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.
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