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17 posts from July 2011

July 28, 2011

News Roundup—NYLS (again); Soldiers-Lawyers; Cheerleaders; Sexy Ads

News from the Web, including updates to stories The Careerist has been following:

1. There he goes again: New York Law School dean Richard Matasar is still fuming about The New York Times story (click here and here) that looked at the school's high tuition and low employment rate. This time he chats with The National Law Journal's Karen Sloan

 The employment picture of NYLS grads sound worse each time he tries to defend it. He tells Sloan that grads are "stringing together a number of part-time jobs" or "getting full-time jobs at a lower salary than what they'd like. . . . But that's not different than it was 20 years ago or 30 years ago."

Yikes, he's admitting that NYLS has made no advancement in the job market in decades—though the tuition is substantially more.

Military 2. Just in time for interview season: Don't Ask, Don't Tell is history, so military recruiters are now welcomed to law schools that had banned them. (NLJ) That's got to be good news in this job market.

3. Come out, come out. Now that DADT is dead, maybe more LGBT lawyers will feel comfortable about coming out (click here for "Gay and Closeted"). According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, LGBT employees are closeting themselves—and it's unnecessary and self-destructive:

Our research suggests that many are hiding needlessly and that 'out' workers may stand a better chance than closeted workers of being promoted (although there are still relatively few openly gay senior executives). This appears to be the case largely because closeted workers suffer anxiety about how colleagues and managers might judge them and expend enormous effort concealing their orientation, which leaves them less energy for actual work.

4. Watch your language. If you're going to take on a silly lawsuit (like representing a cheerleader who claims harassment after being called a "Ho" by another cheerleader), be sure to at least file papers that are grammatically correct. Reports ABA Blog:

The ire in the opinion by Judge Jerry Smith doesn’t end with the cheerleader’s cause of action, which claimed both a violation of TItle IX and Section 1983 for an alleged violation of the equal protection clause. He also criticizes the cheerleader’s lawyers for grammar and spelling errors. In footnote 13, Smith writes:

“Usually we do not comment on technical and grammatical errors, because anyone can make such an occasional mistake, but here the miscues are so egregious and obvious that an average fourth-grader would have avoided most of them. For example, the word ‘principals’ should have been 'principles.’ The word ‘vacatur’ is misspelled. The subject and verb are not in agreement in one of the sentences, which has a singular subject ‘incompetence’ and a plural verb ‘are.’ ”

According to Above the Law, the cheerleader's counsel was Littler Mendelson.

5. Don't advertise for sex at the firm. The Illinois disciplinary board doesn't mess around. A lawyer who advertised for a sexy assistant, then sent an e-mail to an applicant with the particulars of the job ("This part of the job would require sexy dressing and flirtatious interaction with me and my partner, as well as sexual interaction.” ) now faces a one-year suspension. (The Wall Street Journal).

 

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July 27, 2011

The Economist Doesn't Get It

Economist-jul-21_11 I wonder if women have created a monster by focusing on the difficulties of meshing career and home. Whenever there's a gender gap—be it in law, business, or any other sector—the work/life balance thing has become the default explanation. It goes like this: There's a shortage of women at the top because when push comes to shove, women put priority on the home front.

That's often true—but not always. Which is why I'm so infuriated about a recent piece in The Economist (see also this related Economist article) about the dearth of women on corporate boards. The article, which argues against European laws that mandate quotas to increase the percentage of women on corporate boards, states that "in most rich countries sexism and the lack of role models are no longer the main obstacle to women’s careers." The Economist defines the culprit:

Children are. Most women take career breaks to look after them. Many care for elderly relatives, too. One study found that two-thirds of American women had at some point switched from full-time work to part-time or flexible time to balance work and family. Such choices should be respected. But they make it harder for women to gain the experience necessary to make it to the very top.

It's nice that The Economist says we should respect a woman's choice, but is this why there's a shortage of women on the boards of big companies (the article notes that women represent 15 percent of board members in America and 10 percent in Europe)? I don't buy it.

