Category Archives: Interviews

Interview 47 – An old acquaintance, a job, and the end of the world

My BigFirm job was rotting on the vine, and I was desperate to find something that would get me out of their office. Mind you, I think I could have stayed there for quite a bit longer before they finally kicked me out. Plus as we all found out in March of 2020… work was about to get a lot weirder.

At this point, I was reaching out to any old colleague I could remember trying to find someone who was hiring that will get me out of my empty BigLaw office. I started reaching out to <shudder> headhunters, just on the off chance they had something worthwhile.

In this limited instance… someone did.

A headhunter I spoke to contacted me back and told me she had a smaller branch office that needed someone ASAP. I figured it was going to be another crap offering like every other one a headhunter had offered up for me, but she told me the managing attorney’s name… and I did a double take. I knew the guy. And he was a really nice guy. He had been opposing counsel on a big case I had been involved with years ago. Sometimes you walk away from a case and just really like who you work with; in litigation, it is damn rare. It happens, but not frequently. This had been one of those rare instances.

We had a phone interview, where we both started chatting quite literally about old times and the people we knew in common and what had happened in the interim since the case we had both been on had ended. We met up for coffee at Starbucks as the ‘formal’ interview and he said I was hired if I wanted it. He showed up to the interview in sweats and a T-shirt as he was a krav maga instructor and was showing up after class to talk with me. The more I found out about him, the more I liked him. I told him the full disclosure of what was going on at my current firm. I liked the guy too much not to disclose something which could still come back to bite me. He listened and said that none of those people were clients of his firm, so fuck ’em. He didn’t care but he appreciated the honesty.

I quit the BigLaw firm and I am sure several people breathed a huge sigh of relief. I’m sure it was completely coincidental (a friend later told me it wasn’t) but the day after I put in notice, the office for the first time since I had started working there sent out a mass email saying they were having a happy hour and the first drink was being bought by the managing partner. I didn’t go. On my last day there, I think there were all of three people I said bye to who might notice I was missing. I only told one where I was going… and that attorney swore he wouldn’t tell anyone he knew where I went.

The new firm I started at was a midsize regional firm. Probably 50 attorneys in the main office, but I was in the satellite office, and there were only 4 or 5 of us. I say 4 or 5 because one attorney was in the process of retiring and was trying the tie up the last very few cases he couldn’t disentangle from; so he was nearly never there — which was a shame cause he was hilarious. It was a great office. I honestly liked everyone I was working with. The managing attorney was a great guy with tons of experience and very approachable. The rest of the team were snarky and funny and right up my alley. And my office had a beautiful view. I felt like I had finally clicked. The only weird part about the office was that I had to take 3 different elevators to get to it every day. It had apparently at one point in the past been a tiny museum of sorts and therefore was weirdly difficult to access for security purposes. The building wasn’t going to renovate just to fix access to the floor just because the museum left, but ultimately that too.. sorta added to the charm of the office. It was eclectic, and so were the people.

I started at my new firm Mid-February 2020. After about three weeks in that nice office, I pretty much never saw the inside of it again.

Interview 45 (&46) – The Cheapening

I had an interview the other day. This one doesn’t deserve the whole write up I normally do. It was with a firm I had a prior relationship with; basically in my last position they were an outside panel firm and were an option when we had to send a case outside. I had sent a fair number of cases to them and knew one of the main partners decently well from the referrals and also working as co-counsel on cases.

Once the recent crap bonanza happened to me, I reached out to the partner I knew at this firm because they had at one point attempted to poach me with promise of marginally more money. (I said no at the time because the marginally more money was also linked to zero provided benefits, which worked out to paying me significantly less). Anyway, the firm seemed to be setup in a most peculiar way since every partner there had their own mini-practice in which none of the other partners were much aware what transpired.

I was interviewed to work with one (and only one) partner; and it wasn’t the one who I had known. During the interview the partner lamented her commute time and told me she was hiring an associate to take care of cases and also be a warm body in the office, because they were not going to be showing up hardly anymore once they hired someone. The partner had decided they could more effectively use their time by working at home rather than commuting everyday.

