Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to Lose an Offer in Ten Weeks?

With summer associate programs just around the corner (ours starts on Monday I believe), I thought the lucky 2Ls headed in to work this summer might appreciate some tales of advice from us alums.

Alums, lay upon us your horror stories that result in previous summer associates receiving that dreaded "no offer."

2Ls, lay upon us your inquiries and such (e.g., When a partner orders an Arnold Palmer, is it ok to order a Jack and Coke? It isn't.)

And good luck to everyone this summer.


Blogger caley said...

So, it's not really a story as much as just a piece of advice: be nice to EVERYONE! That means partners, associates, paralegals, secretaries, the people who bring the mail, practice support, EVERYONE!!!

Not only is that just decent human behavior, but also, you never know whose opinion the partners in charge of hiring will listen to. Maybe that paralegal you pissed off happens to have worked very closely with the partner deciding who to cut at the end of the summer.

The other advice is to be social. Try to meet as much of the office as possible (all the while, following rule # 1 and being nice!). That's really for your sake too. If this is a place you're going to be working at for at least the next few years, you'll definitely want to know the people you're going to be working with.

5/12/2010 11:59 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Advice: if you think you are being cool, stop whatever you are saying or doing, IMMEDIATELY.

5/12/2010 12:01 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Here's a tale of woe from my summer, which may have contributed to my current unemployment:

Transformers 2 was released on an unwitting public on July 2nd, 2009. I was personally offended by this. Shortly after that date, I had a friendly non-business conversation with my friend Hersh (who frequents this blog), during which he tried to persuade me to view the offending film with the following argument:

"Sure, it probably sucks as a movie, but think about the cool action sequences!"

I responded with the following allegory:

"Hersh, sitting through two-and-a-half hours of pure shit for twenty-or-so minutes of cool action sequences is like saying it's ok for your step-dad to beat you, as long as he buys you ice cream later."

This got a good laugh, and both parties returned to their respective lives, which proceeded largely without incident, until the topic of Transformers 2 came up at a lunch I attended with attorneys on my firm's summer committee. Everyone agreed it looked like a shitty movie, and I thought this would be a good time to bring back my hit joke an encore performance.

It wasn't. Not a single person laughed, and after a few seconds of awkward silence, one of the attorneys said simply: "That is not an appropriate comparison." I assume someone at that table was beaten by his or her step-father, which is regrettable.

That is how the successful release of Transformers 2 not only cost our nation its dignity and self-respect, but may have also lost me $160,000 per year. On the other hand, I now have the chance to find a job where people have sense of humor.

So I guess I should thank Michael Bay. But I won't.

5/12/2010 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Create a paper trail. Write at least two memos, motions, sections of briefs, what have you that are in the 10+ page range. And write them well. No matter how charming you think you are, someone reviewing your file at the end of the summer is likely to forget your smiling face, witty banter, and pink tie/great shoes. When that happens, their decision will be based largely on your written record.

5/12/2010 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't miss deadlines! don't project a sense of entitlement (which often isn't really entitlement but is more like letting your insecurities show). better to do projects as well as you can than to do a lot of projects pretty well.

5/12/2010 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so don't trivialize child abuse. Check.

Also avoid being careless in your work product--including your e-mails. You don't want to use emoticons or acronyms at all. And while there is room for the hiring committee to disagree or be lenient for things like the quality of your analysis, careless misspellings are solid blemishes on your paper trail.

And if it's not obvious, in "this economy" you really shouldn't give off an aura of entitlement for fancy lunches or other wining and dining-type events.

5/12/2010 12:55 PM  
Blogger caley said...

This one comes from personal experience. I was told by my associate mentor to be sure to be social and meet people. Good advice, which I still agree with. Along those lines, I was told that asking people out to lunch was always a good idea if you find yourself without plans on a given day.

So, one morning, around 11am, having yet to see any lunch plans develop (which was an oddity back in the "good ole days" of 2008), I decided to email a select group of associates in my department to see if anyone was free. This was, in fact, a good idea. I recommend you do this to you if you find yourself in the same situation. However, the events that followed could not be described as a good idea.

Having received my email inquiring about lunch, my associate mentor decided that this was a good time to tell me about the firm's email lists. He replied to my email to tell me what code to punch in to Outlook to email all the associates in the litigation department.

I assumed (and therefore made an ass out of him and myself) that this message was intended to indicate that I should email my lunch request email to this list -- all litigation associates. This alone would have been bad enough, but don't worry, it gets worse.

No sooner had I finished reading Associate Mentor’s email did he then reply a second time, now with the code to email ALL litigation (including partners and paralegals).

For some insane reason I still can’t fathom (I think it was the lack of blood sugar), I again assumed he was intending to say that I should send my lunch-inquiry email to this list to see if anyone wanted lunch (what can I say, I was extremely naïve).

