I admit, sometimes I am slow on the uptake. I’ve obviously had a lot of time to consider why I’m not getting offers, and why at least some people out there are getting them over me.

Something I realized after the last interview was a bit of a revelation to me, although it probably shouldn’t have been. Law firms, and law departments are monocultures.

A single person often directly holds sway over who gets hired. A law firm’s managing partner; the District Attorney; the General Counsel of a corporation. Each of them is the ultimate decision maker over which attorney gets hired for any given position.

The same could be said for any business unit which has the ability to oversee the hiring into itself. Human resources does not get nearly as much say about who gets hired into the law department as the lead attorney does; and we want to keep it that way. It makes sense. Those who are most knowledgeable about the field should be the ones making the hiring decisions.

The obvious problem is that it creates a cult of personality, centered around a single person’s concept of what they think makes a good employee. The department takes on the flavor of the person who holds the hiring power.  This is also borne out in the interview process. The singular person decides on how the interview should be conducted and what the questions should be… and interestingly they are also the final arbiter of what constitutes a correct answer.

The gaming commission was setup from the ground up by the crazy lead attorney. It made sense that the people who had been hired and survived in that environment were themselves odd and crazy. He only hired from the 4th tier and he only hired people he got along with. Vis a vis – crazy. The most recent DA interview was filled with true believers because the DA only wanted his office to have true believers working in it. Your passion for social justice had to burn with a righteous zealotry to make it into that office. On a more subtle tone, the multi-position interview went badly because the office was effectively built around many attorneys working independently on their own projects and not bothering other people with their work. But this meant no one communicated to form a bigger picture, built in institutional blindness.

The firms and legal departments mirror their originators because that is who hired in other attorneys who fit the same mold. They become monocultures by unconscious design; or maybe better termed egotistic natural selection.

This concept begins to break down the larger the firm / department becomes. The singular personality can no longer exert full influence over who gets hired. A multi-state firm begins instead to behave more like a corporation with several hiring individuals and a rough homogenizing edict, but the variety begins to seep in over time. It’s an interesting concept which I don’t think I have given much thought to prior to the latest interview.

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