Biglaw, Fashion, Interview Stories

Interview Horror Stories: Clothes Don’t Make the Man

cowboy hat.jpgThis next tale isn’t really an interview “horror” story, and it’s from many years ago. But we found it somewhat interesting. From another western reader:

This may shock you, but there are white shoe firms in the West. I had an interview with one in 1983.

I showed up for the interview in cowboy boots, Pendleton Wool shirt over a turtle neck and cords. The senior associate that did the first interview was obviously uncomfortable with my attire, but said nothing.

He passed me on to the junior partner who was also uncomfortable and asked if I owned a suit. I replied, “I have spent the last seven years putting myself through college and law school. There were more important things to spend $200 dollars on, like rent and groceries. I have been able to get by with a sport coat in most situations, but if offered a position here, I would like a recommendation on a good men’s shop to obtain a wardrobe suitable for the office.”

He seemed satisfied with the answer, and we moved on to other topics.

We commend this reader for his chutzpah, for his jujitsu-esque ability to turn a potential problem to his advantage. It plays out like a scene in a movie, in which our impoverished but scrappy protagonist breaks into the world of Biglaw. Any casting suggestions?
(We predict, however, that some killjoy commenter will point out that this reader could have obtained a secondhand suit at the Salvation Army, and taken it to the dry cleaners, for minimal expense.)

Lunch was with these two and two senior partners in the firm at the Hotel Utah. So, now you know the firm is in Salt Lake City. During lunch, the managing partner asked me, “Mr. [X], what is the greatest asset you can bring to this firm?” “I can take a client to a three martini lunch, return to the office, and get work out the door,” I replied.

Hmm, not bad — another scene that strikes us as having cinematic possibilities. It’s sort of like the Western meets Biglaw. A young attorney, who makes up for his lack of wealth and polish with intelligence and self-reliance, succeeds in landing the coveted law firm job.
Alas, the real-life story didn’t have a Hollywood ending:

I knew I wasn’t going to get an offer going in. The firm had a rep of hiring only Ivy League grads, but always interviewed top candidates from “Western law schools” to keep from getting sued for discrimination. But, they and two other firms in SLC paid for my plane ticket and a couple of nights hotel stay, so why not have some fun?

It seems that this reader genuinely wanted a job with this firm, and just didn’t get it — with an expenses-paid trip to Salt Lake City as just a consolation prize. Of course, ATL does not condone the practice of interviewing with firms that you have absolutely no interest in working for, just so you can get a trip to some fun city.
(But if you do engage in this practice, do NOT boast about it when interviewing with the firms that you are genuinely interested in working for. They won’t think you’re “cool,” but just ethically challenged.)
Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

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