As a sidenote… for any who are unaware. It is a rare person who can effectively work from home. More often than not, the above is code for “I don’t want to work as much as I used to, so I am hiring you to hold down the fort and I will only show my face when absolutely necessary.” I’ve seen it many times and the transition to working primarily from home is very often a bad sign. The second warning bell was that the career paralegal who took care of this partner had just quit and the partner had only now figured out that paralegal was doing the work of three people and now the partner was screwed trying to fill multiple positions for the one person who quit

Anyway, I got an answer to my interview in an odd manner. The partner who I did know, called me up to see if I was interested in working on a contract basis because the firm had decided I was too expensive to hire permanently, but they could pay me as a contractor what I was asking. (once again… no benefits). Apparently the nearly exact sentiment of the partners was that I was rather experienced, likely worth the salary I asked for (which was not exorbitant in the least… I know exactly what I am worth in this location and market and I am asking on the low end… esp because I had recently been getting the salary I was asking for and was merely asking for a match) but they didn’t want to pay that. Again a fun quote I was given was that they wanted someone less experienced they could pay less.

I’d like to say this was an anomaly but I had an almost identical circumstance happen at a second panel firm I knew, for the same reasons as above, 2 weeks later.

Interview #44 – perfectly Strange

The more I think about this one, the stranger it becomes.

This was the first time I’ve ever had anything come back from a ziprecruiter posting. Basically it was one of the postings where you apply directly through ziprecruiter and not through the firm site; if you’ve never done it you effectively upload your resume and it may ask you 2 or 3 yes/no questions and that is the whole application. Definitely initially easier on the applicant, although it turns out, might not be so great in the long run.

So I apply for a litigation position. The firm is a nice sized large firm of a few hundred attorneys with several offices in various cities. The posting was generic and just wanted a mid level lit associate. I got a call back requesting an interview and I show up to a nice modern mid-high rise done out in all white (cleaning / keeping these places clean must be a bitch). I’m assuming the firm had more than one floor of the building considering the number of people supposedly at that location, but I get ushered into the front conference room and never actually see the offices.

The interview was with the section lead attorney and one of the partners. Introductions were made and they sat down and pulled out a single page with my name in large letters across the top, and a few lines in large print on it. I’m quiet for only a moment before I say “What is that?” Apparently ziprecruiter had sent a synopsis page, and they had never seen my full resume… which was very strange because there was no way I would get an interview based on what looked like a 100 word synopsis with no real information on it. We all conclude that someone somewhere in the firm must have seen my full resume because an interview would not have been given off the short synopsis we were all looking at. Being prepared from my many weird interviews I always have half a dozen copies of my resume; its amazing how many people have never seen your resume and don’t even walk into the interview with a copy. So I pass out copies to the partners and we start talking.

As you might guess, the section lead is the person making the decisions. The other partner is largely silent for the whole interview. But damn, what an interview. It went amazing. They didn’t just want me as an associate, they were talking about putting me at Sr. Associate and we had been talking regarding time required for partnership by the end of everything. At the end of the interview the section lead asks me to hang around for a minute and they send in the HR rep who starts the paperwork. They have me fill out background paperwork as well as a conflicts check. At this point I think it’s over. I got the job and I just need to wait for the compliance dept to go over everything and finish the background check.

Over the next week I get a followup from the compliance team to verify a few things, and I also hear from one of my references that they got a phone call.

Finally, I get a call asking me to come in for a second interview. Wait… what?…

But hey, I’m game for whatever. So I show back up almost 2 weeks after the first interview for a second interview. I’m told this time I’ll be meeting with 4 attorneys. I check who I’ll be meeting with and from what I can gather this is the ‘social interview’ with other people on the team I’d be working with. But the strange part is, I’m being interviewed by 2 partners… and 2 first year attorneys. As in… they graduated last year and apparently have been working there for all of 6 months or so. Which could be a sign that the firm values the opinion of their employees… or possibly they just want to show them how it’s done? I feel both ideas are likely wrong, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why these associates would be in on this if I was likely to be hired over them.

