Those big law firms — they’re all the same, right?
Yeah, pretty much. But let’s keep that as our little secret. Here’s our next amusing interview story.*
A law school classmate had been on what seemed like a zillion second-year callbacks and was having trouble keeping all the interviews straight in his head. At a Cravath, Swaine & Moore callback, three rather stuffy and reticent lawyers took him to lunch at an upscale French restaurant. Trying to make conversation, my classmate piped up, “So what’s it like to work at Skadden?”
The seniormost lawyer arched an eyebrow and replied icily, “You’re interviewing at Cravath.” Without missing a beat, my classmate replied, “Well, do you know what it’s like to work at Skadden anyway?”
His comment was prescient – he ended up at Skadden.
We can understand his confusion. Both Skadden and Cravath have laid claim to the “Death Star” nickname. (Around here, we use it to refer to Cravath, since Skadden has moved into new offices.)
* We agree this commenter — not all of these anecdotes qualify as “horror stories.” That just happens to be the catchy title we’ve bestowed upon this ongoing series of posts. Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)
Obviously we have no aversion around here to humor (or attempts at it). But lawyers and law students on job interviews should be very careful when cracking jokes.
Engage in some amount of cost-benefit analysis: Does the good that this joke might do outweigh the risk that it will fall flat? Could the joke be construed as offensive in any way? Does your interviewer seem like someone who might be receptive to humor — for example, has he or she made a joke already — or do they seem a bit dour?
Here’s an example of a joke that didn’t go over so well:
A few of us take the interviewee out to lunch. We sit down; menus arrive. The candidate mentions that she is deathly allergic to shellfish. She returns to this subject again and again throughout the lunch — perhaps worried that someone at our table, or at a table nearby, might order something with shellfish. At one point she says: “Hey — if I get an allergic reaction, and you have to rush me to the emergency room, then will you give me an offer?”
Awkward laughter. And no offer (for a whole host of reasons, which I won’t burden you with).
Disclaimer: We are not making light of food allergies. To the contrary, we caution job applicants against using them as the basis for attempts at humor. Earlier: Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)
Tomorrow is the first day for clerkship interviews under the official Law Clerk Hiring Plan (which some judges follow, and some judges don’t). So it’s fitting and proper that our next interview anecdote relates to a clerkship interview with a federal judge:
I clerked for a federal court of appeals judge. The judge’s chambers were located in a converted local post office in a suburb, so the judge permitted us to dress casually. (Very casually, including the judge — sweatshirts and tee shirts were not out of the question, especially given the antiquated HVAC system). This was usually a big selling point among clerkship applicants, who of course arrived for their interviews dressed in business suits.
One day, after a nicely dressed, well-credentialed law student came through on an interview, the judge came out of her office with a rather amused look on her face. She recounted that, sitting in her office during the private interview, the applicant asked about the dress code. She gave her usual spiel that casual dress was fine, joking about the poor ventilation.
The student then asked her earnestly if it would be ok if he wore a suit to work if he were hired. Puzzled, she said sure, but asked why. He said, with a straight face, that he thought it was “more professional.”
Our series of interview anecdotes, which we kicked off yesterday, continues. And today’s tale illustrates that sometimes the rudeness comes not from the interview candidate, but from her hosts:
As a law student applying for summer associate jobs, I had a post-interview lunch at [a large New York law firm] with a young male associate. As is traditional, he brought along a fellow associate as his wingman. (Why is that the protocol, anyway? Is it so it doesn’t feel like some weird date? Are firms afraid the associate will tell the truth if alone with a candidate over lunch?)
Anyway, the associate and his wingman proceeded to IGNORE me the whole time, catch up on their respective lives, and talk to each other about the NFL and the various prospects for the season, like it was going out of style. I thought I was at lunch with Bob Costas and John Madden.
