would change if I were the managing partner.  I thought these were good questions, and I gave honest answers that probably gave the candidate some solid information. to get the straight poop?  Ask prior summer associates or associates who worked there, if you know of them.  Search Google, Vault, other sites.  Check out the composition of the office/firm.  If you are a minority candidate and you see no minority partners and few associates, you may not be comfortable there.  Same thing for women.  If you see 2 or 4 women partners in an office over 100 people...this is not a good sign.  At this day in age, where women have come out of law school at the same percentage of men for many years, there should be more women partners, period.  I am sure there have been enough highly competent people through the doors over the years there that we can't blame the women.  There is likely an issue regarding retention and advancement.    

Keeping it Fresh

Thanks for all your suggestions.  It is useful to hear feedback.  I've actually really wanted to expand beyond the interviewing/OCI/callback/law student postings but kept getting questions about those issues.  In the future, I will address more "actual practice" topics, including participating in firm social events and firm administrative committees, bar associations, etc., as well as positioning yourself for advancement and plotting exit strategies.  By the way, I've noticed many of you readers appear to be young male law students.  Are there any women out there?  Just wondering since I haven't heard from any and I have a "guest" poster who would like to address issues particular to women in the law.  

In terms of increasing readership, I know the blog got some attention from, and the Wall Street Journal law blog when it first went online.  But feel free to share with your friends and others.  We can all learn from each other, so the more participation, the better.  Even though I have been practicing for a number of years, I know I continue to learn.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Hey all....HP wonders whether you are really finding this blog useful?  HP started it after being frustrated with the "new" generation and thinking you needed some guidance and really just needing to vent.  Can I get some feedback as to whether I should continue on these topics?  Other topics?  Close down the shop?  Do you know if people are really interested?  I welcome your input too.  

call backs and grades

I believe it was E who asked the question about the lucky Joe whose grades aren't top but who nevertheless scores callback(s)? with big firm(s)?  E wondered whether you should address the grades.  I wouldn't unless asked directly.  The screening interviewer picked you for a reason.  It was something you had on paper and/or in interviewing that made him or her advocate for a call back for you.  If you were outside of the firm's cut off for your school, the screener often needs to explain to HP or the recruiting committee why they want you back.  There could be any number of reasons -- great personality that shows great client relations potential,  terrific and on point prior work experience, you speak a particular language they want, the screener just connected with you, etc.  So, proceed in the callbacks as you would if grades were not an issue.  Be personable, be interested. Of course, those with lower grades may need to "shine" more.  Show you are really interested in the firm by having done your research and having good, insightful and on point questions to ask.  Express enthusiasm for the firm's practice areas, projects, programs, etc.  

On most evaluation forms, there is a place for grades.  So, the call back interviewers may check grades good, or fair, but not exceptional. That will be one item in the equation, but we really look at the overall comments from the interviews.

If you are asked about the grades, you need to explain in your best way without getting flustered.  If you did have a medical issue or family death, it is ok to generally reference it.  If  it was a first semester thing and you were getting used to testing style, etc., it is ok to say that.  End on a positive note...although my grade in civil procedure first semester did not meet my expectations, I turned it around second semester...  something like that.  We like to see progress especially from first semester forward. 

thoughts on this year's candidates

I interrupt question answering to provide some insights on this year's candidates whom I have seen thus far in callbacks.  I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised.  The candidates I have seen have generally been pretty good. Not everyone hit the ball out of the park, but most candidates looked the part, were qualified on paper, and could answer questions intelligently about their summer work experience and why they are interested in HP's firm.  Perhaps the tighter legal market is making people step up their game?  Perhaps they have been reading HP's blog?  Maybe we just have really good screening interviewers?  In any event, HP likes to give positive reinforcement as well as constructive criticism, so I just wanted to pass that along.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

turning call backs into offers

Anonymous and Matt asked about callback/offer ratios, i.e., number of callbacks given per summer associate position..and number of offers for each position.  This really depends on the firm, the usual "yield," size of program, etc, etc.  

If you have terrific grades, stats, and seem to interview well by getting a lot of callbacks, assuming you have callbacks at firms you think you like, I wouldn't accept every call back out there. It is ok to be somewhat selective.  Think of this like college applications, though, you will want to have reach firms, firms you stand a good chance of getting in, and safety firms where you think you should get an offer. Now of course, there's no telling what happens.  Sometimes one interviewer just won't click with you and will ding you hard, even when you thought you'd breeze through an offer.  If your grades are so so, take the callbacks -- all of them -- unless you have absolutely no interest in the firm/city.  You need to cover your a**

How do we figure out how many callbacks to give?  It really depends.  If you are from a local school, it is usual easier to get a callback because we don't factor in travel expenses. And, we probably have a good connection to the school from previous hires.  For me, it depends on how we are doing offer-wise; if we have several offers outstanding, I will be tighter on approving callbacks.  In terms of offers given for each position, this depends on each firm's usual yield and number of slots in the office.  For some firms, you might give 3-4 offers per position or more if not such a "hot" firm (we analyze historical data).  In smaller programs where  you are only authorized for a few summer associates total in an office, we have to be really careful about oversubscription, so for say 4 slots, we might give 6-7 offers depending on how we sense interest. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

turning down call backs

My new friend E asked another good question about whether one should decline callbacks to firms in which you are no longer interested when you already have an offer.  Yes, you should politely decline the offer.  The best way to do this is to get in touch (phone preferable) with the person who extended the call back an inform them that you have another offer and that you appreciate the call back but you need to decline.  We understand this happens.  We HPs don't want people who would rather be someplace else, and we understand that not everyone chooses our firms, so it is fine for you to decline.  This will prevent us from wasting time of our attorney and recruiting staff and open up a slot for another classmate of yours or student from another school.   If you just get voicemail, go ahead and leave a voice mail and follow up with an email.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Call Back Questions

