UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

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bearsfan23
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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby bearsfan23 » Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:06 pm

2014 wrote:Yes wait until you have all your grades and then send ASAP. No benefit to waiting till end of July imo.


If we're waiting to hear back on journal selections would it make sense to wait for that or is getting apps out ASAP after grades more important?

Side note, when are journal selections usually made? The write on instructions said by the end of July but I was wondering what it has been in past years. Tia

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:07 pm

bearsfan23 wrote:
2014 wrote:Yes wait until you have all your grades and then send ASAP. No benefit to waiting till end of July imo.


If we're waiting to hear back on journal selections would it make sense to wait for that or is getting apps out ASAP after grades more important?

Side note, when are journal selections usually made? The write on instructions said by the end of July but I was wondering what it has been in past years. Tia


Depends when grades are in. Last year it was like July 20? Submit now, and update if you make it.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Neal Patrick Harris » Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:24 pm

bearsfan23 wrote:
2014 wrote:Yes wait until you have all your grades and then send ASAP. No benefit to waiting till end of July imo.


If we're waiting to hear back on journal selections would it make sense to wait for that or is getting apps out ASAP after grades more important?

Side note, when are journal selections usually made? The write on instructions said by the end of July but I was wondering what it has been in past years. Tia


Get the apps out and then update if you made it. Gives you another reason to put yourself on their radar.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Neal Patrick Harris » Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:At the risk of having the TLS wolves unleashed on me, I'd like to ask about culture. I like to be friendly and socialize with my co-workers, but I am definitely on the more introverted side. As such, I would like to avoid any "work hard, play hard", fratty environments. Are there any firms that have this reputation that I should know about? Or does it basically come down to which practice group you are assigned to, and firms will offer a variety of cultures that way? How do I ask about this delicately without looking like a douche or a hermit?


Disagree that firm cultures don't exist.

In fact, if you're a certain personality, I'm willing to say you have a better shot of getting a callback if you apply to a firm that has that personality (albeit marginally). I think the best way to figure this out is to meet with people at different firms and see who you like the most. Obviously you could get an outlier and it would be better to go to a firm reception, but this is a credited way to go about it. It'll also vary by practice area (some are more nerdy, some are more fratty).

Blahblahblah stereotyping is bad, can be incorrect, etc but I think it's helpful to distinguish between what seem like identical firms.

There are also threads on TLS on the subject.

Unfortunately I don't have time tonight to go through Vault and lay out the culture of every firm I know, but feel free to ask questions about firms you're thinking about (or PM me your bidlist) and I'll answer another time.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:12 pm

Neal Patrick Harris wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:At the risk of having the TLS wolves unleashed on me, I'd like to ask about culture. I like to be friendly and socialize with my co-workers, but I am definitely on the more introverted side. As such, I would like to avoid any "work hard, play hard", fratty environments. Are there any firms that have this reputation that I should know about? Or does it basically come down to which practice group you are assigned to, and firms will offer a variety of cultures that way? How do I ask about this delicately without looking like a douche or a hermit?


Disagree that firm cultures don't exist.

In fact, if you're a certain personality, I'm willing to say you have a better shot of getting a callback if you apply to a firm that has that personality (albeit marginally). I think the best way to figure this out is to meet with people at different firms and see who you like the most. Obviously you could get an outlier and it would be better to go to a firm reception, but this is a credited way to go about it. It'll also vary by practice area (some are more nerdy, some are more fratty).

Blahblahblah stereotyping is bad but I think it's helpful to distinguish between what seem like identical firms.

There are also threads on TLS on the subject.

Unfortunately I don't have time tonight to go through Vault and lay out the culture of every firm I know, but feel free to ask questions about firms you're thinking about (or PM me your bidlist) and I'll answer another time.


