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What Elite Kindergarteners Can Teach You About Job Offers

Vivia Chen

July 12, 2010

Fotolia_4387778_XS Quick: What's harder--getting your child into a tony kindergarten program in Manhattan, or landing a junior associate position at one of the world's leading firms?

In another sign of the tightening job market for law graduates, Slaughter and May--the Cravath, Swaine & Moore of the U.K. (or is Cravath the American Slaughter and May?)--recently announced a tight application deadline for its trainees. And, apparently, that's stirred up all sorts of anxiety among aspiring Slaughters lawyers. RollOnFriday, a cheeky U.K. news outlet aimed at young lawyers, reports:

Previously the firm reviewed applications as and when they appeared on the doormat. But for the intake of 2012, the postbox will be slammed shut at 5pm on 30 July. Fortunately--as the firm is well known for having the simplest application procedures in the City (a mere CV and covering letter)--applicants have still got time. Just remember that it's Slaughter and May. Not Slaughter & May.

The move comes on the back of the firm closing its recruitment early last year, and is presumably simply down to an overwhelming number of applicants . . . And given the slim pickings last year, there are effectively two years' worth of graduates fighting over the few jobs going.

Overflowing applicant pools, limited openings, the strict 5 PM deadline--ah, this brings back memories of the madness of trying to secure a kindergarten spot in a "good" New York City school. I remember parents hand-delivering applications at the last minute, banging on the doors of the admissions office at 5:03 PM. In fact, I was one of those parents.

So which of these situations is more competitive and coveted? Well, that depends where you are in life, I suppose. That debate, as I see it, could go on and on.

In the meantime, though, here are some tidbits I gleaned from the Manhattan private-school rat race that might help you land an associate position:

• Express your enthusiasm promptly, even early. In the Slaughter scenario, that means getting that application in ASAP, well before the deadline.

• Write a nice, cogent cover letter, explaining why you want to work at the firm.

• And, if you really liked the firm (or just want a job), write a first-choice letter in which you profess your unquenchable love for the firm and pledge to take the offer on the spot. 

For anyone who's suffered through the private school admissions game in New York, the first-choice letter is often key. Though officially discouraged by most schools, the first-choice letter is, at the same time, terribly flattering to the institution. I've never done it, but I know lots of cases where it makes the difference between being wait-listed and clinching a coveted acceptance letter. Who doesn't want to be told that their school (or firm) is the cat's meow? 

Are these tricks a bit cheesy? You bet. 

Now, won't you please share some of your own tricks for snagging an offer?

If you have topics you'd like to discuss, or information to share for The Careerist, e-mail chief blogger Vivia Chen at VChen@alm.com.

Photo:DebbieO / Fotolia.com

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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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