Job Searches, Screw-Ups, Small Law Firms

Gradenfreude: Two of the Best Rejection Letters I’ve Received

There are very few things more disheartening than rejection. Whether you’re the dork in high school trying to work up the courage to ask that special someone to go on a date, applying to school, or looking for a job, no one wants to be rejected. And in an attempt to calm your nerves, loved ones will often say, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

But all the good thoughts and best wishes in the world don’t provide much comfort when you’re searching for your first law job and everyone else is doing the exact same thing (not to mention they went to much better law schools than you did). While it may not be the end of the world, rejection can really hurt. The mere fear of rejection can paralyze some, and if there’s constant rejection, it’s not uncommon for depression — or in my case at the moment, extreme pessimism — to start kicking in.

Knowing this fact, employers generally attempt to soften the blow of rejection to the furthest extent possible. They say comforting things like “you are highly qualified” or “have impressive training.” If they really liked you, you may even get a more personal statement that actually acknowledges something in your résumé, which at least means that they read it and tried to make believe that they cared.

However, this isn’t always the case….

Sometimes, if you’re lucky enough to even get a rejection letter or email, the employer won’t actually care about you or have read your entire file. Personally, I’ve only received a couple of rejection letters over the last few months, but I know that a lack of response is usually a rejection. I understand that most legal employers are being inundated with applications, but it’s rude to not even respond. I spent the time applying to their position, so they should at least have the courtesy to tell me to go screw myself.

That said, most of my rejections have been mass BCC emails sent to everyone that was rejected. But I’ve received a handful of rejections that hurt a little bit. While it seems hard to believe, even template letters can be screwed up. This happened to me when a potential employer attempted to personalize my rejection, but simply forgot to give a sh*t. The email I received seemed to be a standard rejection letter, but a closer look actually revealed that it was an incomplete template.

The salutation still said “Dear Mr. [INSERT NAME HERE].” I know that isn’t that bad, but still, it would’ve only taken a minute or less to see how to address the email properly. So thanks for trying to make it look like you read my application and knew my gender, but next time, please try to work on your follow through, a-hole.

The next one hurt a little bit more, for a couple of reasons. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been applying to every job that’s even remotely legal, and this one wasn’t an associate position – nope, it was a legal assistant job. These people took the trouble to send me a letter in the mail. It said (emphasis added):

“We would like to thank you for your interest, but we regret that we are currently unable to offer you the position of legal assitant. We will keep your résumé on file should a position more suitable for you become available.”

At first I had to do a double take because I thought it said “asstaint,” and I didn’t remember applying for something like that. But then I was really conflicted, because while I really wanted to be their legal “assitant,” I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant to be unqualified for a firm that would have a legal “assitant.” I hope the firm is reading this now so they can see they wasted a perfectly good stamp. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that they could use a legal “assitant” who knows how to run a spell check.

Like I said, sometimes rejection can really hurt when they just don’t give a f**k.

When not writing about life after law school for Above the Law, Tristan Taylor Thomas (not his real name) works at a retail job stocking shelves — which he admits is slightly better than being a shoeshiner. You can reach him by email at

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