Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

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Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:31 pm

quakeroats wrote:How has grade-based hiring worked for you long term? Do you use grades because you don't see a ready alternative? Have they predicted success? If so, what kind of results do you get out of grads with high GPAs that you don't from those with lower GPAs?

Do you think a business-school banking model (grades are unimportant, hiring process lasts the better part of 6 months, employer observes the candidates in many situations including doing things that approximate actual work, etc.) would work better?


About 10 years ago we were less concerned about grades. Unfortunately, we noticed some of the summer associates and new attorneys did not have the writing and analytical skills we needed. That is not to say that some with higher grades did not have those problems too, but with a writing heavy practice like ours, we feel the odds for success are higher with the better grades. To be honest, many times I do not see much difference in people ranked in the top 5% as opposed to those in the top 25% but there are exceptions.

Well, assuming such a model was practical, it would probably yield better results. I believe practising law in a firm is still very much an apprentice process. The summer program allows you a glimpse of potential, but of course, grades drive the ability to get those jobs for the most part. A course that allowed students to spend time at some law firms might be an alternative, but you are getting into academic decisions which are way out of my area.

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:34 pm

kalvano wrote:
Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
legalese_retard wrote:I worked for a medium sized firm for two years and I am currently doing a 2-year clerkship. I will be re-applying to firms next year, but almost all the job announcements for small/medium firms want salary requirements.
1) What do you recommend is the best way for a lateral to address the salary requirement question? Is it best to give a single dollar amount, a salary range, simply saying "market," or list a number with a long explaination as to why you are worth that amount? (2) How do you know what dollar amount to ask for or what a firm will pay?
I ask this because there is no consistency among the firms I worked at and where my friends are at. My old firm had 50 attorneys and paid $77K/year to first years (no annual billables, mass tort/class action plaintiffs firm); another firm I summered at had 35 attorneys and paid $115K/year to first years (1800 billable, real estate/commercial lit); a friend works at a 6-attorney firm that paid $135K/year (2000 billable, appellate boutique); and I applied to a 15-attorney firm that only offer $65K/year (2200 billable, insurance defense) for first years. Given the wide range of salaries, I am fearful about listing my salary requirements. Besides asking around, how in the world can you tell what a firm will pay per year? I remember interviewing at a 10-attorney construction law firm and being laughed out of the interview when I said $75K/year was my requested salary with a 1800 billable requirement. I realize practice area is influential, but I have no idea what is the salary ranges for practice areas, experience level, and other factors.
Thanks!

As your summary indicates, there is some correlation of hours requirements to salary. We ask our associates every few years what they think. We currently have 1750 and paid $ 74,000 for a new grad last year. Our associates voted to keep our hours requirement where it was even knowing that we would increase salary if they billed more hours. Most reputable business firms are lock step. This means the salary should pretty much be set. I am suspicious of firms that are trying to bargain you down when you are at a disadvantage. My suggestion would be to say consistent with what you pay the other associates taking into account graduation dates. There is only a few/several thousand dollar difference in our firm between years. If people want to make more money in our firm they can either bill more hours and get a bonus and/or bring in some business.

Out of curiosity, what is the average year-to-year raise (if any) at your firm, and the average bonus?


I don't think I can really state an average bonus. The raises lately have been in the 3-8% range. The bonuses go from nothing to $ 15,000, hours over our billable requirement of 1750 being the main factor. I don't think we have ever had anyone bill more than 1950. We also give associates 10% of any fees collected by the firm on business they bring into the firm whether they or other attorneys work on it.

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:38 pm

Flash wrote:
Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:On the first page, you mentioned that your firm has given out job offers to summer associates with "some small slippage in grades." How much of a factor is 2L grades for you? Would would constitute a "big drop?"



2L grades are still a significant factor, especially if the student took classes in our areas of practice. A big drop to me would be around 10% or more. There can always be reasons such a working a lot or other things we might take into account. But remember, in this market when we have so many applicants, it is easier for the firms to be very picky.

So if a 1L summer fit in well with the firm culture and had good work product, your firm would throw away the thousands of dollars invested in them because of a 15% drop in grades? That seems crazy to me.



