Thursday, November 19, 2009

getting out

I talk a lot about networking. I thought some concrete examples might be helpful.

As HP toiled away for many years at BigLaw, I realize now that I overlooked the opportunities to be had by getting out of the office more -- say to attend bar events, CLE, etc. Even though we all have work, family, social and other obligations, we shouldn't overlook the benefits to leaving the office to interact with contacts and potential contacts.

Recently, I attended a continuing education program. It was just a few hours so did not take up the whole day, which was great. I showed up a little early. I sat down and the person next to me turned to me since he was sitting alone. We introduced ourselves. It turns out that he works at a very large, well-known company. During breaks in the program, we chatted briefly. At the end, I asked him for his card and offered to email him if I saw future programs like this one that might be helpful. I also reconnected with another contact that day and exchanged follow-up emails. A few weeks back, I attended an evening reception. I invited a client contact as a guest since our firm had extra tickets (this almost always happens). While there, I spoke to a number of people. I also, again, reconnected with a lawyer from another firm I have worked with before. A couple weeks later, another contact at that firm called me to see if I might be interested in a lateral move over. Coincidence? No....when I saw lawyer one at the reception, that put me in his mind and he passed on the follow up request to his colleague. My point here is that even though it may be inconvenient, or you think you don't have the time, make the time to get out -- especially when these events are minimal time investments, it's fairly easy to do. And then follow-up. I have sent new guy from continuing ed an email need to do this promptly.

Another item I have mentioned is getting involved in bar and other organizations. Some years back, I poo-pooed this as a waste of time and just hanging out with lawyer competitors. But it is really good for raising your profile, building your network, and being in touch with potential career opportunities. A partner in my firm speaks highly of an associate at another firm. Why? Because the associate co-chairs a subcommittee he's been on of a large bar organization. I've seen the associate on numerous panels. Why? Because of her outside committee work and the continued development of her expertise.

So, keep at it....find something you like and are interested in. For women, the women's bar events in your area can be great networking opportunities. For everyone, specialty bars exist for certain practice areas. There's also affinity bars for certain groups (e.g., Asian bar association). Pick something and get involved.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Women as Rainmakers

Several recent articles have highlighted that women partners in law firms tend not to be in the top tier of firm rainmakers. We could debate over the course of several blogs the causes of this issue (and maybe we will?); a past experience and a recent experience shed some light on part of the problem.

Those who study how we, especially women, communicate in the workplace often say that women can be too apologetic, too trying to please everyone, and trying not to offend. "You may have already tried this approach, but how about trying to move the depositions to ..." You see the lead in cuts into the woman's idea. I can recall a meeting probably about 10 years ago when I was a mid/senior associate in a big meeting (and the only woman). We were reviewing a pleading and trying to come up with a different word for what was being said. The GC of a big client was in the room as well as partners from my law firm and partners from another big firm. I suggested a word; I believe it was "scheme." They kept going on. Maybe 2 minutes later, big mouth partner W from other firm said "scheme." The GC and others all loved it and it got in. I shook my head....was this the Twilight Zone? Didn't I just say that? It wasn't that I said "well, this isn't very good, but how about scheme?" That of course wouldn't have been good. I think W just said it louder and with more force -- and perhaps his thoughts held more weight at the time. But maybe my voice hesitated, maybe I was a little too meek in my suggestion. When we feel less confident or unsure -- we need to overcome that and speak up, just like W. Remember, not all successful attorneys and other professionals are successful simply because they are smarter or worker harder than you or me; some of them just project confidence and aren't afraid to promote their ideas and themselves.

Finally, a recent case in point illustrates this point of women being too cautious, too afraid of ruffling feathers in the rainmaking category. Lawyer Anna came to HP because Anna got a referral from another firm where a family member works. The area of law was not in a field Anna practices. Rather, other lawyers in the firm would be doing the work and Anna had touched base with a partner in that other group to see if the matter would be something partner would be interested in. Partner had a preliminary conversation with referral client to explain to referral client the qualifications of the particular practice. Anna was wondering how to go about formally opening the client matter. She said she was going to talk to partner and ask partner if it was OK to run a conflicts check, open the sheets etc. I told her she needed to be more proactive -- this was her baby -- the client came in through her family member, not because they knew the other partner (I also happened to think other partner would understand that and other partner not overly confrontational). I said to her, instead of asking, you need to be proactive in a non-chalant kind of way. Oh, partner X, I've got Susan (secretary) running the conflict check to make sure there's no issues, and she's working on an engagement letter and the new client sheets. I will let you know when everything is clear."

See, in this manner, Anna gets the client credit, and looks proactive, and doesn't have to fight over credit. She's making rain and it really isn't open to debate...the papers are just moving ahead. Now, we might discuss the issue of a more difficult partner to deal with/position of authority, but this is my advice. We, as women -- and really this is advice relevant to all -- need to be less hesitant and more proactive, less apologetic -- especially when it comes to getting business, collecting from clients, etc. There's plenty of ways to deal with these issues without causing any major rifts in the relationship.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

negotiating; further on networking

Interesting questions and feedback, thanks. For the individual who was asking about negotiating salary, I just don't think this is the time to do that. There are so many candidates for jobs, most of them well qualified, that firms and businesses don't really have to negotiate in most situations. You don't want to be viewed as a prima donna or otherwise high maintenance from the start. These days, firms and businesses figure if the candidate won't accept on the terms offered, they can just move on.

An interesting aside I thought I would mention. I talk about networking a lot, but thought you could use some examples. Recently, I was at a seminar. At the end of the seminar, some people stayed around to introduce selves, exchange business cards, etc. I re-introduced myself to a lawyer I had worked with some years back. We had a good conversation. In fact, I need to email him to tell him I enjoyed the program (he was partially responsible for it). But here's the networking part. Another woman walked up to the same guy while I was leaving. I don't think she knew him. But, she went right out and asked him if he knew anything about a job recently posted at a great, interesting company for a counsel in the area of practice that the seminar focused on. The funny thing is that I had seen that job and it interested me too, not that I was necessarily applying but I thought it sounded like a fabulous opportunity with cool issues. This lady was reaching out to the speaker guy to see if he had details about the position -- but she probably wanted to see if he had any connections there. Now, I am not sure how effective this is overall if he doesn't know her and thus probably wouldn't be recommending her....but I thought it certainly showed some initiative and using networking to at least on the surface find out more about the job. I couldn't hear the rest of the conversation so I am not sure if it was a productive one, but at least the lady did something proactive, which is more than I did just kind of thinking about the job. Remember, thinking doesn't get you the job, you need to undertake steps to move your resume forward.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Hello...I know it's been awhile...and I apologize to those who were waiting. Life things came up and between work and home, I had to take a break from the blog. If you still want to read, great; if you're tired of waiting and need more consistency, feel free to move on. I will try to post at least twice a week - perhaps with a specific goal I will be more consistent.

So, what have I been seeing? Well, I do think things are picking up -- but mainly for people with experience. And, of course, there's many applicants for each job...but the good news is I think I see more jobs out there. Entry level, of course, much harder. Many firms are moving away to the "way we've always done things" and deciding that when they do need to hire again, they can go into the lateral pool.

With a couple exceptions, people I know who have obtained new jobs have gotten them through a combo of qualifications and -- you knew this was coming - networking. With so many people submitting resumes into "blind boxes," it really makes a difference if you can come up with some connection between you and the organization where you are seeking a job. Does your former roommate have a relative who works at XYZ company? It may be they can get your resume in the hands of someone who will pay attention to it. Think about who you may know at the firm/organization where you would like to work. Use sources like Linkedin to look for connections. Don't be shy (well unless you have a job and looking laterally and you need to keep it kind of quiet). Put yourself out there.

Now, if you have someone who helps -- by giving you advice on the phone, by forwarding your resume, etc...make sure you show some appreciation....sometimes HP and HP's friends have helped out and then we never hear from that person. Bad form. Your career is all about building -- building knowledge, building expertise, and yes, building your network. I'm not saying you have to send flowers, but if someone takes time out to help you, you should certainly show some appreciation -- even a short note: Dear HP, I've landed a new job at: XYZ company. Here's my new contact information. Thank you so much for your advice during my search. Please don't hesitate to let me know if I can be assistance, and let's schedule lunch over the next month." Remember - think in the now but look into the future. Build build build.

Friday, August 21, 2009

answering some questions

Hello gang: sorry it has been awhile.  Life interrupted blogging.   I think the next several weeks will be interesting as we hear about OCI, fall out from summer 2009 (sorry but I think we will see some heavy no offers), and what the summer 08 class does to fill their time until Jan 2010, assuming that date holds.

