Category Archives: Interviews

Interview 8

I call this one the ‘Low Rent Interview’.

As I get increasingly desperate for a real legal job, I have ended up applying to everything. Absolutely everything; whether I want to work in that sub-specialty or not, I send out an application if they are looking. Back when I had just graduated, I would apply selectively to the jobs I wanted in the specialties I was most interested. I would maybe send out 2 or 3 applications a week. Most days now I send out at the bare minimum 5 a night. The last ‘entry level job’ that I matched perfectly in terms of skill and interest I ended up receiving a rejection informing me that there had been over 700 applications for the one position offered. I was talking to a friend of mine several states away in Chicago who as it happened also applied and was rejected from the same position. We joked that we were now part of the 700 Club.

But I digress. This interview was garnered from a Craigslist posting looking for an associate attorney. That really was the extent of the ad. No firm name, no salary info. Just firm looking to hire an associate. Okay.. I’m game. I threw out a resume, and the next day I get a callback for an interview. I setup the interview and get the firm name to do the standard pre-interview research on the firm and attorney(s) I’ll be talking with. Its a very small firm and their practice areas seem a bit eclectic, but hey, so is my skillset so maybe it would work. So the night before the interview I am wrapping up my short research on the firm, and I run across a marketing video the firm put out 2 years ago. I start watching it.

“How would you like to work from home as an attorney?” uh oh… The video in a nutshell was the closest thing I’ve seen attempting to create a multi-level marketing / Ponzi scheme out of a law firm. The basics ran like this: you would be given the moniker associate. But there were no partnership tracks. Instead it functioned like an office-share situation wherein you gave the Named Partner a not so insubstantial administrative fee every month, they also took 50% of everything you made from fees. Oh but wait! You get to set your own fees… so long as it was minimally $150 an hour. For all of this wonderful access, you basically setup your own solo firm under this person’s letterhead with no actual training or help from the ‘firm’.

Crap. This looked more like a scam. And I had to drive over an hour to get to this guys office spending the better part of a day going there and wasting gas. I was considering bailing on the interview. On the flip side… I would have an interesting story to share with people if I went… and write this entry for this blog. So of course I went.

The office was in an industrial park. Not a commercial space. No… when I mean industrial park, I mean when I entered the office you could hear the lathe and other machinery in the spaces on either side. I’m also going to sound like a bit of an elitist here… but an attorney’s office is supposed to look professional. I get that solos often don’t have a lot of money, especially starting out. But this guy had apparently been in business for more than 15 years. His office was in the lowest rent area you can put an office. And the entire interior was very obviously put up by him. Drywall, flooring, carpeting and all. And I hope he was a better attorney than handyman, because it was not well put together. Think the skill level of your dad who fancies himself a plumber / carpenter, and now no faucet turns the same direction and no door hangs level in your house. So I sit down and wait. After nearly half an hour I am contemplating leaving. There is no one in the office. The sole secretary has answered 2 phone calls stating that ‘attorney so-and-so is in a meeting.’ There is no meeting, and no one else in the office. Finally, the partner / solo attorney I am supposed to see comes out.

We go back to his office and I note that there is a decided lack of any sort of files anywhere in the office. Now, I know that we all move toward reduction of paperwork and putting everything into a digital format… but even so… lawyers generate paper. Tons of it. Even with the best digital storage system you have paper files and boxes and boxes of papers. I’ve never been to an office which didn’t. Until now. There are no papers, no files, no boxes, no filing cabinets. That seems ominous. So we start talking. He remarks (often) on the breadth of my resume. Everything from IP to Admiralty and all sorts of random specialty law in between. I explain that I feel it best to have a great diversity of training to offer employers, so that I can be used in a wide variety of tasks. And if they are looking for a specialist in one or two things, I likely already have experience in them and can focus on only those they want me to. We start talking about my prior training; courtroom experience and the like. He keeps saying “well that’s where everyone starts”. The problem is, he says it 4 different times… about 4 completely different things. I’m beginning to suspect he doesn’t have some of the supposedly basic training that I do.

He then asks me how I would start my practice there. Wait… what? Start MY practice at HIS firm? I double back and ask the question that is looming large in my mind. Is this a straight salary position? Yes (seemingly conditionally but we never got to that). His expectation was that I would be setup in the office in a practice area in which he didn’t practice, and that I would then go out and act like a solo under his name. So same concept as the video, except with a salary. I explain to him that I don’t have the experience building up my own practice and getting my own clients. And then I added, if I did, why wouldn’t I just hang out my own shingle?

