Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

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Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:45 pm

So, I accepted an unpaid position (not with a judge) about a week ago. This week I received a paid offer for a job I thought I was out of consideration for a long time ago. Is it okay to back out of the first one and accept the paid offer for financial reasons? I applied for unpaid positions only after I thought all of the paid options had fallen through, and financially I really need the money.

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romothesavior
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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby romothesavior » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So, I accepted an unpaid position (not with a judge) about a week ago. This week I received a paid offer for a job I thought I was out of consideration for a long time ago. Is it okay to back out of the first one and accept the paid offer for financial reasons? I applied for unpaid positions only after I thought all of the paid options had fallen through, and financially I really need the money.


I'm a 0L so I can't offer any real sound advice, but my god I hope its okay to back out! Law school is crazy expensive and it would be a blessing to make some real money during the summer. I'm sure most employers understand that law students desperately want/need paid jobs, and they have probably had people back out for that reason. I, for one, would withdraw and write a very appreciative, yet very sob-storyesque letter explaining that you want to work there but cannot because you are broke.

I'm sure a band of the "moral highroad" people are going to come in here and tell you not to do it, it will ruin your career, have some integrity, blah blah blah... but this seems like a case where looking out for your own best interests isn't just a necessity, but its also completely understandable.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Oblomov » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:52 pm

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Last edited by Oblomov on Thu Apr 22, 2010 8:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:56 pm

I should add that the first offer is a fairly low prestige thing in a market where I won't be practicing, so honestly they would probably have to go way out of their way in any attempt to "get back" at me.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:58 pm

I did this last year -- previously accepted US Attorney's office gig (unpaid), had not been cleared yet for that job and then accepted a paid firm job that I had interviewed for prior to the AUSA internship offer coming through. I have lived to tell about it, but I called an explained my reasons. That said, I wouldn't imagine I would be hired at the AUSA anytime soon (this was not happening anyways), but the firm job was paid and in an area that I could have reasonably expected to be invited back to as a 2L and potentially beyond (hometown firm). You gotta look out for yourself and there is only so long that you can work for free before Uncle Sam comes calling for your loan payments.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Renzo » Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:27 am

Anonymous User wrote:I did this last year -- previously accepted US Attorney's office gig (unpaid), had not been cleared yet for that job and then accepted a paid firm job that I had interviewed for prior to the AUSA internship offer coming through. I have lived to tell about it, but I called an explained my reasons. That said, I wouldn't imagine I would be hired at the AUSA anytime soon (this was not happening anyways), but the firm job was paid and in an area that I could have reasonably expected to be invited back to as a 2L and potentially beyond (hometown firm). You gotta look out for yourself and there is only so long that you can work for free before Uncle Sam comes calling for your loan payments.

Perfect analysis. There's no right answer to 'can I back out?' There are costs (mostly reputational) and benefits. Weigh them and do what is best for you long-term.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby 270910 » Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:14 am

You have to realize that 'financial reasons' is a bad excuse. Few people get paid over the summer (as 1ls at least) and so the judge isn't going to be impressed by the fact that you need cash money, especially since you applied and accepted knowing you'd get none.

I personally still think it's a bad idea to back out of an offer with a judge, but do what you will.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby legalease9 » Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:23 am

Renzo wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I did this last year -- previously accepted US Attorney's office gig (unpaid), had not been cleared yet for that job and then accepted a paid firm job that I had interviewed for prior to the AUSA internship offer coming through. I have lived to tell about it, but I called an explained my reasons. That said, I wouldn't imagine I would be hired at the AUSA anytime soon (this was not happening anyways), but the firm job was paid and in an area that I could have reasonably expected to be invited back to as a 2L and potentially beyond (hometown firm). You gotta look out for yourself and there is only so long that you can work for free before Uncle Sam comes calling for your loan payments.

Perfect analysis. There's no right answer to 'can I back out?' There are costs (mostly reputational) and benefits. Weigh them and do what is best for you long-term.


+1

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby wiseowl » Wed Mar 31, 2010 2:14 pm

romothesavior wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:So, I accepted an unpaid position (not with a judge) about a week ago. This week I received a paid offer for a job I thought I was out of consideration for a long time ago. Is it okay to back out of the first one and accept the paid offer for financial reasons? I applied for unpaid positions only after I thought all of the paid options had fallen through, and financially I really need the money.


I'm a 0L so I can't offer any real sound advice, but let me scold other people and tell you what time it is anyway.


summarized briefly for clarity

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:57 pm

disco_barred wrote:You have to realize that 'financial reasons' is a bad excuse. Few people get paid over the summer (as 1ls at least) and so the judge isn't going to be impressed by the fact that you need cash money, especially since you applied and accepted knowing you'd get none.

