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.