Marissa-wesely-web And neither does Marissa Wesely (on right), a board member of DirectWomen, who advocates for a greater number of women on boards. Wesely says it's "myopic" to blame the dearth of women on boards on the demands of children and home. She adds, there's a "multitude of factors" that push women out or discourage them—like lack of mentors or sponsors.

The Economist also cautions that quotas could result in female board members who aren't qualified for the job:

Quotas force firms either to pad their boards with token nonexecutive directors, or to allocate real power on the basis of sex rather than merit. Neither is good for corporate governance.

I'm not a proponent of quotas, but women dragging down the standards of corporate boards? Really? Last I looked, a lot of male-dominated boards haven't done so well on the corporate governance front either.

What galls Wesely, who's also a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, is the article's premise that there aren't enough qualified women for boards. "As a member of DirectWomen, I see large numbers of talented women who are GCs of major corporations, partners running major practice groups in big firms, and presidents and deans of colleges and universities, who have all the management, decision-making, and leadership experience and skills to be on the board of any public company."

But the author of The Economist piece doesn't seem to think enough women are up to the job. The solution to getting more women in the pipeline, explains the author, is to make companies "more family-friendly."

So we're back to that: Just make companies "family-friendly" and change the world. That should be a cinch.

Related post: We're Not on the Same Page.

 

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July 26, 2011

Tattoo You

It's reader question day at The Careerist. This one is about pushing the limits of personal style:

TattooLady Dear Careerist,

I work in a prestigious boutique firm on corporate and commercial transactions. I am female, and I am heavily tattooed all over—and I mean all over. I wear very conservative suits that "cover up" and this has never been a problem, since I anticipated this when I got tattooed.  In more social situations I still insist on covering up, but I take care to dress well. 

 I have noticed that tattoos on male lawyers seem to be fine—something people admire, or a conversation piece if done tastefully. But tattoos on women are not so positively received. Does this depend on how brazen the piece is? Do you have any views on this?

Frankly, I'm not so sure that male lawyers with tattoos are accepted either. I think most lawyers—especially older ones—cringe at the sight of tattoos on either sex. Most lawyers, I suspect, see tattoos as antithetical to the image of the upstanding corporate lawyer.

But given the prevalence of tattoos these days, I don't think they are total career killers either. Ironically, I think young women professionals can get away with some artwork on their skin easier than men. (Is it because women have a bit more creative leeway in the way they dress?) In fact, I know a few young women lawyers (okay, just two) with tiny tattoos—such as butterflies—on their wrists or ankles, and they're not on probation at their firms.

It all comes down to the size of the inking (I'm also assuming the image is not offensive). So to answer your question—does it depend on how brazen the tattoo is?—the answer is yes. And if you're heavily tattooed, as you say you are, that's definitely brazen.

So if you want to make it in corporate law and have copious tattoos, you really have no choice but to cover up, even when it's 100 degrees outside. Stephen Lucin, a style consultant in Washington, D.C., suggests that you wear "layers of thin business clothing that are appropriate during the hot summer months." I'm not quite sure what that means, but I imagine lots of cotton shirts and pants, set off with some gauzy scarfs.

If it's any consolation, I think tattoos will gain more corporate acceptance—albeit gradually, and probably limited to ones that are "dainty" and localized. Even law partners who wince at them now might change their minds, especially if their sons or daughters come home from college sporting designs on their bodies.

In the meantime, though, I have a question for you: What's a nice, very-tattooed lady like you doing in a starchy law firm? You might perform your job brilliantly, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the constraints of corporate culture might not be for you.

 Other posts on fashion: High Heels, Ladies Who Wedge, Fashionistas on the Leash, and Little Toe Peep.


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July 25, 2011

Quinn Emanuel Says It's Not the Worst Sweatshop—Really

 Interview season is just weeks away, which means I'll be cornering as many hiring partners as possible to get you the inside scoop on getting hired.

