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. 


Older & Wiser Now said...

This is probably the biggest difference I have seen in the up-and-coming generation (the Millenials, to use a loosely defined term). Those common courtesies are not as "common" as they used to be. Of course, there are still some very conscientious people who take the time to write handwritten notes or quick thank-you e-mails, but the majority of Millenials I've dealt with don't even realize how important those things are, and give me a blank stare or exasperated sigh when I remind them.

It does make my job easier though when I have to decide who to help again, to whom I should give more opportunities, etc. You bet I am not going to send someone out to an important client if he / she can't demonstrate awareness of basic social etiquette.

And don't even get me started on work ethic issues.

Anonymous said...

Great post. It's all intuitive, but I think it is easy to get caught up in the wooing, and forget how lucky we are to have offers.

Now that recruiting season is near an end, postings on what to do to develop oneself as a successful lawyer would be great. Are there things within our control as summer associates and junior year associates that we can do to make ourselves stand out or bolster our development?

Thank you for taking time to write these helpful postings.

Anonymous said...

any recommendations for when turning down a permanent offer with the firm? is there a good way of handling a pretty bad situation?

f-3 said...

8:46pm - How you handle it will vary based on the circumstances, but the strategies for turning down a permanent offer does not differ too much from a summer offer.

First and foremost, you should place phone calls to the hiring partner and the recruiting manager first. If you hit voice-mail, let them know you are calling to discuss your decision, and ask for a return call. Some people think phone calls are more intrusive than e-mail, but believe me, you want your message to be personal.

If you split your summer, then the firm would have had some expectation that you might choose the other. It's not a big deal. In that case, a simple message will do -- "thank you so much for the opportunity, I had a wonderful time, and have great respect for the firm's work, but have decided to pursue another opportunity . . . ."

Generally they will not push you too hard for a reason. They know many current 3Ls (with permanent offers from the summer) and laterals still have options. If they ask for a reason, be tactfully honest. "The other firm felt like a better fit for my personality / career aspirations / geographic preference / practice interests, etc." This is NOT the time to air grievances to the firm you're dumping, no matter how horrible a time you had there. Leave things polite and positive.

However, the situation will be much more difficult if you had given very positive indications that you were going to accept the offer. In that case, it will really come down to your reasons for backing out. Some are legit and understandable, some are not. You'll have to be more specific before I can say more about how to position your message.

So my question is - why do you say it's going to be "a pretty bad situation"?

Anonymous said...

While I totally agree with your post, I've heard contrary advice which says to eschew any kind of thank-you note, because they are a "waste of everyone's time," including the applicant's and the hiring coordinator's, etc.

So perhaps we have some differing ideologies here, but you're probably right that my generation (born in '86 here) is lacking in the professional courtesy side of things.

Anonymous said...

Sarcascio: you can check out HP's posting on 9/29 - HP discussed thank you notes at length. Seems like it can't ever hurt, and may even help, unless you don't do it properly.

Anonymous said...

f-3/6:39 - I referred to it as a pretty bad situation simply because it's not the expected situation after a 2L summer. So it seems like it's inherently awkward as a result. It's not a split summer situation--just a decision that it's not a good match from my perspective...but I don't necessarily think that from the firm's perspective, though I guess it's possible.

f-3 said...

6:28pm - You're correct that it will be inherently awkward. Here's how I would handle it, but I hope HP weighs in because he / she obviously has deeper insights to offer.

Start off by telling [FIRM A] that you found a great opportunity, and while you had a great and rewarding time at [FIRM A], you have decided to pursue the other opportunity with [FIRM B] instead.

If they ask you why you chose the other and not [FIRM A], I think it's appropriate to say, "I felt that [FIRM B] would be a better fit for me and where I want to go in my career." 90% of the time, people won't press you any further.

However, if they won't give up and ask, "How specifically?" then I'd suggest defaulting to some innocuous reasons, such as personality fit, focus on particular practice areas, etc.

Keep on reiterating how much respect you have for [FIRM A], and what a great time you had there. Keep things as positive as you feel comfortable with. Think about the time-tested, "It's not you, it's me" line.

Remember, you're talking to professionals who have had candidates reject them before, so it's not like you're hurling some unforgivable insult at them (again, assuming you didn't make promises to Firm A before). They understand. Show appreciation, show respect, and you should be fine. It's worked well for me before - during OCI, and before law school when I switched between several corporate jobs.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Remember, all legal employment is at-will, and don't let some misguided sense of loyalty tell you otherwise. They would fire you or rescind your offer in a second if they thought it in their best interests, with no concern whatsoever about how awkward it might feel to you. Don't worry too much about their feelings, just be polite -- it's only business.