Today I'm staying right here in New York to visit with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom hiring partner Steven Glaser (pictured right).
Skadden is a mega, hypercharged firm with a sweatshop reputation where the odds of making partner are almost nil. Why do people want to work at your firm?
People desperately want good experience. I'm not sure that a very significant number of associates even want to be partners. I think the firm is good at fostering opportunities; it's supportive if you eventually want to work for the government or a client.
Is there a Skadden persona?
Confident, but not elitist. It's not a stuffy place. People have good credentials here, but once you're here, it doesn't matter where you went to school or who you clerked for.
Any difference between this year's crop of summer associates and past years?
The class is 50 percent smaller than last year; there are 100 students overall. By going to a smaller number, we had the luxury of getting people who are really enthusiastic about being at Skadden.
Besides that rah-rah spirit, what else do you look for?
The one thing I look for is someone who really wants to be a lawyer.
How can you tell? Do you give some kind of secret personality test?
I ask why they really want to be a lawyer. You want someone with some spark and passion for lawyering. A lot of people end up at law school because they don't know what else to do, and then they feel the work is beneath them. They want to write a novel or play the violin.
So firms should avoid the artsy-creative type?
No, no. Some of those people work out quite well. [Skadden partner] Greg Milmoe was a pianist, and now he's one of the leading restructuring lawyers.
Ever had a candidate who was great on paper but who blew the interview?
Yes. The ones who were totally unprepared and knew nothing about Skadden. Someone asked us about our T&E practice, which we don't have.
Does Skadden hire from third- or fourth-tier schools?
We will generally consider the top of the class at most any school. They might not get an offer, but we're open.
I imagine Skadden is pretty fussy about grades from even the top schools.
We are, but it depends on the school. At some schools the grading process is meaningless--like Yale, Stanford, and now Harvard.
Seems like if you go to one of those schools, you've got an automatic edge.
I'd say so. [But] most of those students would meet our criteria anyway.
What about students who go to one of the lesser law schools? What happens if they have a blemish on their transcript--are they forever banished from the Skadden kingdom?
A lot of schools don't allow us to prescreen candidates, so we end up interviewing some people who might not have made our grade cut. But if they have compelling reasons for an aberrant grade or semester, some [ultimately] get hired. We're human, and we understand.
So the lesson is for the student to be fearless?
If a bad grade is unexplained, it hurts them. It's good for students to bring up the issue and address it forthrightly.
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Photo courtesy of Skadden, Arps