I am a guy who got no offered back in summer 2012, and I wanted to write somewhat about my experience in not getting an offer from my SA firm. I considered posting this under my username, but this gets a little too personal, so I decided against it. Suffice it to say I am a TLS regular with over 5000 posts. You have probably read my posts before. If you think you know who this is, please keep it to yourself.
I wanted to write this guide because there is so much emphasis here on TLS about “just get that SA and then you’re golden.” Maybe that’s the case if you’re working at big NYC firms that tend to make offers to everyone every year, but that was not my experience. This is not a guide to how to get an offer or one of those threads where people share funny stupid SA stories. This is a guide about about how to deal with getting no offered or what to do after. People who do post about getting no offered tend to get inundated with “what did you do wrong bro” and “out that TTT firm,” as people want to convince themselves it can’t or won’t happen to them. But it can happen. Hell, I know at least two people who split their summer and got no offered from two firms. When so many people get offers from their summer firm and you don’t you will feel left out and alone. But you’re not. No offer rates were at 90% at NALP firms my year. ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I know I felt at a loss when I did not get an offer from my summer firm, but I secured a job before I graduated and god willing I will pass the bar. I don’t know whether this experience made me a “stronger person” but I thought I’d share anyway. Not getting an offer and looking for a job as a 3L was a miserable experience.
This isn’t gonna be a guide to pat you on the back and tell you it’s all gonna be okay. I’m not gonna blow smoke up your ass and tell you that. It may not be okay. A no offer can majorly fuck you. But hopefully this may be of some help to you.
1. Getting the bad news
You will know you are getting no offered when you get the news that the firm is “unable to make you an offer.” This is the language that often gets used, as if the decision was totally out of the firm’s hands and not a decision the firm actively made about you. It’s some doublespeak horseshit. Let’s call a spade a spade; you just got no offered.
You may be called on the phone by the hiring partner. Now that is a shitty conversation because you’re probably going to be feeling a lot of anger and sadness when talking to someone who has always acted so happy towards you, has been so concerned about whether you’ve been having a good summer, was so excited when accepted your SA offer, etc. No way around it, this sucks. Keep the call short. You don’t want to talk to this person any more than you have to at this point. You can always call back.
You may get an email with the news saying to “call if you wish to discuss.” Don’t call until you feel you can talk to this person without wanting to scream at them for assfucking you. You can call later. They’re not going anywhere.
They may tell you in person. I only have heard stories about this so I can’t comment on this much.
Maybe you knew this call was coming. Maybe you didn’t. The point is now you’re here. You have been no offered
2. What to do when you get the call
If you are anything like me, you’re gonna feel pretty pissed, like you’re been stabbed in the back. This feeling is totally understandable. The firm probably told you garbage like “just don’t screw up and you’ll get an offer!” or “we have space for all of you!” You’re probably gonna feel pretty left out, as you’ve probably been hearing about your friends getting offers, and you didn’t, both at your firm and others.
There will be plenty of time to agonize about this, so feel free to give yourself a chance to mourn. Want to get drunk? Get drunk. I don’t suggest getting drunk with any of those happy fucks who got offers. Drink alone and talk to the bartender or with similarly situated people. Or play golf. Or go for a hike by yourself. Hang out with non law school friends. Do what you need to do to get away. Eventually you’re gonna want to get back on the horse. But now is not that time.
3. Figuring out why
Eventually, you’re going to want to figure out why you didn’t get an offer. This is important for a few reasons. First, you need closure on the experience, and to enable yourself to move forward you don’t want to keep wondering as to why. Second, you need something to tell to employers when they ask (and they might) about why you didn’t get an offer from your summer firm. Lastly, if/when you do get another job you need to know how not to make those mistakes (if you did make mistakes).
So you owe it to yourself to ask. Talking to the hiring partner from your firm, as distasteful as that may be for you, it is not a bad idea. It’s their job to tell you what happened. Sometimes they will tell you the reason and you already knew why. Maybe you fucked up a project or you just rubbed someone the wrong way who was in a decision-making position.
However, keep in mind that the hiring partner is not your friend, that he is looking out for you, and that he has his own interests to take care of. Do NOT blindly adopt what they say as truth. For your own mental health and to get in the mindset to talk to employers. Think critically and if you can, call someone else at the firm you can TRUST to talk about it, too. There may be another supplemental or ancillary reason they are keeping from you. This means you may never get a straight answer. Yeah that sucks, but you gotta ask.
Example. A friend called the hiring partner who told him a reason why he didn’t get an offer. He didn’t think the reason made a lot of sense. So he called up someone he trusted at the firm who basically said that every year the firm lies to summers and says they have room for all of them, when it’s not true. This trusted person said that the reason the hiring partner told him may or may not have been true, and told him it may also have come down to working in a less busy area, and the school he went to. I don’t think he ever figured out what really went down.