And then he hits the one issue he has been sorta skirting the whole interview. He tells me that he thinks that even if he hired me, I would leave. He seems very intimidated by the fact that I have multiple bars in neighboring states; that I am very well traveled; that I have a very diverse skillset; and in his estimation, no roots to hold me to the city. In his mind, if I wanted to, I could just leave on a moments notice. In other words… he thought I didn’t need him. He was from a 1st tier school. I had looked through the other two ‘associates’ at his firm and they were both from a 4th tier that was recently ranked as pumping out the most unemployed / unemployable lawyers in the country. Compared to his other associates, my skills and prospects are damn near rosy. He wanted to hire attorneys who literally couldn’t leave his firm. Ever. I saw that the interview was over. The decision was made before I walked in the room, technically by both of us. I wouldn’t work there even if offered, and he wouldn’t be offering. The interview wound down through the obligatory pleasantries and I left.

I said it before and I’ll say it again… Are there any normal solos / attorneys who work in small firms? Where are you hiding? Why am I only getting interviews with the mixed nut section of the legal world.

God damnit… Seriously?

I’m not even sure this one counts as an interview. Maybe a spam phone interview.

So I’ve been working at a doc review position recently. Mostly so that I can buy food and whatnot. Anyway, I’m fast approaching the 2K rejections point. So imagine my joy when someone called me up and asked if I was still interested in the job I submitted a resume to. So we made a bit of smalltalk and they told me where it was located; over on the eastern seaboard. Okay so far. I’d have to move but it was definitely doable. Then they tell me they are actually a staffing firm; crap, the hair on the back of my neck pricks up. And then they start explaining what the job is… 6 months potentially extendable yada yada.. and then they say what I was already guessing. Contract work. I’m already assuming they are looking for doc reviewers at this point and they’re trying like hell to make it sound like something more. So I play along, and ask the next obvious question, how much is it paying. $17 an hour. The phone interviewer knew something was wrong from the slightly too long silence.

I calmly explained I am living in one of the more depressed legal markets in the country, and I am making a decent amount more than that already. In a very crappy legal environment. In one of the cheaper places to live in the country. I also mention that I know for a fact the lowest paid interns in the city she mentioned make $15 an hour. Because I happen to know several city prosecutors there… and the city pays their interns at the lowest rate in the city; $15. I also tell her $17 is so far below any livable salary in that particular city, its damn near laughable. So I say, thanks but no thanks. I really don’t need to move to a much more expensive city, to work for a lot less money, and to be paid on par with an intern.

Thanks Fountain Group. Maybe next time you’ll offer me the Asst. manager position of a McDonalds.

Interview 7 redux

So about a month ago I seemed a bit upbeat about a potential job prospect at a very small firm and a telephone interview. I never got a call back, so I guess having a more in depth discussion showing you actually know anything about the business side of a law firm is a no-no. The slightly short version was that the small firm wanted to hire a collections attorney. No description beyond that. So knowing a fair amount about collections, I asked a few pointed questions about what type of collections work they were talking about.

For those who don’t know, Business to Business (B2B) collections is a decent business. But the only way you end up with a B2B collections practice is if you practice another type of law which gets you those business clients, who as it happens also need some collections work done on the side. The bigger the firm, the more business clients you have, the more collections work from those clients you can get. This type of work is often limited to medium to small businesses clients. The big ones go to the big firms that specialize in nothing but collections, and they often already have client accounts with those firms. But a smaller law firm can subsist nicely on B2B collections if they can initially pull in the clients from their other work. Smaller firms can NOT survive doing consumer collections work. Having had conversations with the named partners at the big collections firms, the truth is that the return on most collections cases is tiny for a law firm (single digit percentages). The only way you can make money on that is by doing it in bulk.. A lot of bulk. And to be able to handle that much business you need to have an infrastructure that is expensive. Simplistically speaking, the bar for entry is way to high for the consumer side of collections for any but the larger firms to even consider playing the game. Add to that the FDCPA statutory fines for obscure infractions… it could bankrupt small firms who aren’t prepared.

Anyway, I ended up asking questions relating to the type of collections they were looking at etc etc. Basically I wanted to know that if I was moving for the job, there would still be a job in a few months. It almost seemed like knowing about the industry and where the money would be coming from made the interviewer uneasy. Considering I didn’t even ask the big question relating to one of the partners not-so-distant past bar infractions wherein it looked like he attempted to steal a sizable amount of money from his client account and had been suspended from the practice of law for a bit… and it might be that this job just wasn’t meant to be.

It would have been nice to be employed, but maybe it would be better to be employed elsewhere.