The second interview did not go quite as well as the first. Generally, the more people interviewing you, the less effective it is. You can’t follow one train of thought to its conclusion and instead you get peppered with non-sequitur questions which don’t lend themselves to explanation. This one was no different. And again, they all walked in with that weird synopsis sheet (even though from interview 1 they knew it was wrong and now definitely had the full resume), so again I go about handing out my resume which they’ve never seen and commenting on how I have no idea what ziprecruiter sent over (WTF? seriously… just send the damn resume). What made this interview much worse however was the interplay between the 2 partners. One of them kept cracking jokes about how old the other one was. The older attorney was annoyed, which was obvious as he never made any return comments. And of course the young associates would laugh at the jokes about the older attorney compounding the unease in the room.

Being the applicant, you don’t join in. Ever. You don’t know the playing field, so don’t join in the game. It may be harmless joking, it might not be. What I will say is that about halfway through, the older attorney left with the excuse that he had a phone conference he had previously setup and had to go. I’m uncertain whether he left because he really had a phone call, or he was sick of the other partner joking at his expense. So, now its down to the one partner, and 2 associates. Here’s where it got weirder. One of the associates took this as their cue to shine and basically they took over the interview for the remainder. So now I am being questioned by someone who has been in the working world for about 6 months… and has never actually been involved in a trial, interviewing me for a litigation position, for which I would likely be their superior. Their questions reflected their ignorance unfortunately.

Even through all of this, the interview didn’t go badly. It just did not flow nearly as well as the first. A social interview is usually just a formality. The decision is already made and unless you do something egregious during the interview, you’ve got it.

Well, another week goes by and I get a generic email saying I didn’t get the position. I’m at a loss. I’ve never heard of a firm which spends the time and money, as well as contacting your references, on a ‘maybe’. It was as if whoever was running the interviews knew the various parts of the hiring process they needed to do, but not in what order. As near as I can tell, they wanted to vet me before they sat down to make a decision. It was a grand waste of time, but hey I got to be interviewed by a first year attorney for a senior position. That’s a new one for me.

UPDATE: Wow, so this one went from odd, to off-the-wall. When I really like somewhere I interview, or I get very far in the process, if the firm ends up rejecting me I usually send along a short note asking for feedback as to what happened. Most of the time you get the standard GLOMAR response, but every once in awhile, you get something useful or alternatively, just completely crazy. This falls under the latter category. I sent out the request for feedback, mostly because I seemed to have been damn near hired, and then it disappeared and I could not figure out the misstep. But then I actually got an email back. The gist of it was, one of the partners who interviewed me took exception to the fact that I used the lord’s name in vain, when describing something I said “Christ… something something something” in an exasperated tone. Turns out, the partner was a wee bit of a religious zealot and blocked me from being hired for that… Not hyperbole… not joking. BTW… I’m not christian, or any religion for that matter. So basically I was denied employment, not merely because I don’t share the religious affiliation but also the fervor that this partner does. Why this was admitted to me in an email? I don’t know. This seems like a very unwise thing to send to the applicant that they were denied for religious reasons. I’m going to have to consider this a bit more as to whether I should do something.

Interview 43 – Read between the lines?

I had a phone interview with a smallish mid-sized firm recently. Basically it was a phone screen by the HR rep before deciding if they should bring me in for an in-person interview. The HR rep had set a half hour window to talk with me and called right on time.

The conversation was going quite well, so I thought. The problem was that actually we were both talking a fair amount and at the end of the half hour, the HR rep basically said she had another call scheduled but she didn’t get to actually hit on everything she needed to so she wanted to call back and finish up the phone screen.

