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BTW, I'd be curious to hear any stories about 3L offers rescinded - hence the poll.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. 


John said...

Presumably, BIGLAW needs work but cannot pay. We need experience and the resume builder more than we need money. Why is this not a win/win?

Anonymous said...

To elaborate on your poll: I am a 3L that has accepted a generous offer in another state. I was worried that it could be rescinded. We are attempting to sell our house (which we need to do to move)and my husband will be leaving his job. Given the economy he has not informed his job and will not until it gets much closer. Heaven forbid if my offer gets rescinded he will still have a job.

What made me feel better is that part of my offer includes my new firm reimbursing my bar/bri expenses. I recently emailed them to give them a heads up that I am paying off my balance and will be submitting a reimbursement soon. The response was favorable so I figure if they are still reimbursing me I still have a job! Fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

You sort of stressed "big law" in your post... Would it have made a difference to your answer if it wasn't big law, meaning like a mid size DE or Philly firm etc

Hiring Partner said...

BTW, I did have a second post but I don't think it saved; will have to redo.

Anonymous said...

Following up on your previous post, would you mind listing tips to differentiate the excellent summer associates from the mediocre?

I know you've touched on this a little bit in your first few posts..but those were more a separation of the worst SA's from the decent. I want to know what the excellent SA's do.

Of course you can't explain solid legal analysis, but there are other things you can explain that would be very helpful for those of us who have not worked in a large firm before.

Anonymous said...

I would also like the hear the "tips to differentiate the excellent summer associates from the mediocre."

Sounds like something that would help all the incoming SAs.

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on studying abroad 1L summer? Would you view this as negative compared to finding some sort of PI work?

f-3 said...

8:41 - I think the answer would depend heavily on what you are studying. For this response, I am going to assume that you are studying something law-related.

As a 1L, no one expects you to function like a real lawyer anytime soon, but the concern is whether you are using your summer months to acquire / refine practical legal skills that a future employer can use.

If you're taking a course in cross-border copyright issues with the aim of going into that area of practice, then I don't think employers would look too negatively upon that. But even if you are studying a legal subject, I would suggest finding opportunities to work on some skills, as opposed to just theoretical knowledge.

My humble opinion is that in this economy, the more you can show you can adapt quickly to an employer's needs, and the less hand-holding you require, the more attractive you will be as a candidate.

If you're thinking of going abroad for something completely unrelated to the law, then I think public interest legal work should trump that plan.

Anonymous said...


What about 3Ls? I know where we are on the totem pole, and if the firm decides to rescind, there's not much we can do (especially in a place like New York City). But if a firm has 30 incoming first years and wants to rescind offers to 15 of them, is there anything proactive we can do to avoid being selected? Also, is there any point in trying to negotiate reduced salaries and benefits if the rescission nightmare becomes reality?

Anonymous said...

Thanks f-3. I saw a few things with externships. I'll keep that in mind when I'm looking at my options.

Anonymous said...

If there are students willing to work for free then they should be donating their services to legal aid clinics that really need the help. You will get more experience because you will be trying actual cases in court, not just doing someone's research. I am a 3L who has a job for next year and was told that the fact I tried cases for legal aid as a student made me stand out as having "real experience."

Anonymous said...

Interesting... Because several weeks ago I was offered an unpaid internship by a top US firm in Asia as 1L. But then I was extremely lucky to land a paid summer associateship job from another US firm in Asia.

Before I got the second offer, I asked a lot of people in my law school (3L's, career counselors, professors, etc) regarding the unpaid internship/associateship job. I think everyone said the value to have a big firm's name on the resume, for a 1L in this kind of economy is great and is worth the plane ticket and living costs there (which was a lot for me).

Unless asked, you do not have to say its unpaid, so in a great majority of cases, the future prospective employers are not going to know its unpaid.

Anonymous said...

hp - do you and your friends have any tips for landing temp jobs in this environment? Do you know anybody who hires temps (in a firm or at an agency) who can give us some advice? Also awaiting the 2nd post you mentioned up above. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

To 1Ls and 2Ls without offers -- one of he most prestigous and personally beneficial things you can do over the summer is intern for a federal district court judge. I did while in law school, and I learned a lot. It also helped lead to both of my post-graduate judicial clerkships (state supreme court for a year and then a two year federal district court clerkship in a major metro area) as I could sell my experience and as I had a great recommendation from a respected federal district court judge.