What I would (and I bet our readers) would like to hear from you is...what are some creative "getting job" solutions you've heard about - or implemented yourselves?  I'm looking for some stories of creative solutions to the "what do I do till Jan 2010" and "what do I do if I am no offered from Summer 2009?" Or any other job hunting stories you have to share - e.g., post layoffs too.  I can share my thoughts but I always think a broader range of opinions is helpful.

So feel free to chime in.  

Some recent questions: thank you notes after summer associateship.  Yes, good idea to send to HP and others with whom you worked, nothing wrong with showing your appreciation and continued interest. I got some email ones and that was fine with me, but I do think you get a little more "bang" with a note because we get soooo many emails every day that it kind of goes flashing by and opening a note takes a little more time.

A blog reader asked about her intention to move to a new city (and interviewing with firms there) because she is recently engaged.  She wondered if mentioning the engagement somehow worked against her.  No, this is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why you are changing cities and your connection to the area.  And, a very common one we have seen many times.  No worries.  Just explain that your fiance is in new city; you intend to make this your home, and this is the only city in which you are now interviewing.  

Someone I don't know well asked me for a reference.  I would be happy to scream "this person is great" for someone I worked with and I do think is great; however, I really can't do a reference for someone whose work and workplace/social interaction I have never observed.  That would, among other things, affect my credibility with the people to whom I am recommending candidate.  So, be cautious when you think about references.  You really want someone with whom you have worked. Someone who has seen your interactions in the workplace and socially and someone who has reviewed your work product.  And, this is a hard one, but you want someone who you feel will give a glowing, fabulous, enthusiastic recommendation.  When we call to reference check, we can pick up on "he is good" versus "this is the best lawyer since Clarence Darrow and we wish we weren't losing him to your city."  It might just be the person talking and maybe they are not the bubbly type, but if you can target your reference person to be someone you think will really sell you, focus on that person.

I am thinking of instituting or re-instituting a "tip of the day" to get some quick advice out and keep the blog going.  

First tip of the day:  sometimes we all need to recognize that the suits that fit us, say, last year, are kind of too tight now.  Yes, we gained a little weight.  Sometimes we just need to accept this, and go to another size until we can get back into the old ones.  I've seen some horrible skin tight suits on men and women alike.  It is not attractive when we can see the outline of your body parts.  Not professional and quite distracting.  Do yourself a favor and invest in something slightly larger.  You can always donate the "bigger suits" to a good cause like one of those putting people back in the workforce groups once you get back to fighting weight.  

Sunday, July 26, 2009

resumes question

Someone asked about how much information to put in the "personal" section of the resume.  This person inquired whether they should list that they came to the United States via the asylum process.  

A commenter pointed out that it might be awkward for the interviewers to ask about the asylum notation.  I agree.  There are many restrictions regarding what we can and cannot ask about in an interview - including age, marital status, national origin, etc.  I would be concerned as an interviewer about asking the candidate regarding his or her asylum notation out of concern it might run afoul of employment laws and regulations. To me, this seems like something you could address in an interview.  Like where an interviewer asked about difficult challenges you have faced, or unique circumstances, or why you went to law school.  I think in that context, your asylum situation would be an interesting and unique take on those questions.

As for other things in the "personal" section, I don't usually spend too much time looking at it; honestly, I would really only remember if it had something unusual (or odd) - which wouldn't necessarily be a good thing.  Most of them say similar things - cooking, travel, road races, etc.  I am more impressed when people show me deep experience and an ability to juggle - since that is what we do every day in law firms - we typically don't get to work on one memo all day or for multiple days until we feel satisfied; rather we have to put out multiple fires and oftentimes when we think we will spend the afternoon doing one thing, a separate unexpected issue comes up and totally derails our plans.

So, if you've supported yourself by working through college/law school - that is something I think should be noted.  If you served in the military - say in Iraq and commanded a unit -- yes, that is relevant and important experience -- clearly you could operate under stress!  (And yes, I have seen reference letters from commanding officers that did help a candidate get a job). 
If you've had unusual and challenging internships, note those as well.  I would just stay away from too much personal stuff.  Are you moving to a "new" city to be with your fiance?  Not for the resume, but more for the interview or perhaps cover letter to explain your connection.

I prefer one page resumes, but if you've had a LOT of work experience -- i.e., you took time between college and law school of more than a couple years -- and you feel you need to go to the next page - then go ahead.  But bear in mind some reviewers may not turn the page. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blog's One Year Anniversary - Partial Reveal!

Hello everyone.  I am sorry I haven't blogged lately.  As you know, HP is of course a practicing attorney and HP got really busy with work and multiple deadlines, plus various social commitments.  I will try to blog more often in the coming weeks.

No, I wasn't out celebrating the big one year anniversary of the blog. Can you believe it has been one year since I launched with my list of the top things that annoy the hiring partner?  I really had no big plans to become a blogger, per se, I just kept seeing certain behaviors in our younger lawyers that I knew were really hurting them.  Has this changed?  Well, to a certain extent, due to the economy and the massive change in the way law firms hire and retain lawyers, I do think there's less a sense of entitlement than we had been seeing.  There's still plenty of room for guidance and improvement.  

I will answer some of your questions in upcoming posts but I really felt for the big one year anniversary, something momentous was required.  Something exciting.  Well, no, F-3 and I are not running off to the sunshine of the blogsphere to live happily ever after.  Though I certainly appreciate all F-3 has done in his/her contributions to the blog.  And I appreciate the contributions of the rest of you (except of course when you are slamming HP with really nasty comments).

Which brings me to the big one year celebration announcement.  Are you ready?  Really ready?
(heck I am not sure I am ready)......

HP is a Woman!  

Yes, a female.  So many of you just assumed HP was a man. (Some of you still doubt I am even a lawyer, but I can assure you I am in possession of a valid law degree and bar membership).  I am not certain why so many assumed I am a man.  Because I am a partner?  A Hiring Partner? Heck, plenty of Hiring Partners are women. Was it because I often tell it how it is, kind of straight up, whether it seems harsh or not?  I am not sure, but for those who sometimes accused me of not having a women's point of view, or being anti-woman (which I and those who have worked with me found comical), it may simply have been because I was trying to be gender neutral.

OK, so what does this mean?  Well I hoped you've learned that assumptions can often be wrong. And, hopefully this doesn't change anything. I still aspire to give you useful advice - don't worry guys I am there for you.  For our women readers, I'm hoping this opens up more of a discourse on women's issues in the workplace.  Believe me, I have been there. No one has handed me anything and I know it is not easy.  We can't do it all, 100 percent. Some of us can do a bunch of things pretty (or really) well. But superwoman does not exist. You have to recognize you can't have it all, all the time.  That's been my conclusion.  Sometimes I'm a great parent; sometimes I'm a great lawyer; sometimes I am both; but other times if I'm being a great lawyer and working all night to get something done and missing activities - no, I'm not being a terrific parent.  I guess we will discuss some of this down the road.

Well, I hope that was exciting and I look forward to some thought provoking comments and questions.  



Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ranking; other points of view

Hey folks, on the ranking, I would go with "no layoffs" but the problem is you wouldn't necessarily know about the stealth ones.  I would look at where my best chances are -   do they usually hire multiple candidates from my school, would my grades and other credentials normally make the cut, etc.   What area do I want to do, and do they have a substantial practice in that area (assuming I know).   As I said, shoot wide because it is going to be extremely difficult to get a summer 2L gig AND after that, even if you've done a solid job, no offer  may follow.  

I've been meaning to reach out to our practicing lawyer and recruiter readers.  I am guessing you have some great ideas to contribute here.  Folks, what have you seen this summer or during last year's interviews that candidates should know they should do differently?  What really "saved" a candidate.  HP has a lot of experience, but mine is only one person's and I would welcome your thoughts....and I bet our readers would as well.

Separate note:  I sent an email to someone recently.  I think the guy is out on vacation.  Odd out of office message specifically indicating he is not checking messages and you may wish to call when he gets back because your message might get lost in all his emails that have come in while he was out. I thought this was an odd message. I mean I got the point, but if I were a client, I might think he was saying my matter wasn't particularly important and he's just so busy with other stuff he might forget about my matter.  I just think there's ways to convey these types of messages in ways that make clients and others confident that their matters are or can be covered and that they are important.  Even though clients know we have other clients, they also like to know that they are a top priority.  A better way would be to say "I will be in an area with limited Internet access, but in my absence you can contact my colleagues xyz and abc, who have been briefed on outstanding matters and should be in a position to assist you [and will know how to reach me].  I've often found that most things do wait till after vacation or other absences, but putting a confident message out really helps.  