I personally still think it's a bad idea to back out of an offer with a judge, but do what you will.




The original offer is NOT with a judge.


Also, what are the potential repercussions of doing this. Obvioulsy I would never be offered a future position with the original outfit. However, I have no intention of even practicing in that legal market. What consequences could this have on a future career?

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby 270910 » Wed Mar 31, 2010 5:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
disco_barred wrote:You have to realize that 'financial reasons' is a bad excuse. Few people get paid over the summer (as 1ls at least) and so the judge isn't going to be impressed by the fact that you need cash money, especially since you applied and accepted knowing you'd get none.

I personally still think it's a bad idea to back out of an offer with a judge, but do what you will.




The original offer is NOT with a judge.


Also, what are the potential repercussions of doing this. Obvioulsy I would never be offered a future position with the original outfit. However, I have no intention of even practicing in that legal market. What consequences could this have on a future career?


Some people's career services will stop working with them or allow them to attend OCI. Some employers will be in touch with other employers since it's a small profession and reputation could be tarnished.

The most likely answer is 'nothing bad will happen to OP for backing out'. It's a test of character, for sure, but it's not like the C&F swat team will kick down your door before you hang up the phone when you tell employer 1 you're backing out.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby AngryAvocado » Wed Mar 31, 2010 5:08 pm

disco_barred wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
disco_barred wrote:You have to realize that 'financial reasons' is a bad excuse. Few people get paid over the summer (as 1ls at least) and so the judge isn't going to be impressed by the fact that you need cash money, especially since you applied and accepted knowing you'd get none.

I personally still think it's a bad idea to back out of an offer with a judge, but do what you will.




The original offer is NOT with a judge.


Also, what are the potential repercussions of doing this. Obvioulsy I would never be offered a future position with the original outfit. However, I have no intention of even practicing in that legal market. What consequences could this have on a future career?


Some people's career services will stop working with them or allow them to attend OCI. Some employers will be in touch with other employers since it's a small profession and reputation could be tarnished.

The most likely answer is 'nothing bad will happen to OP for backing out'. It's a test of character, for sure, but it's not like the C&F swat team will kick down your door before you hang up the phone when you tell employer 1 you're backing out.


Also, they might send some big Italian guys to your house to break a few fingers and toes, but that's about it. They won't cause any permanent harm unless you attempt to resist, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 31, 2010 5:15 pm

Be honest with the first organization. Let them know you need the money, and that you've made your decision. It'll suck, but whatever. If you're not going to be in that market, you're safe.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:14 pm

OP here. I got both places to agree to a summer split :D


Thanks for the advice everyone.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby blsingindisguise » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:00 pm

I don't even see this as a character issue. You are not obligated to work for someone who is not paying you, and as long as you're not backing out in a situation where you're actually screwing them over (e.g. it's too late to find a replacement and they're relying on you), you owe them nothing. Take the paid gig.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:02 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:I don't even see this as a character issue. You are not obligated to work for someone who is not paying you, and as long as you're not backing out in a situation where you're actually screwing them over (e.g. it's too late to find a replacement and they're relying on you), you owe them nothing. Take the paid gig.

This is 100% terrible and unsound advice, just so OP knows.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby wiseowl » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:51 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:I don't even see this as a character issue. You are not obligated to work for someone who is not paying you, and as long as you're not backing out in a situation where you're actually screwing them over (e.g. it's too late to find a replacement and they're relying on you), you owe them nothing. Take the paid gig.

This is 100% terrible and unsound advice, just so OP knows.


+1. Take this advice and you'll be good at unpaid work, because that's all you'll ever get.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby blsingindisguise » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:13 pm

Bullshit.

I mean granted the best thing to do is to talk to the internship people about it rather than just reneg on them. But imagine it's three months before your start date of an unpaid internship and you get a paid offer. You go to the internship people and say "Listen, I was really looking forward to working with you, but I have [$200K in debt; a 6-month old baby; etc.] and I've received a paying offer that I really need to take. I wanted to know if you'd be willing to let me out of the position.

What non-asshole would say no to this? I mean they're NOT PAYING YOU.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby blsingindisguise » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:15 pm

And honestly I'd like to know what the basis for this "unsound advice" comment is. In the real world people back out of job offers all the time. You think employers for the rest of your career are going to somehow find out that you backed out of an internship once?

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby WhiskeyGuy » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:30 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:And honestly I'd like to know what the basis for this "unsound advice" comment is. In the real world people back out of job offers all the time. You think employers for the rest of your career are going to somehow find out that you backed out of an internship once?


I feel like I've responded to these types of posts before, so I'm gonna paraphrase from something I wrote elsewhere.

blsing, you ignore the unintended consequences others could suffer as a result of OP reneging.