It has never happened so I can't say for sure. But I would want to know why that kind of drop occurred. I might have concerns about dedication to studies which might translate to dedication to work. My general experience is that ranking rarely ever changes dramatically after the first semester. We did have on exception that we hired many years ago. According to one of her law professors, she had one of the biggest comebacks in school history after a dismissal 1st semester and ended up in the top 21%.

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quakeroats
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby quakeroats » Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:01 pm

Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
quakeroats wrote:How has grade-based hiring worked for you long term? Do you use grades because you don't see a ready alternative? Have they predicted success? If so, what kind of results do you get out of grads with high GPAs that you don't from those with lower GPAs?

Do you think a business-school banking model (grades are unimportant, hiring process lasts the better part of 6 months, employer observes the candidates in many situations including doing things that approximate actual work, etc.) would work better?


About 10 years ago we were less concerned about grades. Unfortunately, we noticed some of the summer associates and new attorneys did not have the writing and analytical skills we needed. That is not to say that some with higher grades did not have those problems too, but with a writing heavy practice like ours, we feel the odds for success are higher with the better grades. To be honest, many times I do not see much difference in people ranked in the top 5% as opposed to those in the top 25% but there are exceptions.

Well, assuming such a model was practical, it would probably yield better results. I believe practising law in a firm is still very much an apprentice process. The summer program allows you a glimpse of potential, but of course, grades drive the ability to get those jobs for the most part. A course that allowed students to spend time at some law firms might be an alternative, but you are getting into academic decisions which are way out of my area.


Does it bother you that you're trying to run a business and the only tools you have for hiring are proxies that have proven problematic in the past? To my mind, the only thing you can really take away from strong grades is an interest in the subject matter and perhaps dedication or an ability to figure out the best ways to get good grades. Since what's studied and tested in law school doesn't have much to do with the the work of a practicing attorney, why pay any attention? Picking the wrong people costs you money, why put up with it? While changing the system is a collective-action problem, you could still opt out of it. For example, a number of boutiques do their hiring only on the lateral market.

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:15 pm

Does it bother you that you're trying to run a business and the only tools you have for hiring are proxies that have proven problematic in the past? To my mind, the only thing you can really take away from strong grades is an interest in the subject matter and perhaps dedication or an ability to figure out the best ways to get good grades. Since what's studied and tested in law school doesn't have much to do with the the work of a practicing attorney, why pay any attention? Picking the wrong people costs you money, why put up with it? While changing the system is a collective-action problem, you could still opt out of it. For example, a number of boutiques do their hiring only on the lateral market.


Some philosophical stuff here but I'll bite because you make some good points. Let's use me as an example. I don't know how much time I spent looking at 152 cover letters and resumes this year, but at least several hours. I then had I think about 15 screening interviews I conducted and then by 2 to 3 of our associates. Then 3 CB interviews by 6 partners and 2 associates in pairs plus an exit interview by me. A lot of down time in the aggregate from a total business perspective. Our ultimate hire who accepted immediately, so end of that process. As far as grades go, we actually went lower than usual to someone in the top 25% because there was some many other things to like about that person. We will see. I think we had almost every 1L in the top 5% from one of our in town schools. We have had 3 great hires in the last several years from our SA program, both doing excellent work now as graduates, so great investments and they are operating beyond their years due to their summers with the firm. Another contrast is that we lost 2 associates last year to various causes (not firing or moving to another firm) and had to replace them. Hired 1, fired that one a couple months later, hired another and fired that one too a couple months later, also had a contract attorney at the firm that knocked everyone's socks off with attitude and dedication who ultimately got the job. So, laterals have not been good to us lately. Some come with bad habits or no training and you have to wonder sometimes while they are leaving. So a mixed bag all around.

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:47 pm

Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:On the first page, you mentioned that your firm has given out job offers to summer associates with "some small slippage in grades." How much of a factor is 2L grades for you? Would would constitute a "big drop?"



2L grades are still a significant factor, especially if the student took classes in our areas of practice. A big drop to me would be around 10% or more. There can always be reasons such a working a lot or other things we might take into account. But remember, in this market when we have so many applicants, it is easier for the firms to be very picky.