Reasonable people can disagree about this, but I find it difficult to say that X firm is "fratty." Skadden has, what, 1000+ lawyers? At my Skadden chicago callback, the hiring partner was a mother of 3 from highland park. Unless you think pinic-ing at Ravinnia is fratty, I don't see it. Choosing a firm because you liked/hated the 4-8 people you met there is borderline insane: they represent between 1-2% of the averaged sized biglaw firm. Also, remember that "culture" will vary dramatically office to office and practice by practice. I promise you that Arnold and Porter's SF based litigators (who were absorbed from a legacy SF firm) are extremely different than their NYC based corporate attorneys (who are mostly laterals from traditional NYC firms). So you can't really characterize an entire biglaw firm's culture.

The problem is that people don't have much to go on, so they lean on the main experience they do get -- and that's the people they meet at callbacks. This is understandable, but unfortunate: even at a firm where you met awesome people, you can end up working for a tyrannical partner. And even at a firm where the 5 people you met on a callback sucked, you will find friends. Luckily, I think there are better ways to actually talk about firm "culture" which you can compare across firms.

Client base: does your firm work for banks or start ups? Energy companies or med tech? This is an ascertainable differentiating factor between firms that can help you figure out where you'll fit best. Clients are the people you will talk to (as a midlevel and beyond), so its probably best to work at a firm whose clients are people you want to talk to. If you like finance and the type of people who work for banks, go to a firm that reps them. If you like working with founders of start ups, go a firm that reps them. I don't know what it means to say that Latham is fratty and paul weiss is nerdy; I do know what it means to say that Latham tends to rep F500's and underwriters while Paul Weiss reps Apollo. These are different types of clients and will create different cultures at the firms that service them.

Also think about the firm's relationship with its clients -- does it have a 50 year history with companies (Cravath/S&C/etc.) or is it finding new clients regularly (Boies/Quinn/SV firms/etc)? There is a big difference in the client relationships in these cases and, in turn, the type of client exposure you'll get.

Work: What type of work does the firm do for its clients? Both Debevoise and STB rep KKR. But it would be a huge mistake to think they're doing the same work (Deb does fund formation, STB does transactional). Its a big difference whether a firm tends to rep underwriters or issuers (cap markets)/sponsors (project development). It's a big difference whether a firm does mostly investment grade cap markets work or mostly high yield work. It's a big difference if the firm reps activist funds or target companies. Does the firm do a high volume of commoditized work (Cahill and underwriter side high yield work/Cadwalader and MBS deals/Kirkland Chicago and mid-market PE M&A/all start up work) or are they more known for innovative deal structures/novel litigation (V5, W&C, etc.) These are, again, real, ascertainable differences that can help you figure what firms will be best.

Leverage ratio: This is a great measure, because it gives you clear evidence about how matters are staffed. Every firm "staffs leanly" -- it's all bullshit -- but what's the firm's leverage ratio between partners and associates? If it's a high ratio, understand what that means. What's the associate retention rate? A low ratio can be good, because people like the idea of a 1-1 ratio culture and less hierarchical structure, but remember that firms make tons of money of associates so a low ratio could indicate that the firm's not very profitable, which sucks if it means you get laid off (Irell is a good example of a firm with supposedly "good culture" and low leverage that has had tough financials for a couple of years now). You want your firm to be profitable, but not if its at the expense of you meeting and learning from partners (ie, Cahill, which has a high leverage ratio).

Partnership compensation structure: I think this is perhaps the most important way to distinguish between otherwise similar firms. Are partners compensated on a lock-step model (Cleary, Debevoise, Davis Polk, etc.), an eat-what-you-kill model (DLA Piper, Wilson Sonsini, Kirkland, Boies etc.), or somewhere in the middle (S&C, Milbank, etc.)? This affects the way partners interact with each other, the way they approach business, and how they handle work. All of those things "trickle down" to associates and affect culture in a big way. The more a firm is lockstep, the more likely to see partner collaboration in a free and open way (no one gets more credit for business origination on their own matters). In an eat what you kill system, expect to see more entrepreneurial partners who go out and get new clients (this can be exciting and dynamic for an associate working with them). There's no right answer, but this is a major difference that creates varied firm cultures. And remember that certain partner comp models are unsustainable (Dewey) and create toxic cultures. Best to avoid those firms.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Neal Patrick Harris » Wed Jul 02, 2014 12:08 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Neal Patrick Harris wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:At the risk of having the TLS wolves unleashed on me, I'd like to ask about culture. I like to be friendly and socialize with my co-workers, but I am definitely on the more introverted side. As such, I would like to avoid any "work hard, play hard", fratty environments. Are there any firms that have this reputation that I should know about? Or does it basically come down to which practice group you are assigned to, and firms will offer a variety of cultures that way? How do I ask about this delicately without looking like a douche or a hermit?


