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Author Topic: Question on job offers  (Read 16722 times)

,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2009, 07:54:49 PM »
What's wrong with that thought?  Please don't just end it with some Marxist jargon.  I sympathize with BigLaw partners to an extent.  I realize that they would be willing to throw me under a bus (or Ray Lewis . . . sorry, watching Bengals-Ravens highlights), but their lives aren't exactly gravy.  The money may seem generous, but they earn modest amounts in comparison to some of their lifestyles.

dischord

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2009, 08:14:34 PM »
Those were two separate thoughts.  As in the sentence below your quote referred to you, and the last sentence was general (although I guess also refers to you generally?  I wasn't really thinking about that in particular.).

The money may seem generous, but they earn modest amounts in comparison to some of their lifestyles.

This is ridiculous.  At best that's a problem ENTIRELY of their own making.  These are not people who have basic expenses that exceed a fixed income.  These are people with enough sense, and ostensibly financial acumen, that they should know better than to engage in utterly irresponsible financial behavior.  If there's one thing I took away from my old job it was to not feel sorry for partners who get themselves into these situations (my old boss used to go on huge tirades about partners who drove Porsches and couldn't ever quit the firm because they were in so much debt from their divorces and said Porches).  Plenty of partners live fairly modest lifestyles and are extremely prudent with their money (while still doing things like travelling, etc. to enjoy their wealth).  I mean, I cannot think of a single legitimate reason that someone wouldn't be able to live within a half million, a million dollars, or more, even in NYC.   And do not even tell me that this is because of unexpected financial misfortune or alimony -- have you ever heard of something called SAVINGS and PRENUPS? 

I mean, they certainly are entitled to do whatever they want with their own money.  But to complain about not having any after blowing literally millions of dollars on opulent lifestyles, and then using this as a justification to keep their incomes at the same level by f-ing over their subordinates' careers, maybe dozens of them?  REALLY?!
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dischord

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2009, 08:24:30 PM »
Also as much I was being facetious, I do think that the concept of false consciousness is applicable here, whether or not you agree with the value judgment it implies -- acceptance of the legitimacy of working conditions, employer behavior, class structure, etc. because of the illusion of the possibility of upward mobility.
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dischord

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #23 on: October 11, 2009, 09:33:19 PM »
I agree that a firm's treatment of its employees is probably a bigger consideration for those of us looking to be there long-term.  I just don't assume that, in organizations as large as the ones we're talking about, the communications of the recruiting department are necessarily indicative of the firm's overall treatment of employees.  I'm not saying that, once at a firm (should that ever actually happen), I will accept relatively inconsiderate treatment as a trade-off for prestige.

That said, I say "relatively" because I think that it's reasonable to expect a certain level of inconsiderateness (if you want to call it that) from client-service organizations as large as these (law firms or not), where it isn't feasible to remain competitive while still ensuring that all of their workers are kept absolutely happy. So, my concern would be with working at a firm that treats its people noticeably worse than its competitors (and, sure, recent decisions can be indicative, but I don't know that the speed at which someone in the recruiting department answers e-mails is enough for me to make that judgment).  To the extent that it's across the board, though... well, both conditions and salaries are market-driven (and we have labor laws to prevent true exploitation).

I also say "prestige" because, yeah, I'm willing to sacrifice the best treatment and working conditions for more exciting work down the road (which is seemingly often, but not always, correlated with prestige, etc).  I don't think we are contributing to a problem by "accepting" less desirable working conditions, though, when we are fully aware that we are applying to work in organizations that will prioritize profit over employee satisfaction.

I don't think that this is false consciousness at all.  I'm not saying "I'm going to accept this because, if I want to move up as a lawyer, I must be treated poorly!"  I'm saying that I understand why these firms make their business decisions in a certain way, and (would like to) choose to be a part of it regardless.  I fully recognize that there are other ways to run a business, and that they can allow incoming lawyers significantly better working conditions.  Many people choose to work for those organizations, likely because they also recognize that there are other ways to determine priorities in an organization.  That said, large firms provide incentives, in terms of compensation (including at the partner level) and (very much depending on one's goals) experience. 