Hope the week goes well. 

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Someone asked about how to rank firms for fall OCI -- in summary, whether firms that have laid off might be better prospects since they have shed "extra weight," or whether lay offs are a sign of a firm's instability and in essence, mean the firm really has no need for further people.   In a normal law firm world, I would say to regard firms that have done lay offs very cautiously.  But, nothing about the current state of the legal market is normal.  

Hence, my answer to "how do you rank is?"..... are you crazy?  I would rank the firms by "where the hell might I get a job?"  This is not a law student/associate market.  Did you miss that?  I'm sorry, but those days are over.  Hopefully, the firms going on campus in fact have slots to fill and hopefully they are being very careful with their numbers.  I know hiring partners and recruiting staff who have already called law schools (yes, even top 25 law schools) and indicated they are not coming on campus this fall.  So, if you've got firms coming on campus, I presume they have some slots to fill. And, at the end of the day, if you wind up with multiple offers, then great for you.  At that point (when you have offers), I would start the "ranking" process -- where do I feel comfortable, what is the firm's reputation in the area (for possible movement later, for instance), what do legal and other news say about the firm?  This is when we would consider lay offs.  For me, if it is a choice between a lay-off firm and one that hasn't done layoffs, I think I would lean toward the non-layoff firms, but you need to do some homework - how are the departments staffed, do they seem overstaffed?  How did the associates seem, did morale seem good?  Perhaps you can talk to someone who spent the summer there this past summer.  Do your homework.  But that is when you have an offer.  

At this point, before you have an offer, go fishing.  Throw that net out far and wide.  The days of the law firm world as your oyster are over.  Ranking will be for after the offer.  Take the interviews you get and go in with a positive attitude to all - even if maybe it's not your first choice -- it may be your only choice.  Sorry to be harsh, but that is the way of the law firm market today.  

Happy 4th.  


Thursday, June 25, 2009

evaluations; and further on the too casuals

On the "too casuals" post, I was trying to get across that you need to be cautious about slang, digs, curses - I don't think that is particularly radical.  It is one thing if you have a close working relationship with someone and you are in a fairly comfortable one on one situation, but it is another entirely when you don't know someone very well and you might do or say something they find offensive.  Case in point, which I think I've mentioned before, the religious client.  I worked with a GC who, as time went on, I learned was deeply religious.  Bible studies classes, Sunday school teacher, etc.  Very clean living.  Thus, I made an extra effort to avoid words phrases like "if the company takes this route you could get screwed," in favor of the more general "the company could face some penalties if you take this route."  In any event, I wouldn't say screwed to any client b/c it is not professional and I don't know some of them well enough to throw that out there.  I was just saying that you should be cautious.  In this precarious legal market, why give people reasons to question your judgment?  What is the big deal with remembering that this is a professional environment and you should always keep that in mind?  
Some of you may be getting to a mid-point during your summer associate terms.  Have you received input?  I like firms that provide a mid-point evaluation. If you haven't received input on your work product, etc., ask the HP or recruiting coordinator if you could schedule a time.  If there's little things that can be fixed -- like proofing better -- that is something you could hear about now - rather than at the end of the summer, which can be cured in subsequent work product.  I know most of us don't like to hear criticism, but it is useful for this job and in the future.  If there's something you disagree with - like you followed one line of thinking because the assigning partner put it in the work assignment form - then go ahead and explain that, calmly.  Don't be overly defensive, however.  Show that you want to learn and take the opportunity to see how you can improve.  If you've had a memo marked up - see what the reviewer did - take out excess wording; break it into sections to have it read better; re-organize it?  Take some time to assess how a more experienced person improved your work product.  

Btw, HP is a bit nostalgic.  I think we are coming up next month on the first anniversary of HP's Office blog.   What shall we do to acknowledge this occasion?  

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the too casuals

Hello all. Sorry I've been away for a bit.  Some work things came up, of course, I am busy with our summer program, and I just didn't have anything on my mind to write about.

One thing that came to mind that I wanted to mention is over-familiarity.  In today's more casual society, sometimes we tend to assume that a seemingly less hierarchical work environment or even one when, say, partners seem young and hip and not stiff, means that we can really let our hair down, speak as if we are speaking to our pals, and even joke in a way that we think is funny but might actually offend.  Case in point:  my friend, we will call her Partner Jennifer, had to leave for an appointment.  She ran into junior associate Ellen.  They briefly discussed something and then when Ellen saw Jennifer was leaving, Ellen made a comment about "oh I guess you don't have a lot of work to do since you get to leave early." Or something to that effect.  Similar thing happened to another person I know.   Jennifer - who is a youngish, approachable partner - was really annoyed.  First, Ellen has no idea where Jennifer is going. Jennifer may be off to a client meeting. Second, Jennifer has 15 years of experience, including long nights, weekends, holiday work.  Jennifer has busted her tush and is entitled to respect, particularly from junior attorneys.  Even if Jennifer is going home - that really is not for Ellen to comment on.  Ellen hasn't even proven herself yet.

Thus the long and short of it is to remember - and I know I've mentioned this before - these people are not your pals.  They may seem approachable and laid back but there is still a hierarchy and you need to respect that.   Be careful how casual your conversations may be.  Watch the "digs," and watch the casual language - cursing, rough slang, etc.  I've been in interviews where people throw out the F-bomb as if it is a "hello."  This gets you marked way down - actually off totally - in my book. It is about judgment.  These days, we are very sensitive to judgment red flags. Remember it is a buyer's market now.  Show us your terrific work, your potential client handling skills. Keep the slang and snide comments for another day. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

research project

Good question there from the person who asked what to do if you've got a research assignment and, despite best efforts, come up with zilch.  I thought F-3's response was right on.  In fact, the first thing I was going to say was addressed by F-3:  ask the firm's library staff.  They are usually very knowledgeable and helpful.  In fact, in my experience, befriending the library staff can really do wonders for you...they can track down all sorts of information, particularly hard to find treatises and other things like newly released laws and cases - they often have their own network of fellow librarians and (like a good concierge) can swap and trade things and call in their favors to get you what you need.  So, again, the old adage here that you should treat the office staff well - be courteous, appreciative and pleasant -- will help you shine @ the workplace.  

I've had mixed results with calling Lexis helpline.  I don't find the representatives to be that substantively helpful.  But, if you want to see if a particular search will wield any results or something like that, or formulating a search, then they can do that for you.  My preference is to find someone "on the ground" who can help get what I need or direct me.

I liked F-3's suggestion that you should keep track of how you have researched.  Oftentimes, partner X may ask: "did you look here?"  If you've been in fifty different databases or made 20 phone calls, you may not remember once you are on the spot.  Keep a notepad with you various searches and how you went about it.  That will make you look prepared and organized and will inspire in partner X confidence in your abilities to proceed with the assignment - even if there seems to be no answer.  Sometimes there is no answer.

Case in point, as a junior lawyer, I once spent hours researching something.  Couldn't find it, despite my best efforts.  I finally saw a contact name and called that person.  When I reached him and explained what I was looking for, he said "you won't find it because we never issued it, and here's why."  Light bulb in my head goes off.  Ugh, why didn't I think to call this person earlier?  Part of the problem is that (at least in my law school) we were trained to seek the answers on our own  - not to reach out to others lest there be an honor code violation or something.  All answers supposedly could be found by doing one's one research by oneself.  But in the real world, that is not how it always works.  Oftentimes, the fastest answer can be found by reaching out -- to other colleagues in the office, to staff at relevant governmental organizations, to court staff, etc.  Now, I always say to follow up and confirm whatever they are saying with your own research.  But, it is often a great place to start -- or a good mid-way point to confirm your own research or help you understand something in your research.  Law is not a solitary enterprise, it can and should be collaborative - without revealing confidences of course.

So, follow F-3's advice - by all means, talk to the library staff.  Detail for partner X the steps you have taken and ask for any further suggestions.  Show that you are organized and that you have taken initiative.  If you are unsure if certain "reaching out" contacts are allowed - on a no names basis that is, ask the assigning attorney.  "I've done a, b, and c and wanted to confirm that no further changes have taken place.  Would it be ok if I called Y on a no names basis to ask?"  

Hope all is going well this summer. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Queries and Other

Hi folks, HP catching up; sorry for the delay there but HP is a P and does have client commitments and travel, as well as an actual life outside the office.  

