Law: Seventh Grade Lunch

September 16, 2008

When I was in Middle School, every part of our life was micro managed.  From the minute I walked in the door until the minute I left, there was always someplace I was supposed to be and something I was supposed to be doing.  The most frustrating and important of these assignments was the lunch table. During the first day of school, after everybody sat down, a seating chart was passed around and the place you were sitting became the place you were required to sit for the rest of the year.
This was all well and good, except that over the course of the year, people you once liked really start to grate on you.  Worse yet, the whole “seating process” happens in four minutes, meaning that the first four minutes of lunch largely determine how much you will enjoy the rest of the year.

Why does this matter?  Well, when you walk into lunch that first day, all you really care about is getting a place to sit.  The better the people the happier you are.  Nothing is worse than being left at a table with the oddballs.  You know, the guy with the back brace, the girl that doesn’t shower, and the guy that picks his nose knuckle deep.  Thankfully, I was consistently able to dodge this fate however I will never forget the mad scramble:  Priority one, get a seat, priority two don’t sit with the weirdos, priority three, best seat possible to make the year go as well as you can, and hanging over your head during all of this is the likelihood that you won’t like whoever you find within a few months.

Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while know where this is going:  every day it becomes clearer and clearer to me that OCI is the first day of middle school lunch.  Here we all are, scurrying around campus in four weeks trying to find the best seat firm possible.  Just like cafeteria lunch, the first priority is getting a job.  Nothing is worse than being left standing (unemployed) when time (OCI) runs out.  After you know you will have a seat the priority is not being left with the weirdos.  In firm employment, the weirdos are the “semi-big law” firms.  I don’t mean boutiques or good midlaw firms, I mean the type of firms that are clearly second teir in a city:  you work the same hours for less pay, less prestige and worse exit opportunities.  Think Heller in CA, Locke Lord in IL, and anybody not in the Amlaw 50 in NY and DC.

After you avoid the outcasts, its just a matter of how high up the social ladder (Vault/AmLaw rankings) you can get.   If you have some good friends with the same lunch, you might gladly sit with them and say you didn’t want to be at the cool kids table (working for a lifestyle firm or s strong boutique that is still a notch below the big boys) but in the end, you will be judged based on where you work sit.

And of course, just like Middle School, no matter how fast you scramble or how well you consider your seat, after a few Middle School months (Law Firm Years) you will want nothing more than to leave your table and sit somewhere else, anywhere else (lateral).

At least the firms let us comparative shop during 1L and 2L year.

Law: Bidding

September 9, 2008

Yesterday I submitted my bids for OCI this comming year.  Thankfully our school doesn’t screen which means that we are in the somewhat fortunate position of being able to select who we want to have the chance to at least meet.  The drawback is, firms have to do a day of interviewing kids they had no say in interviewing.  Based on my job search goals and the number of bids we have (35) I allocated my bids according to the following formula. 

22 Bids: Every firm in the city I want to work in with the exception of the IP shops and the real estate only firm (I can’t even pretend to like real estate). 

3 Bids:  Las Vegas firms.  If I’ve got extra bids, I might as well use them.  At least here if I do manage a callback I get to spend a night in the most fun city on the planet.

2 Bids:  San Diego.  See Las Vegas and add the fact that its less clear that my interest in San Diego is fake compared to my “interest” in Vegas.

1 Bid:  A consulting company.  I want to see what a consulting interview is like, this seems like the chance.

Tonight was the first firm reception of the 2L season and I must say, the firm starting the year on a bad foot.  Tonight’s host was A&O,  “Magic Circle” firm with a HEAVY international slant.  If you didn’t know that going in, don’t worry, they mentioned it about 80 times in the 40 minutes I was there.  Before I go through the normal categories, I want to voice one general thought about these types of events:  NO TALKS!  Seriously.  Every once in a while a firm thinks they need to give a little speech (or usually a series of little speeches) to make these things worth it.  Not so.  Just have people hang out, drink, and eat.  It will be better for everybody.  I have yet to see a firm that said one useful thing in a speech.  They all follow the same path:  A partner tells you you can do whatever you want and that the firm is special, then a junior associate talks about all the early responsibility, somebody else promises cutting edge deals (usually with an example) and they conclude by talking about client contact and say you should think about them.  Wow, great job guys… oh wait….. no, boring.  Anyway, on to the normal categories:

Food:  Worst. Food. Ever.  There was table that looked like it was set up for by people that hate meat.  Sushi plus grilled veggies and hummus…. what selection.  Earth to firm, some people like meat. Later on they had a short tray pass, wild mushroom puffs (passable) and bacon wrapped scallops (very good, but should have been on the table). 

Booze:  Boarderline worst ever.  Wine and beer only, low end general stuff.  VERY CHEAP, not very fun.