This is the OP that asked the original question.
I have always heard that big firms (Vault ranked) don't really take into account 2L grades when giving offers to 2L summer associates, but rather, they look at work product and fit.
Would you say that most small firms (as opposed to big firms) take into account 2L grades as a significant factor?

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:On the first page, you mentioned that your firm has given out job offers to summer associates with "some small slippage in grades." How much of a factor is 2L grades for you? Would would constitute a "big drop?"



2L grades are still a significant factor, especially if the student took classes in our areas of practice. A big drop to me would be around 10% or more. There can always be reasons such a working a lot or other things we might take into account. But remember, in this market when we have so many applicants, it is easier for the firms to be very picky.

This is the OP that asked the original question.
I have always heard that big firms (Vault ranked) don't really take into account 2L grades when giving offers to 2L summer associates, but rather, they look at work product and fit.
Would you say that most small firms (as opposed to big firms) take into account 2L grades as a significant factor?



I don't know if I can speak for all small firms, of course. In general, most smaller firms hire the 2nd semester of the 2L year so you get to see the most recent grades up front. As to slippage for employment after school, as I said above I think it is only an issue if there would be a big drop. It leads to questions. Even if it is an "issue" that does not mean there would be a no offer. It would lead to some questions at our place. The result may not change, but we would be a little careless not to ask. Again, we have never had that happen and some slippage would pretty much be ignored if the performance was good.

sebastian0622
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby sebastian0622 » Sat Feb 25, 2012 6:47 pm

If an associate has been at your firm for 3-4 years, what are his options for leaving if he doesn't like it? Where have your departures gone?

OnWisconsin
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby OnWisconsin » Sat Feb 25, 2012 7:00 pm

When you say small law firms start actively looking to take people on for the summer in late March/early April, does that mean they review mailings they have received during this period, or do they place postings on Simplicty/at career service offices?

I guess what I am asking is do I try to target these smaller firms now, or wait to see who's actually looking to hire?

I can't imagine firms appreciate being inundated with unsolicited requests for employment.

Thank you for taking time to answer all these questions, it's greatly appreciated

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:01 pm

sebastian0622 wrote:If an associate has been at your firm for 3-4 years, what are his options for leaving if he doesn't like it? Where have your departures gone?



Looking back over the last 10 years or so: 1 went to a big firm, 1 moved out of town due to family issues, 1 decided they would get out of private practice and go back to being an state appeals court clerk, 2 were fired, 2 others were encouraged to find other employment (1 ended up in a big firm another it a tiny general practice firm), 1 went in house with one of our clients and 1 had personal issues and left the practice of law to return to the practice with a solo practioner a couple of years later. I might be missing someone but I think that is it.

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:07 pm

OnWisconsin wrote:When you say small law firms start actively looking to take people on for the summer in late March/early April, does that mean they review mailings they have received during this period, or do they place postings on Simplicty/at career service offices?
I guess what I am asking is do I try to target these smaller firms now, or wait to see who's actually looking to hire?
I can't imagine firms appreciate being inundated with unsolicited requests for employment.
Thank you for taking time to answer all these questions, it's greatly appreciated



In my town, most small firms don't start looking until March and sometimes April. We started early in part because we needed some part time help. We always post for a month. This year ran from Jan 1 to Feb 7 (we extended it due to some complaints from 1Ls that grades were coming out late). Usually for us it is during the month of March. However, on occasion if we received a real interesting resume earlier we would interview them early. Many times when we find what we like, we stop the process and don't necessarily keep interviewing and make it a runoff. We are not NALP as you probably have guessed and most people to whom we offer jobs accept them when offered. I would like to think we found people who really wanted the things we could offer - but perhaps I am being a little naive. However, we have had some nice successes out of our summer hires.

