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Author Topic: Nepotism...the wave of the future  (Read 1972 times)

Beags

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Nepotism...the wave of the future
« on: April 22, 2011, 02:19:43 PM »
Alright.  Here's where I stand:

I have two recommendation letters from people that know me by work ethic and ability alone:

A manager from my Fortune 100 company that I worked closely with in an area of contract interpretation and ALJ hearings; AND
Well known in house counsel for a large insurer (actually practicing and trying cases before the Bar, not doing "doc review")

I've requested a couple others, but they most likely aren't going to be submitted anytime soon.  However, a large amount of my legal work in the past has been done in my father's practice acting as his assistant and in-court support (basically clerking for him).  My father,as a member of the Bar, is offering to write a letter speaking solely to my responsibilities and performance in his office .  He's more than capable of doing this (my father makes no bones about loving his children, but being completely candid as to their abilities, especially where his profession is concerned), and I know that most admissions departments will look at it as a "supplement" and not a letter of recommendation, which is fine by me. 

Still, I was wondering if anyone has an opinion.  I spent a good portion of my adult life (since 18) working for him before working full time as his assistant/clerk.  Knowing my father, he'll acknowledge I'm his son, then state he's making his statement based off of my actual work product in his office.  I still have letters from other recommenders submitted...I don't see a downside, but then again I'm not in admissions.

Thoughts?
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MikePing

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2011, 12:13:10 PM »
I don't see much of a downside unless your father slams you.  Based on your post, however, I wasn't sure if any of your letters came from a professor.  If not, I bet that a mediocre LOR from a professor would strongly outweigh anything your dad could write. 

Beags

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2011, 03:12:10 PM »
The problem with a professor letter is I'm 3 years out of my UG studies.  The professor I was close to has passed on in that time, and the others...well, I'm a blurred memory these days.  I'm relying more on professional references.  My current job is a high research/analysis position, hence the manager from there.  The in-house counsel is familiar with my legal research ability and quality of my work from the same time as my undergraduate days. 
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FalconJimmy

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2011, 04:35:58 PM »
Personally, I think submitting an LOR from your father is likely to be a bad idea that will work cross-purposes to getting you into school.

First, LORs are a joke anyway.  Any self-ambulatory mammal can find 2 or 3 people who will write a letter of praise. 

However, if you submit one from your father, I'd be thinking:

1.  Good lord, how lame is this guy?  He couldn't come up with 2 people not-related to him to give him LORs?  He had to get one from his Dad?
2.  The world doesn't need another untalented silver-spoon trustafarian who is trying to get by on the accomplishments and money of his parents.  If this guy had any real talent, his best LOR would not be from his Dad.

I can see this backfiring in a big way.  I can not possibly see how an LOR from your father, your uncle, your grandpa, your niece, any family member, could ever help you in any regard.  A phone call from that relative?  That says, "Hey, remember that money I gave the school?"  That could work.  Or, "remember when I helped you hide the body of that prostitute you murdered?"  That could work.

"My son is brilliant, worked his butt off for my law firm from the time he was 9 years old" makes you sound like an overpriviledged no-talent.

Sorry to sound so harsh, but I think it would be an unmitigated disaster if you were to submit an LOR from a relative. 

I could be totally wrong, but that's just the way I see it.

Beags

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2011, 08:37:56 AM »
Falcon,

Thank you!  That's actually my concern with the letter in the first place.  I'm not considering it an LOR so much as a "supplement" to the application to explain the work performed at his office.  But I'm worried for the exact reasons you stated:  that it would come off as a nepotistic letter saying "admit my son because he's my son!" 

I've held back from assigning it to any application yet, and am actually thinking of, if I do assign it, including it as part of the resume or a supplement to explain the work at my father's office.  I heard from at least one admissions rep at another university (not one I'm applying to) that they see a lot of lawyers' kids and assume that they did clerical/filing work in the office.  I'm trying to advise a bit better as to what my work actually was at his office.  I was thinking, if I include that letter at all, maybe stick it in as part of the resume?

I read the letter yesterday, and he acknowledges I'm his son, then gives a dry run-down of what my duties were and how they were performed.  Very sparse in  praise...reads a lot like a letter from an employer, which is how he's writing it.  I'm still torn, though, for exactly the reasons you said.  At the same time, the senior attorney at his office (other than my father) is an inveterate alcoholic that he keeps on out of loyalty, so I really don't trust him to write a letter running down what I did.

I guess I should change the question around a bit:  Not as an LOR, but as a supplement to the Resume information in the application, would such a letter be acceptable to detail the work performed as part of his staff?  The LOR's I have covered (2) from other sources. 

Also, I can always find two people willing to write some schlock about how great I am...but for something like this?  I'd prefer that they be people that can speak honestly about my suitability for the study of law and my ability personally.  Hence the In-House insurance counsel and the Fortune 100 Management.  I think on the LOR front I'm good....I'm just trying to figure out whether to stick in the letter from my father as my employer or not in the application package.
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FalconJimmy

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2011, 11:16:29 AM »
Is there anybody else in your father's organization who can write the letter?

I don't mean to make it sound like you should do something devious here.  Just that, frankly, if they match up the last name, I think this doesn't have any potential to help you and could potentially harm you.

You mentioned one alcoholic in the organization.  Is there anybody sober?

Although I think it's a colossally bad idea to submit a letter from your father, in any way, I think there should be a way for you to get credit for the work you've done.