And so, I did. I sent out a blast email to the entire litigation department, partners and all, seeing if anyone wanted to get lunch. The resulting fallout was ridiculously embarrassing. Even today -- four months into the job -- I’m still taking flack for that email.

All that to say, think long and hard about the emails you send out.

5/12/2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

If someone (especially a partner) tells you an assignment has "no deadline" and to just "get to it when you have time," they are lying. Get it done in a week, tops.

5/12/2010 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't understand your assignment ask someone. If you can't ask the assigning attorney, ask your associate mentor. But ideally ask the person who assigned the project. There's really nothing worse than getting the answer to a question you didn't even ask. And lawyers like to talk so most of the time, they won't mind elaborating on what they are asking of you.

Always bring a pen & paper with you when you're called into someone's office.

Turn your cell phone off at work unless you are expecting a really important, can't miss call.

If you get a blackberry, don't check it in meetings, lunches, etc unless you really have to. If you do, you are sending the message that someone else is more important than the people that you are currently with. Not good.

5/12/2010 3:32 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

3:32's last point is more than a SA tip. It's a life lesson.

5/12/2010 3:34 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...


5/12/2010 3:34 PM  
Blogger caley said...

3:32's first point ("If you don't understand your assignment ask someone") is also an important one.

You waste much more of the client's time attempting to do something you don't know, that then has to be done again by you (or even worse, by someone else) later by hiding your ignorance rather than just getting clarification immediately.

Although, you are expected to know and understand some of the more simple things (like what a motion is for litigators or what a merger is for you corporate people).

5/12/2010 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

proofread, proofread, proofread. Don't send out an e-mail to anyone unless you have checked it thoroughly for errors.

Also, for your more substantive work (like memos briefs etc) have another summer or your associate mentor proofread it for you. Nothing says no offer like a glaring typo.

Oh, and ask your secretary to proofread it too. Mine was amazing at catching any mistake.

5/12/2010 4:23 PM  
Blogger caley said...

Yes! The secretary assigned to you over the summer can definitely proof read for you. I did not take full advantage of this over my summer (but definitely do now).

But a caveat: never ever ever try to pass the buck. If a typo is missed (or even created) by your secretary on a document turned in to another lawyer and that lawyer calls you out, it is never anyone else's fault. If your name is on it, you take the responsibility.

5/12/2010 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the advice. And though this may seem like a joke, I am serious. Any awkawrd situations/advice how to handle awkward situations (like an associate making sexist/racist comments to a woman of color or being inappropriate)

5/12/2010 4:37 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Advice to 4:37: punctuation often enhances clarity.

5/12/2010 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For any research-related assignment, I recommend meeting with the attorney to discuss your findings BEFORE writing any work product. It not only gives you an opportunity to showcase your oral communication skills, but also shows the attorney you don't want to waste any of the firm's time.

All of the attorneys I worked for last summer appreciated the practice, and it helped me tremendously during evaluations.

5/12/2010 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

memorize all the rules up above, deeply internalize them, never break any of them, and, oh yeah, relax and enjoy the work!

5/12/2010 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A girl in my summer class showed naked pictures of herself to two of the members of my summer class (I was one of them). I would categorize that as a mistake. I believe, in retrospect, she does, too.

5/12/2010 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This thread scares me.

5/12/2010 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A girl in my summer class showed naked pictures of herself to two of the members of my summer class (I was one of them)."

I think you should explain how this came about in more detail.

5/12/2010 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the book "jagged rocks of wisdom" is an entire book of this type of advice. it's pretty helpful.

5/12/2010 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an associate at a law firm in SF. My biggest piece of advice (based on observation of and interaction with last year's summers) is that summers relax and be a "more professional" version of themselves.

Look, none of us are perfect. Stuff you can get away with as an associate or in your normal life doesn't fly when you're a summer (see e.g. Patrick's story, which I can't tell is real or not, but a good example nonetheless). But the vast majority of the suggestions are things that you should always do in any professional situation (proofread, be nice to support staff, not act entitled, etc). Because you can't fool everyone at a law firm for an entire summer if you are not like that in real life. And if you're not a nice person who acts entitled, than we don't really want you at our firm. That's what the partners are there for! ;)

5/12/2010 10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Dan's story! Proofread, remember?!

5/12/2010 10:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Oh, it's real, 10:47. I never lie about Transformers 2.

I don't think it actually had much effect on my offer, though, since my mid-summer review was good. Problems cropped up after that, when I botched an assignment for a partner. Don't do that.

5/13/2010 4:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do not hook up with your office-mate, even if she is your first Asian. Things can get awkward after that.

5/13/2010 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an associate in SF. Last summer I went to lunch with another attorney and three summers. While myself and the other attorney relaxed, all three summers laid their blackberry on the table and nervously looked at it all through lunch. I noticed this practice several other times throughout the summer.

