Monday, September 15, 2008

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.  


Vica said...

Thank You!

e. said...

How does one turn down an offer?

I guess it's simple if you can tell firm A that you chose firm B because they have a certain practice group that firm A doesn't have, or that firm B is in a city you prefer. But what if you chose firm B only because of its better reputation or because you liked the people better -- what do you say?

Anonymous said...

E - I had the same issue last year (2L year), and I simply told them that I found a firm with a better fit (when it truly had nothing to do with the practice or location). It's rare that anyone will push you to explain yourself. Firms understand that people choose other firms, it's not a huge deal.

It would be a bigger deal if you had told this firm that they were your top choice, and that you'll definitely accept the offer if given one, that sort of thing. In that case, you'll be in trouble. But it doesn't sound like that's your case.

However, in your note or call or whatever, be sure to thank the firm, and to say something complimentary. I always let them know I had a great time going through the process with them, that I appreciate the time everyone has given me, and then wish them good luck on their recruitment efforts. Showing appreciation and respect is probably the best way to turn down an offer.