OnWisconsin
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby OnWisconsin » Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:29 pm

Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
OnWisconsin wrote:When you say small law firms start actively looking to take people on for the summer in late March/early April, does that mean they review mailings they have received during this period, or do they place postings on Simplicty/at career service offices?
I guess what I am asking is do I try to target these smaller firms now, or wait to see who's actually looking to hire?
I can't imagine firms appreciate being inundated with unsolicited requests for employment.
Thank you for taking time to answer all these questions, it's greatly appreciated



In my town, most small firms don't start looking until March and sometimes April. We started early in part because we needed some part time help. We always post for a month. This year ran from Jan 1 to Feb 7 (we extended it due to some complaints from 1Ls that grades were coming out late). Usually for us it is during the month of March. However, on occasion if we received a real interesting resume earlier we would interview them early. Many times when we find what we like, we stop the process and don't necessarily keep interviewing and make it a runoff. We are not NALP as you probably have guessed and most people to whom we offer jobs accept them when offered. I would like to think we found people who really wanted the things we could offer - but perhaps I am being a little naive. However, we have had some nice successes out of our summer hires.


Thank you so much for taking the time to offer up your advice. Unfortunately, this is the exact type of information our (collective of all law students) career service offices are woefully devoid of.

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:48 pm

No problem. I know it is tough out there and many of the old processes and tactics need to be reconsidered. I was overwhelmed by the number of resumes this year though with Simplicity, it is relatively easy to apply for a posted position. I had help when I was interviewing way back when. My stepfather was a practising attorney as well and gave me some good insight into the choices and how firms operate. Having been on the executive committee of a large firm and running our small firm for the past 20 years gives me some ability to offer help in terms of suggestions. Many OCS offices don't get it in my opinion.
One person we did not hire sent a really good cover letter with the type of resume we like in too late, and I sent a personal reply email and offered to help them. The response was pretty eye opening. This person said hardly any "attorneys" reply to the person's emails or letters. It caused me to think that is a sad reflection on the profession and not really the way I want to be thought of by students. In part, that was why after stumbling on this site, I decided to stay on for a week or two and see what I could offer. While I am sure it is not fun getting a rejection letter from us, I do try to help candidates where I can that were doing all the right things and trying hard.

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:15 am

How much do your partners make? How soon do you get associates into the courtroom vs. big law firms in your area?

Sm Firm Hiring P
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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:43 am

Anonymous User wrote:How much do your partners make? How soon do you get associates into the courtroom vs. big law firms in your area?



I would rather not post partner numbers. Partners are paid on a formula system. The formula is based on the combination of 2 percentages. One applied to work you do and the other for the business you "originate" for the firm. So people who work more hours make more money and people who bring in business make more money. Obviously, the people who originate a lot of business do much better than those who don't, and the number can be much better than any senior associate or junior partner in a big firm. Of course, the leverage of a big firm allows those at the very top to make more money than can be made at our firm. We do have some partners who do not bring in much business and we have a few that bring in quite a bit. While all firms are not on the formula, the basic facts about compensation for work and origination are in play at all firms. We just don't like a "committee" making economic decisions and playing favorities. Our system is simple and transparent.

Our litigation associates get into court right away and are not suitcase carriers. I would think in most cases you will get into court with smaller firms faster. More, smaller cases that get to trial faster than mega discovery document battle cases.

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby quakeroats » Sun Feb 26, 2012 4:34 pm

What do associates do to get fired? Can you walk through the process of hiring an associate to firing them and what kind of things they do to merit dismissal?

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:26 pm

quakeroats wrote:What do associates do to get fired? Can you walk through the process of hiring an associate to firing them and what kind of things they do to merit dismissal?



Firing results from poor work and on occasion, laziness. Poor work usually means poor writing, failure to complete projects within expected time frames and turning in incomplete work. It is typical that these thing show up in the first 6 months or a year. Occasionally after that, the failure comes from lack of proper analytical ability. We expect what we call stupid associate mistakes, however, once they are made, we expect them not to happen again. People who summer with us have a leg up in this regard. Hiring is more complex. A mixture of need, ability, meld with firm culture, estimation of willingness to work hard but not be a gunner, desire for our type of firm and environment, etc. Hiring graduates and laterals is more tricky than students. It is harder to figure out whether they don't have a job or are leaving a job for a reason, or just made a bad fit choice. We have not had the best luck with laterals. Figuring out someone's writing ability is also problematic. It helps when they have either a proven track record at another firm, or if a student, list some professors including a writing professor, as references we can check with.

