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.


Anonymous said...

you suck and you never answer people's questions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, HP! Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back. I'm a big fan of your blog and have been following since the beginning. I'm currently a 2L at a Top-50 school in the mid-Atlantic. My question relates to salaries for summer associates. Obviously in this economy and with firms significantly cutting back their summer programs getting an offer for any paying gig for the summer is a huge accomplishment, and one I don't take for granted. The most common advice for my peers has been to look beyond the immediate geographic vicinity. I was lucky enough to land a couple offers, but there is a significant disparity in pay scale and region. Just by way of example (I changed the numbers slighly to keep things somewhat anonymous), offer 1 is for a big regional firm out west for around $1500/week, offer 2 is a smaller midwest firm for $2000/week, and I haven't received option 3 yet but it would potentially be for a large DC firm for $3000/week. All programs are 10 weeks. I really liked the firm and people at option 1, but the salary difference between 2 and 3 is pretty significant. (The pay difference isn't nearly as dramatic for first year associates.) My question is this: is there any way for summer associates with offers in hand to negotiate the salary? I wouldn't necessarily be looking for the lower-paying firms to match, but some sort of bump to make the decision easier. Obviously compensation was much more simple to navigate when things were lockstep, and as the traditional payscales go by the wayside this issue will almost certainly creep up more often. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

@ 10:43 am

You're going to negotiate SUMMER associate salaries? Really? Trust me, your firms can easily go out and hire someone else just as if not more qualified who'd be more than happy to take the $1500/week salary. If you don't like it, go to Options 2 and 3.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 7:23pm - especially when firms are cancelling summer programs left and right. What proposition would you bring to them to justify a pay raise when they are probably cutting their existing employees' salaries? At this stage you are entirely dispensable and replaceable.

You brought up lockstep vs. non-traditional payscale. Remember, non-traditional comp. presumably and supposedly looks at hours plus a whole combination of other factors in an employee's track record (whether it's true or not is another question). When you haven't even started work as a SUMMER, you have nothing.

Don't be known as "the greedy summer who wanted more money" when everybody already thinks summers suck up WAY too much money and deliver close to zero value. As 7:23pm said, if all you're after is money, then just pick the other firms.

Anonymous said...

@7:23 and 7:06,
10:43 here, thanks for your feedback. i was admittedly skeptical about the proposition - hence bringing it up under the shroud of anonymity of the internet (basically, didn't want to look stupid). money isn't my only consideration, but it does play a factor. the situation brings up an interesting question though - if firms are moving away from lockstep, at what point in one's career is it acceptable to negotiate salary? if 1st-5th year associates used to generally be paid the same base up until a year ago, how does one go about salary negotiations now? based on your previous comments, neither summer associates nor 1st years are in any place to do so - which seems logical. but would a 2d year have that ability? would an incoming associate coming off a stint as a clerk? thanks again for the comments.

f-3 said...

7:06 suggested that salary negotiations are based on the concept of value, and I think he/she is right. There is no fixed time that is "appropriate" - the question is when you'll be able to negotiate meaningfully. You need some key components:

1) Knowledge of the criteria by which your firm's salaries are determined (if you don't know what they're measuring, you can't talk productively - but of course that presupposes the criteria are not arbitrary);

2) Track record based on what you have done for the firm and its clients, and previous, relevant professional experiences;

3) Some way to measure / quantify your experiences and accomplishments;

4) Reference points re: similarly situated individuals' salaries.

#4 is always the hardest to gather. Once lockstep goes away, people (like those in other private sectors) will be reluctant to talk about how much they make. And externally, there will be few reference points floating around at least for a couple years - until sites like Above the Law provide more disclosures.

Since you're just about to start as a summer, there is some time for the "new" market to leak some salary data, but based on the other criteria, I would say the earliest you can negotiate anything is as a second year - BUT that would largely depend on your being able to do something that adds value to the firm. If all you're doing is doc review and nothing else, then I don't think you have ammo either.

In short, first focus on WHAT you need to negotiate - once you have that information, you will know WHEN to do so.

Anonymous said...

also when thinking about summer salaries, keep in mind the different cost of living for both places--unless the midwest firm is in chicago, chances are cost of living there is dramatically different than dc, so the salaries may be a lot more equal than you think in terms of how much you have left at the end of the summer. Go have fun with a cost of living calculator and see if that makes a difference in your decision.

Anonymous said...

There is so much more to life in a law firm than salary. When/if you will have a shot at partnership, will you have a chance to work on significant work, will you like the people. A summer position is really an extended interview of the place that you, right now, think is best for you. A lot of that, I would think, depends on where you want to live geographically and those are 3 really disparate places geographically.
I negotiated my salary after my federal clerkship, but what was more important to me is that I negotiated credit for the time spent towards the firm's required years before partnership. I just don't see the summer position as being the same, and if your sole (or even primary) focus is salary, you are likely going to hate what you do.

Anonymous said...

You should be looking at which firm is most likely to give you an offer. $3000 a week now means nothing in a year when only 10% of the class gets an actual offer.