First, if OP reneges, the school's reputation may be blemished. Would the employer avoid students from OP’s school in the future? Possibly, especially if OP is not the only one to have done this in recent years. Career services at law schools warn against backing out of acceptances because they know the value necessity of a good reputation.

Second, the employer has invested time and energy into recruiting and offering him the position, and has likely rejected other qualified applicants since they believed OP was confirmed for the summer. Will the employer still be able to find a highly qualified student this late in the game? Probably, but only after scrambling and expending unplanned time and resources.

Obviously there are extenuating circumstances that would permit backing out of an acceptance. OP says he needs the money, so maybe this situation qualifies. OP, if you do end up switching jobs, please be extra polite to the employer and explain the substantive reasons for your switch so that your decision is less likely to handicap future applicants from your school. If you truly need the money, hopefully they will be OK with it. But please, don't assume that it is OK to back out of an acceptance just because it is non-paying.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby blsingindisguise » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:35 pm

WhiskeyGuy wrote:
blsing, you ignore the unintended consequences others could suffer as a result of OP reneging.

First, if OP reneges, the school's reputation may be blemished. Would the employer avoid students from OP’s school in the future? Possibly, especially if OP is not the only one to have done this in recent years. Career services at law schools warn against backing out of acceptances because they know the value necessity of a good reputation.

Second, the employer has invested time and energy into recruiting and offering him the position, and has likely rejected other qualified applicants since they believed OP was confirmed for the summer. Will the employer still be able to find a highly qualified student this late in the game? Probably, but only after scrambling and expending unplanned time and resources.


On the first point, I'd have to say that the reputational cost to a school of a single student backing out for legit financial reasons are minimal. As long as you're reasonable and polite about it I don't see the big deal.

On the second point, if it's early enough I don't see this as a big issue either. In this economy there are tons of qualified students without jobs and all you have to do is repost an ad and interview a few people.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby blsingindisguise » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:36 pm

WhiskeyGuy wrote: But please, don't assume that it is OK to back out of an acceptance just because it is non-paying.


Also to be clear I never said this was the case in an unqualified sense.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby ggocat » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. I got both places to agree to a summer split :D


Thanks for the advice everyone.

Excellent news.

blsingindisguise wrote:On the first point, I'd have to say that the reputational cost to a school of a single student backing out for legit financial reasons are minimal. As long as you're reasonable and polite about it I don't see the big deal.

On the second point, if it's early enough I don't see this as a big issue either. In this economy there are tons of qualified students without jobs and all you have to do is repost an ad and interview a few people.

A pure cost-benefit analysis will likely point to reneging on the unpaying employer.

But let's not forget the purely intangible question: what is the "right" thing to do? As a lawyer, we will be faced at times with situations that allow us to do something dishonorable that we can get away with (and that will benefit us). Some lawyers actually rationalize their dishonorable conduct; they pad bills because they can get away with it and the relative loss to the client is minimal. This is not a great analogy, of course, because padding your bills is theft. But it's also similar: the $10K stolen from the client is a minimal cost just like the minimal cost of forcing the unpaying employer to re-interview and re-hire new applicants. We can rationalize the loss to the third party however we want; but in the end, it's just unethical to steal and unethical to renege on your commitments.

Nonetheless, in the long run, gaining a reputation as someone who keeps his or her word will likely produce tangible benefits. I think it's best to start this reputation as early as possible.

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Re: Is it ok to back out of unpaid offer for financial reasons?

Postby WhiskeyGuy » Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:30 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:Also to be clear I never said this was the case in an unqualified sense.


No, but you did suggest that non-paying employers should be accepting of students reneging on them for paid positions.

blsingindisguise wrote:On the first point, I'd have to say that the reputational cost to a school of a single student backing out for legit financial reasons are minimal. As long as you're reasonable and polite about it I don't see the big deal.

On the second point, if it's early enough I don't see this as a big issue either. In this economy there are tons of qualified students without jobs and all you have to do is repost an ad and interview a few people.


First point--From what I have read and heard, law school career services offices strongly discourage reneging on acceptances (don't some punish students who do?), whether the positions are paid or not. Moreover, you admit that there is a risk--even if it is small--to the law school's reputation. Is that risk worth a couple thousand dollars?

Second point--Yes, but is it early enough? I have hired folks before, and in my experience if an acceptance was reneged on weeks or months later, it could easily cause problems for the hirer. Maybe you are right and ITE the employer could find an equally qualified student without more than a couple of minutes of effort.

The bottom line is that you should keep your word if you give it. It is clearly the best route for your law school, future students at your law school, and the employer that first offered you a position. And, as ggocat says, it also happens to be the best for you in the long-run.




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