No Offers

Foley & Lardner: The Firm That No Offered a Summer Associate War Veteran

Yesterday, we told you about a law firm that left a war veteran without an offer. Today, we are able to confirm that the firm in question was Foley & Lardner. But we also have a correction and some additional details about the situation.

Let’s get to the correction first. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported:

Matt Nelson graduated last week from the University of Minnesota with a law degree and an MBA. Nelson, 36, was on track to earn $145,000 his first year at a Milwaukee firm. But duty called, and while he was serving as an Army paralegal in Iraq, Milwaukee withdrew its offer.

The Minneapolis paper got it wrong here. Matt Nelson was a summer associate at Foley & Lardner in 2008 and 2009. Foley no offered him at the end of his 2009 summer at the firm, which was after he had returned from Iraq. The firm did not pull his offer while he was serving overseas.

That’s lucky for Foley. As many commenters pointed out, yanking an offer while Nelson was in Iraq (as the Star-Tribune reported) might have gotten Foley into legal trouble. As it stands, Foley’s actions are just a depressing statement about insufficient respect for our war veterans.

Above the Law reached out to Matt Nelson, and he made it clear that he doesn’t want anybody feeling sorry for him just because of one no offer….

Foley & Lardner did not respond to our multiple requests for comment.

But Matt Nelson isn’t bitter about not getting an offer from Foley. He told Above the Law:

My story was that things were going great — I was doing well in school, had landed a great job, met a nice girl in business school, etc. Then I was stop-lossed at the last minute (my enlistment was up May 5th 2008, late March I was told I would be staying in a little longer to go to Iraq), I went to Iraq, the economy collapsed, and in 2009 it was no longer bad form to lay off/no-offer associates.

Fortunately my girlfriend is still dating me. Most people seem to think I got screwed, but I don’t know that I got it any worse than anyone else graduating this year.

Indeed. Foley eviscerated both summer classes Nelson was a part of. The summer class of 2008 suffered an atrocious offer rate (though Foley later appeared to reinstate some offers after we wrote about it here). And even though the firm cut way back on its summer associate class in 2009, the offer rate was still very low. According to NALP data, only three of nine summers received offers out of Foley’s Chicago office. In Foley’s Milwaukee office, where Nelson summered, only 10 of 15 summer associates received full-time offers in 2009.

So it has been pretty tough for many Foley summer associates over the past couple of years. (I wonder if 2010 Foley summers are paying attention … I wonder if potential 2011 Foley summers have basic research skills.) Clearly Matt Nelson wasn’t asking for or expecting special treatment because he served his country.

But … given that he did serve his country during wartime, you’d think he wouldn’t have to ask for anything. You’d think that a firm could find one extra offer for a war veteran who had done his duty for the country. It is Nelson’s bad luck that he was trying to get a Biglaw job at the very moment Biglaw started aborting careers. But maintaining the highest possible profits per partner during a recession shouldn’t really be the most important consideration at all times.

Let’s hope that some other law firm gives Nelson a chance to continue on his legal journey. I’ve got to think that Nelson’s no offer reflects more on Foley than it does on Matt.

Earlier: New Low for Law Firm Behavior During the Recession
Foley & Lardner: Where the Wild Things Are

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