Urquhart, Bill Color Today I'm visiting with William Urquhart (right), one of the founders of litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. But before we get to the nitty-gritty about hiring at this California-based firm, there are two things you must know: It's extremely profitable (it has sky-high profits per partner of $3.13 million, second only to Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz) and, as I reported recently, lawyers there take casual dress to the extreme. 

You made my day when you confirmed one of the great urban legends in the legal world—that your lawyers really wear flip flops and shorts to work! Tell me, does that mean law students can literally roll off the beach for their interview with Quinn?
We tell students that it's not necessary to show up in suits, but most do anyway.

Besides the laissez-faire dress code, is there anything else you'd like to set straight--any misconceptions about Quinn Emanuel?
People used to question whether the firm would survive if John Quinn [one of the firm's founders] got run over by a bus. That's gone now. But people still think we're a sweatshop. I don't think our young lawyers work any harder than Cravath or Paul, Weiss [associates].

Ah, but your associates can sweat more comfortably and save a bundle on expensive suits. For that privilege, I assume candidates need stellar credentials?
We won't hire people who are not in the top 10 percent of their class, unless it's Harvard or Yale. We're very grade conscious, even when we hire someone laterally.

Sounds very elitist. Do you only hire from the top law schools?
Far and away most hires come from Harvard—I think it represents at least 20 percent of our lawyers. We've also had success with University of Texas, NYU, Columbia, and University of Chicago. Also the top kids of the top 20 to 30 law schools.

What's a nonacademic trait that you look for?
Common sense. Some people don't have it; some have absolutely phenomenal credentials, but they approach problems from an academic perspective. If you have ten tasks to perform, the person with common sense will know how to prioritize them.

If you don't have common sense—assuming that people lacking it, know it—you shouldn't apply for a job at Quinn. Who else should stay away?
If they don't take their work seriously. We operate in a winner-take-all environment, and you have to really care about what you do.

Sounds intense. Do you find that some top students come to your firm because they think the partnership chances are better than those at a traditional big firm?
You'll be shocked at how little young people think about partnership. We sent out a survey to our incoming people, and [partnership concerns] ranked seventh. You have a better chance here [for partnership], but young people don't pay attention to things that they should. They should focus on how strong a firm is by looking at how many partners are between the ages of 35 to 45.

Anything else recruits are overlooking?
We've made a bunch of women partners in the last few years, and we didn't even make a big deal about it. I know we have a reputation of being a tough place to work for women; that's garbage. We've made women partners who were on maternity leave. Three of our most powerful litigators are women—Susan Estrich, Faith Gay, and Kathleen Sullivan (click here for "First Gay and Female on Marquee"), and six women chair or cochair practice groups.

I didn't know that. Somehow, though, I have a feeling recruits shouldn't go to Quinn for work/life balance.
(He laughs.) The reality is that women carry a disproportionate share of the home responsibility. I'm in awe of those who do both.

 Related posts: Hiring partner interviews at Baker BottsBoies, Schiller; Debevoise & Plimpton; Jones DayK&L Gates; Kramer LevinPaul, HastingsPepper HamiltonSidley & AustinSkadden; Susman Godfrey; and Vinson & Elkins.

 

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July 22, 2011

Asking for It

Womaninsuit Girlfriends, let's be honest. We complain an awful lot about not being treated fairly. You know, how the guys seem to get what they want: better assignments, better bonuses, and more fame and glory for the same (and sometimes less) work.

We bitch about this constantly--behind closed doors at the office, on e-mail, and over drinks after work. But how often are we speaking up about what we want with the people that count--the head of the department or whoever has real clout? Probably not often enough.

Peggy Klaus, a executive coach, writes in The New York Times that despite "diversity training, mentoring, and sponsorship programs," women "still lag far behind men in reaching senior management," holding only 14.4 percent of the executive positions at Fortune 500 companies. One reason for this, writes Klaus, is that women tend not to make demands:

Whether from fear of being perceived as too aggressive or too selfish, women tend not to be comfortable asking for what they want. And when they do ask, it can be in ineffective ways.

Often, women's speech is peppered with tentative and indirect phrases that scream a lack of confidence, such as, "I’m not really sure, but you could try it this way," or, "Now, I’m not an expert, but . . ." or, "I think this is a good idea--do you?"

One approach, writes Klaus, is to focus on the bottom line. If you're asking to work more days from home, for instance, stress the fact that you will be accessible and that it'll help your efficiency.

In Glasshammer, career coach Ann Daly offers a very helpful four-prong approach to getting your boss's buy-in:

1. Ask, "What's the policy?" Or, "What are the criteria [for advancement, raise, etc.]?" By asking this neutral question in a neutral tone of voice, you send multiple messages without making a direct challenge. First, there should be a policy, or set of criteria. Second, you speak and think in objective business terms. Third, you won't be willing to accept vague, unsubstantiated, arbitrary decisions about your career advancement.

2. Know your worth. Don't assume that your boss is keeping track of your achievements. Sad, but true. Make it a habit: At the end of every quarter, document your accomplishments. . . . Use this exercise as a way to figure out the best metrics for your job, and use these documents to prepare a killer annual report. Be prepared to casually communicate these objective metrics whenever your boss veers into la-la-land.

3. Keep score. Career advancement isn't just about your performance. You are also in competition with the performance of your colleagues. So make sure that you keep a private written record of who gets what raise or promotion based on what track record. If push comes to shove, you'll have a set of objective "comparables" to strengthen your own case for advancement.

4. If you want it, say so. Nature hates a vacuum, and so does your boss. If s/he doesn't know what you want, s/he will make it up. And thus creep in all those regressive fantasies about what women want--or don't want. So speak up! If you want an overseas appointment, say so. If you want a rotation, say so. If you want more responsibilities, say so. If you want your boss's job (eventually), say so.

The bottom line, says Daly, is to take charge of the discussion: "She who sets the terms of the debate usually wins."

 Related post: Stop Apologizing!

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July 21, 2011

Job News--JD Match Is Free (for Now); Lawyer Population Grows

Some recent news for law students and recent grads, and hey, it's not all bad!

In time for the upcoming recruiting season, JD Match has announced in a press release that it is now offering free access to law students--rather than the $99 fee it was originally charging--"in response to the dismal hiring outlook in the legal sector." The new service allows students to upload their resumes, and then uses an algorithm to match students to participating law firms. And there's good news if you already paid to join, because the company is offering refunds.

In addition to the free membership level for law students, there will also be a premium level at an annual fee of $49, which is "currently under development." The press release notes that so far, five law firms have registered with JD Match, which may sound a little dismal, until you hear the law firms' names: Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; K&L Gates; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and McKenna Long & Aldridge. Mini_dollar

So what do you think? Will this be a more efficient system, or another way to cash in on desperate job seekers?

You'd think that with all the bad employment news in recent years involving the legal job market,  there might be a drop in the number of lawyers. But according to the American Bar Association's 2011 National Lawyer Population Survey (hat tip: ABA Journal), the national lawyer population is still on the rise, albeit only on a modest level. As the ABA Journal notes, only five states reported a drop in their lawyer numbers: Arkansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Utah.

On to the really bad news--recent law school grads are earning a fair amount less than earlier grads, according to a report recently released by NALP, reports Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal. As of February, the median salary for the class of 2010 in full-time jobs was $63,000, which is $9,000 less than the $72,000 median salary reported by the class of 2009. The lower numbers aren't actually due to employers paying lower salaries, but rather that fewer grads are getting jobs at large law firms, where the highest salaries are, according to NALP executive director James Leipold. According to the study, 53 percent of 2010 law grads reported working at firms with 50 or fewer lawyers, while only 46 percent reported doing so in 2009.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com or deputy blogger Audree Wong at awong@alm.com.