Disagree that firm cultures don't exist.

In fact, if you're a certain personality, I'm willing to say you have a better shot of getting a callback if you apply to a firm that has that personality (albeit marginally). I think the best way to figure this out is to meet with people at different firms and see who you like the most. Obviously you could get an outlier and it would be better to go to a firm reception, but this is a credited way to go about it. It'll also vary by practice area (some are more nerdy, some are more fratty).

Blahblahblah stereotyping is bad but I think it's helpful to distinguish between what seem like identical firms.

There are also threads on TLS on the subject.

Unfortunately I don't have time tonight to go through Vault and lay out the culture of every firm I know, but feel free to ask questions about firms you're thinking about (or PM me your bidlist) and I'll answer another time.


Reasonable people can disagree about this, but I find it difficult to say that X firm is "fratty." Skadden has, what, 1000+ lawyers? At my Skadden chicago callback, the hiring partner was a mother of 3 from highland park. Unless you think pinic-ing at Ravinnia is fratty, I don't see it. Choosing a firm because you liked/hated the 4-8 people you met there is borderline insane: they represent between 1-2% of the averaged sized biglaw firm. Also, remember that "culture" will vary dramatically office to office and practice by practice. I promise you that Arnold and Porter's SF based litigators (who were absorbed from a legacy SF firm) are extremely different than their NYC based corporate attorneys (who are mostly laterals from traditional NYC firms). So you can't really characterize an entire biglaw firm's culture.

The problem is that people don't have much to go on, so they lean on the main experience they do get -- and that's the people they meet at callbacks. This is understandable, but unfortunate: even at a firm where you met awesome people, you can end up working for a tyrannical partner. And even at a firm where the 5 people you met on a callback sucked, you will find friends. Luckily, I think there are better ways to actually talk about firm "culture" which you can compare across firms.

Client base: does your firm work for banks or start ups? Energy companies or med tech? This is an ascertainable differentiating factor between firms that can help you figure out where you'll fit best. Clients are the people you will talk to (as a midlevel and beyond), so its probably best to work at a firm whose clients are people you want to talk to. If you like finance and the type of people who work for banks, go to a firm that reps them. If you like working with founders of start ups, go a firm that reps them. I don't know what it means to say that Latham is fratty and paul weiss is nerdy; I do know what it means to say that Latham tends to rep F500's and underwriters while Paul Weiss reps Apollo. These are different types of clients and will create different cultures at the firms that service them.

Also think about the firm's relationship with its clients -- does it have a 50 year history with companies (Cravath/S&C/etc.) or is it finding new clients regularly (Boies/Quinn/SV firms/etc)? There is a big difference in the client relationships in these cases and, in turn, the type of client exposure you'll get.

Work: What type of work does the firm do for its clients? Both Debevoise and STB rep KKR. But it would be a huge mistake to think they're doing the same work (Deb does fund formation, STB does transactional). Its a big difference whether a firm tends to rep underwriters or issuers (cap markets)/sponsors (project development). It's a big difference whether a firm does mostly investment grade cap markets work or mostly high yield work. It's a big difference if the firm reps activist funds or target companies. Does the firm do a high volume of commoditized work (Cahill and underwriter side high yield work/Cadwalader and MBS deals/Kirkland Chicago and mid-market PE M&A/all start up work) or are they more known for innovative deal structures/novel litigation (V5, W&C, etc.) These are, again, real, ascertainable differences that can help you figure what firms will be best.