The "experience" here is not, as you seem to assume, some generally superior path of advancement in society.  The specific interests and goals that led me to law school are such that the trade-off is worth it to me.  I'm not arguing that this is the case for every single person who enters these firms (or even for enough people that firms could attract the same quality of workers if everyone were to resist the temptation of $160K and assess where they actually fall on this trade-off).  I'm just saying that it isn't necessarily some misguided decision for every person who enters a large firm and doesn't complain about the conditions.  (Of course, to the extent that you just don't think that, for example, corporate M&A is a worthwhile life passion... well, that would be a completely different discussion, and one that we probably wouldn't be able to resolve.)

*One more caveat before I end this novel:  Yes, I realize that I have not actually worked as a junior associate as a large law firm, and that there is a chance that my career interests won't actually outweigh the working conditions once I'm actually going through it.  We can only make choices based on the information available to us.

A couple of things stand out to me:

I think what you are focusing on is the rationality of the individual choosing specific trade offs in order to accomplish their specific career goals.  Obviously I spoke to that but insofar as accepting certain treatment from employers is at all problematic, that's entirely a collective action problem.  Wally's right that no one person can really change this, but the opposite is true as well -- you specifically are not the (really even a?) cause of bad working conditions in the legal field in general if you decide to choose Skadden over some "lifestyle" firm, for example, because Skadden offers you some set of benefits that makes this tradeoff worth it.  The problem comes in when a large enough group of people make this tradeoff, particularly when people making this tradeoff is also the most profitable course for individual firms.  So if 90% of attractive candidates say, "Eh, I'll put myself through hell for a couple of years for money/exit options/the sake of my ego/whatever their reasons," and making associates' lives hell happens to make firms the most money,  it removes any incentive to offer alternative business models even if they are possible in theory.  I don't think I really need to remind all of us of the dearth of options for people who want nothing to do with the Biglaw lifestyle but are interested in those particular practice areas (I mean, you can't do M&A in government, and let's all remember that "midlaw is a myth").  Even when associates had more bargaining power and firms were touting their perks, "lifestyle" firms were a bit of a joke. 

I also don't really think that labor and employment law in this country is very protective to employees.  And on that note, I think there are some things that employees shouldn't be able to bargain away or that employers shouldn't be able to subject their employees to no matter how many people are willing to do it -- I mean, ITE there are probably some people who would work for $1/hour but that doesn't mean that's a good idea.  I ALSO really deplore the "client service 24 hours a day at all costs" model, and think that it's an example of capitalism gone amok rather than of the wonders of the free market. I guess, in short, I don't believe in the invisible hand of the market balancing everyone's interests, and I think that in the legal context the misery of Biglaw during even times when talent was extremely difficult to maintain is testament to that to some extent.  To me it seems that the employer always has more bargaining power, and that this is a problem.  But of course those debates are sort of insolvable.

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,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #24 on: October 11, 2009, 09:39:42 PM »
Quote
I'd also like to throw in a plug for secondary market firms.  Recruiters were much nicer and more prompt at firms that interview, say, 30 people per year for 10 spots, as opposed to mega-sweatshop firms that interview 200 of the best and brightest for 10 spots.  I had nothing but good experiences with places in my secondary markets.
 

I actually had several really awful, awkward secondary market interviews and great primary market interviews. I think a lot of it was that as soon as it became clear I wasn't a good ol boy, the interviewers lost interest. Then again, I didn't interview at the mega-sweatshop (skadden et.al.) firms in primary markets either.

The absolute kiss of death.  You have to go all out with the good ol boy mentality.

nealric

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #25 on: October 11, 2009, 10:19:44 PM »
Quote

The absolute kiss of death.  You have to go all out with the good ol boy mentality.
 

