« Interview Tips for Lateral Associates | Main | High-Powered Lawyers Wear Flip Flops »

Debevoise & Plimpton Looks for Passion

Vivia Chen

June 21, 2011

DebevoisePrt Hard to believe, but it won't be long until firms will be descending on law school campuses for early interview season. To help you get an edge, The Careerist is hitting the hiring partner trail again. Today, I'm chatting with Debevoise & Plimpton hiring partner Maurizio Levi-Minzi, who practices in the firm's Latin American group.

Debevoise has a somewhat old-line, aristocratic image among New York firms. Is this perception accurate?
There's this idea that the firm is more inclined toward the academic type than we are. We are first and foremost a business . . . we attract commercially savvy people, people with intellectual curiosity but also people who want to do headline matters.

So it's a bit edgier. I also noticed that Debevoise has made a lot of women partners recently (nine of the 15 new partners from 2008 to 2011 are female). Is the firm swamped with women applicants these days?
It helps in recruiting. We want to be recognized for our wonderful culture, but it's also important to remember that people work hard here. It's not easy. It requires commitment on the part of the firm to have the flexible arrangement, but you must also be efficient.

What does it take to get a call-back at Debevoise? Is it the usual top grades stuff?
We don't have a firm curve or cutoff on grades. We look at the entire package, and grades are part of the picture.

Speaking of the package, how would you describe the typical Debevoise lawyer?
You will never hear Debevoise partners accused of haughty treatment of associates. It's not in our DNA. If you want to pick some Debevoise traits, I'd say creative and diverse, but I hesitate to say that. We really don't have a mode. We're interested in all kinds of people. Clients are very diverse, and we need a lawyer population that reflects that.

But every firm says it wants diversity and that it doesn't prescribe a type. But there must be some traits that you look for.
I look for authenticity. I want to make sure that I understand who this person is.

What do you mean by "authenticity"? 
What's important is meaningful conversations during the interview. I've had conversations with people about their summer jobs, undergraduate thesis, subjects totally unrelated to law--esoteric topics.

Sounds like you'd rather not talk about law during the interview. 
Well, I don't think [law students] know much about law at that stage. Personally, I like candidates that are passionate about something: a cause, a subject, a hobby. I find that candidates who are engaged with an issue or a subject, both emotionally and intellectually, tend to be people who will be successful lawyers and interesting colleagues.

It also doesn't sound like you're a fan of behavior interviews, where applicants take a psychological test, or ones that grill law students about hypothetical legal problems that some firms advocate.
Oh, that's so silly. What does that accomplish? The best thing is to hire someone who's smart and passionate about something.

What other types of questions do you avoid?  
To me the silliest question is: "Why did you decide to become a lawyer?" It's the last refuge of someone who has run out of things to ask.

 

Related posts: Interviews with hiring partners at: Baker Botts; Boies Schiller, Jones Day; K&L Gates; Paul Hastings; Pepper Hamilton; Sidley & Austin; Skadden Arps; Susman Godfrey; and Vinson & Elkins.

Get the latest from The Careerist--free! Sign up today--see box on upper right corner.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at [email protected]

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

@ Helen Porter: Yes, me too. I read it, read it again, then a third time, each time trying to figure out how that answered the question. I finally realized what he was getting at.

Perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps he is intimately familiary with the work schedule of each of the nine women? And perhaps each of them has a "flexible" work arrangement?

Probably not, though. Yikes.

Does his answer to this question shock anyone else? The question was about hiring women, not about part-time work or wanting flexible schedules (which men, too, want these days). I'm in shock at his mental connection between women partners and flexible schedules, it reeks of sexism. Outrageous.

So it's a bit edgier. I also noticed that Debevoise has made a lot of women partners recently (nine of the 15 new partners from 2008 to 2011 are female). Is the firm swamped with women applicants these days?


It helps in recruiting. We want to be recognized for our wonderful culture, but it's also important to remember that people work hard here. It's not easy. It requires commitment on the part of the firm to have the flexible arrangement, but you must also be efficient.

This sounds like more of the usual vague, feel-good, lukewarm stuff you get from any corporate HR department.

What an encouraging approach to recruitment interviewing! It's a positive selection process -- rather than one that focuses on "weeding out" the unworthy with simulations or questions designed to place the candidate's back against the wall.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Subscribe to get The Careerist via e-mail

Enter your e-mail address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

To search across all ALM blogs, go to www.Lexis.com.