Let's see, someone said they had accepted a job offer on the spot but then might have another perhaps more preferred job offer given in succeeding weeks and could they renege on their acceptance.  I agree with the person who said, essentially, that they accepted the job and should stick to it.  I don't know the market they are in, but you don't want to develop a bad reputation, particularly in a smaller, or medium sized market.  If you accepted, you should stay with the folks who gave you a job.  HP is very into loyalty and integrity.  Next time, if possible, try to buy some time and follow up with the potential outstanding firm.  Of course, now that you are going to firm 1, you need to do a fabulous job, be enthusiastic, etc.  Even if this is not ultimately where you want to be, you want to be in a position that you've earned the respect of these colleagues and built your reputation, can get great references, etc.   I spent my 1L summer in a different market from where I work now.  It was a medium size firm, but not the sophistication of BIGLAW.  Did I want to work there forever  NOOOOO. But, I got great experience (accompanying partners to court, drafting summary judgment motions, even working on criminal cases), AND I made terrific contacts who later served as references.  Especially when these experiences are hard to come by, you need to grab them and run with them.  Remember, every opportunity is an opportunity to build on, even if it is not your end game.  

I got a long email from a gentleman who wanted to share some advice on shirt "stays" for collars and other dressing advice; I will send that along next time.  He did mention poplin suits for summer. I have to say I am not a fan and would rather stick with the basics. Now, maybe it depends on the market, but I just think they look goofy and kind of grandfatherly and have not seen people in firms I have practiced or worked with wearing them.  

One more thing, the other day, I got a call from a lawyer I worked with many years back on a matter.  She is now the lawyer on a different matter and we will be working together again.  We exchanged needed information and will continue to work together as the weeks progress.  The point I wanted to make here is that because we handled our last matter professionally, she knows that I will do my job while being someone who is good to work with.  I know that she will be careful, yet firm, but still professional.  We can each tell our clients that we have worked together before, which will give them confidence that the matter will go smoothly.  This goes to my point of not being an a-hole (unless truly necessary) and being professional.  Even in larger legal markets, what goes around comes around.  You do need to deal with these people or their firms again and your reputation is always important.  

Monday, May 11, 2009

good luck to those starting this week

I got a few emails from people starting summer jobs this week.  Good luck, all!   Remember, you need to be on your game.  Consider every day an interview.  Don't be psycho on edge, deer in the headlights, but don't get too comfortable either.  People engage in office gossip?  Don't go there.  Feel like complaining?  Don't do it.

A female reader indicated she is going to work in a warm climate and wonders if wearing hose is necessary. Now, some may vary on this, but HP says to wear the hose, especially at the beginning. You can see as the summer develops if others go without, but I always go with the conservative side and that is to recommend wearing the hose.  Most offices are cool in the summer anyway, so most of the day you will be just fine. 

You will be getting your first assignments soon.  With any assignment, make sure you understand a few key points: 

 when is it due?  Note the date and make sure you give yourself a reminder and plenty of time to complete it AND time to carefully proof (I always print out my docs and sit and read the hard copy through). 

what kind of product does the assigning person want?  A memo?  An email summarizing the key cases?  Document summaries?  Make sure you understand what they want delivered.

what resources can be used/are recommended?  Lexis ok - some clients have restrictions on what can be utilized.  

how should you bill?  This can vary -- .25 or .10; some clients require task codes, or specific breakdown by descriptions -- for instance, instead of "draft memorandum; research regarding statute of limitations; conference with J. Smith" 1.75;they want "draft memorandum (1.0); research regarding statute of limitations (.5), conference with J. Smith (.25).  A good question to assess this is "are there any special billing instructions for this client/project?

another question: what is the best way to contact you if I have questions? Or how do you prefer I contact you if I have questions?


Those are a quick few thoughts to get you going.  I am sure you all will have some queries for me as the weeks progress.  Remember, it is always good to clarify instructions in advance.  AND, seriously, it is REALLY important to deliver the product ON TIME AND WELL PROOFED.  I cannot stress this enough.  Jobs have been lost over this.  Manage expectations-- If you encounter roadblocks in your research, you should go to the assigning person, BEFORE the deadline.  

Good luck !  

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

addressing some questions

Someone asked about whether it would be a good idea to keep a suit (or at least a blazer) in the office if you are in a business casual environment.  Answer: yes.  In fact, when I worked at a firm that decided to go business casual, it was a requirement that you keep a suit in the office.  Let's say you are sitting around, doing your research this summer, and Partner Susan comes by and says she has a court hearing at 2pm, and she didn't think about this before, but would you like to come?  You don't want to look at your outfit and think "uh oh."  You want to be ready to go (which is why I like the more formal work attire anyway, it looks nice, and it is just ready for impromptu meetings and the like).

Exit options - this may merit a whole separate post, but I can start now.  Well, as far as going in-house, there are a few practice areas that come to mind - general corporate/commercial - lots of companies have lawyers working on commercial contracts in -house (contracts where they buy services/products, contracts to sell their services/product etc.).  At lot of in-house counsel are more "generalists," so the broader range of experience you can show, the better.   Intellectual property is another.  There's some great in house jobs for lawyers who can help protect a company's IP.  Employment law - another good one -- there's employment lawyers all over the place and many companies have employment lawyers in-house to handle regular HR issues, policies, handbooks, employment contracts and non-competes, etc.  Litigators - yes, companies do hire them - to handle day to day matters, and I even know of some very large companies who hire litigators to work on contracts -- because the litigators know the issues that may get the companies into trouble.  Even though the law firms have been encouraging specializing, I do think that if you can get broader experience within your general area, that would be helpful for exit strategies.

Now, a separate word of advice -- and you know I have mentioned this one before -- networking, building relationships, staying in touch, building your reputation -- all are key here.  Most in house jobs are not found through legal trade press listings or other advertisements.  Most are filled through referrals.  I frequently get emails from friends in house asking if I know someone for a new position - this is very common, because the in house people want a co-worker who is a known quantity (to someone). If they come highly recommend by, say, HP,  my in house friend has that to go on and going into the interview the person has a leg up because friend can tell GC or if friend is GC, just consider, that this is someone who has been tested and trusted by HP.  I have to say, I get these requests fairly often.  Now, if you are someone I worked with and I thought you didn't seem that committed to the job, or did sloppy work, or were real difficult to work with, obviously I am not recommending you to my in house friend.

And I know I mentioned this before, but if you are the candidate and you see an opening, you may want to reach out to your network to ask if they know anyone in-house or even non-lawyer at the company who may be in a position to take your resume and get it in the right hands.  Just the other day, I saw a friend on Facebook ask some of us on Facebook if we knew anyone at XYZ company.  Doesn't hurt to ask.  And make sure you express your appreciation if someone does take the extra step and get your resume in the door.  

Monday, April 27, 2009

summer start

Wow, quite the bit of debate in the comments on the last post, especially regarding attire.  I can see that there's many questions.  Will try to address some more attire related questions as they come up.  HP actually bought a new suit today, having seen a good deal and getting tired of the usual stuff.  There's lots of deals out there now, you might as well take advantage of them.  

You might be wondering what you should show up on your first day with.  Well, I think you could ask the recruiting coordinator in advance if there are specific things he/she wants you to bring (hey guys and gals, did you see I said he/she...yippee!!).  Anyway, I would bring (1) yourself, of course, properly attired; (2) perhaps a briefcase or other appropriate business-like looking bag; (3) if you like, a portfolio with notepad (4) a couple pens (5) your cell phone -- you don't want to use firm phones for long distance and some calls that seem "local" but under firm's plan are not -- they will require a code and your cell is cheaper; (6) identification cards for work eligibility, pretty much all employers will require this -- check in advance, as I mentioned before and get your docs out; (7) usual stuff you would have of course such as wallet, etc.  (I assume that is obvious but I throw it out anyway).  

When you arrive, you will usually be greeted by the recruiting assistant, or office administator or your advisor - well, someone involved in the program.  In BigLAW firms, you will usually have a formal orientation program with an agenda laid out.  Make sure you do not set up outside lunch plans (with friends, etc) as the firm usually wants to send you out to lunch (often with your paired associate or other advisor).  Take a look at the agenda so you can familiarize yourself with whom you are meeting.  Keep your phone on silent or vibrate so it is not ringing away with calls from friends while you are in your meetings.  Tell your friends and fam that you will be tied up most of the day and you will report back later.  