I said sure, obviously. And she set the second phone call for the next day. I told her she could call at her convenience rather than set a time (apparently my mistake) as my schedule was completely open. So she said she’d call in the afternoon sometime. There was a comment prior… I don’t remember what elicited it. At the time is seemed organic and a bit of a joke based on what we were talking about, plus as I said, the conversation was going great and we actually had a few things in common which is why the phone call went long as we were not completely staying on track. But the HR rep had said something to the effect of, “she was sorry and really did have another phone call and wasn’t trying to get off the phone; had she been doing that she wouldn’t be setting up the followup phone call.”

Seemed normal enough. Except I never got a phone call the next day. Or the next. I dropped an email to the LinkedIn profile from where this interview got setup initially. Then three days later I dropped one to her email at the firm. Radio silence.

I guess… no? Seemed an odd thing to make a statement like that and then ghost someone. Or a particularly malicious, either way. Weird.

Interview #42 (and others) – Warm Bodies

I’ve interviewed at this firm 3 times; twice in the past year now. They have never mentioned that I’ve been there before and I’m quite certain they have no record of my prior applications.There was an odd consistency of confusion that seemed to just be accepted by all there.

The firm was located in a nice mid-rise and a pretty nicely decked out office, done up in the classic ‘grey on grey’ for everything.

#1. My first interview at this place was a few years back when I first moved down here. Basically I had a great interview with a young partner. He told me he got stuck running the interviews because he was the newest partner and got suck with the crappy jobs (Way to make an impression on the applicant!). On the plus side however, we had a ton in common and a fair amount of the interview was the two of us bullshitting and having a really great conversation. I was sure I had an offer. At the end of the interview, the real information came out though. This legal office had a satellite office in the armpit of this state, some 300 miles away. Although the job posting had been to work in the main city, the actual job offer was for the legal office in Armpit. The partner basically said they would hire me on the spot if I would take the Armpit job, but they’d have to think about it if I was only looking at Main City. I told them in no uncertain terms I had no interest in Armpit. That pretty much killed any chance of an job offer, because they didn’t actually have a job here… only in Armpit.

I ended up working with a colleague who had the exact same interview with them. “Sure, we might hire you to work here, but we would definitely hire you to go work in Armpit.” He told them where they could put that offer too.

#2. The second time I interviewed here was last year. They setup the interview and then the guy who was supposed to interview me got a case of poison ivy which sent him to the hospital and out of work for the week. No one had thought to reschedule and I ended up waiting a long time while they searched for someone to interview me. I mean why not just reschedule… or maybe be more organized and cancel these things before I am sitting in the conference room… instead they grabbed one of the wandering lit attorneys who was probably the image you would have in your mind if I told you to imagine someone who was dead inside and had no soul. He exemplified why people hated attorneys. He told me stories about how opportunistic he was and how he had scammed several hundred thousand (legally!) out of his prior employers and used his personal knowledge of them for his own profit, and then he laughed about it. He thought it was hilarious.

How the hell do you respond to that in an interview? He was one of the few people I really felt icky after talking to, and I just wanted to go shower to wash off whatever veneer was on this guy that might have rubbed off.

#3. This one was this month. I was supposed to interview with partner X. Who just didn’t bother showing up for work on the day of my interview. So, in the spirit of this law firm they just cobbled together a few people who did show up to sit down and interview me. None of them were all that memorable this time, and the interview was sadly a very normal affair, excepting the interviewer who was a no show. I was really expecting a bit more weirdness in the vein of the prior encounters. I think the one consistency in every interview was I always end up in the same conference room sitting in the same chair, and no one had ever seen my resume before they sat down to talk to me. And also, the firm never bothers to actually get back to me to even say “no thank you”, (assuming there even was a job in the first place).

I have a vague feeling they constantly advertise for a non-existent position, and if you are the perfect applicant, they might create the position they have been advertising for so long, otherwise you never hear back.

Interview #41 – The non-Job nepotism interview

Ever since recent events, I’ve reached out to some of my friends and prior work associates and effectively stated I’m looking because I got royally screwed over (major story to appear shortly). An attorney friend from my previous job called up and told me that opposing counsel had offered a name-drop guaranteed interview with a firm (drop her name and I would absolutely get an interview with the managing attorney). How can I say no to a nepotism interview? It takes the hard part out of applying!