Leverage ratio: This is a great measure, because it gives you clear evidence about how matters are staffed. Every firm "staffs leanly" -- it's all bullshit -- but what's the firm's leverage ratio between partners and associates? If it's a high ratio, understand what that means. What's the associate retention rate? A low ratio can be good, because people like the idea of a 1-1 ratio culture and less hierarchical structure, but remember that firms make tons of money of associates so a low ratio could indicate that the firm's not very profitable, which sucks if it means you get laid off (Irell is a good example of a firm with supposedly "good culture" and low leverage that has had tough financials for a couple of years now). You want your firm to be profitable, but not if its at the expense of you meeting and learning from partners (ie, Cahill, which has a high leverage ratio).

Partnership compensation structure: I think this is perhaps the most important way to distinguish between otherwise similar firms. Are partners compensated on a lock-step model (Cleary, Debevoise, Davis Polk, etc.), an eat-what-you-kill model (DLA Piper, Wilson Sonsini, Kirkland, Boies etc.), or somewhere in the middle (S&C, Milbank, etc.)? This affects the way partners interact with each other, the way they approach business, and how they handle work. All of those things "trickle down" to associates and affect culture in a big way. The more a firm is lockstep, the more likely to see partner collaboration in a free and open way (no one gets more credit for business origination on their own matters). In an eat what you kill system, expect to see more entrepreneurial partners who go out and get new clients (this can be exciting and dynamic for an associate working with them). There's no right answer, but this is a major difference that creates varied firm cultures. And remember that certain partner comp models are unsustainable (Dewey) and create toxic cultures. Best to avoid those firms.



Nerdy/Fratty is an oversimplistic metric of culture--but it's an easy way to distinguish between polar opposites and it's at least generally accurate for at least some firms (Would you ever call Latham nerdy? Would you ever call Debevoise fratty?). Since we mostly agree (though not necessarily on your characterization of some firms, I like and used everything you mentioned to distinguish firms) and you admit that culture is a thing, I'm going to try to be constructive here.

I'd add location as another metric (your Skadden example applies to this one).
Practice area (I guess this goes with what you called "work" but relationships with clients can vary by practice area and isn't necessarily firmwide of course)
The bullshit-o-meter that goes off when hearing some firms culture speeches ("everyone here is nice to one another").
Firms citing specific examples as evidence for their culture (how things are staffed, social functions, institutional ways of doing things, doors open/closed, etc)
Associates telling you what it's like working there and giving examples--though be careful of outliers here (I have lots of friends at work and we hang out on the weekends vs. I go home and my work friends stay at work)
Work distribution (free market vs. assigned)
Facetime policy
How people act in a callback (do they know the names of people they walk by in the halls?)
Diversity Programs/Attention
Your interviewer (these are generally the best-of-the-best smiling faces at the firm. if they suck, it may make sense to proceed with caution)
Your callback interviewer talking down on other firms you're interviewing with (giving reasons&examples of why your firm is better at something is different, I'm talking about the "well some of those firms you mentioned aren't at the [firm name] level" type of talking down).

I'm sure there's more. But meeting people at a firm (or better yet, meeting lots of people at a reception) is a pretty good way to ask questions and get answers that statistics and "types of clients" won't get you. Firm receptions IMO are better because they help to eliminate outliers. You can literally ask anything you want in an informal meeting or phone call. Ask questions that will get you useful answers--by the end of OCI you'll be good at spotting lies (or knowing when you're just hearing more of the same generic garbage).

You're right most firms are big enough that even if you're nerdy at Skadden NYC you will find friends who enjoy playing board games on the weekends or who don't expect you to hang out with them outside of work. I think that culture becomes more important in smaller departments at firms where it's harder to find outliers. If you're going into a practice area with less than 20 attorneys at the firm, the five you meet at a callback are much more likely to be representative of the "culture." It sucks being surrounded by people you don't identify with. I have a friend summering in an office who isn't as social as the rest of the attorneys in his department and feels left out. I have another friend who doesn't like being one of three girls in a thirty-person department. Culture obviously isn't as simple as "that firm is nerdy/fratty," but it's important enough that using statistics (such as leverage) and client bases probably isn't sufficient, and following your intuition may be helpful.