You will be meeting lots of new people and it can be overwhelming.  At least learn your assistant's name and make sure you greet them each day.  They can be your best friend in the firm because they usually know more than a lot of the lawyers. And, usually firms will assign the very experienced assistants to the summers.  If they make suggestions, listen.  Say please, say thank you.  If you are going to be in a meeting for a while or out of the office say, watching a deposition, let them know and let them know how to reach you.  Remember, they can look out for you, but they will also let someone know if you are an a-hole.  We listen - we don't believe everything, but if I hear about rudeness to staff, especially from more than one -- I do listen and it can be a factor.

Also, regarding your associate advisor, yes, he/she (see - I did it again, HP really getting PC!) can also be a great source of information and guidance.  BUT, do not confuse advisor with your wife/husband/partner (PC Alert!) or best friend.  They frequently sit in meetings with the hiring partner and may discuss things you've said - like you said "I hated working with Joe." Well, if Joe's group is only group hiring, that may be a problem.  

How did I do?  Did post properly address concerns of female and male readers?  C'mon all, it's not ALL about gender.  Sometimes it is just about the workplace, working hard, doing a great job, and showing everyone what a fabulous lawyer you are or can be.  I'm just trying to get you off to a good start, the rest is up to you.  :)


Thursday, April 23, 2009

further follow up

HP agrees with the commenter who said you should show up in a suit on your first day.  Yes, make sure you wear a suit. If your shoes aren't new, go get them shined.  

Did a commenter suggest he was thinking he was getting by with one suit?  I hope I read that wrong.  If so, I want to know what firm he is at this summer because I will send some Lysol.  You certainly don't want to be known as the "smelly" summer associate.  No, you cannot wear the same suit every day.  In particular, what if something spills on it, and remember, it is summer and most places will be warm. You need time to get that suit cleaned periodically so you need other to wear and you don't want people to remember that you were the guy who only had one suit.

Further, let's talk about tailoring and cleaning for one moment.  You know I mentioned tailoring before.  Very important. Spend the money to get the fit right - hem, etc.  Remember, you gotta spend some money to make some money.  I usually do not notice suits unless they are particularly ill fitting or particularly sharp looking.  In the middle is fine.

Cleaning - find a good dry cleaner nearby and get your shirts (men) laundered and pressed there (and for those women's tops that need cleaning send them in too).  Remember, it is hot in most places, you may be nervous (sweating), you don't want to take off your jacket in the office and be wandering around with those lovely yellow armpit stains.  Not professional.  Men's shirts are very inexpensive to have done and most places have same day service if you bring them in early.  Spend the money.  Look, when I was a summer I really had no money in the bank.  But I still took  what I had (or perhaps I just charged some) and got myself some new suits, shirts, shoes.  You want to feel comfortable, feel and look good, and give a professional (and not distracting appearance).  I didn't want to spend too much time on this subject but since we had some questions, I thought I should address it.

Oh, and finally, once you get started, look around at the attorneys and see how they dress, they will usually be good guides as to what would be appropriate and how you may be able to use things you have.  My friend Jennifer often wears skirts with nice twinsets in lieu of a suit.  She says many of the women in her firm do this to mix things up and then it still looks professional, adding some nice jewelry etc.   Not to be too "fashion show" here, but just a suggestion to keep your eyes open for how the office culture seems to indicate the dressing goes.

Hope that helps.  BTW, I was out walking to a lunch meeting today and I saw a young boy (maybe 9?) going out to lunch for "take your child to work day."  Dad was in a suit.  Boy had a suit and tie on as well, and carried a briefcase.  He did look very cute.  Everyone smiled.  But the point is, even the little boy dressed the part for going to the office.  And he's not even being paid or seeking employment.  If Johnny can do it, you can too.

Have a good Friday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Answering some questions II

I've received a few inquiries regarding whether firms will look closely at 2L grades in an effort to weed people out.   I honestly think this is going to be mixed, but I think definitely a lesser factor than flaws in work product, and personality/"fit" with the firm.  We ask for grades and I usually take a quick look to see if the grades are generally in the same place as when we interviewed the student at the beginning of their 2nd year.  If they are, I move on. If a little lower, not a big deal, especially if the work performance is good.  In fact, it has worked to someone's advantage where I could say, "hey, this person did a great job for us and their 2L grades have even gone up significantly."  

Will firms need to weed more people out than usual?  Of course they will, in those firms that significantly over hired.  I think mediocre (or poor) 2L grades might be something to "cite" to if they wanted to no offer but honestly, I really see much more attention paid to situations where someone would criticize work product (poor proofing, missed a main case, writing jumbled and not coherent, missed the big issue), production (not on time, not what was asked, etc) or firm fit (perceived insult to staff member, too nervous/anxious, etc.).  So, the long answer to your short question is that I don't see 2L grades being such a significant factor.

One of our female readers asked about how many suits one should have and if four is enough where there's a Friday business casual. I would say to start out, 4 should be ok, but if you can, pick up something once you have a little summer moolah to add - what if one of these suits gets a cup of coffee spilled on it -- it would be good to have a substitute.  For men, I think 4 is enough.  I've asked around on this one and one of my friends had a good add -- and that is women can also usually do some mixing and matching with accessories and tops and such so that it doesn't appear you are wearing the same 4 suits week after week.  

On the subject of socializing, I thought F-3's ideas, as always, were good ones.  F-3 is HP's teacher pet here.  Actually, I do not know F-3, but F-3 does usually have insightful things to say.  I will speak to this more perhaps next time.  You do not have to be the "life of the party."  The key is to be on time, pleasant, sociable, and not offend.  I agree it is helpful to be able to comment on different (hopefully non-controversial) topics.  I have a close friend from law school. She was once at a post-screening day recruiting cocktail thing with a bunch of lawyers from a big NY firm.  A few others from her law school were at the table with these lawyers.  Pleasant chit chat ensued. Obviously, all the law students wanted to make an impression. One by one, however, they had to catch planes, trains.  My friend had some time. Instead of leaving with the others, she stayed.  So it was her and about 4 male attorneys, including some senior partners.  They talked about where friend is from. Friend is from a big sports city. They started talking about sports teams.  Friend could talk about sports teams, told stories about going to the ball games in her youth, what players she liked, how a former player coached at her college etc.  Friend was invited back and did in fact get a 2L offer from this firm.  Of course, friend's grades helped a lot, but I have no doubt that it was friend's ability to carry on chit chat with strangers that helped friend make that impression.  

OK, HP's dog needs to go a walkin so HP's gotta go.

Monday, April 20, 2009

tips of the day - getting ready for summer

Ok, so let's say you are a 2L who has a summer associate job and will be starting next month (c'mon, I know there are a few of you out there). There's a couple of more minor seeming, but important points, I wanted to make.

First, try to take care of any necessary appointments (drs., etc) before you start. Your time at the firm is short - in many cases shorter than in past summers - it will not be viewed favorably if you ask for a day off or half the day to take care of routine things. Of course, if you had an emergency, that would be another thing.

Second (and I know I mentioned this early on in the blog), plan on staying at work all day. What I mean is that you shouldn't ask to leave early for "minor" things such as picking up a friend at the airport, getting to the grocery before your out of town friends arrive, etc. Same point as above, you are at the firm a short time, so put in regular days. You may say this sounds silly, but I and others have had people come to us for these exact reasons and want to leave work early.

Third, check in with the recruiting coordinator and go over start dates, end dates, and first day procedures so you have everything down and there is no confusion. You will likely need identification to establish work eligibility (e.g., social security card/driver's license). Make sure you get them in advance (for instance, going to safe deposit box for ssn card if you don't have it), and bring with you. You want to look organized and attentive.

Fourth, begin assembling your summer work wardrobe if you haven't already. The recruiting coordinator should be able to tell you what the summer dress code is. This is not the time to be creative - you want to look professional and blend into the surroundings. You want people to remember you for your work and professional attitude, not that crazy shirt you wore on casual Friday.

Fifth, if you are spending the summer in a city different from where you usually live, make sure you leave time to get there, get settled, and be ready to leave for work. You don't want to be dealing with "move in" details when you are starting your job.

Sixth, if you have been given an advance calendar of social events, put them on your calendar, so you can block out the times. Social events are important and yes, you are expected to show up. But, let's say your brother is getting married and there is a dinner at a partner's house. Tell the recruiting coordinator or other appropriate person right from the start that you have this conflict. If you develop some working relationship with the partner, it would be fine to mention to him/her that you are sorry you cannot attend but your brother is getting married. Do not blow off social events just because you may not be interesting in [insert activity].