Venue:  The only cool part about this reception.  The event was held at the Harvard Faculty Club, a neat little place with a lot of history that seemed pretty impressive.  The space was big and open, definately no crowding, but the fact that very few people came might be a part of that.

Attorney Contact:  NONE, this part was great, but then again, I was only there for 20-30 minutes.

Swag:  Gum and sharpies…… blah.  Actually…. super blah.  I may chew the gum, so it beats pens, but still….. lame.

Overall I give this reception a 1 out of 5, worst one yet.

Law: OCI Orientation

September 3, 2008

Today marked a turning point in my year in two ways.  First, it was the last day before classes begin at HLS, which means my summer is no officially over.  Sad day.  Additionally, today also marked the beginning of the job search season.   If you are Harvar Law School, how exactly do you signal the beginning of the job search season?  Simple.  By holding a MASSIVE Pep Ralley informational session in the school gym the Ames Courtroom to talk about how awsome your school is compared to everybody else explain the basics of how the job search works, what the rules are, and how to conduct a search in addition to also calming down students who realize the economy is in the crapper.

To sum up today’s meeting in a single sentence:  We are all on a first date eating fish on a train that cannot be stopped which is currently passing over a series of three year bridges, under which there is a stream connecting a big and small pond. 

Needless to say, the presentation was metaphore-tastic.  Anyway, instead of rehashing the job search details, which is boring as hell, I’m going to note the five things I will most remember from this program:

1.  Harvard Law students get jobs in bad economies, other schools not so much (according to OCS).

2.  The ability to use a computer to place bids and upload a resume is the single most important skill in job searching at HLS.

3. Its a lot easier to search for a job at a big firm and make 160K (or 120, 135, or 145K depending on the market) than it is to work for the government and make 45K.

4. If you don’t care about your search and go with the flow, you will end up in NY with both less free time and less money…. sad.

5. Even after 1L is over, people still cling to their section socially, awkward.

Law: Cadwalader

July 31, 2008

I had every intention of doing a blog tonight about a few more things that have been bothering me in politics.  Instead, I feel the need to trash one law firm that has recently demonstrated why law students should not care about Profits Per Partner above all else. 

Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft one of the worlds most profitable firms, recently laid off 94 associates.  This is in addition to the 36 they laid off earlier this year (disclaimer, these numbers may be off by 2-4 either way).  In total, the firm laid off at least 120 attorneys in response to changes in the market.  Why did this happen?  A lot of reasons, but the major factor was the fact that the firm is poorly managed. 

During the height of the mortgage backed securities boom, Cadwalader went all in.  They created a massive practice and hired tons of attorneys without ever considering balance.  Now that the market has crashed, instead of folding these lawyers into the general business practice, Cadwalader is laying them off.  Why?  To preserve the almightly profits per partner.  I don’t normally blame companies for doing what they need to in order to make money, but here I find it troubling.  Not because I think it was wrong (firms should do what they want), but because I find it troubling that ANY law student with ANY choice would possible go for this trash-tastic place. 

I’m urging ALL LAW STUDENTS.  Screw this place.  If you are qualified, there will be other New York offers.  Sure you may have to swollow some pride and work for the tenth best firm in town instead of whatever CWT was, but at least you will know you aren’t working for a poorly managed third-tier-toilet. (Please note, I am not ignoring the fact that all firms are concerned with profits per partner or the fact that many firms are poorly managed, I’m merely saying, if you have any choice, ignore this trash firm.  They are quick to lay people off and apparently set up their lawyers to fail, such as loading up their firm with people that have exactly one skill which is now unmarketable).

That felt good to get off my chest.

Law: Work Gunners

July 27, 2008

Before I ever set foot on a law school campus, I knew exactly what type of person I would most dispise – the gunner.  Everybody knows what a gunner is by now, so I’m not going to waste type rehashing this.  Thankfully, my 1L section featured very few of these annoying dbags.  We had one year-long gunner who would always ask questions and push points.  First semester we had an additional gunner, but after grades came out she stopped talking.  Perhaps this was random chance, or perhap she didn’t do as well as she thought she would.

Now that I’m working, I’ve discovered something even worse:  The work gunner. 

My summer class has two blatant work gunners and two other potential work gunners.

One of these is by far the worst.  It was once remarked that the only meaningful summer romance thus far in our summer class was Work Gunner A and Work Gunner A.  Seriously, I have NEVER in my life met somebody that was so impressed with himself.  Its actually funny when you don’t have to deal with him.  This person spent a few years (less than five) working for a massive american corporation and is rumored to have commented at least once that he was going to bring this massive corporation in as a client.  I’m sure major corporations are totally going to make their legal hiring decisions based on the fact that this guy spent a few years in their training program and also happens to have a degree from a T25 but not T15 law school.  Right, thats how it works, the management trainee has the big hook up.  On top of this, this kid things he’s great at everything he does and is constantly looking to be reassured.  Anything that doesn’t bring him praise he stops doing.  Thankfully, when he performs averagely, he thinks its great, so he takes that as a sign that he did that task well enough to keep doing it.