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby mkr5u » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:30 pm

This question does not really have much to do with employment numbers. I wanted to know how small firms look at leaves of absences on law school transcripts. The reason I ask this is because I am considering taking a medical leave of absence from school (I am a 1L), and I wanted to know how small firms typically view such an absence. I don't see myself working for a large firm ever, so your answer would be especially helpful.

Thanks!

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:39 pm

Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
quakeroats wrote:What do associates do to get fired? Can you walk through the process of hiring an associate to firing them and what kind of things they do to merit dismissal?



Firing results from poor work and on occasion, laziness. Poor work usually means poor writing, failure to complete projects within expected time frames and turning in incomplete work. It is typical that these thing show up in the first 6 months or a year. Occasionally after that, the failure comes from lack of proper analytical ability. We expect what we call stupid associate mistakes, however, once they are made, we expect them not to happen again. People who summer with us have a leg up in this regard. Hiring is more complex. A mixture of need, ability, meld with firm culture, estimation of willingness to work hard but not be a gunner, desire for our type of firm and environment, etc. Hiring graduates and laterals is more tricky than students. It is harder to figure out whether they don't have a job or are leaving a job for a reason, or just made a bad fit choice. We have not had the best luck with laterals. Figuring out someone's writing ability is also problematic. It helps when they have either a proven track record at another firm, or if a student, list some professors including a writing professor, as references we can check with.



If a applicant has a low grade in the first semester of a writing class is that an instant ding? Is it really that unlikely for a 1L to make a comeback in their second semester from what you've seen from applicants?

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:46 pm

mkr5u wrote:This question does not really have much to do with employment numbers. I wanted to know how small firms look at leaves of absences on law school transcripts. The reason I ask this is because I am considering taking a medical leave of absence from school (I am a 1L), and I wanted to know how small firms typically view such an absence. I don't see myself working for a large firm ever, so your answer would be especially helpful.

Thanks!


I obviously can't speak for some others, but I would think this would not be a big deal if there was a good reason and you were back in school thereafter doing well. The smaller firms are much more likely not to think this is a big deal if adequately explained.

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
quakeroats wrote:What do associates do to get fired? Can you walk through the process of hiring an associate to firing them and what kind of things they do to merit dismissal?



Firing results from poor work and on occasion, laziness. Poor work usually means poor writing, failure to complete projects within expected time frames and turning in incomplete work. It is typical that these thing show up in the first 6 months or a year. Occasionally after that, the failure comes from lack of proper analytical ability. We expect what we call stupid associate mistakes, however, once they are made, we expect them not to happen again. People who summer with us have a leg up in this regard. Hiring is more complex. A mixture of need, ability, meld with firm culture, estimation of willingness to work hard but not be a gunner, desire for our type of firm and environment, etc. Hiring graduates and laterals is more tricky than students. It is harder to figure out whether they don't have a job or are leaving a job for a reason, or just made a bad fit choice. We have not had the best luck with laterals. Figuring out someone's writing ability is also problematic. It helps when they have either a proven track record at another firm, or if a student, list some professors including a writing professor, as references we can check with.



If a applicant has a low grade in the first semester of a writing class is that an instant ding? Is it really that unlikely for a 1L to make a comeback in their second semester from what you've seen from applicants?


I certainly can be an issue. We had a similar issue this year. Everything was great except the grade in writing was the worst of all the persons grades - not bad, but was a concern. We spoke with the writing professor who gave an a pretty good rec and it was not until we spoke with a couple other professors with whom the person obtained an A and heard what we wanted to hear about writing and analytical ability, that we became reasonably comfortable. There were other things on the resume and other references that lead us to believe it was not indicative of writing ability. The person was a 1L and who we ultimately hired this summer. We have seen comebacks (I think I wrote about this somewhere above).

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby DocHawkeye » Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:11 pm

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I am interested in practicing in a small firm and this thread is of particular interest to me. I am currently a 1L and am wondering how much a A in legal writing and/or prizes (such as best memo or best brief in the 1L class) balance a single slightly below median grade in a substantive course (a C+ in torts for example)? Also how much do you consider the need for writing in an applicant's prior career? For example, I was a community college instructor in music before law school and wrote fairly extensively - conference papers, program notes, and the like.