Seventh, make sure you understand who is invited to these social events. If unclear, ask the recruiting coordinator. If guests are not invited, do not ask to bring a guest. Again, should be obvious, but you'd be surprised.

I was going to go to 10, but that will have to wait. I just wanted to get you started as we get closer to summer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

another interesting article

a lot of statements similar to what HP has been saying over the past several months, but lessons worth repeating. 

Hiring Partners: How to Get a Summer Offer

In the midst of all the economic doom and gloom that has been floating around, current second-year students lucky enough to have obtained a summer associate position at a law firm are only thinking about one thing: How do I turn my summer job into a full-time offer?

Law School Career Services hosted a panel to respond to just such an inquiry. Titled “How to Get an Offer from Your Summer Program” and held last Tuesday in WB 152, the talk featured a panel of three hiring partners: John R. Jacob from the Washington, D.C. office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Jacqueline E. Stone from the Richmond office of McGuireWoods, and Douglas E. Hame from the Houston offices of Vinson & Elkins.

The down economy seemed to hang over the entire talk. Jacob mentioned that Akin Gump had cut its summer program in Washington from 35 law students to 12. All seemed to agree that events would be “less extravagant” this year than in previous years. Still, the major focus was on what law students could do to best control the situation. “In past programs the offer was yours to lose; well, this year you want to do as good a job as you can, and use your best judgment,” said Jacob.

The three partners seemed to agree that the most important thing for students to do was to turn in quality work product. “Firms want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed,” said Hame. But, in order to do that, summer associates have to make sure they are putting effort into both submitting the assignments on time and making them as good as they can possibly be—which means correct Blueblook-ing and formatting, as well as proofreading to make sure there are no typos.

They also stressed the importance of getting feedback. “People at the firm will want to give you constructive criticism and improve,” said Jacob. “Attorneys are constantly in a position to provide feedback to summer associates,” Stone added. “If you get less than stellar comments [in your evaluations], it’s important to learn from them.”

The panelists also addressed the issue of practice area: Specifically, should students be strategic in choosing what practice area they work in this summer, avoiding mergers and acquisitions work for, say, bankruptcy instead? Stone advised students to “pick something that you will enjoy working on.” Each of the partners encouraged students to treat any pro bono work with the same degree of respect and professionalism that they would work relating to one of the firm’s paying clients.

“In our view they are as important for summers as the other projects . . . and the same goes for associates and partners at the firm,” said Stone.

All three partners also stressed the importance of the firm’s social events. “I wouldn’t put the term mandatory on our events, but we really want the SAs to see non-office opportunities to interact with our attorneys as important,” Stone explained.

Hame explained what to do if you couldn’t make an event. “If you have a conflict, just tell them that you can’t attend,” he said. “No one expects you to give up your outside life.” That said, “you ought to try to participate in the events so you can see what lawyers [at the firm] are doing when they’re not working.”

Queries ranged from whether split summers were still okay (they are, but that person will have to make an extra effort to connect with attorneys at the firm) to whether firms would still have offers for people who were going to clerk after graduation (as of now, firms will still make every effort to accommodate clerks, as in the past).

One question of particular interest to the class of 2010 was whether second-year grades would play a role in getting a full-time offer. “They play a role,” Jacob answered. “Not more important than your work product . . . but yes [they are] a factor.” Hame nodded his head in agreement, saying “true, it’s a factor.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

follow up

Thank you (well mostly thank you) for the comments.  Aside from useless personal attacks, I do welcome comments.  I did want to set a couple of things straight.  I do not condone cursing or insulting associates.  I would never treat someone that way.  You've heard from some people who do know me and they can attest that while I may have had some hard bosses, I chose not to model my behavior after them. I believe people work best if they feel that they are appreciated, and like who they are working with, and I try to motivate through positive reinforcement. Always have.  That is my management style.

That said, I am telling you what I see and what I hear from many of my peers.  And that is that many in the more junior classes do complain too much and don't want to work hard, but want to make a lot of money. They dump projects back on the other attorneys because they have some other thing to do (social, etc), and they do not take ownership.  In whatever workplace you work, and more so in the demanding Big Law world, you need to put in the time and make yourself present, to get the job done. Deadlines suddenly appear when you otherwise had plans. It sucks, but it happens.  No one likes it.  But you need to deal with it.

Do I give associates assignments on a Friday night because I want to see them suffer ?  Of course not, and I would try to avoid doing that.  But if a client crisis comes up and the most appropriate person for a particular task is the junior person, am I going to call you?  Yes, I will call you on Friday night, I may email or call you on Saturday too.  And you need to get it done.  I will be doing my part as well.  This is the world in which we work.  If you don't like it, then you can go elsewhere - oh, you say, there's no jobs out there now.  Well that's why you should take the assignment, do a great job, meet the deadline, ask if there's anything else you can do, and keep your head down.  When the market picks up, maybe you can find something more to your liking. But, as I have said before, would you rather work hard or be on the street?  I think most would rather work.  

I'm hoping to start posting about getting ready for the summer in the next upcoming posts.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


HP has been mulling what to post next.  I have to say, I am somewhat perplexed (disgusted?) at the comments to the last post.  You folks ask for advice regarding the somewhat mysterious law firm world.  I tell you the way it is from a partner's perspective, and then I get all sorts of whining "but it's not fair waaah wahhh waahhh"  or "why should we stay late when no one is promising us a future" waaahh waasahh wahhhhh or "it was easier for you." wahhh wahh waaaaa.

I ask my friends if I am missing something here. They all agree with me.  What I have been saying is to take ownership of projects, show responsibility, don't complain, be a reliable go to person that senior attorneys and clients will want to go to again.  These are basic principles -- and in today's legal environment - the heavy hand of the layoff ax, the salary cuts, the shifting of attorneys from practice areas - this is the time to show what you are made of - to show you are a team player and can be trusted and relied upon. So, you might have to stay past dinner.  STAY.  So, you might need to skip a meal.  Big deal.  SUCK IT UP.  Be happy you have a job and do not give anyone a reason to take the ax to you.  

Let me add a couple of things:

1. It wasn't easier for me or my generation.  I got out of school in difficult economic times.  Many in my summer class did not get offers.  I worked hard as a summer associate - staying late, working weekends when needed, even came in on a day we were given off  because I was staffed on a a big project.  As an associate, I stayed late, weekends, holidays too. I sacrificed.  Yes, I survived layoffs.  Why? Because I kept busy, had protectors (who I did solid work for and watched their backs so they kept mine).  I had a young family and had to try to balance the needs of that family with the needs of the firm.  

2. No one said this is fair.  Big Law firms can be nasty places.  Some of these people would turn on their mothers.  That said, if you want to retain a job there, you need to accept that it is a totem pole and you are the low person on it.  That is the deal. Eventually you may move up the pole but there will always be someone above you on the pole.  It is not meant to be a fair game.

3. You might ask, well why then?  Well, some of you folks were making $160,000 out of school.  That is incredible money people.  Do you think that is 9 to 5 money?  NOOOO.  That is money that essentially buys you.  Accept it.  

4. Why stay?  I've had top notch training. I've worked on highly sophisticated matters.  I am privileged to work with terrific clients and smart colleagues.  I generally don't have to hound people to pay me.  It is a job that requires a lot of sacrifice, but it is still a tremendous job.   Do not take it for granted.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Interesting article

From Corporette's website. While HP is tied up on some other matters, I came across this article. It has some advice similar to what HP and guest posters have articulated, but I thought it worth sending around.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Our readers have been asking for guidance about how to stand out or make a great impression during the summer program.  Before I get to that, I did want to touch upon a basic principle that applies to summers, practicing attorneys, and in most workplaces actually.  And that is commitment.  I know I have touched upon this before in the category of "ownership."  It is a constant, recurring and important theme.  And will get you noticed, possibly in a bad way if you screw it up.

Recently, a friend of mine was complaining about an associate.  My friend had a big filing and a junior associate was assisting him.  The associate was generally doing an OK job for the tasks assigned.  But on filing day when things were, of course, somewhat harried (and friend getting ready to head out on a business trip the next day), associate was suddenly gone for a while at an extended lunch while friend was trying to give instructions.  Friend said to me, "what is the deal with this younger generation?" Going out to lunch on a filing day?  Would you do that?" Friend was getting frustrated that friend, as senior lawyer and under a lot of pressure, couldn't get past the voice mail/email in an effort to find the lawyer.  The lawyer hadn't indicated that he had a client lunch he couldn't get out of (in fact, I think I spotted friend with his friend at lunchtime).  The lawyer hadn't even told senior lawyer that he would be out.  He just was out.  And my friend needed to discuss things with junior lawyer so the closing could get done. So, at the end of the day, my friend thinks of junior lawyer as someone who is not entirely dependable, not committed to the job, especially when there is a crisis.  My lawyer friend even remarked that during this process, young lawyer seemed to be complaining that young lawyer had to stay late.  In this economy!  Complaining.  NOOOOOOOO!

