Interview Stories

cowboy hat.jpgThis next tale isn’t really an interview “horror” story, and it’s from many years ago. But we found it somewhat interesting. From another western reader:

This may shock you, but there are white shoe firms in the West. I had an interview with one in 1983.

I showed up for the interview in cowboy boots, Pendleton Wool shirt over a turtle neck and cords. The senior associate that did the first interview was obviously uncomfortable with my attire, but said nothing.

He passed me on to the junior partner who was also uncomfortable and asked if I owned a suit. I replied, “I have spent the last seven years putting myself through college and law school. There were more important things to spend $200 dollars on, like rent and groceries. I have been able to get by with a sport coat in most situations, but if offered a position here, I would like a recommendation on a good men’s shop to obtain a wardrobe suitable for the office.”

He seemed satisfied with the answer, and we moved on to other topics.

We commend this reader for his chutzpah, for his jujitsu-esque ability to turn a potential problem to his advantage. It plays out like a scene in a movie, in which our impoverished but scrappy protagonist breaks into the world of Biglaw. Any casting suggestions?
(We predict, however, that some killjoy commenter will point out that this reader could have obtained a secondhand suit at the Salvation Army, and taken it to the dry cleaners, for minimal expense.)

Lunch was with these two and two senior partners in the firm at the Hotel Utah. So, now you know the firm is in Salt Lake City. During lunch, the managing partner asked me, “Mr. [X], what is the greatest asset you can bring to this firm?” “I can take a client to a three martini lunch, return to the office, and get work out the door,” I replied.

Hmm, not bad — another scene that strikes us as having cinematic possibilities. It’s sort of like the Western meets Biglaw. A young attorney, who makes up for his lack of wealth and polish with intelligence and self-reliance, succeeds in landing the coveted law firm job.
Alas, the real-life story didn’t have a Hollywood ending:

I knew I wasn’t going to get an offer going in. The firm had a rep of hiring only Ivy League grads, but always interviewed top candidates from “Western law schools” to keep from getting sued for discrimination. But, they and two other firms in SLC paid for my plane ticket and a couple of nights hotel stay, so why not have some fun?

It seems that this reader genuinely wanted a job with this firm, and just didn’t get it — with an expenses-paid trip to Salt Lake City as just a consolation prize. Of course, ATL does not condone the practice of interviewing with firms that you have absolutely no interest in working for, just so you can get a trip to some fun city.
(But if you do engage in this practice, do NOT boast about it when interviewing with the firms that you are genuinely interested in working for. They won’t think you’re “cool,” but just ethically challenged.)
Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

dogs humping dog sex.jpgSome of you think we don’t give the West Coast enough love here at ATL. We’re happy to report that our next few interview anecdotes come from west of the Rockies.
Here’s the first:

Some years ago, I was a junior associate at a Big Firm in San Francisco. I was asked to take a young female law student out to lunch after her morning round of interviews. I grabbed another associate, and the three of us went off to a nearby expensive, formal, white-tablecloth restaurant.

Things were going fine. The conversation turned to family pets, which was okay because my wingman (wingwoman, actually) was a dog lover.

But then the law student brought up the male dog her family had when she was a child, who was a lovely dog — except for his propensity to hump everything, including legs, furniture, etc. At first this was okay, and made us all laugh.

But then, encouraged by the laughter, the interviewee proceeded to stand up from her seat at the table — in an expensive, formal, white-tablecloth restaurant — and physically pantomime the dog’s humping movements. All the while, she was describing the humping at the top of her lungs, and laughing hysterically.

Result: No offer.

Guess her pantomiming left something to be desired. Was she wearing a pantsuit or a skirt suit?
Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

lesbians and fall foliage.jpgLaw firm recruiting season is winding down, but we remain interested in your job interview horror stories. To read prior stories, click here, then scroll down.
(Note: The “horror” in “interview horror stories” is loosely defined. Stories that are somewhat embarrassing or mildly amusing will suffice.)
Most of our interview horror stories involve interviewees saying or doing stupid things, during their Biglaw interview or at lunch. But sometimes it’s the interviewers who are boneheaded.
This story has been making the rounds at East Coast law schools:

A young woman goes in for an on-campus interview with a large law firm. Her interviewer is an elderly partner at a very conservative, white-shoe kind of place.

The interview is going smoothly. But then the interviewer starts complaining about promising female associates who get married, have kids, and leave the firm.

Such comments are highly improper and/or illegal. There are a number of ways to deal with them, in appropriate yet subtle fashion. But our interviewee decides to tackle this problem head-on:

“You don’t need to worry about that happening with me. I’m a lesbian.”

