Question about an interview at a small firm

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Anonymous User
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Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:31 pm

Hey all,

I just received an interview at a small firm just outside of Chicago. Unfortunately, the small firm does not have a website (I tried google) so I do not know much about it. Also, I'm not sure how to go about asking if I can receive credit or if it will be paid. The managing partner just emailed me a few days ago and said that I will be interviewing for an internship position. Any ideas on how to go about this?

alumniguy
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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby alumniguy » Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:35 pm

You should at a minimum check out martindale (via Lexis). You can search by attorney's name - so you can at least pull up basic information on the one partner you do know. It will also give you some further details on his/her practice.

You can also do a search on Lexis/Westlaw for documents filed in courts by particular counsel. You can get a sense of the practice area and any cases that s/he worked on.

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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:00 pm

Thanks any idea on how to go about inquiring about compensation/credit?

alumniguy
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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby alumniguy » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:05 pm

I would wait on the compensation/credit question until after they have offered you the position. You don't want to sound presumptuous during the interview. I would imagine it is unlikely that the interviewer will offer you a job on the spot so you'll have time to ask these types of questions later.

The compensation question is a fine dance - even as you get more established in your career. It is certainly NOT something that should be asked on a first interview though.

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AssociateX
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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby AssociateX » Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:20 am

if the position was advertised as an internship with an emphasis on tasks that allow you to "learn" a lot about the practice and "hands on" training ---> i would assume the job is unpaid.

if the position had language that advertised the job as a "Law Clerk" position where you would be assisting attorneys, conducting research, drafting memos and motions, etc --> I would hold out some hope that its paid.

I agree w. the PP. You should wait until the job is actually offered before inquiring whether there is any compensation.

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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby BeenDidThat » Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:25 am

AssociateX wrote:if the position was advertised as an internship with an emphasis on tasks that allow you to "learn" a lot about the practice and "hands on" training ---> i would assume the job is unpaid.

if the position had language that advertised the job as a "Law Clerk" position where you would be assisting attorneys, conducting research, drafting memos and motions, etc --> I would hold out some hope that its paid.

I agree w. the PP. You should wait until the job is actually offered before inquiring whether there is any compensation.


I don't think it's inappropriate to inquire re: compensation. It's the elephant in the room, and they know it's on your mind. You should be tactful, but it's a material question.

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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:23 am

I beg to differ. I believe that it is entirely proper to inquire about the pay. That might be inappropriate during OCI or an interview with established big/mid size firms where the market rate is the going rate, but your case is different. Given that the firm does not even have a website, the pay could be anywhere from 0-?.

The way I would approach it: ask them if summer associates/clerks are paid hourly or a set amount per month. I did that during my interviews, and the interviewer has ALWAYS told me exactly how much they pay per hour or month. Just be polite and genuine about the way you approach it, and you should be fine. I have not gone to many interviews, but the ones I was invited to all resulted in offers.

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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:33 am

OP - how important is it for you to secure this particular job regardless of whether it is paid or not? Are you currently a 1L or a 2L? Do you have any other current offers?

I can definitely see the reasoning of the other posters for asking or not asking about compensation. In many circumstances internships at for-profit entities must be paid to comply with labor laws.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/busin ... ntern.html.

There is a six-factor test for determine whether you should be classified as a paid employee or an unpaid intern:
http://compensation.blr.com/Compensatio ... ctor-Test/

My guess would be that most internships with small firms would be paid, although it would not surprise me to find folks looking for free labor. Based on my own experience and my classmates who have worked with small firms, all of them have been paid. The real question is how much or how little. Also some lawyers may not be aware of an unpaid, academic credit option. This could cause them to consider offering you an unpaid position when they did not think they had any other options. You should be able to gage how much they know by finding out whether they have had interns in the past and how regularly. The small firm I worked for part of last summer had never had any interns before and they had me propose to them a work schedule and pay for them to consider.

That said, if you have no other offers and desperately need this particular position then it would be best to wait until they offer you the position before ironing out start time, work schedule, and compensation. If you have other circumstances then you might have a stronger case to initiate that conversation in your first interview.

Obviously it would be the best scenario for you if the employer brings up the compensation issue themselves. In the interm you may want to check and see what the specific requirements on obtain academic credit for unpaid work. Some schools have restrictions on what types of work qualify - some require prior approval or limit "externships" to only positions within the government or judiciary.

alumniguy
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Re: Question about an interview at a small firm

Postby alumniguy » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:I beg to differ. I believe that it is entirely proper to inquire about the pay. That might be inappropriate during OCI or an interview with established big/mid size firms where the market rate is the going rate, but your case is different. Given that the firm does not even have a website, the pay could be anywhere from 0-?.

The way I would approach it: ask them if summer associates/clerks are paid hourly or a set amount per month. I did that during my interviews, and the interviewer has ALWAYS told me exactly how much they pay per hour or month. Just be polite and genuine about the way you approach it, and you should be fine. I have not gone to many interviews, but the ones I was invited to all resulted in offers.


I never intended that OP should never ask about pay, but there is a time and place for this type of question. OP is not obligated to take the offer and thus, in my opinion, I would wait to ask compensation questions until after s/he is confident that the firm will make an offer. I imagine it would be quite easy to make a follow-up call/interview after an offer has been extended to ask these types of questions.

The bigger issue I see is that OP has very little bargaining power here. There are generally far more candidates than internships available for 1Ls and 2Ls. There are literally probably hundreds, if not thousands of potential interns for each 1L legal job. That allows the firm to have a much better "negotiation" position. The last thing I would to do is to rub the firm the wrong way. Again, it isn't like the firm doesn't know that compensation will be an issue, but in my experience, most jobs that don't explicitly state a salary upfront discuss salary after an offer has been extended.




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