Here’s where it got fun though, the firm with the guaranteed interview? It was the one from Interview Story #15… yes, I was going back to somewhere I had a fantastically bad interview story nearly five years later. But I mean, come one… how could I not — I’d finally get to see the firm and put a face to the name. Plus, it just makes a lovely bookend for the first story to come back years later and take another whack at it.

So I send off my resume and put the name drop in the email and I get back a pretty quick answer from the managing / named partner telling me to come in two days later on a Friday morning. I head over to a rather nice modern mid-rise which is as nice inside as it looked from the outside. I’m relatively quickly met by the named partner and we head back to his office. Walking through the firm actually gives me a bit of hope as it is done up much nicer than most firms of the same size, and it even has a dedicated break room which looked really nice (also very rare for a small / mid sized firm).

As I walk in he motioned for me to sit in one of the large chairs in front of his desk. They were weirdly shaped and upholstered in cow hide… (shades of Interview #27) I was better this time and didn’t hesitate to sit, although the same question lingered about whether his chair was going to shed on my suit.

(sidenote… I happened to find out where the weird as hell chairs came from in Interview 27… I was talking to another attorney and something came up in conversation about that DAs office and I joked and said I had interviewed at that looney bin, and described the chairs and table. They laughed and said they knew exactly where they got them. It turns out there is a catalog of prison made furniture and accessories, those clunky ugly things were basically made in the prison woodshop. Because it was a DAs office, they got even more special pricing as a state agency and could basically buy whatever they wanted. So yeah, Game of Thrones table set were prison furniture. The defining characteristic were the huge brass studs on the cowhide, I guess prison furniture has a particular style. Creepy and fitting I guess.)

Thankfully, the partner had not remembered my name from whatever he may have heard regarding whatever had gone on at his firm 5 years prior. On the other hand, I actually think he almost viewed me with suspicion because the person who referred me was a plaintiff’s counsel. Which was weird, because as I told him, I really didn’t know the referrer other than they were opposing counsel to my previous office on a few cases, none of which I was ever assigned.

The interview itself was slightly strange. The partner did a good 80% of the talking. He didn’t ask many questions and instead I felt I was getting an elevator pitch as to why they were a good firm. What made it even stranger was that the partner was not saying they were a good firm, quite the opposite. His opinion was that he wanted to be slightly better than the average, as if that was somehow a huge selling point. To make matters a bit stranger, 75-80% of their business came from one client. It appeared that when the guy I had interviewed with several times in Interview 15 left, they closed down his practice group completely, leaving only their one main client and a few one off cases here and there.

Their one client had one guy in the big corporation who had been referring them business for the last 15+ years. My read on that is the guy referring them business was close to retirement, and it is a toss up as to whether anyone taking over that position would keep using the same firms or not. This law firm was literally surviving on a single client which could disappear tomorrow. (but hey, They hadn’t disappeared for the last many years, who is to say it would happen anytime soon. Just that it could.)

The interview went for about 45 minutes, mostly the partner talking about himself and his weird elevator pitch to me. He also had not bothered looking at my resume at all prior to me walking in (bad sign) and kept making comments about remedial training (which I trivially don’t need based on the experience listed on my resume). The partner got up to walk me out but the conversation continued for several more minutes standing awkwardly in his office before we finally started to walk out.

He then walked me out of the office all the way to the elevator bank, again slightly odd, where he finished the interview / conversation and then quite literally walked into the bathroom after saying thanks for coming. I’m not saying, he walked down the hallway to the bathroom… no. The bathroom was directly to my right, and he just shook my hand and in the same fluid motion opened the bathroom door and disappeared.

I’m pretty sure he ended the interview because he had to use the bathroom… but dear lord why would he literally walk me to the bathroom and say bye as he went in. Just… weird.

I didn’t hear anything from him. I don’t think there was an actual job, the partner never talked about money or benefits, start date, or anything else to give an indication there was an actual job. It was more a stilted social interview given as an obligation to the person who had referred me over to him. The same person he felt strangely paranoid about.