Another example. A friend of mine got no offered for I think it was “work product.” But after that went down, he found out that no offers were rampant in the city and a few too many people seemed to be leaving his old firm. He started hearing rumors about financial trouble. So while work product may have been a part of it, there may have been another monetary reason. He never really figured out why, either. Maybe it was a little of both. But it doesn’t take a genius to see why the firm might not have wanted to tell him “we are not doing so hot” right before OCI. In subsequent interviews, he was able to say with a straight face, “It was budgetary.”
Another example. A friend of mine got no offered because the hiring partner said he did not show as much “potential” as the others. What does that even mean? That sounds like complete shit.
Again, let me stress that you need to ask, but don’t just accept what they say as gospel, because they’re looking out for the firm, not you. My favorite part of my own call was when the hiring partner told me, “I know this probably won’t help, but everybody really liked you.” Lol, just lol. Of course that’s not helpful.
4. Dealing with the outside world
You’re probably gonna be feeling pretty shitty right now. While your friends have offers and are busy trying to decide what trendy area of Yuppieville they want to live in, you are wondering how you will eat or whether your parents will let you live in your old bedroom. People with offers are partying hard because they are stoked. You are partying hard because you have lost all hope or you are just drinking because you are sad. You look for jobs and you get rejection after rejection.
My advice: Do whatever you gotta do to maintain sanity
In my case that was basically avoiding everyone who had a job, which was a lot of my friends. Not because they weren’t trying to be supportive, they just didn’t really “get it,” the situation of being no offered. They didn’t know how to help, and many did not realize how lucky they were. “Did you apply for clerkships?” Yeah that’s not advice, that’s shit. “This experience will only make you stronger!” You have no idea what you’re talking about so shut your damn mouth. "I really hate the person who is going to be my office mate next year at biglaw!" I hope you rupture your appendix. Getting offers from their firms meant that they were totally insulated from the daily struggle of trying do 3L job search while trying not to fling myself off a bridge.
I hung out almost exclusively with non law people and people without jobs. Some of the people without jobs were in a tough place, drinking heavily and doing drugs to cope. But they were all way more supportive than 3Ls with jobs who had no fucking clue what was going on. My non law school friends were cool as well, including my non law school girlfriend. They were all pretty supportive, but by the end I think I was beginning to grate on them because I was depressing all the time.
One final note: I worked in the same city as my firm and used to see people from the firm around all the time. This REALLY sucked. Often I would try to avoid them. Sometimes they would recognize me and say nothing because they were embarrassed I guess or didn’t have anything to say. It was always very unpleasant seeing these people around because they were a constant reminder of something I was trying to move past. At first I talked to a couple of associates when I saw them, people I was friends with at work, and it didn’t make me feel any better. So I quit that. No point. Don’t do it for “networking” if afterward you feel like shit.
5. Dealing with it yourself
After I didn’t get an offer, my confidence was pretty shattered. I had a good experience (so I thought) at my SA and it was a shock when I didn’t get an offer. I worked really hard 1L year to get good grades, then really hard at OCI to get that offer, and I tried my best to do a good job at work. So when I didn’t get the job it basically just fucked my confidence. For months I would literally think about not having a job from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep; it constantly occupied my thoughts and impaired some of my relationships as a result. Most days I alternated between wanting to break someone’s jaw all the way down to just breaking down and sleeping all day.
This goes without saying, but try not to go down the substance abuse path. Yeah, sometimes if feels really good to have a few drinks in the afternoon so the anxiety will go away, or to go to class drunk, but now is not the time to be developing a substance abuse problem. Some people I knew without jobs were self-medicating with drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and mood-altering pharmaceuticals.
If you can, talk to a counselor. Your state bar will probably have some free ones that specialize in lawyers and law students. You’re not weird if you do this. You’d be surprised at how many of your classmates go on the sneak. I went through that whole 5 stages of grief thing and counseling was very helpful to deal with some of those feelings. It was nice to be able to go in and just vent to someone else. By March (8 months later) I think I finally reached the acceptance stage (which was before I actually did get a job), though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still harbor ill will today about what happened.
Just remember. You’re not an idiot or worthless; make a list of what you are good at. Seriously. Life will not end if you don’t get another big firm job (I didn’t), and it won’t end if you never get a legal job. Law school does its best to convince you that it’s the be all end all, and the grades/journal/OCI rat race can make it easy to measure your worth by those accomplishments. Don’t. It’s shit. Law is not some “calling” where it would be the only thing you’d be happy doing. If you honestly think that, you have some problems. Law is something you want to do because you think you’d be decent at it and because you can make a little money to do what ACTUALLY makes you happy. There is plenty of stuff you’d be happy and good at doing, career-wise, whether you realize that or not, and working as a lawyer or not working as a lawyer doesn’t have to define who you are. It’s easy to let it though – don’t.
6. Getting another job
I assume if you’re reading this you’re unwilling to starve on the street, so you’re gonna have to get another job. I’ll be frank with you, this process fucking sucks. Be prepared for a lot of rejection. There’s a reason why the thread is called the Vale of Tears.
