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Dear Wormwood: Get A Job

[Note to my Columbia Readers, especially in my 2L class: This is one Letter to Wormwood that needs your help. I'm not certain I got all of the marketing items listed at the end of this entry precisely correct, and I'm sure I left some off. If you happen to have any to add, please be sure to comment.]

My dearest nephew Wormwood,

Your churlish complaints that I've stopped speaking about law school cut me to the core. Certainly you realize that classes don't start for another week? And besides classes, there really is nothing to write about that I can write about.

I mean, what can I say about Law Review? No one applies for a job on a law review because they figure days cite checking in a library will be a spiritually rewarding experience. Heidi expresses some of the exasperation well, but really, one can't complain. The job is what we all signed up for, and we knew what that meant when we started. And were I to speak of any of the articles, I'd probably be breaching some blood-signed confidentiality contract and invoking the wrath of professorships everywhere. No, Law Review will have to wait until I have more significant advice for you.

And of course, there's Columbia's Early Interview Program, which finished last week. Twenty-four interviews over five days, with barely a weekend in the middle. Fortunately I love my suits and managed to find enough ties to match together. (How did I leave all my ties in Michigan?)

Now, Wormwood, you may be wondering exactly what this hiring process is, and why I am interviewing in August for a position starting next May. Let me explain, as if you were an untutored innocent, exactly how a larval lawyer goes from 1L to employment. In the first term, or early in the second, of his 1L year, the young lawyer searches for a summer job which will be fulfilling, rewarding either pecuniarily or mentally, and thanks his stars for what he gets. This job may have little to do with his eventual future, except that it should look good on a resume. (Indeed, I suggest you look for something broadening instead of lucrative, that you choose experience over salary: this is one great opportunity.)

No sooner has the soon-to-be 2L returned from his summer employment than he begins interviewing with as many law firms as he can to secure a position in his subsequent summer. Most all of these interviews will occur in the context of some "on campus interview" (OCI) program. Columbia's is called EIP. Over five days, you go from room to room in a vast hotel, having twenty-minute sessions with lawyers from a number of firms of your choice.

These interviews will hopefully lead to 'callbacks,' in which the lawyer-to-be visits the office of a more limited number of employers, hoping to garner offers of summer employment. From these he then chooses a firm. The expectation is that after he has completed a meritorious 2L summer, that firm will offer him a full-time position.

Yes, Wormwood, you're cunning enough to have seen the implication of this. When the budding 2L is interviewing, all he has to show his future employer is a resume with a bare summer of experience; the possibility of having been accepted to a journal; and his 1L grades. His subsequent employer is likely to choose him based on a mere third of his academic experience. For this reason, some have questioned why there is a third year of law school. Others have questioned why firms and schools use a system that ignores two-thirds of a student's academic credentials, and that puts almost unseemly competitive pressures on 1Ls. Wormwood, if you find out, please drop me a line.

Others have covered the EIP process in more personal detail. (UPDATE: Link and commentary here removed at target's request.)

So what are my tips on interviewing, choosing firms, and securing a job? Why would you want to ask me, dear Wormwood? I don't have a job yet, so certainly you should wait until I've proven that whatever advice I might give works. And as mentioned, I'm not going to discuss any of the particular firms I interviewed with: they may very well read my letters to you. But certainly, I hear you cry, I should give you something. Why else do you read all the non-law screed I write?

You have a point. So what can I give you to help you light your way as you consider your choice of firms? What can I say about each organization which is completely in the public domain, about which no firm could begrudge me reporting? How might they consider this letter to be free advertising?

(Oh, Wormwood, remember that in my past life I was partially a marketing man.)

Over the period of EIP, almost every firm had some literature to distribute to potential employees. Many had hospitality suites in which tired law students wishing to rest could sit, sip coffee, and discuss options with human resources staff. And quite a few handed out what I can only term the swag of the legal seas, the catch of the candidates, the booty of the potential breadwinner: marketing goodies. Part of the public face of each firm, I give you the following (certainly non-exhaustive) list of what I and others picked up.