I don’t understand what the situation there was, not sure I care. At least I got to finally see the actual law firm from Interview 15, worth it in my mind just for that.

Interview #40 – Gripe Session

I was talking with co-counsel on a case, we were probably talking about the case for about 5-10 minutes before we made a few jokes about how crappy the case was and how our job in general sucked. Which led to me complaining about my job in specific, the phone call turned into a half hour conversation at the end of which co-counsel said, “well you do the same thing as us, why don’t you just walk over here if it’s as bad as you say it is there…” It took only a moment for me to ask if they had an open position and to say I would love to.

I dropped my resume with them and they passed it up to the managing attorney. I got a fast track phone interview which in turn immediately passed me on to the in person interview. 

I showed up at a nice high rise and walked into a bright, nicely furnished office. Nothing ostentatious, but respectable and professional, a welcome change from where I work. (I should really take some photos of my current office before I leave for comparisons). I sit down in a conference room with 4 senior attorneys, at least one of whom has their name on the door.

The interview started out slightly rocky. The first question was “why do you want to leave your current job and come over here… you’re doing the same thing as us.” It is a sticky moment because quite literally the first rule of interviewing is you’re not supposed to malign your current / previous employer. And yet that is literally what I was being asked to do in effect. 

I pretty much answered with that statement that it was a tough question for just that reason, but since we were all in the same industry and same town, some of this would be known. What followed was probably one of the more interesting interviews I’ve had simply because everyone in the room did the same work but my comments hit home nearly always. “I want to leave because our office tech sucks, explain… explain… example: the fax is still the centerpiece of the office.” This drew a huge laugh as one of them said they had to send a fax for the first time in over a year recently and couldn’t figure it out on their machine because it is used so infrequently. In our office, we use it like it’s still the 1980s. 

The interview lasted an hour and a half which in effect traced how my office did things very differently from their office and why I felt it was a bad situation. I don’t mind the work, I just thought our office was badly managed and the higher-ups didn’t care one iota about sufficiently staffing the office or providing what we needed to do our jobs. 

There was a general agreement that my situation was not great where I was and that it was much better at their office. I had actually thought I was going to get the job… they liked me, I had the experience and could hit the ground running from day one, and I had an internal referral from a lifer in the office. 

A couple weeks went by and I was pretty certain I had it and they were just finishing the paperwork. I got the email rejection about 3 weeks after it all started. Not completely sure what the mis-step was. There were possibly two, one more disturbing if that was it. One I could think of was a variance in their metrics of how they graded the attorneys and that of my own office. Apparently in their office you lived and died by your resolved and active numbers. My office really couldn’t care less (mostly). I was asked in the interview what my numbers were and I said I had no idea… someone had told me once probably a year ago but it wasn’t something any of us knew off the top of our heads. The managing attorney found that odd since in their office every attorney could recite that number cold. I can’t imagine that was the major issue since so much was different between the offices it shouldn’t be surprising our grading methods differed.

The slightly more disturbing one was about time at the office. I was asked how many hours per week I put in at the office, I said I don’t know exactly. Its an odd question in my line of work because it has a lot of answers. Time literally at the office is often only 50% of time spent working because you travel for a fair amount of litigation work. Depositions, hearings, trials… I said it was highly variable and that one of the current issues at my office was that I used to put in stupid hours and I was usually one of two or three people who closed the office daily. I said there was more of a problem now because the workload had increased per attorney by nearly 100% with no change in expectation of what had to be done on every case (and no further staffing). I had said it was unsustainable and that I had a hard out these days at 5 to pick up my kid at daycare. 

The interview ended and I walked out nearly certain I was going to be putting in my two weeks in no time at all in my current job. I have a bad feeling I “was not dedicated enough” due to having children; which is a common enough statement heard in the legal industry sadly.  

edit: on a slightly positive side, I did actually find out why I didn’t get the spot… after interviewing me, another inside hire showed up who had 10 yrs experience as opposed to my 3 in this sub-specialty. Basically they had someone else show up who they couldn’t pass up so I just missed out. 