In other news, my current count of canceled Doc Review positions is now topping out at 8. Possibly more since I kept getting vague “several irons in the fire” rhetoric. I regret going to law school now more than ever. I am beginning to consider leaving the country to escape my student loans which I have no ability to pay nor seemingly future prospect to be able to do so.

MIA, Interview 7, other random job updates

So I initially had intended to just not post anything in December, because of the holidays and short trips and over-eating and all… and then it just sorta stretched out a bit longer. Mostly due to varying bouts of depression and manic energy to effectively spam as many job applications with my resume as humanly possible. January has most definitely been my most prolific application month to date. If you had a legal job damn near anywhere in the country, you have my resume sitting somewhere in the applications.

I also broke down and threw my lot back into the pit that is document review, if for no other reason than to pay for food and other such inconsequentials. It has been going about as well as you might expect if you have read anything I have written about the topic. In January I was called for 4 doc review positions. One started out sounding quite promising, more a project attorney… and then the employing corporation decided that they no longer needed a small team to do the job and instead hired one person. The second one just died, big rush by the recruiter to get in all the paperwork at the behest of the firm, and then the whole project was canceled. The third was purported to be a big project that would last a few months, and after the initial phone call getting all the reviewers on board, it turned out the firm hadn’t expected the doc review company to be able to pull it all together so fast and they weren’t ready to proceed (that was 3 weeks ago). The fourth one is actually 2 projects by one firm, so here’s hoping one actually goes through if for no other reason so I can make some gas money.

In my forays across the myriad applications I’ve been filling out, I ran across a few gems.

  • This vacancy is limited to the first 200 applications and will close early at midnight on the day we receive the 200th application.  (so now, applying to a job becomes almost like a lottery system… maybe you’ll find the job posting in time… maybe you won’t.)
  • In a similar vein – **Applications will be accepted from all qualified individuals until the scheduled closing date of 05/06/2013 or until 50 applicants have been received, whichever comes first.  (this one closed on the first day it was posted, before the end of the day.. you think they hired the person they had picked for the position before they posted it?)
  • This one is an actual job posting and I’ve seen the sentiment repeated over and over again. It drives me insane. I guess it wants you to be both entry level and experienced at the same time?job1

Recently I had another interview. It was with a small firm and it was actually one of the better interviews I’ve had. The downside is that if I actually get an offer from them I would have to move a fair distance for a middling job with no possibility of upward movement. I have been weighing what would happen should I actually get a call back. Quite literally, I would be moving a very long distance just so I could have a halfway decently paying job for a few years that I could put on my resume as experience so that I can get a real job at a later point. The interview started off a bit rocky. I had applied to a blind posting and gotten a call back for the interview wherein they gave me the particulars of the position and the firm. I researched the firm and its attorneys online and had generally come to the conclusion that had it not been a blind posting, I probably would have passed over applying to it. I’ve become gun-shy of the little 3 person law firms because invariably they are offering no money you can live on, and every interview I’ve been to with a small firm has been very strange. Usually meeting the attorneys in person explains why they are working in solo / small self-managed firms. (I am sure there are normal people out there who work in small / solo firms, but I have not met you. Much like unicorns, I won’t believe you exist until I see you myself.)

Anyway, although it was still small, they had not updated their website since they had put it online (I guess not very technically minded). The firm is supposedly twice the size it stated on its website, putting it closer to a regional mid-sized firm (or so claimed the interviewer). I think I ended up putting the interviewer on the defensive a bit, especially since I had initially written the job off. This strangely may have been a positive. I ended up asking pointed questions about the cash flow of the firm since I knew that the consumer side of their purported business is cutthroat and the small guys can not survive. Which resulted in a much more detailed conversation with the interviewer about the position and legal market in general than I think I’ve had in any interview to date. Food for thought for future interviews.

Interview 6

My most recent foray was a disheartening trip to a small law firm. I knew I was in trouble when the office manager called me up to setup the interview and started off with “before we go any further so I don’t waste your time, the salary offered will be in the high 30’s.” Ouch. Well, let me count out the change in my sofa cushions… yup. Still owe $160K in law school debt, which means I could possibly pay that off the week after never on that salary. Anyway, I can always keep looking for a better job while padding the resume with a poorly paying job, right? It always looks better to be able to say you were an Associate at XXX Law Firm, even if for a short while.

So off I go to the interview. The firm specialized in Real Estate, and had a bunch of other side businesses operating under the same umbrella (title, litigation, etc). The office was nice. Nice enough that I walked through wondering why I was being shafted with an offer of a “high 30’s salary”. I guess because they felt they can.

