Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

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Anonymous User
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Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:09 pm

GPA: 3.19, one B- and one A that was used as a model answer (worth mentioning?)
Background: Straight through undergrad, very light resume with nothing impressive in terms of work experience. No special hooks.
I don't have access to Columbia's honors+EIP information, so it's difficult for me to tell which firms are "grade sensitive". Vault Reports provide limited insight.
I'm almost completely set on transactional work, generally anything that would fall under "Corporate".

After blowing out spring semester, I am pretty pessimistic about my EIP chances. I am in the middle third of the class, but below median. I see myself going into interviews and having a resume that will leave interviewers struggling for material to discuss, but otherwise I should come across as a pleasant, focused, and confident individual to talk to. However my demeanor is probably more awkward than charismatic and I think the flow of the interview will largely depend on the personality of who is conducting.

So here's what I'm trying to gain with this thread:

1) I don't know much about mass mailing, yet it's strongly suggested for those of us with weaker grades. Is there a good thread for mass mailing advice?

2) Would anyone care to speculate on my chances of striking out? OCS said it was a "rarity" for someone in my situation to be offer-less after EIP, but posters here say that OCS is also wearing rose-colored glasses.

3) Should I abandon my preference for transaction work? Would it just be safer to go into EIP and try for transaction AND litigation work and just claim that I'm trying to "explore"?

4) Is targeting firms that are less selective AND have small class sizes advisable? I feel like focusing on large class sizes might backfire since I imagine the candidate pool will also be significantly larger and candidates will be treated in a more "fungible" manner - and as just a GPA and resume, I would probably be near the bottom of any large candidate pool. Or am I completely wrong on this?

5) Here is a rough list of firms that I am considering in my bid list, in alphabetical order, are there any obvious firms to strike or firms I should have included? Given my position, my priority is leaving EIP with an offer at a firm in NYC that pays market.
Akin Gump
Baker Botts
Bingham McCuthen LLP
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP
Brown Rudnick
Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft
Cahill Gordon & Reindel
Chadbourne & Parke
Cleary Gotlieb Steen & Hamilton
Clifford Chance
Cooley LLP
Debevoise & Plimpton
Dechert
Dewey & LeBouef
Dickstein Shapiro LLP
DLA Piper
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson
Fulbright & Jaworski
Haynes and Boone LLP
Hogan Lovells
Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Jones Day
K&L Gates
Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman
Kaye Scholer LLP
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel
Latham & Watkins
Linklaters
Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy
Mintz Levin
Morgan Lewis & Bockius
O'Melveny & [deleted]
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler
Paul Hastings
Paul Weiss
Pillsbury Winthrop
Proskauer Rose
Ropes & Gray
Schulte Roth & Zabel
Sidley Austin
Stroock Stroock & Lavan
Vinson & Elkins
White & Case
Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Winston & Strawn

timbs4339
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Re: Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby timbs4339 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:53 pm

I struck out with a GPA .02 higher, the same bland resume, and you've described my interviewing skills to a T. I had 3 callbacks and 0 offers.

I cannot stress how precarious of a position you are in. Many more students than "a rarity" struck out with GPAs around yours. This is not to depress you, you seem to be aware of your situation and are willing to take steps to give yourself the best chance at EIP. However, you also need to be working on other options. You should look in to federal government summer honors programs and begin applying right after EIP. You should also look at midlaw firms- go to Symplicity and search the student evaluations for the last 2 years to find firms that have hired CLS students but have not come to EIP. To answer some of your questions:

2) I would say you have about a 50% or more chance of striking out. Many people with your GPA have work experience- that is how they stand out in the pile of students with below Stone GPAs. Basically you need to have some "hook"- just going to Columbia Law is not enough to get a biglaw job when the other 40 or 80 people that firm is seeing on that day also go to Columbia and they only have 10 or 20 callbacks to give. This is something OCS hasn't woken up to yet. Good choice to bid on NYC, part of my mistake was bidding primarily on a secondary market. You just need to put yourself in the room with firms that won't categorically bar you because of poor grades and hope you click with the interviewer.

3) I wouldn't abandon your preference for transactional work as long as you understand and can talk in detail about why you want that kind of work. Most law students will say something along the lines of "I don't know what practice area I want to try but am leaning towards litigation- I hope to get a better idea this summer." That is fine when you have the grades for an auto-callback but not when you need to impress the interviewer.

Also, transactional work is much farther divorced from the skills it takes to do well in law school than litigation (although they both are pretty much useless in the real world) so you may have some forgiving firms. TLS anecdotal evidence also suggests some firms have lower grade cutoffs for corporate work.

However, if you want to interview with Kasowitz or Kaye Scholer, you should become an aspiring litigator for those 20 minute interview sessions.

4) This is a tough choice. Larger firms try to have a set hiring target out of CLS. For example, I know Schulte called back dozens of CLS students and offered a ton of people. They wanted to get CLS students specifically. So, you might get firms with very low GPA cutoffs who will callback anyone who can hold a conversation.

My experience with smaller firms was that they can afford to be picky. Smaller firms/satellite offices are likely to be able to decline candidates en masse- if they don't see enough people who meet their GPA requirements they are fine with walking away from EIP with 3 callbacks out of 20.

What you can do is look at the packet OCS gave you at the EIP meeting. You can try to use callbacks given/callbacks accepted and offers given/offers accepted as a sign of selectivity. If a lower ranked firm gave 20 callbacks and 5 accepted- that's a good sign they are using a higher grade-cutoff (since only the most in-demand students can afford to turn down callbacks right now). Or it could mean they gave callbacks very late and many people already had offers, which is not useful. If there is any way a friend could copy the selectivity statistics, or if someone on TLS could give them to you, that would be ideal. Don't be afraid to ask for help- last year people who were in NYC didn't have access to the OCS office got the stats from friends.

So if you see a large firm that seems selective- you might want to bid a smaller firm at the bottom of your bidlist and leave the larger firm off because you will be unlikely to get that larger firm anyway since it will probably be in high demand. But your top bids should be reserved for firms like Schulte, Dewey, White and Case, Hughes Hubbard, that are both large and relatively unselective.

5) This bidlist looks good. Strike Cleary, Debevoise, Paul Weiss, and Patterson Belknap (litigation and way more selective than Vault would indicate), and Kasowitz/Kaye Scholer (litigation). Add Mayer Brown, Shearman, Orrick, WilmerHale, Goodwin Procter, Seward and Kissel (or visit NALPDirectory.com to see firms broken down by practice area). In terms of order, try to extrapolate as much about firm selectivity as you can from the EIP stuff they gave you during school. Talk to any 3Ls you know.

Aston2412
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Re: Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby Aston2412 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:35 pm

My understanding is that transactional work is easier to obtain because most law students say they want to do litigation.

This is all anecdotal of course but I don't think noting your preference for transactional work would harm you, especially if you can express to them that you are willing to do litigation.

Anonymous User
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Re: Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:00 pm

@Timbs

Thank you so much, your post had more practical advice than almost anyone else I've talked to so far (classmates, graduates, OCS).

I am meeting up with a friend this evening who took notes on the Honors book last weekend. That should make narrowing down the firms a more educated process.



I'd also like to hear anyone's advice/opinion on mass mailing. Also, I forgot to ask: What are 3L hiring prospects like? I've heard answers between "they are a fairytale" to "they are competitive, but not impossible". Seeing those spring grades has put the fire under my feet and I'm 100% confident that I can bump my GPA significantly as a 2L (beyond what the easier curve already provides), but what I'm not sure about is if it will change my employment outcome if I strike out in EIP.

I'm also curious as to what the consensus here is about acknowledging weaknesses during interviews. OCS and one graduate I spoke with recently convinced me that those subjects are taboo and broaching the subject would only hurt me. Still, with my position, I can't help but think that addressing my lack of work experience would be better than just smiling and acting like there isn't a problem. But again, I'll probably defer to experience here unless I hear evidence of people successfully addressing these issues.

timbs4339
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Re: Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby timbs4339 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:@Timbs

Thank you so much, your post had more practical advice than almost anyone else I've talked to so far (classmates, graduates, OCS).

I am meeting up with a friend this evening who took notes on the Honors book last weekend. That should make narrowing down the firms a more educated process.



I'd also like to hear anyone's advice/opinion on mass mailing. Also, I forgot to ask: What are 3L hiring prospects like? I've heard answers between "they are a fairytale" to "they are competitive, but not impossible". Seeing those spring grades has put the fire under my feet and I'm 100% confident that I can bump my GPA significantly as a 2L (beyond what the easier curve already provides), but what I'm not sure about is if it will change my employment outcome if I strike out in EIP.

I'm also curious as to what the consensus here is about acknowledging weaknesses during interviews. OCS and one graduate I spoke with recently convinced me that those subjects are taboo and broaching the subject would only hurt me. Still, with my position, I can't help but think that addressing my lack of work experience would be better than just smiling and acting like there isn't a problem. But again, I'll probably defer to experience here unless I hear evidence of people successfully addressing these issues.


1) Mass mailing is highly recommended. Last year a few firms went back to OCS and asked to see more resumes. This means they didn't hit their hiring targets out of EIP. Mass mailing gets your resume into that pile. Additionally, if you mass mail firms not coming to EIP you might be able to get interviews/offers before OCI, boosting your confidence somewhat.

Do you have ties to any markets other than NYC? It would be best to mail those markets too. I know you want to work in NYC, but trust me, a market or close to market paying gig is preferable to nothing.

Basically, what you should do is get a list of firms together using NALP, Martindale, and the Symplicity trick I told you. Get the info of the HR person or the hiring partner. Draw up some standard cover letters, make sure to include fields where the name of the firm would go. Maybe write a sentence or two about things that attract you to that firm specifically. Then, starting first week of August, email the recruiting staff with your resume and the cover letter. You should also do this for firms you didn't bid with for EIP. It's a long shot and most of the time will result in a pile of rejections. But if there is even a 1% chance of getting a job, you should go for it.

2) 3L hiring is really almost non-existent for private work. Last year at 3L EIP some firms picked up students who didn't have firm jobs the previous summer because they'd reduced class sizes too much. This year most people I've talked to think firms were better at estimating ITE class sizes and won't rely on 3L EIP to build the class so much as add people transferring from other firms. With the jackasses who want to transfer firms because they are prestige whores, plus the people terrified of getting no-offered (or at firms not doing so well) doing 3L EIP it is very unlikely someone without a 2L SA will pick something up during 3L EIP.

There may be a few non-EIP firms willing to hire entry-level graduates. Research and networking is very important at getting these jobs. Almost no companies hire entry-level grads in house other than in IP specialties. Consulting firms have also been known to hire CLS 3Ls for entry-level jobs. Consulting interviews are extremely rigorous and not many people make it all the way through.

Other avenues require the type of credentials that would get you biglaw. Federal government honors programs for entry-level attorneys are extremely competitive, moreso than firm jobs. Clerkship hiring has started to shift towards practitioners with a few years of experience (an atty where I work now just got a magistrate judge job at SDNY. She went to a T10 and has been out 2-3 years.) The number of students at CLS who qualify for clerkships is therefore limited to top performers. Fellowships and other public interest work are extremely competitive and you basically need to build a public interest oriented resume during 1L and 2L if you are to have any shot.

3) Don't bring up your weaknesses in the interview. These interviews are serial killer tests. They are intended to weed out people who cannot even hold a pleasant 20 minute conversation. The interviewer doesn't care about hearing excuses and will probably think this is a negative trait if you start trying to explain something away- especially if it isn't something he asked. FWIW, I was never asked about my lack of work experience or my below-median grades.

You need to be able to speak in depth about law school and your 1L job and have a lot of questions about the interviewer's practice or the firm. That should get you through the 20 minutes.

imchuckbass58
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Re: Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby imchuckbass58 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:16 pm

You should not be bidding on Cleary, Debevoise or PW.

Anonymous User
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Re: Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 14, 2011 1:56 pm

imchuckbass58 wrote:You should not be bidding on Cleary, Debevoise or PW.


Yea, I've cleared those off.

timbs4339 wrote:
1) Mass mailing is highly recommended. Last year a few firms went back to OCS and asked to see more resumes. This means they didn't hit their hiring targets out of EIP. Mass mailing gets your resume into that pile. Additionally, if you mass mail firms not coming to EIP you might be able to get interviews/offers before OCI, boosting your confidence somewhat.

Do you have ties to any markets other than NYC? It would be best to mail those markets too. I know you want to work in NYC, but trust me, a market or close to market paying gig is preferable to nothing.

Basically, what you should do is get a list of firms together using NALP, Martindale, and the Symplicity trick I told you. Get the info of the HR person or the hiring partner. Draw up some standard cover letters, make sure to include fields where the name of the firm would go. Maybe write a sentence or two about things that attract you to that firm specifically. Then, starting first week of August, email the recruiting staff with your resume and the cover letter. You should also do this for firms you didn't bid with for EIP. It's a long shot and most of the time will result in a pile of rejections. But if there is even a 1% chance of getting a job, you should go for it.

2) 3L hiring is really almost non-existent for private work. Last year at 3L EIP some firms picked up students who didn't have firm jobs the previous summer because they'd reduced class sizes too much. This year most people I've talked to think firms were better at estimating ITE class sizes and won't rely on 3L EIP to build the class so much as add people transferring from other firms. With the jackasses who want to transfer firms because they are prestige whores, plus the people terrified of getting no-offered (or at firms not doing so well) doing 3L EIP it is very unlikely someone without a 2L SA will pick something up during 3L EIP.

There may be a few non-EIP firms willing to hire entry-level graduates. Research and networking is very important at getting these jobs. Almost no companies hire entry-level grads in house other than in IP specialties. Consulting firms have also been known to hire CLS 3Ls for entry-level jobs. Consulting interviews are extremely rigorous and not many people make it all the way through.

Other avenues require the type of credentials that would get you biglaw. Federal government honors programs for entry-level attorneys are extremely competitive, moreso than firm jobs. Clerkship hiring has started to shift towards practitioners with a few years of experience (an atty where I work now just got a magistrate judge job at SDNY. She went to a T10 and has been out 2-3 years.) The number of students at CLS who qualify for clerkships is therefore limited to top performers. Fellowships and other public interest work are extremely competitive and you basically need to build a public interest oriented resume during 1L and 2L if you are to have any shot.

3) Don't bring up your weaknesses in the interview. These interviews are serial killer tests. They are intended to weed out people who cannot even hold a pleasant 20 minute conversation. The interviewer doesn't care about hearing excuses and will probably think this is a negative trait if you start trying to explain something away- especially if it isn't something he asked. FWIW, I was never asked about my lack of work experience or my below-median grades.

You need to be able to speak in depth about law school and your 1L job and have a lot of questions about the interviewer's practice or the firm. That should get you through the 20 minutes.


Once again, very useful feedback - thanks. I do have strong ties to a big secondary market but it's an absolute last resort and I'm really not sure how to approach it for firms that don't have multiple interviews. "Yes I'd love to work in your NYC office, buuuut if you can't get me an offer there I'd also like to work in your XYZ office?"

Anonymous User
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Re: Aiming for big law: bland and below median at CLS

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:21 pm

I've almost got my bid list finalized, should I focus my last eliminations on firms with larger class sizes that are more selective (Akin Gump, Latham & Watkins, Dechert all gave roughly half - or more - of their offers to honors), or on firms that gave 0-3 offers total last year.

I was leaning toward the latter but OCS cautioned me against using 1 year of offer data. I've been getting mixed messages. Part of me would rather try for Milbank (23 offers, only 11 to non-honors) than Mintz Levin (0 offers to CLS last year). Yet another part of me wonders if some of the firms I mentioned would even give me a serious shot at an offer, while not bidding on a no-offer firm from last year might remove a legitimate chance to get an offer from a less selective firm.




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