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.”


Anonymous said...

"Firms want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed"

OK, now this I disagree with. Some firms have already made up their mind that they will no-offer people this summer. I know of one prominent NYC firm that explicitly came out and said this (not publicly of course). The notion that they want all of us to succeed after already having committed to no-offering some of us is disingenuous doublespeak. The reference to grades at the end of the article suggests they may use that as a pretext (a factor that has been near irrelevant in the past barring an absolute collapse - straight from the mouth of my career services).

It should be noted that not all firms will have the same pressure to no-offer. Hame's office - V&E Houston - is positioned spectacularly poorly; the summer class this year is almost double last year's and most likely their largest ever. Firms that are hurting and have larger summer classes will be the ones most likely to no-offer 2Ls.

Through all of this fire and brimstone there are still several elite firms that have resisted taking ANY of the cost-saving steps that most others embraced some time ago. Paul Weiss, Debevoise, Cleary, Davis Polk, and S&C have not frozen salaries, conducted any public layoffs, shortened the length of their summer programs, or deferred 2009s. If they chose not to partake in any of those (especially shortening summer programs, which even Cravath has done) I refuse to believe they will start taking corrective steps by no-offering 2Ls. Outside that group however, I imagine no-offers will go up at least slightly almost everywhere.

Anonymous said...

9:02 am, I think you misunderstood what he meant when he said succeed. He meant succeed as in "succeed in turning in quality work" not "succeed in getting a full time offer. A firm would rather get quality work from everyone for clients, and make no-offer selections based solely based on school/grades or physical attractiveness.

Anonymous said...

3:37 - if law firms gave out offers based on personal attractiveness that would rule out 95% of summer associates. And 2L grades mean next to nothing in comparison to each other. Some schools have seminars graded off the curve. Others let you take classes pass fail. And I know several people who are externing for a semester during 2L for no grade at all.

Anonymous said...

I'd like HP to comment on 2L grades being a factor. I know some firms ask for 2L grades (but not all firms) but I've always had the impression they only want to make sure that you're not failing...straight B's would be fine.

Is this something firms are changing universally this year HP? This is the type of insider info that would be really really helpful.

Anonymous said...

Before, they didn't matter at all, because the offer was yours to lose, and bad 2L grades was not on the list of things that would cause you to lose the offer.

Now, firms are going to be no offeing up to 50% of the 2L class. They need more criteria for cutting people.

Obviously people with terrible work product or who are socially inept will get no offered. That's always been the case. And people with great work product who have a good personality will not get cut.
But that's not enough to get to 50%

Among those associates who are reasonably normal, who produce decent quality work product, you need something else with which to cut people. A precipitous drop in grades is the easiest thing to look at, as it indicates that you'll slack as soon as you're valuable enough.

I know that other firms will also cut extremely ugly associates.

Anonymous said...

1:30, your 50% no offer figure is unfounded. My career services has been in touch with many firms, all of them have said they will not significantly reduce offers and instead, if they have to, will give out offers for 2011. We had a class meeting just like this one (with attorneys present) about how to make sure we get offers and grades did not even come up once. They haven't steered me wrong before so I'll take thier word over an anonymous internet poster.

Anonymous said...

5:12, how do you know that 1:30's figure is unfounded, not just from a different source than yours? Indeed, why do you (and why should we) believe the lies you've heard any more than we should believe the lies 1:30's heard (or made up)? Also, you do realize the irony of complaining that 1:30's "an anonymous internet poster," right?

Anonymous said...

I would believe 5:12 over 1:30, because he is stating that the norm will remain the norm.

But I would really like HP to comment on this. HP should have an idea of what firms are thinking in terms of offers..

Anonymous said...

Firms often don't make a decision on how many offers they are going to make until the summer because it is based on how the summer associates perform . . . and this year what the firm's numbers will look like.

With regard to 2L grades, it is always better to get the best grades you can get in case you need to interview as a 3L.