The interview went well enough. Standard questions. The interviewer made the wonderful move when I came in to say let me refresh my memory of your resume, and then proceeded to read through it and my cover letter for the obvious first time during a nice silent 5 minute stretch. I asked a few questions about the place trying to obliquely figure out if the place was going bankrupt or whether they were just cheap bastards. I thought maybe some of the difference could be made up in benefits… hehehe… there were none to speak of. The interviewer actually stated something to the effect of ‘well… if you don’t already have insurance… there is something offered through the firm.” (translation: the offered plan is so bad no one here uses it so I can’t tell you anything about it.) This sentiment was repeated for the other non-benefits.

The office was also damn near empty of people. Several open offices which I was told used to and ‘would soon have’ a paralegal, and a law clerk… but didn’t now. And they were looking at replacing one of the attorneys who left; it was beginning to look like the only people actually working there were the interviewer / name on the door, and the secretary. In the end the interviewer seemed to reach an unspoken conclusion and I got the impression they were looking for someone with more experience in real estate than I had… for a salary in the ‘high’ 30’s…. I’m soo sure they will find that someone.

I don’t feel too bad that this one slipped away.

minor update: As with every job interview, I send out a thank you card for the interviewers. My rejection letter to this wonderful position showed up the other day… and in a perverse twist, the interviewer effectively mirrored back my thank you note in some parts verbatim, in their rejection. I’m actually not sure if the interviewer was just lazy… or whether this was a parting FU. Weird.

Interview 5

Digging back to an early interview, this one was probably the most puzzling. It was an interview for a DUI defense mill. I will pass along the only good advice I got from this interview though; if a law firm is looking to expand into another geographical area, you don’t do it all at once. You enter the region with one specialty and then begin adding more areas of practice. In this case, the firm did a significant amount of criminal defense and ‘general catch all law’. But if they were expanding into a new geographical region, they entered with DUI. They said it was the easiest demographic to target with a mix of TV, billboards, and heavy web advertizing (which they didn’t really handle very well.. no idea what was and was not on their websites and no clue as to most of the domains they owned).

Anyway, to give you the mind’s eye view, the interview was in a hotel conference room. And by conference room I mean big empty room with one small empty table and 3 chairs. And considering that the hotel seemed nice, I was surprised by how shitty the conference room was. (weird salmon color, very dirty, choking smell of mold). Anyway, I was talking with 2  partners about the position, mostly the conversation revolved around my internship experiences. But the whole while that they were talking to me, they both had the strangest smiles. It was like they had some inside joke going on and I had walked in on it. So for the whole interview I was trying to figure out what was so damned funny. The only thing I can think is that they found it hilarious that I actually showed up to interview with them.

I was pretty certain I didn’t have the job at the end of the interview. I still regret not asking one question of the interviewers. One of them had previously been a police officer; and was now a DUI defense attorney. Which means they were either doing it 110% for the money, or there was a much more interesting story about them leaving the force. Although prosecutors and defense attorneys usually play nice with each other, I didn’t know many police who would bother spitting on a criminal defense attorney if they were on fire.

Interview #4

The first interview for a real legal job I had was probably the the most depressing. Not for why you might think though… I went in for an interview for a corporate counsel position. The interview went great. I spoke to the head of HR, who absolutely loved me and we talked much longer than the interview was intended to go on all sorts of topics. They then took me over to the lead counsel to have an interview, and that one went great as well. I walked out of there thinking I had it.

I never heard a word back from them. Not a “thanks but no thanks”. Not ‘we picked someone else’. Nothing. I was told they were only interviewing 3 people… it really wouldn’t have taken longer than 2 minutes to call everyone who didn’t get the job. I looked them back up a year later and it seems like they never hired anyone… but recently they are looking for a paralegal for the same legal specialty as I applied, which doesn’t make much sense because I am willing to work pretty cheap if only they would have gotten back to me.

Since that interview I have become very accustomed to the void that follows applications, sent resumes, and interviews.

Interview Stories #3

One of my more recent interviews was at a midsized firm that did toxic tort defense. The interview started out normally enough; I spoke with 2 partners, each one alternating asking a question or adding a minor bit of information. At some point, one partner asked about why I did not go directly from college to law school and what I did in the intervening time. Paraphrasing a bit, I told them why I didn’t go directly (originally looking at other grad programs) and that I worked crap jobs in the interim. The second partner asked something unrelated to that topic, the first partner decided this was some sort of sticking point. Where had I worked, in what city… his questions started doubling back as if he thought I would change my answers. It became strange how fixated he was on the couple trivial non-legal jobs nearly forever ago (and no.. wrong type of firm to have had any business with them at all). This went on for probably 10 minutes. The other partner shot me a strangely apologetic look at one point silently voicing that she too thought the other partner was being weird.