Hiring Partner received a question from "E" concerning call back interviews:  E asked about the difference between OCI and call backs in terms of substance of the interviews.  E wondered whether it is true that the call back interviewers really don't care about grades.  A few points about call backs:

-- you are correct, E, that many interviewers in call backs have been told to assume that once screened and invited back, the candidate meets the firm's cutoffs for grades, etc.  Some interviewers are nevertheless grade sticklers and may question you about grades.  If the grades weren't exactly at top and outside the cutoff a little, I would expect more "wowing" from the candidate.

-- what else is different other than the interviews being longer?  In some firms, behavioral interviewing is implemented. That means that each attorney who sees you is assigned a particular attribute to observe and evaluate, e.g., "judgment," "maturity," "interest in firm."   They will ask you questions that try to get to these issues.  At other firms, these items are standard on the evaluation forms.  

-- lunch: typically you will have a lunch with a couple of attorneys. I have said this before, but your lunch conversation, discussion over the meal, and overall demeanor is crucial. Do not let your guard down just because you assume the interview is only over or just because you may be with some younger (junior) attorneys.  As HP, if I have a particular issue of concern  that I want explored, I will frequently go to the attorneys who will accompany the candidate to lunch and ask them to see if they can judge this issue for me, since they have more time with the candidate.  

-- people:  since it is a longer day, you will see more people.  Hopefully you will meet with men and women attorneys at various points in their careers.  Each brings a different background and view of candidates.  It is more difficult to impress 6-8 people than the screening interviewer.  It is unusual for one candidate to WOW all attorneys on the call back schedule. The goal is not to offend or annoy any of them.  If you get a list of names in advance, read their bios, and even Google them.  Especially when you have a more reserved interviewer, it is helpful to have some questions that draw on their area of practice, recent experiences etc.  If a lawyer's bio says nothing about pro bono or community activities, don't send those questions his or her way.  

-- look around. You are a buyer as well as a seller.  See what is going on in the office.  Quiet?  Pleasant seeming?  Doors closed? Open?  Staff friendly?  This is your opportunity to observe as well as to be observed.  HP once walked into a very white shoe NYC law firm for an interview and it was colder than Siberia.  HP knew this was not the place for HP long term.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm Back -- Reports from the Trenches

Hello Readers:

As you can see from the delays in posts, Hiring Partner has been busy with...well, hiring.  The on campus interview season is in full swing and some call backs have started in certain firms.  I'm happy to report that the candidates I have seen have come to the interviews prepared, enthusiastic, and generally acting normal.  You might be wondering what sets people apart when we see many people in an on campus interview day, or call back interviewees over the next several weeks. 

Of course, grades, and journals, moot court, etc matter.  That is how we screen in or out at first impression.  If you don't make the cut off, I may still give you an interview if you have a particular background that matches a practice area where we have a hiring need.  After that, when we meet, I am judging on your maturity, judgment (best I can tell in the short time we have together), interest in firm/office, conversational skills.  Each HP is different.  I look for someone who looks me in the eye, speaks clearly and intelligently about their work experience and interest in the city/firm/office, and seems like a go getter.  I also consider if this is someone that I could take with me to a client's office tomorrow.  If I have to train you how to act professionally and normally, I am passing.   Maybe some other firm is willing to take you, put you in the library for two years, and then think about bringing you out. But that is not how any of the firms I have worked at viewed recruiting.  I want someone who could be sent out to a client as a first year associate and not embarrass us.  Yes, I did meet clients as a first year associate (at a very large firm, no less).  


-- read up on the firm and in particular the office in which you are interested.  Most of us on the other side of the table notice when you bring up a case, transaction, etc that someone in our office handled, or a review from one of the major sources (e.g., Chambers, Vault).  It shows you did some homework.  I know I mentioned this before, but it is really important.

-- treat lunch in a call back just like the rest of the day.  It is still an interview. In fact, I pay particular attention to the comments of the lunch partners you had because they spent more time with you and in a different setting.

-- don't be too cocky. Even if you are top 10 at your school and you think you can reach higher than the firm you are talking to, don't appear aloof or cocky.  It is always better to have more options, especially in this type of economy.  

-- if your resume says you worked at X, be prepared that we may check references if we are serious about you. Remember, we know people at many places, you would be surprised, and we can easily pick up the phone and made an inquiry. 

A few quick don'ts from my and my friends' recent experiences:

-- no loose slang.  "That sucked," "The professor screwed me on that grade."  You get dinged for that in many books.  We are not so shocked by the language but it goes to judgment and maturity.  We have clients from all walks of life.  Many of them would not want to hear that in the workplace.

-- keep giggling to a minimum.  My former colleague saw a well qualified candidate, but she kept giggling (nervous?) and did not seem focused on areas of practices, thoughts about particular offices, etc.  Someone with grades significantly lower than the giggler got the call back. 

-- don't treat the recruiting coordinators like crap.  Be respectful when you call and email.  They actually will report back to us when someone seems great, or like a jerk.  We factor this in.  

I know you folks have asked several questions and I will be answering them shortly.  Thanks for your patience.