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.
So...how 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.