Interview #38 – Missing Info

Lately I have been attempting to get out of where I am working with renewed effort. Short version is that my current job / company is a good springboard with a recognizable name, but the office I work at is horribly mismanaged and the company itself is penurious to the point of absurdity. I tell most people I am lucky they supply pens (and in truth it is almost that bad). 

Anyway, I applied to a position listed for civil litigation with ‘the state’. Nice amazing sounding position working for the County DA’s office. Salaried but straight bankers hours, any OT is flexed over to whenever you want to take it back. The position pretty simply said it was for a civil litigator with very generic background requirements but nothing specific as to what one would be litigating. There is a pretty large basket that encompasses ‘civil’ and I have a pretty significant background in a whole bunch of it so I figured I would give it a shot. Usually getting these positions require an inside track but I tossed out a resume because you never know. 

And it turns out it paid off. I got in for an interview pretty quickly and sat down with several people who had been at the office for well over a decade. Positions didn’t open up often there, the job situation was great and apparently most people only left the job when they retired, died, or moved cities. 

The interview was going great. I had worked in a County Civil dept before so I was aware of most of what they did and what would be expected. The fateful moment came when they asked why I was attempting to leave my current job. I told them I was trying to get out of Personal Injury work. 

At which point the DA said, that’s too bad… we were trying to hire you to do Personal Injury defense for car accident cases for us. 

The job description had never mentioned this. Anywhere. I had a print out in my interview folio; I almost wanted to pull it out mid-interview at that point just to verify I wasn’t crazy. I tried to save the interview from the flaming death spiral the it had just become, but the damage really was done. Even though they had literally said ‘we are looking for someone exactly like you’… it was apparently not me; it was I guess someone exactly like me who wanted to do more personal injury cases. 

I’m guessing they hired someone exactly like me, only different. 

Interview #37- the sinking ship (another MLM style firm?)

So I showed up to the headhunter obtained interview. They made a big deal about the firm having a maritime background, which is why I was going to be a perfect fit. The office was decently high up a mid-to-high skyscraper.  It occupied half of the whole floor, so I figured it must be decently solvent. The firm itself had few offices in a couple states so it wasn’t small either.

Upon getting to the firm, I noted that the lobby was nicely furnished and I chatted up the receptionist for a few minutes. She had been there for years, so I felt there might actually be decent retention. I was ushered into a conference room with a long wooden table. The table had some big slabs of glass over it to protect it, but under the glass was so much dust and dirt, I actually didn’t really want to rest my arms on the top of the glass. I should elaborate slightly, the top of the glass was clean, but between the glass and the wood, was a layer of dust so thick it looked like someone had spread ash all over the table and then put glass on top of it. Odd, definitely, but not a dealbreaker.

I met with Frank, one of the senior attorneys. Frank was a nice guy and actually seemed to like the place. I think the firm may have been a decent place to work at one point. Frank talked a bit too reticently about the halcyon days when the firm had significantly more maritime work, and he stated it has mostly dried up and will continue in that vein for at a minimum, several more years. The firm, it seemed, used to be more of a niche firm and in recent years has had to branch out trying to find a new niche, and was apparently failing to make a real distinction for itself in the market.

When it came to the question of the salary, Frank almost seemed embarrassed / confused by his own firm’s compensation scheme. To give you the short version, he told me that starting in the new year they “weren’t going to have salaries anymore” and “you could work as much or as little as you wanted“. That tag line is almost universally used when someone is selling a scam. In fact, it is the exact wording people use when trying to sell a Multi-Level Marketing / Pyramid scheme. I’m pretty sure Frank knew he had said something wrong. I had been unconsciously (nervous energy… what can I say) moving my chair back and forth ever so slightly, and at his mention of the above I stopped instantly. I know my body language changed, it was a visceral change.

