Today I continue to address some of the questions that I have received from you by email. Once again, I note that these are simply my personal views on the questions presented.
1. How do law firms assess job moves on a résumé, particularly when the moves were dictated by life circumstances (such as the need to follow a spouse into a secondary legal market)?
There is an unspoken belief amongst many recruitment professionals that a candidate who has moved around too often is a problematic candidate. Whether this is true or not, recruitment professionals view a fifth-year candidate who has already been at three firms as easily discontented. The thought then becomes — why would this candidate be happy at our firm? How are we any different than his or her previous employers? While candidates are often able to explain their moves (e.g., personal circumstances), recruiters then question the depth of experience that a candidate has had to date. Is a candidate who has stayed at one firm for five years more experienced that a fifth-year associate who has moved firms three times? In my experience, employers always favor the former candidate. Partners like loyalty and depth of experience, be it actual or perceived.
2. How long after graduation should an associate remain at a less than ideal job in a secondary market before submitting a résumé to a Biglaw firm in a more desirable location, such as New York or Chicago?
I have received hundreds of emails over the past few months from job seekers, and today I would like to answer some of these questions.
The Recruitment Team
1. Do you take a sadistic pleasure in rejecting candidates?
I have received emails calling me “smug,” “arrogant,” “fat,” and “in all likelihood unattractive.” I am fat and, on most days, unattractive, so well done on that front. However, I am not smug or arrogant. BigLaw is a particular work environment, and it is an environment that I have observed firsthand for 20 years. I am trying to provide readers with some inside information. Please recall that it is just a singular viewpoint on a huge industry.
Neither I nor my colleagues enjoy denying smart people who have worked hard a chance to work in the setting of their choice. There is nothing gratifying about rejecting a candidate.
2. Does the scan of the applicant’s transcript come before or after you review the résumé?
I have received numerous emails from law students requesting advice about the Biglaw interview day. I once again solicited the input of other recruitment professionals in order to compile a list of the items that candidates should keep in mind on their interview day.
Please recall that, as members of the recruitment staff, we are not the individuals who conduct the interviews; rather, we hear secondhand about the reasons why a candidate is or is not advanced in the process. The following list contains our collective thoughts, but, ultimately, a candidate needs to be true to him or herself during the interview process:
The other day I had lunch with five colleagues, each of whom acts as the head of recruitment for a large New York law firm. Despite our best efforts, the discussion repeatedly returned to work and the immense pressure that we all have been feeling in the wake of the “economic adjustment.” Our jobs used to be (relatively) fun in the late 1990s. We fondly recalled the days when one of the greatest pressures that we faced was finding, at the last minute, extra Yankees tickets for an oversubscribed summer associate outing. Well, our roles have changed. Today our primary task is to find for our employers, time and time again, flawless candidates who have made no missteps in their careers.
During the discussion, I kept steering the conversation back to the topic that I address today. I wanted to share with readers the major pet peeves of recruitment staff members in the hope that you can benefit from such disclosures. In no particular order and with no malice:
Law students love to bash the staff of their law school’s career services office. Students often roll their eyes as they describe a staff, usually all female, most with law degrees, who have allegedly traded in the law firm life for a 9-to-5 job. The students often comment that the staff does nothing to help the students secure jobs. Well, I wish to share with you a harsh reality that your law school counselors may not be able to impart directly.
When a student presents to the career services office at law school for a résumé review, there is very little that the counselors can do at that point. The counselors can, of course, suggest the reordering of text and/or tighten certain job descriptions. But YOU are the one who has made certain professional choices, and the staff cannot rewrite your history. A résumé is impressive not because it is well-written; a résumé is impressive because it demonstrates curiosity, risk-taking, and a desire for depth of experience.
Following the publication of my initial column, I received scores of emails from polite job-seekers with specific questions about their current employment situations. While I am not able to reply to all of the notes, I can offer some guidance to assist the majority of these job-seekers.
