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.