Their new compensation scheme that gets rid of salaries is, in Frank’s words: “you eat what you kill”; which is the same model used for plaintiff’s contingency work. The major difference is that the delta for the payoff on plaintiff’s work is significantly higher on most all cases than it is for hourly defense work. Which is why “contingency” style compensation doesn’t work for defense work. (sorry if this is boring for non-lawyers, but I think most attorneys will agree 100% with me on this one.) Since they haven’t implemented this yet, Frank didn’t know how it would work with new associates while they get acquainted with the firm and work, and there would also be what sounded like a fair amount of required “un-billed but credited time” which he was even more fuzzy on how associates would be compensated. Ridiculous compensation schemes aside, I was also told that if I was considering the equity track, I would have to be consistently billing out at 2500 hours.

My guess was someone at the top seems to have decided they wanted to start getting the type of money they used to when they were a successful niche firm, and the easiest way for them to get more money was by taking it from the people at the bottom.

So… no salary and an hourly (very likely unattainable) expectation over even most Biglaw norms.

Starting in the new year, every non-partner level attorney (and likely some partners) are going to be trying to find a new job. That firm is set to become even more of a revolving door of attorneys than it was currently.  From a legal recruiter’s standpoint, this place was win / win. You’d get new clients as everyone jumped ship, and also be able to keep selling the firm new blood to try to fill the ever-present gaps created by the inane compensation scheme (at least until the office closed down).

The final punchline of this interview was that after I told the recruiter this information, they said they had a “long history / relationship” with this firm. Which was odd considering the local office has all of about 10 attorneys in it. What long relationship can a headhunter have with such a small firm unless they are already a revolving door.

I’m still undecided as to whether this was just a crappy job thrown out by the headhunter, or a specific pick based upon my previous interaction with the other headhunter at the agency.

Interview #36 – The uncertain employer

I am in a rather solid job at the moment; I like who I work with quite a bit. The main issue is that there is significantly more work than can be accomplished yet we are expected to complete the work regardless of the hours and oh yeah… the pay is not great. And each attorney effectively operates 100% autonomously, pretty much with no support. It’s like being a solo attorney in a big firm setting.

So, although I am lucky enough not to be plastering the whole city with my resume, I am cautiously sending out my resume to select employers. Mostly because if I stay at the job I am at now, I don’t think I could ever pay off my student loans.

So using my newfound desirability as an actually trained and experienced attorney, I have sent out a few applications. This particular interview was garnered through networking. I had showed up to a happy hour event where someone had mentioned their caseload and I had laughed and told them my numbers. We worked the same types of cases but I had 4 to almost 5 times as many cases as them. This led to a short discussion wherein they mentioned their firm was looking for someone new. I shot off an email with my resume later that night and got a call back for an interview that same week.

The office was set in a nice glass and steel mid-rise office building. I showed up on time and was ushered into a conference room where the decorator must have been given the request to make as many things white as they could. If you know styles, it probably was exactly minimalist modern continental. To say the office appeared spartan was an understatement, but they appeared to have (some) money so it must have been more by choice (I think).

The firm’s local partner eventually ambled in holding nothing but a coffee cup. I’m still unsure if this was on purpose or if he had lost my resume and didn’t want to ask for a new copy, because it seemed as if he had never bothered reading it at all.

What followed was the least interesting interview I’ve ever had. The partner started off by asking me to tell him about myself.  I do believe that was the first, and damn near last question he asked during the interview. Most of the interview was me asking him questions and then having a little bit of back and forth on them. The partner stated they were looking for an associate but didn’t really seem to have any idea why, or what they would be doing.

It was quite difficult trying to interview for a job when the interviewer seemed so disinterested in interviewing. The interview went on for about an hour. By the end of it, I am pretty sure the partner had figured out he didn’t know what he wanted, or even if he wanted to hire anyone. Thinking back on it, I don’t even think I got a rejection from the firm, just silence. It was not a better position than the one I am in, and it didn’t seem to pay anything decent over my current offering either. It was relatively forgettable, but I made note of the firm so I wouldn’t make the mistake of applying there in the future.