Too bad I'm a crappy actor. In any event, I think I'm ending up where I will fit in the best.
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Chief justice Earl Warren wasn't a stripper!
Now who's being naive?

dischord

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #26 on: October 12, 2009, 12:43:29 AM »
I just poked my head back in for a second but this piqued my interest just for the sake of playing devil's advocate (sort of):

  But I think that's a lot different from feeling like they owe it to me to explain themselves.

I mean, why DON'T they owe it to you to explain yourselves?  Maybe not a treatise on the inner workings of their firm, but even a minimal explanation?  Aside maybe an efficiency argument that it's impractical to do this for every waitlist candidate (which is undercut by the fact that form mass emails are easy, and there probably aren't THAT many waitlisted people at every firm), it seems to me like you, and to some degree everyone else, are buying into this whole notion of "Oh, I am just a know-nothing law student, an ant in comparison to these big important partners who are doing such important things that I could never expect them to deign to accommodate even my most piddling requests."  Of course this is exaggerated for emphasis, but frankly I'm sort of bewildered by the degree to which the concept of "entitlement" is bandied about anytime law students (or really, anyone in their early 20s) asserts that, you know, maybe their concerns are important, too?  Or god forbid, that in spite of their positions of authority and influence, maybe what these partners/firms are doing ISN'T that important?  Obviously these people are dealing with a lot of money and what a bunch of corporate hacks who can't really handle their own affairs think are catastrophic problems . . . but I don't know, are they really THAT important or impressive?  V10 partner . . . big f-ing deal. 

I mean, come on guys, where's everyone's healthy disrespect for authority, right? 

Although I suppose that the fact that I'm speaking to a bunch of law students who want to go into Biglaw really answers that question for me.
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finderskeepers

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #27 on: October 12, 2009, 01:20:18 AM »
Not surprisingly, many of the most attractive and preppy kids in my class got offers, almost regardless of grades.  They outperformed their grades because they fit the BigLaw mold.  Because they look sharp, corporate, and clean-cut, they look like someone BigLaw wants on the profile page or chatting with a client.  Looks were far, far more important than I think most people give them credit.  Sure, a 3.8 might land Wachtell, but for people with median and above median, the difference maker was being a good ol boy.

LOL at you thinking kids in our class are either of these things.

Slumdog Lovebutton

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #28 on: October 12, 2009, 10:09:26 AM »
I mean, come on guys, where's everyone's healthy disrespect for authority, right? 

Although I suppose that the fact that I'm speaking to a bunch of law students who want to go into Biglaw really answers that question for me.

Right, I had forgotten about how you were rebelling against that career path.  It's not like you have at all considered that there might be some benefit -- even to someone who isn't completely naive -- to putting aside some pride and joining The Institution.

I too was going to point out that you, D., are also a law student who wants to go into big law...but random beat me to it.

Take it easy, guys.
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dischord

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Re: Question on job offers
« Reply #29 on: October 12, 2009, 02:53:01 PM »
Good lord, people, there was some amount of sarcasm there, certainly in the last line.  I mean, I certainly think that among law students generally (and among young lawyers, for that matter) there is a lot of kowtowing to people who are in positions of power, and a lot of internalization of these hierarchies. But I didn't mean it as a personal attack on your specific choices  :-\

Nevertheless, I will say that I don't think that it's wrong or unreasonable to expect (in the normative, not the predictive, sense) ANY employer to get back to you.  I mean, no, this doesn't happen in practice -- many if not most employers will even tell candidates they should expect to hear from them and then they never do.  But ought it?  I think so.  It's rude whether it's Blockbuster, a corporation, an insurance defense firm, or Wachtell.  At the very least there is very little administrative cost to telling candidates up front that they won't be hearing from them unless it's good news. 