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:02 pm

DocHawkeye wrote:Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I am interested in practicing in a small firm and this thread is of particular interest to me. I am currently a 1L and am wondering how much a A in legal writing and/or prizes (such as best memo or best brief in the 1L class) balance a single slightly below median grade in a substantive course (a C+ in torts for example)? Also how much do you consider the need for writing in an applicant's prior career? For example, I was a community college instructor in music before law school and wrote fairly extensively - conference papers, program notes, and the like.


I might depend somewhat on the small firm. Our firm handles fairly sophisticated business transactions and commercial litigation, so writing is especially important to us. Not the only thing, but a good writing grade is a big plus. Obviously, given our practice areas, torts is not real important. I look for undergraduate business majors, english majors and journalism majors as a plus and preferable over political science. Again, we are a business firm so those things are attractive. As I mentioned above, the number one reason associates fail at our firm is poor writing despite our efforts to identify candidates who we think will be able to write well in private practice.

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby quakeroats » Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:55 pm

Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
DocHawkeye wrote:Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I am interested in practicing in a small firm and this thread is of particular interest to me. I am currently a 1L and am wondering how much a A in legal writing and/or prizes (such as best memo or best brief in the 1L class) balance a single slightly below median grade in a substantive course (a C+ in torts for example)? Also how much do you consider the need for writing in an applicant's prior career? For example, I was a community college instructor in music before law school and wrote fairly extensively - conference papers, program notes, and the like.


I might depend somewhat on the small firm. Our firm handles fairly sophisticated business transactions and commercial litigation, so writing is especially important to us. Not the only thing, but a good writing grade is a big plus. Obviously, given our practice areas, torts is not real important. I look for undergraduate business majors, english majors and journalism majors as a plus and preferable over political science. Again, we are a business firm so those things are attractive. As I mentioned above, the number one reason associates fail at our firm is poor writing despite our efforts to identify candidates who we think will be able to write well in private practice.


Can you go into (or give an example of) what you mean by poor writing?

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Re: Small Firm Hiring Partner Here For Any Questions.

Postby Sm Firm Hiring P » Sun Feb 26, 2012 10:05 pm

quakeroats wrote:
Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:
DocHawkeye wrote:Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I am interested in practicing in a small firm and this thread is of particular interest to me. I am currently a 1L and am wondering how much a A in legal writing and/or prizes (such as best memo or best brief in the 1L class) balance a single slightly below median grade in a substantive course (a C+ in torts for example)? Also how much do you consider the need for writing in an applicant's prior career? For example, I was a community college instructor in music before law school and wrote fairly extensively - conference papers, program notes, and the like.


I might depend somewhat on the small firm. Our firm handles fairly sophisticated business transactions and commercial litigation, so writing is especially important to us. Not the only thing, but a good writing grade is a big plus. Obviously, given our practice areas, torts is not real important. I look for undergraduate business majors, english majors and journalism majors as a plus and preferable over political science. Again, we are a business firm so those things are attractive. As I mentioned above, the number one reason associates fail at our firm is poor writing despite our efforts to identify candidates who we think will be able to write well in private practice.


Inability to concisely write a document, memo or pleading in a form that is unambiguous. If it is a legal agreement, knowing what representations and warranties, covenants and agreements, default provisions, special agreements and miscellaneous clauses are necessary and understanding what they mean. Using defined terms effectively. In a memo, making it direct and to the point with answer and any collateral issues easily understood. In a pleading, allegations that are clear and sequential so you lay it out in a manner a busy judge can understand. Almost like writing a story that you can easily follow and get the reader to understand what you are saying and why. It takes a lot of work even with the best new associates. I tell our new hires I expect to hand them a blank legal pad (I know it is the computer age, but they understand) in 2 years and have them draft a letter agreement from scratch without the use of templates or examples, in near perfect form in less than an hour. My mentor told me that when I was starting out and I did not believe him. But after much pain in learning and having lots of red on my drafts, I was in fact, able to do it.




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