I think you're right that reasonable people can disagree. I think most of your metrics are smart and your post is full of good advice. I guess it's kind of like law school. Sure UChicago has the "nerdy" culture compared to Northwestern, but you can generally find people you gel with at either considering the numbers, and it's not a big enough reason to take Northwestern at sticker over UChi.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:19 am

So dumb question, but what exactly is "mail merge" or whatever it's called? When we talk about "mass mail," I assume that we mean writing individual emails to the HR person at each firm with individualized cover letters, right? I just want to make sure I'm not missing some trick that will greatly simplify this painful process.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby 2014 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:So dumb question, but what exactly is "mail merge" or whatever it's called? When we talk about "mass mail," I assume that we mean writing individual emails to the HR person at each firm with individualized cover letters, right? I just want to make sure I'm not missing some trick that will greatly simplify this painful process.

There are ways to write letters with certain areas bracketed off that you then fill from a spreadsheet. So your letter says [firm] and your spreadsheet has a column with firm names and it auto populates the letters.

I used it for applying to small firms in Chicago as a 1L but it took several hours to learn and set up and a lot of micromanaging. Not sure that it's worth it for supplementing OCI since most firms in most markets show up. Your mass mail list will likely be <50 and you can brute force those out in a day.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Neal Patrick Harris » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:02 am

Agreed w/ 2014. It's also better to write personalized cover letters (even if you only tweak your form document a little to make it apply to a firm). If, however, you plan on mailing every firm under the sun and going for the shotgun approach (not recommended but whatever), here's a link from a sticky thread viewtopic.php?f=23&t=178520

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:18 am

Neal Patrick Harris wrote:Agreed w/ 2014. It's also better to write personalized cover letters (even if you only tweak your form document a little to make it apply to a firm). If, however, you plan on mailing every firm under the sun and going for the shotgun approach (not recommended but whatever), here's a link from a sticky thread viewtopic.php?f=23&t=178520


So you would say targeting cover letters is TCR? How much? Should we list what practice areas we are interested in, or why we want to apply to that firm? I was just planning to include my ties to the area and that's it. Do they even read cover letters?

Second follow up question to one of the above posts. I've heard from associates in LA that the face time requirement is much lower than it would be in NY. Do you guys think that difference exists among regions, or are they just blowing smoke? It seems like that would make a big difference in quality of life, even if the hours requirements aren't substantially lower.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:12 am

Neal Patrick Harris wrote:Agreed w/ 2014. It's also better to write personalized cover letters (even if you only tweak your form document a little to make it apply to a firm). If, however, you plan on mailing every firm under the sun and going for the shotgun approach (not recommended but whatever), here's a link from a sticky thread viewtopic.php?f=23&t=178520


What do you mean by shotgun and how many is too many? I was thinking my home market (tiny, think Kansas), a large secondary (think LA), and NYC. I imagine that will be well over 50.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:30 am

Has anyone ever gotten or heard of someone getting a score in the high 160s in LRW? Is this something that could be explained away at OCI if other grades are decent? Or is it pretty much a kiss of death?

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:31 am

Anonymous User wrote:Has anyone ever gotten or heard of someone getting a score in the high 160s in LRW? Is this something that could be explained away at OCI if other grades are decent? Or is it pretty much a kiss of death?


Who did this awful thing to you.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:Has anyone ever gotten or heard of someone getting a score in the high 160s in LRW? Is this something that could be explained away at OCI if other grades are decent? Or is it pretty much a kiss of death?


Out the Bigelow. You're anon.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Has anyone ever gotten or heard of someone getting a score in the high 160s in LRW? Is this something that could be explained away at OCI if other grades are decent? Or is it pretty much a kiss of death?


