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.