The second work gunner is a less annoying but equally frustrating variety – the work-a-holic.  This guy has routinely put in 12 hours, has done twice as many projects as some people, and works weekends fairly rarely.   Good work ethic you say?  Perhaps, but remember, this is a summer program and this work habit has essentially maken work gunner B a pariah.  Sometimes it seems like this gunner’s only goal in life is to compensate with being average at his/her law school by spending massive amounts of time working.  Somebody needs to make it clear you cannot get two offers if you do double the work. 

The ultimate “must be avoided” situation is a lunch with either of these two.  WG-A will only talk about how great he is which is boring as hell.  WG-2 will only talk about the work they are doing, how well they’re doing it, how much people love working with them, and how much they love the work and working long hours.  Not the best lunch conversation.

The other two potential work gunners both have traits of the above.  One of the most annoying traits these two exhibit is constantly talking about “if they will get an offer” and always telling people what they should/shouldn’t do if they want to get an offer.  Going to a law school where jobs are not a given makes these guys a little more nervous, but seriously, its almost the end of summer and nobody has said we screwed up royally.  It seems like baring a meltdown on a project (which isn’t out of question for one of the things I’m working on) we should be ok, so maybe these guys should calm down.

With two weeks of work left, I’d say I am in okay shape as it is.  I have three open projects.  Assuming I am able to complete all of them with something resembling quality, I should be in good shape to get an offer.  If I have a total meltdown on one of the projects (which is possible with one of these) then it could be a different story, but as things stand, it looks like I’m in ok shape.  I’ll follow up on my situation at the end of the week, at which time I should have a much better idea of where I stand.

Law: Recruiting

July 21, 2008

As a 1L I have had the wonderful opportunity to work at a law firm without feeling as if I am already committed to ending up there after graduation.  This isn’t to say that I won’t end up at my current firm (I am really enjoying this place) but rather, I am not in the position of having to either get an offer or go back on the market as a 3L (and somewhat of a pariah). 

I was thinking about this today in the context of a law, drawn out game of telephone, when I realized that the summer program isn’t really for the summers, its for the next class.  Think about it.  If the firm a 2L was at stopped doing the “spoil the summer” routine in early July, its not like that student would be in a good place to just stop working, or to say “screw this firm I’ll find someplace better.”  As a 2L, you are largely in a “take-it-or-leave-it” position.  On the flip side, if a firm stopped spoiling their summers in early July, word would get out and the following year they would be less desirable.  Even though nobody would ever say “I went to X,Y, and Z because I hear their summer program is awsome,” a student is equaly unlikely to go “well, A, B, and C have a reputation for working their summers to death and not doing anything nice, I think I’ll go there.”  The summer program makes the current summers happy and we certainly appreciate the effort, but in the end, its really about keeping up appearances for the next group. 

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, think about it.  The hardest part for the firm is getting summers to join their summer program in the first place.  If a firm get their first choice summers, even if they scaled back on the quality of their program, they would still bring in their first choice talent.  Despite this, the “woo’ing” phase is about the same everywhere.  Bring you in for a callback where the balance of power is still unclear (you don’t have the job yet), then do a bunch of interviews and tours, tell you how great the place is, and take you out to lunch.  This is all bookended by comp’d flights and hotel rooms.  Every firm does basically the same thing.  In fact, I can only think of one firm (Quinn) that tried to do any sort of above-the-call-of-duty recruiting during callbacks.  If firms really wanted to recruit their way into the best young associates, they would focus more on this part of the process and less on the summer.   What does this look like?  I’m not sure.  Some suggestions:

1.  Scrap one of the expensive summer events and replace it with an “acceptance scholarship.”  Pay some set amount of tuition for everybody that accepts a summer offer (perhaps $1500, offset by eliminating one lunc and one dinner a week).  This may be a little much so I also suggest:

2.  Arranginga deal with a local drycleaner to pick up and press the applicants interview clothes the night before on the firm’s dime.

3.  Instead of doing pre-finals care packages have something nice waiting for the interviewee in their hotel room.  Perhaps

4.  Do an event for everybody who was given the offer, make it something fun instead of something stuffy

5.  Post-callback social event.  This might be tough for people doing multiple callbacks, but use the firm seats/suite (if its open) to take an interviewing 2L to a game the night of their callback.  At the game you can give the subtle sales pitch.