There is no way this can be true unless you turned in the assignments incredibly late/not at all - Masur has to approve the grades, no chance he lets that happen.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby WheninLaw » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Second follow up question to one of the above posts. I've heard from associates in LA that the face time requirement is much lower than it would be in NY. Do you guys think that difference exists among regions, or are they just blowing smoke? It seems like that would make a big difference in quality of life, even if the hours requirements aren't substantially lower.


Probably depends on firm, but appears to be true, especially for those firms that are based in LA (Munger, Irell, Gibson, Paul Hastings, etc.)

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Has anyone ever gotten or heard of someone getting a score in the high 160s in LRW? Is this something that could be explained away at OCI if other grades are decent? Or is it pretty much a kiss of death?


There is no way this can be true unless you turned in the assignments incredibly late/not at all - Masur has to approve the grades, no chance he lets that happen.


Does he approve every abnormally low grade or just Bigelow ones?

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby 2014 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Neal Patrick Harris wrote:Agreed w/ 2014. It's also better to write personalized cover letters (even if you only tweak your form document a little to make it apply to a firm). If, however, you plan on mailing every firm under the sun and going for the shotgun approach (not recommended but whatever), here's a link from a sticky thread viewtopic.php?f=23&t=178520


What do you mean by shotgun and how many is too many? I was thinking my home market (tiny, think Kansas), a large secondary (think LA), and NYC. I imagine that will be well over 50.

Depends on how many firms you are sending to. If you limit your mass mail to all of the small market and then the LA/NYC firms that aren't at OCI but have summer classes bigger than like 5 summers, you will barely be at 50. Once you start adding more, you are basically just applying for fun but I guess there is marginal value.

Re: Facetime - Definitely firm dependent, but different markets on average do require more or less (Cali probably being on the less end). Almost certainly a mess of correlation/causation issues intertwined.

Re: Bigelow - For anything under like a 172 the teacher has to give a written reason requesting special permission to give the grade. I'd be really really surprised if a Bigelow tried that and even more surprised if it was approved absent some egregiously bad work and botched deadlines to boot.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Lurkington » Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:37 pm

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Last edited by Lurkington on Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby 2014 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:00 pm

Chambers is really the best resource there is unfortunately along with word of mouth and maybe deal book to the extent that they remember to put counsel down. That info that is easy to find can at least help you generalize a little bit which is somewhat useful. I.e. X, Y, and Z firms do work mostly for banks, Q and R work with private equity clients, T is big on hedge funds, N and M work with distressed companies, etc etc.

Sometimes firm publications can be good too, but it's really tough to figure out who regularly represents a client and what caliber the work is. For example if you google "Goldman Sachs counsel" or whatever, you can probably find like 15 firms connected to them, but they send the majority of their important stuff to a more narrow range of firms (S&C being the most prevalent I think).

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Neal Patrick Harris » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:13 pm

2014 wrote:Chambers is really the best resource there is unfortunately along with word of mouth and maybe deal book to the extent that they remember to put counsel down. That info that is easy to find can at least help you generalize a little bit which is somewhat useful. I.e. X, Y, and Z firms do work mostly for banks, Q and R work with private equity clients, T is big on hedge funds, N and M work with distressed companies, etc etc.

Sometimes firm publications can be good too, but it's really tough to figure out who regularly represents a client and what caliber the work is. For example if you google "Goldman Sachs counsel" or whatever, you can probably find like 15 firms connected to them, but they send the majority of their important stuff to a more narrow range of firms (S&C being the most prevalent I think).