July 20, 2011

News Roundup--NY Law School; Guns 'n' Lawyers; Am Law 100 Wives

Tri
The Dean Doth Protest (Way Too Much)
. Interesting follow-up to my post Caveat Emptor about New York Law School. As you might recall, I blogged about a recent New York Times article that looked at how NYLS has been highly profitable, despite the fact that many of its graduates struggle to find jobs.

Taking umbrage, New York Law School dean Richard Matasar (pictured above left) has issued a very long press release--almost the length of a law review note--rebutting the Times article.

You can read the entire statement here, but one of Matasar's criticisms of the Times piece struck me as a bit odd:

The article seems to suggest that the only value of a legal education is in the jobs that graduates may obtain immediately upon graduation. This is unfair and misleading. Legal education provides lifelong skills that give graduates the ability to represent others and help with their problems over a 40-50-year career--one which gives graduates autonomy and freedom to learn and continue to grow throughout their professional lives.

I hate to be shallow, but isn't the whole point of going to law school getting a job--ideally, "immediately upon graduation"? Do people go to law school to acquire "life" skills or steep themselves in the poetry of case law or SEC regulations?

Lawyers Bearing Arms. As I've warned in the past, lawyers and guns are not a good mix (click here for post about the University of Idaho law student who's been fighting for the right to carry a gun on campus). But here's proof that guns can kill careers. Reports The Miami Herald (hat tip: Above the Law):

A young Miami-Dade prosecutor has resigned after he was investigated by police earlier this month for shooting his handgun inside a Brickell Key condominium parking garage after a night of drinking.

Manuel A. Guarch, 26, will not be arrested for improperly shooting his Glock pistol, but facing possible termination, he resigned. His girlfriend, Miami-Dade assistant state attorney Heather Griffin, was demoted for her involvement in the episode.

The good news for Guarch, a 2010 Georgetown Law graduate, is that he won't be charged for illegally discharging a firearm in public (a misdemeanor). The bad news for him is that he lost his job; meanwhile, his girlfriend got demoted from her job as the chief assistant prosecutor for misdemeanor drunk-driving cases. Just a month ago, she had been honored by the Miami branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, for her work prosecuting drunk motorists. Embarassing for all.

What About Partners' (Trophy) Wives? There's a casting call for Wall Street Wives, a new reality show about the spousal units of dealmakers, reports The New York Times's DealBook. I'm all for more reality shows, but how about equal time for lawyers' wives? Why do lawyers always play second fiddle to I-banker types? Here's my proposal for a new show: Big Law Wives or Wives of The Am Law 100.

Maybe they're not quite as gorgeous as Stephanie Seymour (wife of financier Peter Brandt), but I'm sure we can find some that will pass muster. In any case, there are quite a few muckety-mucks in the legal world who are at least on their third wives. We won't name names (just now), but please feel free to send in your personal favorites so we can compile a comprehensive list.

 

July 19, 2011

Stop the Drivel

Corp_Speak I'm amused that so many lawyers fancy themselves to be good writers. They tell me they value clarity and precision above everything else. But what they think is clear and precise rarely comports with my idea.

I had my first drag-out fight about legal writing when I worked as a trusts and estates paralegal after college. In drafting a survivor's clause, I thought it was correct to simply say: "If my wife fails to survive me, my estate shall go to So-and-So." But the partner I worked for changed it to read: "If none of my wife survives me..." He insisted his version added clarity. But I thought it was just inaccurate, not to mention gruesome, suggesting that some parts of the wife might be flapping around.

I never developed a fondness for legal writing--not in law school or in practice. It was painful for me to read and write legal gibberish, which is why I regard it as a miracle that I somehow survived five years as a corporate lawyer.

I doubt anything will cure legalese, but maybe this recent study by New York University and the University of Basel in Switzerland will help. In a nutshell, the study says: If you want credibility, you should avoid using jargon. Writings that use "concrete" rather than "abstract" language got higher marks for truthfulness, according to the study.