On the plus side, your firm experience is valuable to firms. Firms want to hire people who want to work at firms. The downside is coming up with a good story to explain not getting an offer. This will be highly specific to each person, but the best answer will explain quickly why you didn’t get an offer without dwelling on it, and then stress why you want the job you’re interviewing for. Be really upbeat in interviews, say you had a good experience (even if you think it was shit, you probably learned something), and even if you are bitter, don’t look like you are. Above all, confidence.
Ex. “I did not receive an offer from my summer firm. My summer firm has a track record of not giving offers to everyone every summer, especially in this economy, this summer was no different. That said, I had a positive experience; I learned [XYZ]. I am especially attracted to working at your firm because of its strong specialty in [XYZ] and because [other reasons you want the firm].”
If you’re lucky, your interviewer may not ask. In 5 interviews, I think I was only asked once. I had an offer from state govt., and they didn’t ask. I just kept saying I really wanted to work in government. The firm I got an offer from did not ask either. I had relevant experience, an in at the firm, and I was interviewing back home, which I hit on HARD. I wasn’t even sure that my current firm knew what my summer firm was. YMMV if you worked at some massive Vault firm though.
If you can, get someone who can speak on your behalf from your old firm. Someone who can speak to the quality of your work. Be VERY careful with this. I remember reading at least one story in the Vale where a hiring partner told a person he would give a favorable recommendation, then later gave a less than favorable one. A friend of mine had a similar experience. Make sure it’s someone you can trust. Try to do a legal internship or something during that fall if you need another good reference.
If you CSO wasn’t helpful before, they are unlikely to be helpful now. CSO wasn’t that helpful for me personally. My CSO person was really nice, fairly knowledgeable, and a good person to bitch to/at, so I appreciated that.
Radlulz posted a good summary of the 3L job search in the Vale thread (check the OP). I’d like to add some caveats and gloss.
rad lulz wrote:There is no 3L hiring "season."
This is pretty much true. Obviously federal clerkships have the Plan (sort of), 3L OCI happens, and BigFed sometimes hires in the fall (all 12 of you lucky enough to get bigfed jobs). But I saw as many firms postings throughout the year as during 3L OCI. And state government is incredibly variable. People get all sorts of jobs during the year, while they study for the bar, and after they pass the bar. There isn’t really a season.
The list below did not mention clerkships. Those will be an option for you if you have the grades. If you are like me and had grades to get a firm job but not top 10% or whatever, clerkships (at least federal) probably won’t happen, especially because those are getting more competitive. Something to think about at least.
3L job search possibilities look like this
1) 3L OCI - HAHAURFUCKED
Pretty much. 3L OCI is small and mainly for people who want to trade up. They’re not really looking for no offered people. But you should participate. Do you have anything better to do? It’ll probably take at most one or two afternoons because hardly anyone shows up.
2) Mass mail - low return for even the minimal amount of time it takes to research/mail merge due to the fact that the firms you mail must want to hire and want to hire AT THE TIME you mail and often they are looking to fill a specific practice need
Pretty much. I heard a couple people who got offers from mass mails, including a guy who got no offered from my firm with me. And yes, 3L job postings tend to want someone for a specific practice area, not just a body. Yet another thing that sucks about the 3L search.
3) Networking - hope you got on that sometime over the past few years
The best relationships are the ones you’ve been nurturing for a while. If you haven’t started, get on it, but you’re behind the ball. This stuff you hear about “unadvertised positions” isn’t bullshit.
4) Symplicity - low response rate but better than mass mailing because those firms are ACTUALLY hiring when you submit your resume.
Agree with this. Add the Govt. Guide and state bar websites. Same idea. Again, postings tend to be specific.
5) Whatever your CSO can scrounge up for you - probably nothing
Nothing to add really
6) Small firm or govt you clerk/intern for during the year - decent option if you can do this; those places may want to hire you or know people who will
I saw these types of arrangements work out for quite a few people, including no offered people. No personal experience however.
Just for reference I included a list of the people I know who got no offered and where they ended up. To preserve anonymity, the lists are ordered by frequency of input and outcome, not by person.
Where people worked
8 – “regional biglaw” firm(s) (anything non-NYC/DC/LA/SF/SV/Chi/Tex)
4 – major market “biglaw” firm(s)
1 – “midlaw” firm(s)
1 – small firm(s)
Where people ended up
4 – unemployed as of this writing
2 – boutique firm
2 – firm they worked at the other half (split summer and got an offer from just one)
1 – “regional biglaw” firm
1 – major market “biglaw” firm
1 – AIII clerk
1 – State appellate clerk
1 – big 3 tax LLM
1 – contract attorney at same firm
7. Good luck
Good luck. I’ll take some Qs in this thread I guess. 3L year was miserable for me, and it may be for you, but I hope it’s not. Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself.