G. T. L. Rev. wrote:My suggestion would be to give a lot of thought to the kinds of things that will shape your first year or so at the firm. Obviously, there are other factors that matter, but these are probably among the most important. So what are these factors?
- You do not even get to be an associate if you are no-offered or cold-offered. You need to be polite and professional, but you absolutely must get a sense of the firm's yield for next summer (do not accept if they are oversold); of the firm's recent offer rates; and of their expectation for offer rates going forward.
- If you want to clerk, you need to get a firm statement from the firm on its clerkship policy. This is particularly true if you are thinking about pursuing (or think you might be forced into pursuing, due to a two-year-out clerkship offer) the increasingly common work --> clerk --> work path.
- Does the firm pay a bar stipend? If so, how much? Some firms offer salary advances instead, which strikes me as cheap and annoying. Sure, bar stipends are a small deal, but if you like two firms equally, and one offers a 10k bar stipend while the other offers a 5k salary advance, that's a difference of $15k in compensation right off the bat. This may seem like a small issue now, but it is a big one the summer after you graduate.
- Start dates for associates this fall and in recent years: when and what degree of flexibility? If people in recent years have been deferred to timbuktu, will there be any knock-on effect on the start date for your class?
- Length of summer program: shorter = less 2L $$ for you, and probably an indication of lesser firm health, as I would bet a huge sum of money that SA program length positively correlates with firm health overall.
- Practice group decisions: when SAs get offers, are they from the firm as a whole or from a particular practice group? If the former, how much choice do people get in which group they will be joining? And for firms that let new associates move around a little, how much time is there to do so before they must choose? Also consider how much room there is likely to be in your most desired groups -- if you want to join a group that is very small at Firm A but very large at Firm B, it is more likely there will be room for you at B when you start. Several of my law school classmates were forced into practice areas they were either unfamiliar with or did not want due to space/demand considerations.
- Is the firm going to require you to attend a glorified babysitting program (aka training), a'la Skadden and others? Maybe you want that training, but I certainly would not. Do any of the firm's clients refuse to pay for first years? If so, how many? If you go back for a second visit, see what % of the time first and second years spend on doc review/due diligence. Heck, see if the firm will put you in a room with many juniors at all. If it does not, that's a tell right there. It should come as no surprise that the answers to these questions could have a pretty significant impact on your life as a junior associate.
- Ask the open-ended question of a partner: is there anything else you should know about the firm's plans for its summer program or new associate hiring/training/utilization potential SAs should know? In recent years, several firms have announced big changes to their summer programs or first-year associate training after it was too late for anyone to take the changes into account. Obviously there is no estoppel if they tell you no changes are coming up, but you never know, a partner might mention something you are not aware of/that is not public yet.
- Consider going around the recruiting people and cold-contacting alumni from your school who are working as junior associates at the firm. Those conversations could reveal a lot more than you might think, and the people you reach this way might be far more candid than people you reach through the recruiting office.
I don't know if this against the rules, but I'm drafting some questions for my offers right now and I find this post highly helpful. So thanks G.T.L. and I hope others in the same position consider taking a look; some stuff I didn't think about.