But besides abusing the written word, lawyers have also taken to using business-speak during meetings and conference calls. Maybe they're just parroting their banker clients, who have always loved action-sounding jargon. Or maybe they're hanging out too much with management consultants.

In any case, here are some of my pet peeve phrases with translation:

        1. "Take it to the next level." Translation: The partner is clueless about what to do, so you better come up with a solution.

        2. "We're all about best practices." Translation: The firm is getting failing grades in diversity, women, etc., and has no idea what what to do about the problem.

        3. "There is a paradigm shift in the industry." Translation: Your minimal billable requirement is going up.

        4. "You will get real-world experience." Translation: You will be stuck doing document reviews.

        5. "We have management buy-in." Translation: It was the managing partner's idea in the first place.

Vault has also compiled a handy little list of phrases to avoid. Here are some of them:

Business-speak             What people who aren't liars say

"Reach out"                    "Talk to/phone/e-mail/send carrier pigeon to"


"Deep dive"                    "Instead of doing our usual half-assed job, we took the time
                                           to investigate properly"


"Deliverables"                 "Mundane tasks I am responsible for completing"


"Ballpark"                       "I have no idea. But here's a guess"


"Verbiage"                      "Words"


"Let's take this offline"     "Let's talk about this after the meeting, so we don't
                                              embarrass ourselves in front of the boss/waste everyone else's time"

Is there a favorite phrase that's used at your shop? What corporate drivel drives you crazy?

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July 18, 2011

Caveat Emptor

Looking_job If you're thinking of going to a third- or fourth-tier law school, and you're not absolutely confident that you'll end up at the tippy-top of your class, I have a bit of advice for you: Don't go.

If that's pouring ice water on your dreams, I'm sorry. I'm just trying to save you $150,000, three years of drudgery, and the anxiety of passing a bar exam. Not to mention dreadful job prospects.

Even without the shrinking legal market, bottom-tier law school graduates have always had a hard time getting a decent job. You don't have to be an economics major to know that it makes no sense to incur $150,000 in debt for a job that pays less than half of that amount. Unless you're fascinated with case law, you really have no business at a bottom-tier school.

That's obvious to me, but not so obvious to the throngs who still long to be lawyers, which is why third-tier New York Law School (it ranks 135 out of 200 law schools in US News and World Report) is thriving. This week, The New York Times has a scathing profile about NYLS and its outgoing dean Richard Matasar, a passionate advocate for legal education reform, who often exhorts fellow deans to put the interests of students first.

Matasar says all the right things, but here's the reality, reports the NYT:

Given his scathing critiques, you might expect that during Mr. Matasar’s 11 years as dean, he has reshaped New York Law School to conform with his reformist agenda. But he hasn’t. Instead, the school seems to be benefitting from many of legal education’s assorted perversities.

NYLS is ranked in the bottom third of all law schools in the country, but with tuition and fees now set at $47,800 a year, it charges more than Harvard. It increased the size of the class that arrived in the fall of 2009 by an astounding 30 percent, even as hiring in the legal profession imploded. It reported in the most recent US News & World Report rankings that the median starting salary of its graduates was the same as for those of the best schools in the nation-- even though most of its graduates, in fact, find work at less than half that amount.

Ouch. The NYT piece doesn't call Matasar a liar, but focuses on the competing interests of being a reformer and a business executive at the same time. And guess what? The business side wins. In the law school biz, where there's little overhead besides the classroom, bodies translate quickly into revenue. For instance, when NYLS admitted 171 more students in 2009 (Matasar told the NYT it was due to an unexpectedly high number of those who accepted admission), the school got a $6.7 million boost in revenue. Like magic.

You can argue about the ethics of enticing innocents to take on debt, and about the veracity of NYLS's employment data. (NYLS told US News that "the median private-sector salary of alums who graduated in 2009 . . . was $160,000," though Matasar admitted to the Times that most graduates made between $35,000 and $75,000.) But frankly, the NYT article confirms what a lot of us already know: that law schools fudge--a lot.