The stuffy old partner is at a complete loss for words. He’s probably never met a lesbian in his life.

There’s a long, awkward pause. Finally, the partner breaks the silence:

“Have you thought about Paul Weiss?”

Illegal / Improper Job Interview Questions [Cornell Law School]
Top 10 Lesbian Cars for 2006 [About.com]
Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

howard dean young man.jpg* Who is the hottest dean? Your nominations are needed.
(At right: A portrait of Howard Dean as a young man. Seriously.)
* Who is the Paris Hilton of the federal judiciary?
* Are you a professor at a private law school? If so, how much money do you make?
* Why are those Florida judges always getting themselves into trouble?
* It’s interview season — for law firm jobs, judicial clerkships, etc. Do you know the do’s and don’ts of interviewing?
* Legal Eagle Wedding Watch: It’s a tie!
* Congratulations to Alice Fisher and Ken Wainstein, who were (finally) confirmed by the Senate as, respectively, heads of the DOJ’s Criminal Division and National Security Division.
* Outstanding Discovery Requests: Handicapping the Race to Partnership, Skaddenfreude (Academic Salaries), Internal Memos.

people who need people.JPGRemember the not-so-little secret we let you in on the other day: that all big law firms are pretty much the same?*
If you question that conventional wisdom, consider this interview tale:

I walked into an on-campus interview with a prominent DC firm. The interview room had a big window, and the interviewer must have been relying all day on the natural light coming through the window. So he had forgotten to turn the overhead light on. However, my interview was in the early evening…. The result was a dark room, with only one light on: a desk lamp, which happened to be shining directly into my face. It felt like an interrogation.

The interviewer himself didn’t help matters. This partner looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. He was dour and unfriendly. It was one of those lazy interviews, where the interviewer just lets you ask questions. So I asked my litany of innocuous, and boring, questions.

After a few, he tilted his head and said, “You know, none of those questions will do anything to distinguish our firm from any other major firm in DC.” Taken aback, and a bit annoyed, I replied, “Well then, what really does set your firm apart?”

He paused in thought. Then he said, “Not much really. I can’t think of anything.” I pressed him, asking, “Why did you decide to join [this firm]?” “Oh, I don’t know. A bunch of my friends went there, so I went too.”

Hey, at least he was honest…

The interview went on for about ten more painful minutes. As I was about to leave, the interviewer said, “You know, I guess if there’s one thing that really does set our firm apart, it’s the people. The people here are friendly and collegial and down-to-earth.”

Umm, right….

* All the same except for Wachtell Lipton, which pays much better — but where you work much harder.
Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

boston sweatshirt.jpgOur series on Interview Horror Stories has released a wave of funny interview anecdotes throughout the blogosphere. In addition to yesterday’s amusingly awkward anecdote from David Bernstein, check out Eric Muller’s two contributions: a funny-but-evil law firm story, and a butt-clenchingly mortifying faculty job talk story (anecdote #2).
And now, our latest funny/embarrassing interview story, courtesy of a kind reader:

I was interviewing mostly with Boston firms. Inevitably I was asked about my Denver-heavy resume, and I had developed a whole spiel about why I wanted to work in Boston. On my last interview of the day, the interviewers asked the resume question right out of the gate.

I launched into my nearly memorized response: “Rest assured, my desire to work in Boston is sincere. I’ve been in Boston for college and law school. I love it here. There’s a rhythm and a dynamism here that you just don’t find out West. I have a real connection with the city, and frankly, I can’t imagine practicing law anywhere but Boston.”

The two interviewers looked at each other, then at me. Then they reminded me that they were, in fact, from a Silicon Valley firm. I did not get a callback.

(For the record, everything worked out. I did end up practicing in Boston for several years, before the lure of home brought me back to Denver.)

