Those of you in the bottom 25% at a T14...

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Re: Those of you in the bottom 25% at a T14...

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:27 pm

MVPB here. Not URM but a diverse candidate I guess. Not sure if bottom 25% but probably am. 1 callback ---> 1 offer through OCI, not vault ranked but NLJ and Amlaw 100, pays NYC market at a secondary low COL market. My top choice all along. 2 CB's through non-OCI targeted applications. Got 1 offer from that, again non-vault but NLJ/Amlaw 100 but paying non-NYC market and a leader in the market. Canceled the last call-back.

I worked my butt off networking and all that jazz: did two mock interviews during 1L, kept in touch with interviewers, got mentor attorneys to get 5-6 biglaw types to do even more mock interviews and resume edit during 1L summer, edited resume and cover letters like 1000 times, contacted the hell out of all the alumni in the three secondary markets I was interested in, persisted, resisted, hounded (but all in a professional, courteous, non-nagging way), and got hold of many, many great contacts. It paid off. Extremely thankful. Luck played a huge role but I also worked hard for it.

My take:
(1) Do not be obsessed with vault if you are below median. Actually, do not be obsessed with vault period. It's bad for your wellbeing. I'm glad I'm out of that race. The NLJ/Amlaw reference above is about size/revenue, not prestige.
(2) Do not be shy about approaching alumni and other lawyers in the practice area or region you're interested in. I was extremely hesitant and nervous about this at first. But repetition is key. The more you do it, the better you get. Build relationships. Nurture it. But don't pester them. They're very busy and be thankful for their time. Some might not respond, some might do so half-heartedly (you can tell), but many do. And they like it when you give them periodic updates about yourself (like once every month or so), ask them for advice etc. Write very short emails. When I wrote longer emails, I seldom got responses.
(3) No need to read guerilla tactics or whatever. There's no point in reading anything if you don't apply what the book tells you to do. I read Getting to Maybe and all that stuff but didn't work hard enough doing practice exams etc. so it was all pointless (also, I hate doing schoolwork). No need to follow the herd and do what everyone recommends you do just for the sake of having the satisfaction of doing it. My philosophy nowadays is to just do it. Trust yourself. Networking means talking to people and nurturing the connections you make. It's basic. It's simple. It's just talking to people.
(4) Call-backs are very, very simple if you don't worry about it too much. The key is to go there trying to see if you are a good fit for the firm, not vice versa. Do your research in order to find things out, not to be able to show off that you've done your research. Don't go in with a swagger but also don't go in timidly or with an obsequious bow. Follow the golden mean. The middle path. Or the Goldilocks zone, if you will. I went with the view that if there's no mutual fit, then there's no point in working at the place. I was prepared to do PI rather than work at a place I don't want to be at. In other words, I went there to meet the attorneys and the staff, look at the offices, get to know more about the firm etc. Genuine curiosity goes a long way. That's what "show enthusiasm" means, or at least that's what I think it means.
(5) Grades really, really matter for screeners to callbacks. Many of my screeners went really, really well (some were horrible, of course). But since my grades were horrendous, the interview "clicks" and "connections" didn't go anywhere. So don't count on your interview skillz etc. All overblown.
(6) Apply to as many secondaries as you have the appetite for. Target NLJ 250, AmLaw 200. Go all out for the ones with the biggest classes. Email attorneys, set appointments for a phone conversation, SPEAK with them, ask them for advice, stroke their ego (sad but true), do not sell yourself but show confidence, humility, and genuine interest. Fake it till you make it.
(7) Again, I am not of the "sell yourself at every opportunity" mold. That might work for firms known for aggressive lawyers or large classes where junior associates are just widget producing drones I don't know. At firms where personality is key (and trust me there are tons of such firms), selling yourself too hard is bad. Be personable, friendly, honest, curious, warm, caring, you know just be a decent human being. If you aren't that, then CHECK YOU PERSONALITY (and gun hard for grades).
(8) Have pat answers to why this market, why this firm. Doesn't have to be strong ties. Being convincing is key, and thoroughness helps. Again, fake it till you make it. Give it serious thought, visit the place if you've never done so, go wild on google street view, read travel guides, look at the real estate market, make penpals or facebook friends or whatever.
(9) Strategy wise, it helped me tremendously to rattle off other firms in the market that I had screeners with etc. One of the alumni at a CB firm advised me not to disclose anything more than they ask (she knew that I didn't have anything else lined up). Almost all interviewers would ask "so where else are you looking at?" So I answered in such a way that it seemed I was being courted by others. No lying, of course, but also no "zomg you're the only one who's even bothered to give me a call-back" kinda hints. Also, my approach supra points 4 and 7 helped tremendously, I think.
(10) Another strategic point, I went for firm's personality, size, and "family-friendly" lines when I got asked which other cities I was looking for. So I would say, I am also looking at X and Y cities because of a, b, c, and the cities would have very similar characteristics with similar kind of firm cultures (i.e. not coastal biglaw firm culture). I got the impression that secondary market firms are worried about kids actually wanting bigNYCfirmz and using them as safeties. So I got out of my way at times to assure them that's not the lifestyle I want and so am looking at other similar cities given the hiring market etc.

It's kinda ironic that had I put all this effort into exams and 1L classes, I probably would have had better grades. But I am convinced I am the richer for my experience. Besides, I would probably have been sucked into the NYC V20 or it's shitlaw mentality, who knows? In any case, who knows what grades I could have gotten. All meaningless counterfactuals.

Lastly, please don't fall for the prestige obsession on this board or anywhere else. That's the untruth. Unless, of course, you came to law school just to get to biglaw just to pay off your loans just to look for exit options just to have a midlife crisis and so on. There are jobs out there even for bottom T10'ers but you have to really seek it. OCI and mass-mailing is not enough. Networking (and doing it really early, like 1L Spring semester) is the key.

Excuse me for the long post (inbtldr). I hope this helps people next year.

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