I’m about to show you a train wreck. Feel free to laugh as this would-be summer associate impales himself with his own questions.
But I’m not showing you this just for the lulz. This is a public service, a teachable moment for everybody who doesn’t know the line between “effective networking” and “annoying striver”….
A law student who I think goes to BYU Law (though I can’t confirm that) got a summer associate position at the Utah firm of Morgan, Minnock, Rice, & James. Congratulations. It’s a tough market, and you have to bust your butt to get a job in it.
After getting an offer, the appropriate response is, in a nutshell, “Thank you! I accept! See you in June.” Instead, our guy emailed the hiring partner back with three questions:
I was so excited to receive your e-mail. As I mentioned before, I would absolutely love to clerk for your firm this summer. The rate of pay seemed entirely fair. Seeing as this is such an important decision, I did have three questions for you. These were questions I was going to ask (Managing Partner) last Friday, but things were too busy:
(1) I live in Orem, UT, and I would likely need to use the Frontrunner to make it up to Salt Lake everyday. Some firms offer to compensate or pay for a 4-month train pass. Would that be a possibility?
(2) You mentioned several times that I should have the intention of staying on post-graduation, obviously conditional on how I perform this summer. That is something I am willing and eager to do. I want to impress the partners with my work ethic, as well as my work quality.
Looking to the future, do you have an idea of what the starting salary is for a first-year attorney at the firm? Does that change once the bar has been passed?
(I’m sure these may depend entirely on the circumstances, and so if you can’t answer specifically that is OK.)
You see the problem with these first two questions. They’re the kinds of things you ask a human resources person, not a hiring partner. Partners aren’t your friends, they aren’t your mother, they don’t give a good goddamn about your freaking commute.
The third question is an absolute implosion:
(3) Lastly, we spoke briefly in our interview together about a company from (name of state) called “(Company Name)”. They have about 175 employees and are growing rapidly. We have been talking since September, and they are dissatisfied with their current outside counsel. The salesman inside of me saw this as a perfect opportunity to acquire a client for the future for whatever firm I end up clerking for. (you)
If you were OK with it, I would forego the “one or two weeks” of R & R you mentioned, and apply those foregone weeks towards a 4-week clerkship with this company. I think it could be extremely valuable to your firm for two reasons: (A) I honestly believe that if I spend a little time with them I can convince them to switch to our firm for their outside counsel services considering their current dissatisfaction; and (B) I would gain valuable experience of knowing how corporations make decisions in-house, and I would apply that experience to my work with you.
Of course, it would only be 4 weeks (not half of the summer like many clerkships), and I would be more than willing to immediately continue work for you 10 – 20 hours per week while in school my 3L year.
You can read his full email on the next page.
The last thing any firm wants is for some eager-beaver summer employee accessing his inner salesman to flip a company’s outside counsel. Good lord, stand back and appreciate what’s happening here: “Thanks for the offer, can I work for someone else too? Also, will you be paying for my commute? And what’s the pay here? Hang on, let me try to steal this client — feel the origination fees, baby!”
Now… when a dog starts humping your leg, you need to firmly command it to stop. That’s what most people do. But that’s not how they roll at Morgan Minnock. These guys just put the dog down, Atticus Finch-style. Here’s their response to the gunner:
This will seem a little harsh. I apologize. You are an outstanding young man and you have a bright future ahead of you as a lawyer. However, the opportunity here is unique and sensitive. After reviewing your email, we have elected to withdraw the offer for you to clerk this summer for MMRJ. We do not believe it is an appropriate fit for us. Thank you for your interest and the time you devoted in coming up to meet with us.
Yeah… that is “a little harsh.”
It’s hard to fault the firm. It’s very weird for a person to be selling himself as a go-getter who is going to generate business over the summer, yet he can’t figure out how much first-years get paid. And none of his questions were about the, you know, practice of law.
But this is the transition all law students have to make as they enter practice. You’ve got to be a networker to get the job. Firms want to see your independence and initiative. Once you get the job, though, you can help yourself to a warm glass of shut the hell up. Nobody cares about your ideas, your plans, your dreams, or your stupid commute. “Here is a box of documents, see you tomorrow.”
Associates aren’t supposed to take initiative, they’re supposed to take orders. Remember that when you get your first job.