I realize these are all really materialistic and sound like a future 2L going “give us more stuff.”  I’m not suggesting that.  Instead I’m suggesting that firms spend more resources trying to get people into their summer program and less on their summer program itself.  On a related note, if firms really want to find the “right person” they would spend more time explaining the culture/nature of the firm and less on the “interview” portion.  An interest opinion firms should consider:  Letter everybody that has an offer do a real job shadow and follow a junior associate for the day with no hand holding.  Let the summer see how that associate’s day goes.  Did they spend 6 hours reasearching on the computer?  Did they spend 6 hours doing meaningful work?  Did anybody come and yell at them?  A real opportunity to see what the firm is like in an uncontrolled environment would be extremely valuable.  That said, I don’t know if this is even possible.  After all, pick the wrong day and you could be watching somebody read a computer screen for 10 hours and really, this wouldn’t accomplish much at all.

A lot of this isn’t feasible, but the concept needs to at least be looking at.  Instead of preaching to the choir, try to get the type of people you want into your choir before you start to tell them how great the firm is.

Law: Not dead

July 12, 2008

After getting about ten IM’s this week asking if the blog is still alive and well, I felt the need to post and let everybody know:  Yes the blog is still going, no we aren’t dead, yes I’m enjoying summer, no Kurzman hasn’t succeeded in solving cancer yet. 

First things first, why the lack of posts.  Well, several reasons.  First, most of my stories are firm related and given the fact that I have not had professional responsibilities yet, I’m afraid to tell a story only to find out I disclosed information I am not allowed to put up here.  For that reason, a lot of my material has been eliminated.  Additionally, firm life is actually time consuming.  Its fun, but the nights go late.  As for why Kurzman hasn’t posted, I dunno, I think he’s still trying to solve the puzzle of how to treat a terrible disease.  God how lazy of him.

Anyway, in order to get a few law related elements into this post, I’ve decided to catch you up on the projects I have worked on thus far:

  • A memo regarding an evidence issue in litigation
  • An extended (25 page) summary of one element of a broad federal law for a partner’s marketing project
  • Update a presentation with recent “sports law” cases relevant to the topic 
  • Draft certain tax documents a fairly large acquisition (seller side)
  • Tax commission summaries
  • Incorporate a holding company
  • A doc review
  • Other short litigation research projects

So there you go.  I’ve been a little bit all over the place and I tried to keep that vague.  I’ll try to keep up the posts from now until stchool starts, when we all know I’ll be posting much more frequently.

Med: End of the year

May 24, 2008

OK guys, I’ve gotta apologize…again.

My schoolyear ended on May 7th, but I hadn’t written anything else since then. I’m going to try and get better.

The main reason for this absence is pure burn out. After the year ended, I wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with medicine for a little while. And though I do feel the same way right now, I feel a slight foray back into the blogging world is acceptable.

As you may be able to gather, our finals week[s] were pretty much hell on earth: SEVEN exams in 10 days, including two cumulative final exams in anatomy and histology. All in all, I’d say my results were mixed. On the one hand, I did PASS everything so I need not worry about any retake exams this summer–MAJOR plus. On the other hand, some of the exams really left me disappointed in myself.

I was really struggling there at the end of the semester. My brain started checking out of the whole “school” thing roughly 3 weeks too early, and finals involved a lot of mad scrambling/cramming on my part. This worked for some classes (missed Honoring Brain & Behavior by only one point), while proving to be an epic failure in other classes (Only passed the microbiology final by one point, though I still passed the course by plenty).

The major bright spot in my final exams was the anatomy cumulative final. In both anatomy and histology, I was in good shape heading into the exams: It was impossibile for me to fail the course (I had enough points to pass), but even a 100% wouldn’t be enough to get me to Honors level. This fit right in with my “brain shutting down” schema, so I went into both of these exams cold turkey.

I know, sounds crazy right? But hear me out. Especially in anatomy, a LOT of the questions have to do with having an intuitive sense of the makeup of the body (What goes where, what’s behind structure X, etc). Sure, I could have crammed the exam, but instead I chose to see what I knew WITHOUT studying (and therefore, I wanted to find out just how much was actually INGRAINED in my brain vs. simply crammed). My friend told me I was just rationalizing laziness–and perhaps she was somewhat right–but it was a risk I was willing to take since I had that luxury.

And guess what? I scored in the 77-79th percentile nationally. Spectacular? Perhaps not…but still a major confidence boost for me considering I did not even study for the exam. In my mind, this bodes well for the future board exams–the anatomy component, at least.

Which is good…because I’m going to need that extra time to study the classes I managed to fuck up this semester.

Law: First Day

May 19, 2008

Today was our first day and it can basically be summed up as follows:  Training, training, training.  We came in, watched a powerpoint.  Talked for a while, watched a powerpoint.  Had lunch, sat through more lecture, then went home.  Tomorrow we will be doing more of the same but at least this is more job oriented (computer training).  Hopefully it will be somewhat interest.

Additionally, work sports start tomorrow!  I’m excited for our first softball game, but I don’t know how well I will do with this whole “not being super competitive/co-ed game” thing.

We’ll see.