Job Searches

Is Honesty the Best Policy? Open Thread

Pinocchio.jpgEvery now and then, we entertain requests for advice from our readers (even though, as we reminded you yesterday, we’re not career counselors — so take what we say with several grains of salt). Here’s what we found in the mail bag today;

I’m a summer associate at a BigLaw firm in DC. Our exit interview questionnaire asks us whether we’re 1) applying for a clerkship or 2) for personal reasons, seeking employment in another geographic region.

Saying you’re applying for a clerkship is one thing, but given the economy, and the risk of not getting an offer in that other geographic region, should I really tell my firm that I might be looking elsewhere? Am I risking anything by being fully honest?

Our gut reaction is that the SA should not tell the firm that he or she might be looking elsewhere. Not only is there a risk of not getting an offer in the other geographic region, but the firm where this person summered might decide to no-offer — or, more likely, give cold offers to — summers who say they’re exploring other opportunities.
We don’t think this would be dishonest on the part of the SA. We don’t have the exact wording of the question, but we read it as being aimed at people who are definitely going to a different city, “for personal reasons” — e.g., family issues, like an ailing parent; a spouse who has to be somewhere else, for work or school; etc.
And, of course, there’s the Bill Clinton line of argument: What business is this of the firm’s? As long as the SA complies with the NALP rules in terms of responding in timely fashion to any offer of full-time employment from this firm, why is the SA obligated to tell the firm every last detail of his or her job-search thinking?
Okay, Randy Cohen might be horrified by our “advice.” But in the world of Biglaw today, loyalty is dead. These days law firms are always looking out for number one, namely, themselves and their profits per partner. E.g., Cadwalader (laying off some 130+ lawyers in 2008 to date).
So shouldn’t law students and young lawyers take the same approach? If you’re not looking out for yourself and your own career, in the most clear-eyed and even calculating way, who will?
Sorry, enough ranting; back to the summer associate’s question. How do you think this person should respond to the exit questionnaire? Feel free to opine, in the comments.

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