And to say that, well, in practice most employers in other industries don't do this, so you shouldn't expect this from law firms -- the set of firms that participate in OCI recruiting have created expectations through a long history of certain behaviors.  And this determines how applicants interpret what firms' behavior means, and then adjust their own behavior accordingly.  Within the context of the legal community, and even different parts of the legal community, behaviors signify differently than they would in other contexts (think for example about how thank you notes are completely standard in some industries but are more controversial with firms).  So what other industries do is of little relevance.  And now that firms behavior has changed dramatically, I find it difficult to justify why the onus should be entirely on the applicant to either figure it out or to just suck it up and deal with not knowing.  And furthermore, I doubt that if the topic of, say, students accepting multiple offers or violating some other non-NALP, unspoken norms of the recruiting process came up, that the majority would think it's appropriate, yet applicants are operating under the same degree of changed economic circumstances.

The fact that we are applying to them (and need jobs) . . . well, maybe this is the overall source of our disagreement.  I am thankful in a sort of broad cosmic sense for having an offer, but I by no means see this as, like, a gift from the firm, for which I should be grateful to THEM.  Because if I go there, they're going to make a shitload of money off of me -- arguably MOST of their money is from associate leverage, rather than high fees for partner expertise.  Whatever benefits there are to any of us in going to a firm, the relationship works fundamentally in their favor, especially if you stay longer than a year or two.  I think the same is true of the recruiting process -- interviewing us isn't doing any of us a favor, even if working at a firm will be beneficial to us as well for whatever reason.  This whole process is ultimately a moneymaking enterprise for them, even if it requires spending money up front to fly us around, take time to talk to us, etc.  To be clear, I'm not saying that on this point you guys are wrong and I am right.  There certainly IS a lot of time and expense involved in recruiting and getting a new associate class to the point where they're profitable.  And not everyone they hire becomes a profitable associate, so there is some risk involved for them.  So who you think comes out the winner in this arrangement will depend on how you prioritize each of these risks and rewards for both you and the firm.  I think that the majority of you are more inclined to see it as a more equitable relationship than I.  But coming from my point of view -- that the relationship is already more exploitative of associates than not -- a lot of behavior seems more like an abuse of power/bargaining position than a legitimate exercise thereof.

And as far as accusations that I'm a hypocrite go, I don't think it's entirely fair to characterize this as an indictment of everyone else's choices when I'm making the exact same ones.  I wasn't joking when I said that this experience has really made me question whether I want to go this route at all.  I considered not doing OCI, because having worked at a firm I not only knew what I was getting into, more or less, but also knew that I hated the working conditions (and my old firm was even  a "nice" firm).  But I didn't really feel like I had any choice (I mean, what kind of idiot turns down interviewing opportunities ITE?).  I guess I am a bit of a weirdo in that I find some areas of private practice interesting, but also have strong interests in areas in government and in public interest, so my practice area goals are rather fluid.  In a way that makes me lucky, I know, because it gives me leeway that others with more focused goals don't have.  But in other ways it makes things really difficult.  I mean, is it a good idea to just go ahead with a firm despite reservations just because otherwise I wouldn't be able to do certain practice areas?  Or do those reservations really justify taking a riskier path and pursuing another interest -- a bird in the hand, you know?  I've obviously been disappointed in how some firms have handled recruiting ITE.  But I think my real frustration stems from feeling like I'm being forced into a choice that I'm not sure is right for me -- certainly not ideologically, at least -- while also feeling like a lot of the baggage that comes along with working for a firm is unnecessary. 

(ETA: I feel I should further clarify my previous post because I think it really came off wrong -- I also didn't mean it personally in the sense that I was reading everyone's individual posts and thinking, "Wow, you all are morons" or something.  Although Wally feeling sorry for partners was a little surreal, haha.  It was just a response to the general tenor of the conversation, and what I was reading as a necessary underlying assumption behind defending the behavior of firms.  I certainly recognize that they have the power right now, especially because it's a buyer's market so to speak, and I am not insensitive to everyone's individual problems that necessitate just grinning and bearing it.  I think what I was trying to say was that even if that's the way things are, that sucks, and that there's nothing inherently special about firms that justifies them treating applicants with any disrespect even if we're forced to accept it for practical reasons.  I hope that makes sense.)
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