How Things Really Work, Part I

Ah, gather round all you funktastic people. This is how the legal job search really works, now that I’ve gone through it and come up BROKE.

Note: A lot of this is about the “big firm” search that the career offices focus on. They get ranked by salaries and stuff, so if they place a lot of embryotic law students into positions where they make $140,000 per annum, then it looks really good. See below for “A Big Firm?“.

First off, the most important thing to do is to know people. I knew people, but apparently forgot to take advantage of this, which harmed me in several ways. I’m still trying to recover. What do I mean by know people? Basically, you want to be able to drop names and then ask for favors. Yes, it sounds wrong and horrible and awful, and everyone who should does it. Who are good people to know?

  • Your significant other’s parent who is a lawyer;
  • Your family friend who is a law partner;
  • Your friend who at least is an associate, even though that doesn’t help as much;
  • The dean who you made friends with and knows everyone in the city/state/country/universe;
  • Lawyers you met while out with student groups or from various other non-scholarly pursuits;
  • Etc.
  • What do these people do? They help you get a job, if they can. Having someone pulling for you is a lot different than going in there shock cold and hoping that you’re impressive like whoa!

Second: Career services is great, BUT…
See, this is a big BUT. Face it, if you aren’t at one of those top top schools, and you’re not in the top so-and-so percent of your class, you’re probably not going to get picked for an interview. At my law school, they post them on the wall – and the same twenty or so people have interviews every single day. You know who I’m talking about: 3.7+GPA and Law Review. Well, here’s the dirty little secret about this: there are more “top students” than there are summer associate positions. For example, let’s say you want to work in Washington D.C., at Arnold & Porter, and you’re coming from, say, Rutgers-Newark Law. You’re in a bit of a bind. Why? Because all those damn kids at Georgetown and Harvard and Chicago and Yale and so on also want to work there. So they want to have a “diverse” incoming class of associates – but they also want “prestige” associates.

If I were to be really cynical, I would say that at most big firms in the top twenty to forty probably do their hiring like so:

We have 40 summer associate positions here at the New York office of Big & Firm LLP. Now, we’re ranked number 12 in the world…so let us set aside 20 of those associate positions for people coming from Yale, Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Penn, Chicago, Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, (you get the point). Now, Senior Partner Johnson’s son is graduating from Temple this year, so I don’t think we want to keep him out. And these other people all have recommendations. So we’re left with five more associate spots – let’s bring in one hundred kids to interview!

Now, that would kind of by cynical. But I’ve got a feeling that’s how it’s done. Why? Because there’s a certain Philadelphia firm that is upset every year that they lose all their selections to other firms. Wanna know why? It’s kind of an open secret: they keep picking the top ten people from all the law schools to interview – who can basically choose where they want to work. And where they want to work is certainly not there. It’s great that they want to get these great people – but it won’t work like that. And they also screw the rest of the people who would give an arm (or a leg) to work there but don’t have a 4.01GPA .

Don’t fret, though! There’s still luck to be had. While all those guys are competing for the same position at the BIG FIRM, there are all these small and medium size firms that are actually much much nicer. Also, don’t forget the government – it may not pay as well, but the benefits and the hours more than make up for it.

I’ll finish this soon. Until then, fight the power, kiddies!

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