Insider tip: Biglaw firms tend to avoid hiring candidates who have strayed off of the traditional path to Biglaw firm employment. Such “rogue” candidates make the recruitment committee nervous, and any candidate who makes the committee nervous will not be advanced in the process. If you want to work in Biglaw, get a job in Biglaw during your 2L summer. If this is not possible (because you did not land a job in Biglaw or you have already graduated), get a job at a small- or medium-sized private firm in the exact practice area that you hope to work in when you make the jump after a few years to Biglaw. Clerkships are fine, but law firm experience in your desired practice area is the ideal. Also, of great importance, you MUST do well in all courses related to your practice area of choice. If you received a C in Securities Regulation, it will be a hard sell to land a job as a securities lawyer at a large firm.
What are some other factors that will make the recruitment committee uncomfortable?
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips for law school applicants.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of pre-law students at UC Berkeley with Matt Sherman of ManhattanLSAT.com.
Because I knew this would be a sophisticated group of students, I put together remarks which I hoped would be new information to them and not standard “law school application tips” available on every forum and blog post. I even came up with some new catch phrases (or at least, we’ll see if they “catch”), and I hope they will be helpful as you decide how to strategize your law school admission game plan.
I took the five major pieces of your law school application package and offered tips and insights. Here are the highlights.
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Legal secretaries and other support staffers aren’t the only folks getting exiled from Biglaw. Partners who lie on their résumés are getting shown the door too.
In the prestige-soaked precincts of Biglaw, the pressure to inflate one’s credentials is understandable. Once you’re above a certain threshold, the quality of legal work can be hard to judge. In other fields of endeavor, you either can do it or you can’t — write code for a specific program, execute a triple Lutz, surgically reattach a severed hand (my dad can do this, in case you ever need his services).
In law, many people can write a brief or negotiate a contract. It then becomes a matter of how well you can do these things — and pedigree inevitably colors the evaluation of the legal services rendered.
In light of all this, a lawyer’s lying on his CV might be understandable — but it’s still a firing offense. A Biglaw partner learned this lesson the hard way….
So I’ve quit my job at Debevoise and I’ve spent six glorious months on my couch. Life is good. My wife is making money and paying the bills; my new dog has become a wonderful friend (first Monday of my Biglaw liberation I went to the ASPCA). My Michigan college football dynasty is undefeated in EA College Football (I root for Michigan sports, long story).
But I know it can’t last. I know eventually I’ll have to get a real job (ish). And I know that I don’t want to go back to doing what I had been doing, so I make what seems to me to be the most logical call in the universe: the Career Services Office at Harvard Law School. Remember, these were the people who told me that I could do all sorts of things with a law degree besides the Biglaw thing that most people did with law degrees. This was the school that owned all my outstanding debts. These were the people, if any, who could help me in my time of professional ennui.
And they did. After emailing and calling in and setting up a phone appointment, I was talking not to some receptionist flunky, but the full-on Dean for Career Services, Mark Weber. And he tried to help. Turned out I really had no clue what I wanted to do next, so much of his advice was basic stuff like “we have lots of successful alumni, you should call them.” The point is that I felt like my law school still cared about my career and still had resources to help me, years after I graduated.
Of course, that was back during the salad days at Harvard Law. Apparently, things are very different during these challenging times at NYU Law School. A recent grad there emailed his career services office looking for help, and was told pretty clearly that nobody had time to assist him.
See, our guy had one job, and it would seem NYU Law is in some kind of triage mode…
What’s the first thing you do at business school — before classes start, before orientation, before anything?
Draft your résumé. And then give it to an advisor who helps you polish the thing. And then go through several more iterations before you submit the final form to “the first of three résumé books,” as Jessica’s email explained, although I don’t quite understand what the words mean.
(Unless times have changed in the last 30 years, law schools are not nearly as aggressive as business schools in immediately preparing students for the job market. Perhaps that’s an institutional failing. Or perhaps law school runs for three years, so students have two summers available for internships, while business school lasts just two years, which places heightened importance on the recruiting season in the fall of year one — before students have finished a single course.)
Jessica asked me to take a look at the original form of her résumé, which she prepared, and she later sent me (for the customary Dadly-proofreading) the final version — which was much, much better.
I haven’t prepared a résumé for myself in more than two decades, and, mercifully, I’m forced to look at relatively few résumés these days. But I learned a few things from watching my daughter’s résumé pass through the belly of The University of Chicago beast. And this experience prompted me to think about the difference between preparing a résumé when you work at a law firm compared to preparing one when you work in-house . . . .
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.