Walking out of that interview I had an overwhelming feeling that the partner had decided I had spent the time in question in prison and was trying to hide it by claiming to work in retail (which isn’t that far off from prison I suppose).

Interview Stories #2

So I got a phone call requesting an in person interview. Woo! Anyway, since beginning my legal search I have been steadily increasing the geographical range in which I am willing to look for work. (At this point it is coast to coast and some overseas and I will acquire whatever bar you want me to acquire). This particular interview was 2 hours away from where I live, not a pleasant commute, but technically feasible and I could always move. Anyway, I drive two hours to the interview.

The first unfortunate surprise I get is that there are already 4 other attorneys sitting in the waiting room when I get there. We start chatting since it is obvious we are all there for the same thing. That’s when I learn from one of the others that this employer decided to call in about 50 people for interviews. There was a new attorney arriving every 15 minutes (and they were way behind schedule). The waiting room was filling with attorneys. We are all talking amongst ourselves and once the new guy who walked in every 15 min. figured out the odds, most everyone became more relaxed since the chances of getting this job were pretty damn slim. After I’m there about an hour, I strike up a conversation with an overly tanned, bleach blonde woman to my left who had recently entered the party waiting room. I asked what law school she was from and lo and behold it was the same as mine, I asked when she graduated and she said my graduation year. At which point I sorta stopped and looked closer, and said.. “that’s weird… I don’t recognize you.” She got a bit nervous at that and suddenly tried to change the subject. Before I could go where this was obviously heading, my name was called for the interview. I smiled inwardly and sorta wondered how she’d explain that one down the line when someone figured it out. Regardless, not my problem.

I walk into the interview, and the first thing they say is “Well this isn’t really for a job”. Huh? I thought I had gotten a call for a job interview. That’s what I applied for, pretty sure I hadn’t applied for a non-job, boy those other 50 people are gonna be pissed. So I’m sorta frozen half sitting down in the chair and I ask “Well, what is it for?” It is then explained to me that although they advertized for the position, what they really wanted was a list of temps they could call if someone in that position left on maternity leave or was ill for an extended time. I asked, is someone at the job pregnant? “No… not right now.”  I kid you not, the interviewer clicked their pen and then said “So, can we put your name down on the list?”

2 hours driving, 1 hour waiting, 2 hours driving home.

And that was my job interview for a job that didn’t exist.

Interview Stories #1

I’ll be posting some of the sordid details of interviews I’ve had. As with everything, I won’t be naming names. And I can guess that even if someone associated with the firm / office I had been applying were to read this, they wouldn’t want to admit it was them considering why I am posting the stories.

I’m always excited to go to an interview. An interview means that you have made it to the next level.. that much closer to a real job. It means that out of the myriad applications and resumes they received, yours was picked out because something stood out about it.

I was headed out to an interview with a firm which specialized in Class Action and employment law. The firm had a few small regional offices, but a decent seeming cash flow considering several recent cases prominently on their website. Their main office was in a nice building downtown. I get to their office and a minor alarm bell goes off far in the recesses of my brain… it seems rather sparse. And there is no sign of support staff working there, which is weird because it is the middle of the week. But they do have other offices, and supposedly they usually work at one of them on this day. I did email back and forth with a secretary somewhere about the interview…

Anyway, I sit down with the two partners. The interview starts out rather normally, but about 5 min in, one of the partners apologizes and says he has to move his car so it won’t be ticketed. (He never returns.) The remaining partner starts talking to me about my past employment, specifically about the contract work I had done. He says he is unfamiliar with how it works (huh? they do class actions… they must use doc review… at least somewhat). I humor him and start explaining what I did for which employers. He starts getting more interested in certain aspects, and this part of the interview has been going on for probably 15+ minutes. He then asks how I was paid… for all of the contract employers, and about overtime, and about how many contract attorneys were working for the various firms.

He gets real excited when he learns that one firm didn’t give overtime to the contract attorneys. About the same time I figure it out, he offers to file an employment lawsuit on my behalf that could be a class action for everyone else who was working with me. 120 attorneys over 4 months. And then he just sits there waiting.

The rest of the interview was pretty fast. He gave me his card and said if I wanted to file or if I knew anyone else who did, to give him a call; and oh yeah, they’d get back to me about the ‘position’. As I was walking out, another young attorney was walking in to be ‘interviewed’. I wouldn’t even bother betting that he had a resume with contract work listed on it.

I went to an interview that was actually a ploy trawling for work.