Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A friend of mine, who's going to be a 2L pretty soon, e-mailed to ask me if I had any advice about New York firms and the interview process, or anything like that.  As I wrote back a reply about seventeen times longer than I'm sure he wants to read, I found myself thinking about issues that hadn't really crossed my mind when I was interviewing, but that, having experienced 10 weeks of summer work so far, might have been things to think about during the process, just issues I didn't realize might matter.  These thoughts don't reflect much about my summer -- it's just things that I'd probably be more curious about during the interview process now than I was before, just because I have a better sense of the terrain. 
a.  Size may matter.  I don't know what the differences are between larger firms and smaller firms.  I'm at a larger firm.  It probably wouldn't have been a bad idea to ask a smaller firm what makes them different from a larger firm -- is the work different -- does it get more substantive more quickly, or does a smaller firm just have fewer clients, and so the work is really pretty much the same at the junior levels?  Are there culture differences when there are fewer people, like how smaller universities can have a greater feeling of community than a larger one, or is the larger firm broken up in such a way that you work within a smaller community, and so there's really no difference?  Are the clients, and thus the complexity and interest level of the work, different?  Is the summer program itself a different sort of experience?  These are questions that may not matter, and that I don't have answers to.  But they might be things someone might consider.
b. Workflow.  I notice at my firm that people are busy for a while, and then less busy for a while.  This may be the nature of the practice, at all firms.  This may be something that people like more than always being medium-busy, or it may be something people don't like.  I don't know if it's different elsewhere.  So it may not be bad to ask whether there are systems in place to manage workflow, to ease the ebb and flow so it isn't a month with nothing and then a month with 20-hour days, or maybe you like it that way, and so you want to make sure there aren't systems that try to compensate for that.
c. It might be a good idea, before accepting an offer, to talk to associates who came from other firms, and how the new firm compares to the old one, why they left, what's different.  Maybe these are conversations after you get an offer -- but I don't know that I really appreciated that there are differences between firms, in terms of culture and work, that are very hard to discern during the interview process, but probably pretty obvious to people actually working there, especially people who've worked elsewhere.
d. I might think about asking how closely new associates get to work with partners, or if there are lots of layers in between -- again, this can cut both ways -- fewer layers may mean a system that's very scary for beginners, but also may mean more substantive work more quickly.  I'm not sure.  But it's something I didn't really think about. 
e. I would look at diversity on a broad spectrum.  Are there lawyers from different backgrounds, from different schools, with different interests, with different experiences -- in other words, are there people you can identify with, and feel some sort of sense that if this situation works for them, there's a good chance it'll work for me.  And maybe diversity is the wrong word to capture this -- affinity, perhaps.  Are there people like you, and do they like it?  Or is everyone there who seems to like it there very different from you, and so maybe you can't necessarily rely on their feelings mirroring yours. 
f. Facetime and what it means at the firm.  Do people leave early if they have no work, and can early mean something earlier than midnight -- if so, that can probably make the long days better, knowing that short ones are at least possible.
g. I'd probably ask how often people work weekends, or perhaps work from home on the weekends instead of coming into the office.  It seems like a lot of people at a lot of firms work to some degree on some weekends.  But the "some" is vague.  Again, I don't know if there are differences between firms.  There might be.
h. I'd ask about turnover rate.  I don't know what the average is, but I imagine someone does, and I imagine it's not a bad way to get a broad vision of satisfaction at the firm.  I admit that I don't know the turnover rate where I am, and I don't know what the industry average is, but it does seem like, at least when making interview decisions, this might be a really nice set of numbers to have.
Hopefully this was useful to someone.  I'll have more thoughts on the interview process in the coming weeks -- but if anyone has any questions, shoot me an e-mail; the questions may lead me to think of some stuff that wouldn't otherwise cross my mind.