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.