Last week, we wrote about a recruiting snafu involving Kasowitz Benson. The high-powered litigation firm had an unexpectedly high yield for its 2014 summer program, so it started making phone calls in which it either pressed students with offers for a fast decision or effectively rescinded the offer, urging the student to go elsewhere.

A rescinded offer is bad news, especially in an age when fewer students have tons of offers to choose from. But a rescinded offer of a summer associate position is better than a cold offer at the end of the summer, right?

After our story about the controversial Kasowitz calls went up, we heard from multiple former summer associates at Kasowitz with additional allegations of shady behavior — specifically, cold offers….

Those of you who are new to the process might be wondering: what is a “cold offer”? Here’s an explanation:

[A] “cold offer” or “fake offer” is, in the words of NALP, an employment offer made “with the understanding that the offer will not be accepted.”

This “offer,” made with a wink and a nudge, allows the employing law firm to report (and boast about) a 100 percent offer rate, when in reality it isn’t welcoming back 100 percent of its summer associates. It also has an advantage for the recipient: when she goes through 3L recruiting, she can truthfully say, “Yes, I received an offer from the firm where I summered.”

We have confirmed with multiple sources — people we have met in person, spoken with by phone, or emailed directly — that Kasowitz has given out “cold offers” to summer associates in at least two of the past four summers. So when you see a “100 percent offer rate” for Kasowitz, whether on its NALP employer form or in an ATL offer round-up, take it with a grain of salt.

Although we have confirmation for just two of the past four summer programs, we have reason to believe that the firm issues cold offers with regularity. First, reports of cold offers at Kasowitz have been circulating for a while. See, e.g., this TLS thread from 2009 June.

Second, when the firm cold-offered one of our sources, it did so in such a matter-of-fact manner that it struck our tipster as a common occurrence. Many cold-offer conversations are subtle and indirect — “we’re giving you an offer, but we think you’d be happier elsewhere” — but the Kasowitz one actually used the words “cold offer.” The partner in question told our tipster something along these lines: “This is what I like to call a ‘cold offer.'” Ouch.

We reached out to the firm for possible comment. We have not yet back from them, but if and when we do, we will update this story.

Are “cold offers” really that bad? There are arguments that can be made in defense of the practice:

Defenders say it has utility for both law students and law firms. Cold-offered law students get to say during their 3L interviews that they received offers from their summer employers, but aren’t interested in going back. That certainly looks better to a prospective employer than confessing that, for example, you got fired after a lesbianic smooch.

The firms doling out the cold offers get to say that they made offers to all, or almost all, of their summer associates (including the not-really-an-offer offers). After all, a cold offer is still technically an “offer.” Offer rates are published by NALP, so 2Ls applying to law firms are aware of them. Having a high offer rate helps in recruiting the next year’s summer class.

But cold offers are frowned upon by NALP:

NALP does not condone this unethical practice. Whether initiated by students to appear more attractive to future employers or by employers to enhance their offer ratios, the practice is fraudulent and unprofessional. NALP suggests that employers adopt a standard policy of extending or confirming offers in writing, signed by a representative of the organization, so that only legitimate offers are made.

Is it surprising to hear that Kasowitz issues cold offers? Not exactly; it could be viewed as reflecting the firm’s culture, which is sharp-elbowed and advantage-seeking, not genteel.

Kasowitz doesn’t mess around. Just ask its opposing counsel. Or clients who haven’t paid their bills. Or the former associate who unsuccessfully sued the firm for $77 million. All have felt the wrath of Kasowitz.

On its website, Kasowitz describes itself as “creative, aggressive and innovative” in litigation. The same seems to hold true for recruiting.

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): A recruiter source of ours claims that Kasowitz refuses to pay its recruiting bills on time as well: “They made me wait months for payment. (Industry standard is within 30 days of a candidate’s start date.) I waited and waited and when their dubious ‘waiting period’ was over, they still wouldn’t pay me. I had to threaten that I would make it public to get any kind of response, and it still took several weeks to receive the check.”

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): Kasowitz got back to us and declined comment.

What’s the story behind Kasowitz Benson? [Top Law Schools]
Kasowitz Sues Ex-Client for $2.3 Million in Fees [New York Law Journal]

Earlier: A Fall Recruiting Debacle: One Firm Decides To Go Explode Some Offers
Summer Associate Offer Rates (2012): A Round-Up
Fall Recruiting Open Thread: Cold Offers


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