Good stuff. Have your own interview horror story that you’d be willing to share? Please email us. We define “horror” loosely; we’re just looking for stories that pass the “mildly amusing” test. We will omit your name and any firm names, unless you request otherwise. Thankee kindly.
Law Faculty Hiring Horror Stories [Is That Legal?]
My “Most Unethical Law Firm Interview” Story [Is That Legal?]
My Funniest Law Firm Interview Story [Volokh Conspiracy]
Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

question mark.gifWe recently heard about a 1L at a top law school who knew, since he was a wee lad, that he wanted to go into international commercial arbitration.
We found this rather odd. No one in his family worked in the field. He had no other prior exposure to this area of law. And ICA isn’t exactly something that youngsters fall in love with, even if they have no clue as to what it entails (unlike, say, “international human rights work,” which gets mentioned in 75 percent of law school admissions essays).
Somehow this kid just KNEW that international commercial arbitration was his calling in life. Strange, but hey — good for him.
Tons of us, however, go to law school without a clear sense of what we want to do afterwards. This next interview anecdote is therefore one that many people can relate to:

I was interviewing with a Chicago branch of a large national firm. The interview was proceeding uneventfully when the interviewer (who had a bizarre, affected British accent) asked me what kind of law I intended to practice. I had worked on both commercial litigation and employment law cases at another firm the previous summer, and I told him quite honestly that I had not made up my mind, but it would likely be one of those two areas.

He reacted to my answer with a horrible, shocked expression. “Young man,” he said, “if you can’t tell me right now exactly what you intend to do with the rest of your legal career, I’m afraid you’re not our firm’s material.”

Now it was my turn to be shocked. I stood up, extended my hand, and said, “You’re absolutely right. I realize now that working for you would be one of the biggest mistakes I could ever make. Thank you for setting me straight.” I shook his hand, spun around, and walked out.

Wow, that took cojones! But guess what?

The next day, I got a callback. Needless to say, I did not take it.

Earlier: Prior Interview Horror Stories (scroll down)

amy schulman.jpg* DLA Piper’s Amy Schulman (at right): Leading litigatrix, or Dianne Feinstein doppelganger? [WSJ Law Blog]
* “Eugene Volokh” on Boston Legal: the mystery revealed. Congrats on the shout-out, Professor Volokh! [Volokh Conspiracy]
* We enjoyed this. Or, to do our best Instapundit impression: HEH.
[Concurring Opinions]
* Another funny interview story, courtesy of David Bernstein. As for why he didn’t get an offer: Maybe he picked the wrong concealer? [Volokh Conspiracy]
* There’s still time left for you to vote: Who is the Paris Hilton of the federal judiciary? [ATL]
* There appears to be a void in the blogosphere where rumor-mongering about law school faculty moves ought to be. [Is That Legal?; Concurring Opinions]
Note: We’re happy to try and fill that void. So send us your tips, your juicy gossip about who in legal academia might be going where. The bigger the name, the better. If we receive a regular inflow of such info, we’ll make it a weekly feature.

job hunting.jpgSince fall is job hunting season in the legal profession, both in terms of firm jobs and judicial clerkships, ATL offers you this “public service announcement”: our top ten interview tips.
We’ve received requests for interview advice from readers. Rather than repeat ourselves in emails, we thought we’d just write our “wisdom” down in a single post. It’s essentialy an outgrowth of our continuing series of Interview Horror Stories, which give you an idea of what NOT to do during a job interview.
1. Review your social networking site profiles (if any) for appropriateness. Here’s what one reader had to say:

Guess what. People making hiring and career decisions about you can indeed use Google, MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, etc. So can clients who are paying $300 or more per hour for your services. To the extent possible, you might want to make an effort to make yourself appear halfway professional. Or at least get rid of the materials that make you look like a drunken fool.

Yeah, that picture of you chugging a forty is pretty funny — but you should probably remove it. See also this cautionary tale, from the New York Times.
2. Make sure your breath is fresh. Please, don’t inflict halitosis upon your interviewer. You can check your breath by breathing into your cupped hand and sniffing (quasi-gross, but effective). Bring along a tiny packet of those Listerine strips, which you can pop discreetly when needed.
3. No gum during the interview. Bad breath is verboten; but so is chewing gum, even of the breath-freshening kind. We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but we do.
And don’t try the trick of sticking it in an upper corner of your mouth, so you can resume chewing it later; it can affect your speech. When the interview is done, treat yourself to a fresh piece. You deserve it!
4. Get Them to Start Talking About Themselves. This is everyone’s favorite topic. They are as bored with you as you are with them, so avoid you and make it about them. (Gavel bang: John Carney, a former practicing lawyer and editor of DealBreaker, our big brother blog.)
5. Cologne or Perfume? Probably safest not to — especially if you’re interviewing with this guy (he bans it in chambers).
If you do, select a subtle scent — e.g., not Drakkar Noir — and use it sparingly. (We like Eau d’Orange Verte by Hermès.)
Oh, but a resounding “yes” to showering — and deodorant.
The rest of our interview advice appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A PSA from ATL: Top Ten Interview Tips”

death star.jpgThose 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)

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