Anyway, this is a small example but I thought a good one.  Your actions have consequences.  You want to act in a way that people remember you as a solid, reliable, "go to" person.  If my senior friend has choices, senior friend is probably going to give work to another associate who may be more committed.  Thus, junior lawyer will have fewer hours and run the risk of layoff target.  

Do I think you should starve for BigLAW? Of course not, but you can run out quickly and let the person you are working with know.  Or bring something you can heat and eat quickly.  There's many solutions.  A big filing, closing, or project is not a time for you to be out gallivanting with your friends.  Yes, you have to cancel plans sometimes.  Treat this like the ER -- when the docs have car crash victims coming in -- they drop and focus - at least on TV. Do you see them stop for lunch?  Eat a granola bar and move on.  Remember, you want to impress that you are committed, and that you take ownership.  OWN your projects - even if you are the junior one of the totem pole.  Commit to see things through the end.  

Monday, March 30, 2009


What do I think about taking a stipend offered to incoming first years or trying to start earlier?  I say if no one is reaching out to you to say ("join us, we need you, etc"), I don't have a problem with your taking the stipend - assuming you can live on this.  I think I saw one for like 75,000 to take a year doing, say public interest work or the like.  If you are single, I think you can live on that for sure.  I'd say take the stipend and find something interesting to do.  Clerkship (even state court), public interest, governmental, etc.  Something to add to your resume and perhaps better than showing up at firm where you may not have much to do (assuming you have that option to show up. And when else is someone going to pay you NOT to work for them?  

Some people may receive calls or emails from department heads, firm management etc, indicating they are needed and wanted in their practice groups. In that case, of course show up.

If you are a summer this year and your firm has already delayed start dates, you ask what does that mean?  Well, as I said before, firms are going to be VERY careful about giving offers.  Firms did overhire (not all but some) because many engaged in standard recruiting and didn't quite determine how dire things were till the end of 08. As such the classes coming into summer are larger than if they were doing the hiring now.  Will there be further push back of start dates?  Well that is unclear - after all, this is all new - really, unprecedented.  The formerly fall 09 people are now winter 2010.  So, do I think firms will be ready to absorb fall 2010 people?  If the economy stays slow, probably not.  I think firms will be very tight with the offers this summer and are going to watch to see how things go.  

Someone asked whether they should go ahead with on campus recruiting even after summer 09 and if they have an offer. I don't see anything so wrong about that.  I think firms will understand that people may need to see what is out there.  They are not loyal, so why should you be.  Try to be discreet.  Remember, you need to look out for yourself.  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

quick suggestions

HP has been really busy, hence the quiet on the post.  HP actually worked most of last weekend and thus the blog and social networking had to take a back seat.   Sometimes it just happens and in this economy, when there's work, you got to jump on it.  

I've been asked for some quick suggestions for job hunting.  Some of these are geared toward more experienced folks but they sometimes do have entry level openings:

- (in house jobs - association of corporate counsel) (free search feature)
- (free)
-- (West service, subscription - but does appear to have different jobs than the other sites, and worth a couple of months subscription

-- craigslist under legal - no laughing -- smaller firms (who may be more apt to hire entry level - do post there; also temporary work.

-- industry and professional groups often have their own sites -- such as speciality-specific bars and groups like women's bar associations.

-- (fed jobs - safest place these days).

Obviously, if you know someone who may know someone at a place can get your resume into the right hands as opposed to a large email box, that is helpful.  Ask around. Do not be shy.  I have a laid off friend who saw a job, I believe on, and asked me if I knew anyone at this company. I did not, but asked my partner, who does have a contact there.  He sent the resume on with a note.  Now, friend may or may not get the interview but at least it is a better shot than just a regular submission.

If you have suggestions you are willing to share, please feel free to post them in the comments.  

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Offers?

Someone asked whether I truly believe there will be a lot of no offers in the 2009 summer class (i.e. fall 2010 starts), even at the top firms.  I believe there will be a lot of no offers, yes even at top firms. Perhaps less at the top 1-10; my view is that they will continue to hire who they perceive to be the very best students. Overall, though, most firms are going to be very carefully analyzing the performance of each summer associate.  In the past several years, pretty much the story has been as long as you didn't mess up significantly or piss off a big P, you would get an offer. In other words, it was kind of hard not to get an offer.  But, we are moving back to when I was a summer associate -- in those days, most of my class in my office did not get offers -- I am not sure what the deal was, I think the firm decided later they didn't need as many entering associates.

Here's the issue.   Most of the firms went out and did OCI as usual in fall 2008.  Sure we were more in the buyer's seat and had perhaps slightly smaller classes. But most of the firms did not perceive how dire things would get. Remember, mostly stealth layoffs at this time.  So, late fall came, offers out, offers accepted.  Around late December/Jan, the sky started to fall.  Firms going under, mass layoffs, delayed start dates, firms start to think why should we even have a summer program? Some cut the program.  Now we have these offers out for the summer and quite frankly the firms wish they could take them back.  Most don't even need all the people they have on the books, and they have the entering - formerly fall 2009 now winter 2010 to deal with.  The long and short of it is that most firms have overhired for summer 2009 and will really analyze the hires carefully.

This means that you will need to be stellar, and yes, I will go over that (some I have already covered). I just don't want to do too early because then people will be asking again in May.  The days of being assured that you will get an offer are over.  You are now fighting for an offer.  BE ON YOUR GAME.

Before I do start posting about the summer, please do ahead and review the posts from last summer when I started. There I was pointing out some basic dos and don'ts.  Of course, that is basic behavior.  Your substantive job performance and interactions must be impeccable.
And you've got to try to get work from areas that are perceived to have needs going forward.  

So in the meantime, a couple things:  keeps Google searches on your firm so you can see what is going on (comings, goings, big new clients, cases etc -- Google alert good for this).  This may help target "busy" groups.  Keep all your interactions with the HPs and recruiting staff on a professional, courteous (non-psycho) manner.  We know you are nervous, try not to relay the deer in the complete headlights approach.  Respond promptly and succinctly to communications.  Whenever I send Andrew a message about the summer and he gets back to me, without any angst, 1,2,3 answers the question or whatever, I think, this guy is good, no pain in the neck/entitled soul, doesn't need coddling, seems like a team player, easy to deal with.  Just my 2 cents.

Hang in there. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

what about work/life balance/flex-time/diversity initiatives etc

Just before the BigLaw bubble burst (and let me just say I can barely read Above the Law because it is getting so depressing) many firms were aiming at retention (gee, there's a word from the golden era) and initiating or expanding policies such as diversity initiatives, flex-time/part time, expanded parental leave etc.  This was in an era where associates were viewed as assets firms wanted to keep and, in some instances, pressures from clients to hire and retain women and diverse professionals.  Some firms just seem to have it right that it would be a shame to lose good people simply for being inflexible, and if someone wanted say a 80 percent schedule for 80 percent pay, not such a huge deal (they still have a huge mark - up, despite the overhead).  But that was then. what about today?

Well, I think in today's reality, the policies on the books will stay.  But I would think carefully before I used them. I do think face time will count in this economy.  You can still bill an 8 hour day from home if the work is there, but if the chopping block comes, they may think about who is a key player, and if they don't see you that often, that may hurt you.  That said, what is key?

Key is being known as essential (or close to essential) to the team.  Maybe you cover a million different sub-areas such that if they let Johnny go, they know you could pick up slack.  Maybe you have developed a great relationship with important client X, who would miss you if they heard you got canned.  Maybe there is a hot new area - whatever that is - and you are becoming well-versed in it.  These things can help you.  Many of them do require face time in the office (yes I realize you can talk to clients from home, I do it all the time).

The bottom line is that you want to appear committed to your job, the firm, and your career.  If you want a reduced schedule, I say go for it, but go over and above to be responsive. Don't ever let them have an opportunity to say you were not responsive.  Your response may be to ask if something is immediate -- it isn't always.  But at least you appear on the ball.  Don't give them ammunition.  Be a professional. Be on the ball.  

