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What Skadden Wants

Vivia Chen

June 16, 2010

Glaser_Steven[1]Editor's note: Steven Glaser informs us that the firm does have a trust and estates practice.

I'm continuing my series of hiring partner chats. (You'll recall that I also chatted with hiring partners Gregory Shumaker of Jones Day and Tom Leatherbury of Vinson & Elkins just a few weeks ago.)

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.

If you have topics you'd like to discuss, or information to share for The Careerist, e-mail chief blogger Vivia Chen at [email protected].

Photo courtesy of Skadden, Arps


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Well im 13 years old going to be 14 in less than a month. Im going to a magnet school next year for business. And well i simply have a question. Ok well my passion comes with a story of me wanting to be a lawyer but I feel that being Hispanic or "Latino" Harvard might not want me and it is to expensive even if they do accept me. So what if I went to a community college for my bachelors degree in political science and for 3 years at their law school? Would they still look at my resume even if I went to a community college? And well my story is (if you wondered) my dad was convicted of something he didn't do and was sent away for 2 years. And about a year and a half at a local jail. But so many bad things happened and that was a critical point in my life as where I was over achieving in mathematics and in school while being in the gifted-talented program. But at the point in life I said I want to be a lawyer and work with the best. And well he still is in jail and he told me to plan out my life now. While I'm still young. I planned out a great life and I plan of graduating early at 11th grade. But I planned out the expenses too. So going to a university like Texas or even Tamiu is just too much right now. So I plan on going to a community college. So with the fact that they have a passion and a lethal weapon. A FOCUSED MIND. So would you still look at their resume and think of hiring them even if their fresh out of law school? Well that's all I want to know. Thank you for taking your time and reading this. Have a great day.

That would be an A.

So what's a "bad" grade for these firms? An A-? Or a B+?

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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]

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