  • Pens constituted by far the most numerous marketing items. Wormwood, after last week I may never need to buy a ballpoint pen again. McKinsey & Co. (a consulting firm), Paul Hastings, Skadden Arps, and Linklaters have all contributed to my stock of writing equipment. And for the most part, these weren't cheap. Lawyers write a lot, dear Wormwood, but I may not get through these beauties in my entire career.
  • Lawyers are also stressed quite a lot. I can only assume that this stress is behind what is probably the second most-common marketing giveaway: squeezy foam toys. Again, Linklaters came through, providing a nice little ball. Another firm (perhaps my readers can enlighten me?) was giving away a starfish, and I believe it was O'Melveney & Meyers providing little squeezy globes, the continents nicely done in short fuzz. Probably the most noticeable, and noticed, squeezy toy came from Stroock, however. A short, squat penguin, the little waddler bears the slogan, "We may dress like other attorneys, but the similarities end there."
  • On the other hand, some firms broke the mold and came up with original and innovative swag. Greenberg Taurig, for instance, bound its marketing brochure into a small hardcover, like a children's book. Latham & Watkins took the whole 'stress' motif to a new level, handing out little pillcases filled with antacid, analgesics, and earplugs. But again, Stroock put forth the 'must see' goodie in this category: they'd had 'baseball cards' printed of their partners, and handed them out in wrapped packets, complete with cardboard-like stick of gum. Sounds silly, but at least it's unique. And just think: everyone who gets a callback can easily study up on their interviewers.
  • UPDATE: My fellow classmates are a fine source of information, Wormwood. Camille has kindly reminded me that O'Melveney was also distributing staplers, as a useful compliment to the squeezy globe. Alison points out a slinky from Kramer Levin, and suggests that the starfish was from King & Spaulding. And Avi points to a water bottle from Goodwin Proctor.

Is this list complete? Of course not. Over the next few days, I'll be certain to update it, Wormwood, particularly as my friends leave their own stories in the comments. But with any luck, this gives those that come after me a bit of an introduction to some law firms, their websites, and their marketing. This is by no means complete, but it should give you somewhere to start.




Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dear Wormwood: Get A Job:

» Redefining Fun from De Novo
Sometimes I feel like law firms talk down to potential hires. This may be logical, considering that the average age of people already working at a given firm is about two decades older than the average age of law students... [Read More]


Tony, In my opinion, the nicest marketing brochure came from Cravath (true to their uppity reputation) with a cloth covered book that had nice paper inside as well (looked like they confused the firm resume with those of us interviewees). The globes were from O'Melveny, and the most useful giveaway I think was the nice water bottles from Goodwin Proctor (though it is hard to say much nice about a firm based in Boston).
Ah, Avi, be nice! I'm trying to be nice to the law firms, here. No need to be mean to folks employing our comrades. Thanks, though. I'll update the list.
The starfish is from King & Spalding. I picked one up at their reception last spring. I didn't get any pens, but I did get a Slinky (thank you Kramer Levin)!
I thought the O'Melveny stapler was the most useful non-pen item. I heard that one Philadelphia firm was handing out yoyos. P.S. Stroock has a C in it.
Jeez.... are you guys doing interviews or are you going to trade shows? Marketing giveaways for interviews? Back in the bad old days when I was interviewing the partners doing the interviewing expected us to give them gifts.... ;-) Not really, though they did act as though they were granting us some sort of wonderful favor by even deigning to spend the 10 minutes in the interview room with us...
Camille: Thank you. I'll go correct that, then. (My spelling has always been ridiculous.)
One more, Orrick gave a radio that had a compass built in (not sure why that combo), and Jones Day gave a CD case.
Crickey, I get the feeling that none of these law schools know how to recruit. What would be more compelling, a squeezy toy or a senior member of the firm to talk to in the interview? Maybe they gave you that too, but I doubt it.
Martin: Oh no, let's be fair. Quite a few of these EIP interviews had senior people there. Those that didn't generally had younger lawyers who'd been in their summer program. But at callbacks you expect to meet relatively senior people anyway.

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