Tough times will cause firms to - if not formally pull back these benefits -- then not really encourage their use.  Be true to yourself but recognize that there are risks in not always being around, especially at the junior level.  

Saturday, March 7, 2009


If you've got something you want to share with HP/ issues you are seeing out there/or even crappy ways you were treated, you can feel free to drop me a note at:  

no loyalty in biglaw

HP has a friend who has been let go as part of the layoffs we are seeing at the AM Law firms.  Friend was saying that she was surprised that her former mentor, who was now in a management position hadn't done more to help/protect her and wasn't doing much, if anything, to help her find a new job.  Friend at least hoped that Partner will give a solid reference once friend independently finds a new job.  It surprised friend that Partner just taking care of Partner.  Of course friend isn't naive, just friend thought for all the years of work and sacrifice for Partner, that Partner would look out for friend.  And that is not the case.

This, blog friends, is a hard but necessary lesson.  I know I have said this before but remember, law firm management and partners and other senior (and junior attys, for the most part), are NOT YOUR FRIENDS.  When push comes to shove, they watch their own asses, not yours.  I once worked for a partner, we will call him Larry.  He could be charming, and he would even host summer events at his home, take summers out bowling, etc.  To the casual observer, Larry was a cool guy.  But was Larry really cool?  NOOOO. Larry would be the first to blame another (usually junior attorney) for any mistakes/issues caused by Larry.  Larry would bad mouth people behind their backs.  And sure enough when times were slow, Larry would blame others and would be the first to cast off other attorneys to lay off world. 

We think that based upon, in some cases, years of dedication and hard work,  loyalty should follow.  Heck, as a personal principle, I believe that it should  I am loyal to those people who are part of my team or in my network.  But overall, in firms, this is not the case.  Do not look for emotional validation from your partners.  Do not expect that they will take care of you in "good times and bad."  Remember, during the bad times, their focus is on bringing home the bacon.  Many of them have overextended themselves and have huge expenses.  Many of them are single income families where they are the breadwinner.  It is once again survival of the fittest, and they will jettison you in order to stay on the cruise boat.  It is just reality. I am sorry it is depressing, gang, but just giving you the facts.

Now, what can my friend do?  She is doing the right thing, not burning his bridges with Partner and hopefully getting out of him what she needs, a great reference.  Friend may even stay in touch with Partner down the line, and if Partner is smart he will do the same and you never know where Friend will end up.   But Friend's lesson is a good lesson for us all -- one I wish I knew long ago when I became disappointed that someone I worked with didn't seem to advocate for me.  You are your own advocate - don't depend on others, especially BigLaw partners during 2009.  Loyalty in Big Law is awfully hard to come by.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

free work

a top student at a top school asked if he or she should offer to work at a large (it was large, right?) firm for free.  Even in these times, I don't think I like this concept. It makes you look desperate (which I know many are, anyway). I can understand interning (for free) at a non-profit or governmental agency, but at a big law firm, just has a stigma to me (that's the guy who worked for XYZ for nothing). I haven't heard of firms doing this.  I was offered this situation by a law student last year.  While we thought it different, we also thought it said something about him, and not in a good way.  Now, other may disagree with me, but I just don't see prestigious law firms jumping on this concept.  

As a side note, I worked for a smaller firm as a 1L summer in a medium sized city for an hourly wage.  I don't recall what it is but they didn't even want us to work past 5 because they only wanted us working/paid 9 to 5. Maybe it was like 15 dollars an hour (maybe less!), but at least I was paid and I got some great experience - drafting summary judgement motions and memoranda, getting to accompany the lawyers to court, observing depositions, etc., and I made some good contacts who served as references the next summer.  I came out in a bad legal market as well, so I understand the difficulties.  But, I would rather see you with a paying job of some type (or interning for free at at place where that is more common) than groveling at BIGLAW.  Happy to hear any different views, but as I said, I haven't heard firms jumping on this "free summer associate" train.  It may be because it costs to run a summer program anyway, even without the fancy events.  

Double posting today, I guess I had a lot to say.

BTW, I'd be curious to hear any stories about 3L offers rescinded - hence the poll.  Our incoming associates are still expected to join but I wonder about what you are hearing (something different from, of course, since I read that).

And to my Latham friends:  good luck, friends. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

how long

Someone asked how long this legal downturn is likely to last.  There's a reason we are lawyers and not investment bankers -- we really don't have a lot of foresight when it comes to the market -- but, based what I am hearing in the recruiting world, I think recruiting at the new hire and lateral stages will take longer to recover than the pick up in legal work.  This is because firms are finally being more conservative when it comes to new hires, salaries, bonuses, etc.  In my view, this is long overdue as too much hiring occurred even while economy was slowing, and many firms just tried to match each other on the crazed bonuses and salaries.  I bet if you ask many now, they would have taken less money for more job security.

in any event, firms are cracking down on hiring.  Many firms will not have a 2009 summer class or will significantly reduce the class and the program.  I predict there will be many "no offers" even for decent performers because firms will be afraid about bringing new hires on.  Fall 2009 recruiting will be a slow season. We will return to a time when only the stars are on relatively easy street.  If you are beyond, say, 25% in your class at a top 11-33 law school, it is going to be difficult.  This means that 2010 summer classes will be small.  I really don't see a pickup until after 2011.  Sorry for any depressing news here, but firms are definitely pulling back on new hires especially.

My friend, a headhunter, reports that associate lateral hiring is basically flat.  There are some specialists getting hired, but he has more or less moved his  whole practice to lateral partners. Partners with business are still able to move and he is moving plenty of them.  

networking again

Many of us have noticed that we've started hearing from former colleagues, long lost friends, etc. lately, just as the layoffs have hit.  And, yes, these people have been laid off, let go, whatever you want to call it.  HP feels for these folks, but takes this opportunity to return to an earlier point.  Don't wait till something bad happens to network/connect.  This should be something you do all along.   People will be more apt to help you if they don't just hear from you when you are on the street.  Remember, while you need to bill bill bill time (and this is key right now as firms look for layoff targets -- typically those who are "underutilized), you also need to stay in touch with your broader network ALL ALONG. 

And if you've got a friend on the street and see something that might be right for them, go ahead and forward to them -- they will remember this.  And maybe they will go in house and bring you in later, or hire you as an outside counsel down the road, or find out about something for you within their new network.

Networking is not as hard as it seems, particularly in the day of email, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.  Find a way of networking that works for YOU.  Say, you have a young family and don't want to be out for drinks after work because you have to help with homework, etc.  Then, schedule some quick sandwich/salad lunches during the week when you are already in the office and away from home.  Or, take a 3pm coffee break and meet someone at a local Starbucks.  Networking and staying in touch with friends, former colleagues, etc., is always a good idea, and an especially good idea during a downtime in the legal market/economy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why Ben picked over Ellen

Some of you may be witnessing the layoffs/carnage at firms and wondering why one attorney may "survive" a layoff when another doesn't.  Firms consider various factors.  Usually, firm management, upon deciding that layoffs need to happen, will ask dept. heads to consider which attorneys may not be needed in the long term.  In turn, practice or dept. heads will look at seniority (e.g., is this someone who has been with us a while but unlikely to make partner/sustain a practice), hours (of course!), someone who shows poor hours the last couple of quarters (or even quarter) is a target, overall contributions to the firm, etc.  If someone has a protector in a humongous rainmaker, that can also make a difference.  Few people can consider themselves protected in this environment, but a few lucky stars with rainmaker protectors can.

So, what to do. Well, at this point, if you don't have a huge mentor/protector, it will be hard to quickly establish one before the layoff hammer comes down.  My advice -- which I realize differs a bit from my past advice on participating in firm administrative functions -- is to keep your head down and bill, bill, bill.  Hopefully you are in a group that still has work. Take on projects.  If people have been let go, step up to the plate in covering their work (assuming they had some).  I once had a former colleague who was a junior attorney when some lawyers were let go in her office.  She was told to take over a file from one of the terminated attorneys.  She got the file and managed that project for the next several years.  It enabled her to work with a different client, a different partner, and expand her knowledge into a new area of law.  The partner who oversaw her respected that she jumped right into the project with a positive attitude and did a diligent job.

So, as opportunities close for others, they open for you, the survivor.  I realize this is somewhat Darwinistic but if you want to hold on - whether to ride out the storm and have a long term law firm career, or hold on for a little bit until you can get the hell out of dodge and move into something else, you are going to hard to work out, take work where you can get it, and be a team player.  The age of entitlement is over my friends.  It is time to work, work, work and bill like there is no tomorrow.