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.  


Deric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

HP, I'm feeling worried because I've been in limbo with several firms for over two weeks. I know you said it's appropriate to email (not nag), but I've been told I'm still "on hold." Should I take this as bad news? 3 of the firms I've attended their callbacks, while another couple I only have had screenings. Friends have said it's just the economy (as you've noted with smaller class sizes and such) but I'm concerned. Should I start mailing the resume to midsize firms (OCI is over at my school). Thank you! You've been so helpful thus far.

Anonymous said...

How can one evaluate the career options one firm will provide over another firm?

Anonymous said...

7:38pm - you asked a pretty general question. The answer would depend on whether you are comparing between a big firm and a small firm, their locations, the type of law they practice, whether you are interested in transactions / regulatory work versus litigation, etc, etc. If you can provide a few more specifics about the choices you are weighing, then folks might be able to provide you with the answers you are seeking.

e. said...

I'm not the above anonymous -- how much easier would it be if every anonymous used his/her/its own screen name -- but I'm interested in the same question.

Between two firms, in the same location and having (roughly) the same practice groups, with a difference in reputation, but both respectable, how much does the choice of firm really affect you in terms of exit options?
Example: Cravath and Proskauer. Yes, Cravath is the more respected name, but what opportunities would be foregone by someone opting for Proskauer instead of Cravath?

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on "diversity" hiring? Seems that at my particular school, students have expressed some frustration over the "looser" requirements for women, minorities & LGBT taking advantage of firm's hiring opportunities. A UCLA professor suggests this practice actually hurts diversity in the long run because the hires tend not to last. Any thoughts?

e. said...

In response/relation to anonymous above:

One of the firms that prides itself on its 'diversity' sent out a booklet with photos of the summer associates they had last year. I counted: 36% women. Since as far as I know many (all?) law schools are now approaching a 50/50 distribution between male and female students, on its face this firm's hiring looks rather anti-diverse! But perhaps they are reaching this 36% number *despite* being more lenient with respect to female applicants, suggesting that it is really hard to interest women in this kind of work.

f-3 said...

e. - in response to your question about exit options, and assuming everything you laid out - same location, same practices, slight difference in reputation, I would have a hard time imagining a situation where you lose out *solely* because you went to Proskauer (or whichever "slightly lesser" firm). I don't think - and I would hope - that lateral hiring assessments are a bit more sophisticated than that.

A partner at a V100 law firm told me once that your second job matters more than your first. Getting your second job is more about the reputation, skills, knowledge, and business acumen you have built up.

Sure, there are certain assumptions that come with being associated with brand-names, but those are just that - assumptions. Any hiring person worth their salt would check for a lot more before giving a thumbs-up or down to a lateral candidate.

Final case in point - a lawyer I worked with two summers ago went to a small law school, and worked at tiny firms and then a government agency. She is now a top DOJ lawyer / assistant section chief. Everybody I've talked to tells me that no reasonable / thoughtful career choice can be soooo damaging that you can't extricate yourself from it, as long as you nurture a good reputation and keep it intact.

Go with the firm where you feel like you can thrive, learn, and build up good relationships. The rest will take care of itself.

f-3 said...

As somebody who has gone through the law firm hiring process, and who worked for 10 years before going to law school, I can say this with certainty: If you're miserable at your job, it WILL show no matter how hard you try to hide it.

I point that out not because I want to talk about the fluffy life-balance-happiness-do-you-want-a-family stuff. Solely from a practical standpoint - people who are miserable don't get strong recommendations from their colleagues or clients. People avoid negativity - fact of life - and at the very least you will be avoided. That doesn't bode well for exit options.

Some people are very happy at monolithic firms, even those that have a reputation for being "sweat shops." It comes down to your personal fit with the culture. Don't reject a "lesser" firm just because another firm has a "better" reputation or a higher ranking. Whichever firm you pick, I hope you can look beyond those soundbites, and convince yourself why that firm is a more meaningful and rewarding choice for your development as a lawyer and as a professional.

e. said...

f-3, thank you!