Worth noting that TLS is a pretty solid resource for stuff like this.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:29 pm

A piece of advice from a recent graduate: even if you're pretty sure you want to work for a firm, at least take some time now to look over the government handbook to see if there's anything that interests you there, and figure out what the deadlines are. I had a number of friends who struck out at OCI, despite being pretty middle-of-the-pack, and wished they hadn't passed up the opportunity to apply to the federal summer honors programs. You can always turn down a government interview, but you can't petition to apply late when you get your last rejection letter from the firms.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:26 am

Lurkington wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Reasonable people can disagree about this, but I find it difficult to say that X firm is "fratty." Skadden has, what, 1000+ lawyers? At my Skadden chicago callback, the hiring partner was a mother of 3 from highland park. Unless you think pinic-ing at Ravinnia is fratty, I don't see it. Choosing a firm because you liked/hated the 4-8 people you met there is borderline insane: they represent between 1-2% of the averaged sized biglaw firm. Also, remember that "culture" will vary dramatically office to office and practice by practice. I promise you that Arnold and Porter's SF based litigators (who were absorbed from a legacy SF firm) are extremely different than their NYC based corporate attorneys (who are mostly laterals from traditional NYC firms). So you can't really characterize an entire biglaw firm's culture.

The problem is that people don't have much to go on, so they lean on the main experience they do get -- and that's the people they meet at callbacks. This is understandable, but unfortunate: even at a firm where you met awesome people, you can end up working for a tyrannical partner. And even at a firm where the 5 people you met on a callback sucked, you will find friends. Luckily, I think there are better ways to actually talk about firm "culture" which you can compare across firms.

Client base: does your firm work for banks or start ups? Energy companies or med tech? This is an ascertainable differentiating factor between firms that can help you figure out where you'll fit best. Clients are the people you will talk to (as a midlevel and beyond), so its probably best to work at a firm whose clients are people you want to talk to. If you like finance and the type of people who work for banks, go to a firm that reps them. If you like working with founders of start ups, go a firm that reps them. I don't know what it means to say that Latham is fratty and paul weiss is nerdy; I do know what it means to say that Latham tends to rep F500's and underwriters while Paul Weiss reps Apollo. These are different types of clients and will create different cultures at the firms that service them.

Also think about the firm's relationship with its clients -- does it have a 50 year history with companies (Cravath/S&C/etc.) or is it finding new clients regularly (Boies/Quinn/SV firms/etc)? There is a big difference in the client relationships in these cases and, in turn, the type of client exposure you'll get.

Work: What type of work does the firm do for its clients? Both Debevoise and STB rep KKR. But it would be a huge mistake to think they're doing the same work (Deb does fund formation, STB does transactional). Its a big difference whether a firm tends to rep underwriters or issuers (cap markets)/sponsors (project development). It's a big difference whether a firm does mostly investment grade cap markets work or mostly high yield work. It's a big difference if the firm reps activist funds or target companies. Does the firm do a high volume of commoditized work (Cahill and underwriter side high yield work/Cadwalader and MBS deals/Kirkland Chicago and mid-market PE M&A/all start up work) or are they more known for innovative deal structures/novel litigation (V5, W&C, etc.) These are, again, real, ascertainable differences that can help you figure what firms will be best.

Leverage ratio: This is a great measure, because it gives you clear evidence about how matters are staffed. Every firm "staffs leanly" -- it's all bullshit -- but what's the firm's leverage ratio between partners and associates? If it's a high ratio, understand what that means. What's the associate retention rate? A low ratio can be good, because people like the idea of a 1-1 ratio culture and less hierarchical structure, but remember that firms make tons of money of associates so a low ratio could indicate that the firm's not very profitable, which sucks if it means you get laid off (Irell is a good example of a firm with supposedly "good culture" and low leverage that has had tough financials for a couple of years now). You want your firm to be profitable, but not if its at the expense of you meeting and learning from partners (ie, Cahill, which has a high leverage ratio).