I wasn't offended by this, but it made the summers look completely ridiculous. There may very well be 1 or 2 days during the summer when you genuinely need to be immediately on-call, but there is no need to be a stress case as a summer. Take it seriously, be professional, obviously, but keep things in perspective. The attorneys want to like you and want you to succeed--just use common sense and you'll be fine.

5/13/2010 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:44 again--Okay, actually have a story of the one and only time a summer did offend me.

About an hour before a scheduled lunch (with two Summers) a Summer writes and says he is cancelling, without any explanation or apology. I wrote a note to the summers asking for a bit more warning or to try to find a replacement in the future since plans were already set. The Summer who hadn't cancelled immediately apologized and offered to reschedule. The other Summer--who had cancelled--did not respond at all and never offered any kind of explanation. Myself and the other attorney scheduled to go were pretty surprised by this.

This should be obvious, but be respectful of other people's time and just don't be rude. This obviously applies all the time, not just as a Summer, so just be your normal nice self and there won't be an issue!

5/13/2010 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only kid who didn't get an offer at my firm was a jokester, and a real immature one at that.

5/13/2010 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an associate in SF. Just to tack on to 9:44 a bit, as a summer, your work is not the stuff that makes or breaks a case. I think this was the logical precursor to 9:44's story about the summers at lunch checking their Blackberry. You will certainly feel like you are important because you will be doing interesting, substantive work (many of you for the first time). While your work is helpful and not something to take lightly, you are not going to be given the role of prepping an expert for trial, or drafting a crucial dispositive motion. As 9:44 said: relax.

5/13/2010 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:32 again:

I'm a midlevel and I still use treatises. So if you aren't sure if there is one for whatever project you've been asked to research, ask someone--the assigning attorney, librarian, fellow summer, or associate. They really are invaluable.

5/13/2010 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely. Your first resource (if you are in CA) should be Rutter or Witkin. Saves you time, and you don't have to pay for the super expensive searches on Westlaw.

5/13/2010 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:19 has it right. There is nothing more annoying than a summer freaking out about something inconsequential. I remember last year a summer stayed late to "prepare for a hearing" the next day with a partner - unclear what this entailed because this summer associate was not goign to speak at the hearing. What annoyed me was that I had actually written the motion that was to be heard at the hearing, and now this summer was "preparing" for the hearing by going through my motion and putting it into bullet point format.

I was sort of happy when the hearing was vacated, even if we did lose the motion...

Take Home: Relax and don't act so important!

5/13/2010 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we get a post for graduating 3Ls about memories of Boalt? What we will miss/not miss? For me, I will miss leaving school at dusk and seeing the sun go down over the Golden Gate bridge from campus. What I will not miss is staying up all night to work on papers!

5/13/2010 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are lame. Additionally, you will be staying up all night to write papers. However, your papers will now be renamed "memos," "motions," or "briefs."

What I do not miss about Berkeley is the homeless people sleeping/crapping in my front yard, and the police informing me to stay in my house because a murderer is hiding in the dumpster in my backyard.

5/13/2010 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the partner asked that summer to stay and help. And you obviously do know what it entailed because you said the summer prepared for the hearing by reformatting your bullshit to the partner's liking. Why so bitter? How was this annoying? I'm sure the partner knew you wrote it so calm down. They know you're worth something.

5/13/2010 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe 1:15 is referring to the impression that a self-important summer leaves on an associate. It's more going along with the theme of "The firm was doing fine before you got there, and they will be fine after you leave." It's obnoxious to see someone seem super stressed over something that 1. they don't need to do, and 2. is not stressful. It is particularly obnoxious to see that after you already did all the legwork and didn't bitch and moan.

5/13/2010 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As a Hastings transfer I have no sympathy for complaints about the frequency of homeless people sleeping/crapping incidents in Berkeley... Stepping over wild-eyed lunatics hitting crack pipes on the way to class is pretty much par for the course at UC Tenderloin.

5/13/2010 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fair point, though you will shortly be back to that experience when you walk back to the office from court.

5/13/2010 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go into transactional law. We never have to step over people lying in their own feces. Unless we are convicted of securities fraud.

5/14/2010 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ask questions in short bursts. Ask lots when you're getting an assignment, then gather multiple questions as they pop up and ask them together efficiently. A well organized mind is a valuable asset.

5/16/2010 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should we take our secretaries out to lunch?

5/19/2010 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DON'T take your secretary to lunch and then seek reimbursement from the summer program. Oops.

5/19/2010 5:00 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

That depends on the firm. Mine suggested taking them out and doing reimbursement...just don't ask your secretary to do the request for payback. Go to HR or your recruitment coordinator.

DO take them to lunch, regardless.

5/20/2010 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:19 needs to be punched in the face.

5/22/2010 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why? They just told you not to do something which may have negative consequences.

5/25/2010 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found that my second asian was better than the first. Maybe I was less nervous.

5/25/2010 7:31 PM  

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