So long as HE is the one who writes it, there just isn't any way to get around the fact that it's a father saying "my son is a good boy."

I own a small business and my son will probably work in it someday.  (He's 9.)  Or, if I go into the practice of law, he may be just like you:  working for the family business that just happens to be a law firm.

I think the place to highlight your accomplishments is in your resume or somewhere else, where YOU detail what you've done.

I just don't see a way your father's letter can help you no matter how you submit it.  Does he have a legal secretary?  Somebody who can draft a letter that says, "from x date to y date, Joe Blow worked in our office in a capacity analogous to a parallegal.  He worked on the following types of work, etc."

I would find pretty much anybody to write that letter other than your Dad.  Even if you're not a silver spoon trustafarian (and most kids of small business owners and even kids of small law firm partners are not), it might make you seem like one. 

You might catch a break and the person reviewing your application also had family connections and won't hold it against you.  I just see it going the other way in a lot of other scenarios.

Beags

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2011, 11:41:34 AM »
Falcon,

I wish I could say yes...but my father's practice is a small office.  His direct legal secretary is my mother, and he hasn't had a personal clerk since I left the office a few years back.  Most of the junior lawyers in his office are hired straight out of law school, and are gone within a year or two to positions elsewhere.  His partner's clerk is the man's drinking buddy, and isn't too reliable.  The best I could do with someone from within the organization would be his legal researcher...a disbarred attorney with a great mind for research and a horrible mind for practice.

My main problem with using someone else in his organization is simply the "knowledge" factor.  The juniors are only likely to know me from case files of long-time clients that they're now handling, and it would essentially be my father's letter with their signature.  Ethically, something just catches me about submitting anything along those lines. 

As for "matching up", though, that's the other part.  I've seen his letter, and the opening line is "This applicant is my son, who also worked as my personal legal assistant, clerk, and in-court support from..." and then on.  It really is one of those "explanatory" letters that just flat out says the nature of the work performed.

Complicated situations arise when the family business is something like this, dangit!

Trustafarian...I like that term, by the way.  No, my father spent 30+ years building his practice, and only became profitable at it after all of his kids were out of the house.  I have a family network to fall back on to help find work after law school (most likely with the county) or a law practice that I can set up office in and hang a shingle out taking cast-off cases, but outside of that I'd be dealing on a family name and not much else.

The only reason I'm thinking the letter may be appropriate as a supplement is, well...people lie on resumes.  Or "expand" the truth.  A secretary becomes a highly trusted clerk/assistant experienced in many matters.  I'm really trying to get a letter like this in to support my resume and explain the nature of my role in his office.

I'm meditating on how to do it.  Like I said, his partner is out of the question, and I'm not ethically comfortable in having someone else write the letter and append another attorney's signature to it...But I see your point as well, and like I said, actually have the same concern.
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FalconJimmy

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2011, 11:48:21 AM »
My main problem with using someone else in his organization is simply the "knowledge" factor.  The juniors are only likely to know me from case files of long-time clients that they're now handling, and it would essentially be my father's letter with their signature.  Ethically, something just catches me about submitting anything along those lines. 

See, that woudln't bother me at all.  That sort of thing HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in businesses.  So long as the letter isn't actually saying you did things you didn't do, I don't see an issue with it.

I really think you deserve credit for your experience.  It also sounds like you have two GREAT letters.

Is there any way your Dad would go along with having his other associate submit the letter?

The reason I'm thinking this isn't such a big deal is, not only does this happen every day in businesses, but I'm thinking back to when I needed LORs from a few college profs and the first thing they said was, "Hey, can you give me your resume?"

What they were basically saying was, "I think you're an okay student, but I don't know much about you that would look good in an LOR."

In a way, they were asking me to help them write it and just keep it honest and real.

Having your Dad's employee submit the letter is even better than that since YOU aren't providing any of the information.  It's all coming from 3rd parties.

It also puts a totally different spin on it if your LOR comes from a non-family member, even if it's obvious it was a family business.

For instance, if my son works for me, but works under an operations manager, it doesn't look that bad if the operations manager says, "Joe blow worked for me in the operations department from X to X dates."  Even if somebody connects the dots and figures out it's a family-owned business, the fact that somebody impartial is writing the LOR means a lot.


Beags

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Re: Nepotism...the wave of the future
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2011, 11:57:47 AM »
Is there any way your Dad would go along with having his other associate submit the letter?

I think he would go along with it without a problem.  I just have the ethical issue myself...mainly on the whole "you're applying to school to earn the necessary degree to sit for the Bar and become a sworn officer of the Court" aspect.  Idealism...I don't have much of it, but what I have can be strong.

The man who loves his cups a bit too much, who we'll just call FY, would sign it without problem. He'd probably submit it without a problem as long as happy hour didn't distract him...but after that I'd have to deal with having FY's name on the letter, and God help me if anyone on the admissions staff Googles him.  His reputation is not sterling, and his inability to practice alone is more or less the reason he's still on the letterhead.

I gotta say, I'd have to think about it though.  My ethics sometimes outweigh my common sense.  Especially since the Bar Examiners will be...familiar...with at least 3 people involved in my application package when I sit for the Bar a few years down the road.  Cart before the horse, I know, but it's something to think about on my end.
"Everyone goes to jail at some point in their lives.  If this statement doesn't apply to you, wait a couple more years."