I made some pointed comment about how these interviews must be great for associates to catch up with each other, but it went right over their heads. Not only that, but they walked AHEAD of me through Times Square, both going and coming, yammering about the Jets — as I struggled after them in my suit and high heels. When we returned to the lobby, they just stared at me awkwardly, until I offered a “Well, unless someone upstairs needs me, I’ll be going.”
The evening air is turning crisp. The kids are back in school. You’re starting to think about where to spend Thanksgiving. That’s right, everyone: Autumn is here. (Official start of fall this year: Saturday, September 23.)
In the legal world, everyone knows what fall means: job interviews. Second- and third-year law students are interviewing for summer associate positions at law firms. Third-year law students, as well as recent law school graduates, are interviewing for prestigious judicial clerkships. (You can find out the latest clerk hiring info here.)
To celebrate the season, we’re going to share with you some of the more interesting or amusing interview stories we’ve heard. To make a contribution, please email us (subject line: “Interview Story”).
Please note that your story doesn’t have to be a tale of disaster. Stories about interviews that are weird, cute, or heartwarming are also welcome.
We’ll kick things off with this little anecdote:
I don’t mean to be the etiquette police; I’ve committed many a faux pas over the years. And I understand that not everyone grows up in privileged surroundings where they learn, from an early age, which fork is which.
But I found this lunch behavior rather odd, coming from an interview candidate who went to a top college and is now at a top law school. Presumably she has attended some formal events, semi-formal events, or business meals, where she has had the chance to observe others.
So here’s the story. We’re at an interview lunch. The candidate takes a roll from the bread basket. She butters it. She takes a bite out of it. And then she PUTS IT BACK IN THE BREAD BASKET.
None of us said anything; but everyone noticed. I could not believe my eyes.
One of the other associates at the table takes out her Blackberry — perhaps also a breach of etiquette, but quite common in this town — and taps out a message. A few seconds later, my Blackberry vibrates. I apologize for the interruption — “I’m waiting for an urgent message from a client” — and check my email.
It’s a message from my colleague across the table. Subject line: “Bread.” Message text: “Did she just do that?”
It’s time for Above the Law to perform our mitzvah for the day — what’s known in the publishing trade as “service journalism,” or “news you can use.”
Today we offer job applicants this friendly advice: After you remove a piece of bread from the communal bread basket, it is considered yours. Never return it to the basket. As John Locke might have said, by “mixing it with your labor” — by lifting the roll out of the basket, and placing it on your bread plate — you have converted that communal property into your own.
So please, when it comes to rolls in the bread basket, “no backsies.” We know that people are starving in sub-Saharan Africa. But your buttered, half-eaten roll of sourdough will never make it to them. Thank you. Cf. Seinfeld, The Muffin Tops. For those of you not familiar with that classic episode, excerpts from the script appear after the jump.
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
LexisNexis and OverDrive®, the digital library solutions provider chosen by 22,000+ libraries, schools and colleges worldwide, have joined forces to provide a library management solution that suits evolving legal research requirements mobility, simplified library management, and space and budget reductions.
Reduce your library costs and extend the budget.
With LexisNexis® Digital Library, overhead and administrative costs for maintaining a print library are reduced dramatically. Adopt an easy-to-use platform that requires minimal staff resources so your organization can make the most out of your library budget. Plus, multi-year purchase options let your library lock in savings.
Empower your librarians.
Your firm’s librarians will have more time to conduct value-added research. They’ll have greater insight into what resources the staff actually uses so they can make adjustments to the collection quickly using a single website. Librarians can gain greater control, which can lead to better library utilization and increased strategic value to the firm.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
The traditional job application and interview process can be impersonal, and applicants often struggle to present themselves as more than just the sum of their GPAs, alma maters, and previous work history. ATL has partnered with ViewYou to help job seekers overcome this challenge. ViewYou NOW Profiles offer a unique way for job seekers to make a personal, memorable connection with prospective employers: introduction videos. These videos allow job candidates to display their personalities, interpersonal skills, and professional interests, creating an eDossier to brand themselves to potential employers all over the world. Check it out today!