Partnership compensation structure: I think this is perhaps the most important way to distinguish between otherwise similar firms. Are partners compensated on a lock-step model (Cleary, Debevoise, Davis Polk, etc.), an eat-what-you-kill model (DLA Piper, Wilson Sonsini, Kirkland, Boies etc.), or somewhere in the middle (S&C, Milbank, etc.)? This affects the way partners interact with each other, the way they approach business, and how they handle work. All of those things "trickle down" to associates and affect culture in a big way. The more a firm is lockstep, the more likely to see partner collaboration in a free and open way (no one gets more credit for business origination on their own matters). In an eat what you kill system, expect to see more entrepreneurial partners who go out and get new clients (this can be exciting and dynamic for an associate working with them). There's no right answer, but this is a major difference that creates varied firm cultures. And remember that certain partner comp models are unsustainable (Dewey) and create toxic cultures. Best to avoid those firms.



This is an amazing post, thank you. This might be a terribly stupid question, but where do I go to find out things like client base or type of work at the level of detail you described? Chambers, Vault, etc. are merely superficial marketing descriptions, American Lawyer is locked behind a paywall (not sure if even relevant), firm websites aren't particularly informative.... what am I missing?


OP here, glad the post was helpful.

So Chambers is of course a great place to start. But you're right that a lot of these questions can't be answered in easily available material online (as an aside, you do get AmLaw access via Symplicity -- go to the homepage and scroll to the bottom).

Realistically, these are questions you ask and get answered in the context of interviews. I asked about partner compensation and its effect on culture in every single interview I did, and the question played universally well (it plays best with partners, who are most thoughtful about this, but senior associates usually respond well too). This is especially true at lockstep firms, but a Kirkland Chicago M&A partner, spoke for like 15 minutes on how amazing he thought the incentives setup by their comp system are. This is a particularly great question because it provides great information for you, engages with a partner on a topic they actually care/think about (as opposed to "how much pro bono can I do?"or whatever), and allows you to differentiate yourself from most other interviewees, who won't ask this question.

I regularly asked about clients that the firm works with, and the types of deals they do. Lawyers love these questions because they're specific and non-bullshit (much better than questions like, "tell me about a typical day" or, worst of all, "what's the firm culture like?"). I asked lawyers at every firm I interviewed with how they pitch new business -- meaning, how do they sell the firm. This will tell you a lot about how the firm thinks of itself, which gives you a window into its "culture." I also ask what practices cross-sell the others -- is it M&A that brings in clients and then sells them on the tax team, or vis versa? This will tell you which practices are most important/influential at the firm -- there's a big culture/lifestyle difference being the in the practice group that drives business vs. the practice that supports the others. There are reasons to prefer both sides of that, but they are different.

In my most successful interviews, partners literally pulled out pitch books/slides and ran through recent client presentations. This is a win-win interview scenario because the interviewer does all the talking, you glean invaluable information about the firm, and you look legitimately interested in a "show not tell" type of way.

Finally, and most importantly, call up associates (usually UofC alums, but undergrad alum work great too) at these firms before your interviews. I can't stress this enough. I spoke with an associate at every single firm I interviewed with before OCI. This may sound like a bit of overkill -- maybe it was -- but it gave me invaluable information. For example, I spoke with an associate at one firm who basically said that, despite the firm's claims to the contrary, it didn't do any of the type of work I was interested in. This was a firm I would have otherwise bid in my top 10. I ended up leaving it off my bidlist entirely. If you can source information like that before, during, or after OCI (when you're deciding where to accept), you'll be in a much better position than most of your peers. And when you drop the name in an interview -- ie, "I spoke with associate X at the firm and she told me about Y recently announced deal that is super compelling" -- firms love it. It demonstrates interest, thought, and effort, and all it takes is a 3 sentence email and a 15 minute phone call. If nothing else, do this for your top 5-10 firms.

Hope this is helpful, happy to elaborate on anything.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 03, 2014 10:11 am

Is it a waste of time to mass mail firms that are coming to OCI but you don't plan on bidding on? The alums in other T14 threads seem to be suggesting that one should mass mail everyone to get early interviews.

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Re: UChicago OCI Alums Answering Questions About the Job Hunt

Postby Lurkington » Thu Jul 03, 2014 12:27 pm

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Last edited by Lurkington on Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:44 am, edited 1 time in total.




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