Which brings up the role of law school applicants in the whole scheme. Arguably, they're also complicit. Elie Mystal at Above the Law nails this issue:

But while the Times takes a critical look at law school deans and university presidents and even U.S. News, one constituency escapes the Times’s glare: law students themselves.

Whether law students at bottom-ranked schools honestly believe they are, as Mystal puts it, "God’s special little snowflake" is anyone's guess. But to me, so much has been written, blogged, and litigated there's no longer any excuse to plead ignorance of market reality. 

Which goes back to my starting point: Why plunk down ungodly sums of money to go to a low-ranking law school? Unless you're pretty sure that you'll be at the top of your class, or you're dying to be a lawyer, why bother?

Maybe that sounds snotty. But law is a pretty snotty profession, no?

Related post: Lost Generation is Now Forgotten Generation; Jaded Puppy Love; Law School Puppy Mills, Part 2.

 

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July 15, 2011

Kramer Levin's Litmus Test--Are You Presentable to Clients?

Grayer_J The Careerist's hiring partner Q&A series marches on. This time, James Grayer of New York's Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel is giving us the inside scoop about nabbing a job at the 375-lawyer firm.

Before Boies Schiller, Quinn Emanuel, and other boutiques landed on the map, Kramer Levin had established itself as an alternative to big Wall Street firms. These days, who are your competitors for new hires--the big firms or the boutiques?
The bigger places--Cravath; Paul, Weiss; Simpson, and maybe Schulte [Roth & Zabel].

I assume some people belong in a Paul, Weiss or Cravath, and that some would find nirvana at Kramer. So who belongs where?
Someone who will thrive here has to be comfortable in a dynamic, fluid environment. For instance, there's no separate group for M&A and securities within our corporate department; it's more general and client-focused, and it requires someone who's flexible. You need to be self-directed here and take control of your career at an early stage, which is probably not true at a Davis Polk, Cravath, or Paul, Weiss.

Sounds like you have to be entrepreneurial at Kramer or you'll get lost.
I'd say yes, but you could get lost in any system, and some people chafe under a system at Davis Polk or Cravath, because they're too rigid.

I know Kramer Levin is big on grades, clerkships, and all that good stuff. But is there a certain Kramer profile?
The answer is no. We're not looking for someone who looks like "X." We're looking at the total package.

Ah, that elusive total package. Besides grades, what else impresses you?
Interest that goes beyond oneself--like doing tutoring, something that involves the community. Something that shows that the person is thoughtful and well-rounded.

And what do you find off-putting during interviews?
People who put something on their resume that they can't talk about. If you're going to join a organization or if you're in a clinic for battered women, you should be able to talk about it.

Do your interviewers get a script--questions that they are required to ask?
No. There are no required standard questions. [But] we do ask interviewers to consider, "Would you introduce this person to a client?"

That's fascinating. So you have to visualize whether the candidate is presentable to clients.
Yes, it helps the interviewer put things in context.

I guess that would eliminate some academic superstars.
They can be first in their class, but we won't make them an offer unless they're right for us. We look for candidates that are personable and engaging. We're not a shop that puts a huge number of lawyers on a transaction. You have to interact with people right away.

Can you share some faux pas that eliminated candidates from the running?
People ask inappropriate questions--things having to do with people's marital status. Or they make a personal comment about someone they just met--like commenting about their appearance. Another faux pas is to be late to an interview without an explanation.

Ever had a candidate who made a great first impression, then absolutely bombed on the callback?
Sometimes they're fine on campus, but when they come to the firm, they get nervous. They see the big lobby, and they find it unnerving. The whole process is a bit unfair . . . you could just have a bad day.

Related posts: Hiring partner interviews at Baker BottsBoies Schiller; Debevoise & Plimpton; Jones DayK&L GatesPaul, HastingsPepper HamiltonSidley & AustinSkadden; Susman Godfrey; and Vinson & Elkins.

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: VChen@alm.com

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