Interview 52: I finally saw one in person…

I’ve been to very expensive BigLaw offices and weird flyby night solos. And after all this time I finally ended up in a conference room with Smartglass windows. The cool windows that are clear and then turn opaque white at the flip of a switch. I’ll be honest, it was probably the highlight of this interview.

Midsized firm was looking to add a litigation associate. I wasn’t that interested, but a headhunter had contacted me and sorta pushed the interview and I finally relented and agreed to be submitted to the job. The interview request came pretty quickly and I showed up at a nicely decorated office. Notably, the lobby had been decorated with a rather large painting of 4 wolves. It was so amazingly obvious and cringeworthy that the partners fashioned themselves the “wolf pack”. And juvenile. Did I mention juvenile? Anyway… The secretary honestly looked to be about 17. Braces and all, and she ushered me into the conference room and flicked the switch on the cool windows. We talked for a few minutes about the windows actually once she did.

I will mention that as cool as the windows are, I was slightly disappointed. When they were translucent, they still had this slightly foggy appearance to them, almost like someone had washed the windows with a dirty sponge. I’m guessing that happens over time, which I guess is good to know. But still pretty cool.

Several partners came in to interview me. Notably, not one person there was a partner who I had been informed was going to be interviewing me. Basically they sent in the second string for the interview, which made me wonder a bit about how seriously they were actually looking. At the end of the interview I was even informed that the senior partners may want to have me back to a second interview. I was half showing up for fun, so it didn’t really phase me but it was worth noting.

The interview was amusing, but not for the right reasons. One of the partners was sharp enough to at least note some of the weird movements between firms that I’ve done and I got to regale them with a couple stories listed on this blog. Never great for a serious interview, but they were all damn amused by the stories. Had it been a job I was more interested in I probably would have camouflaged everything a bit better, but I was already mostly checked out of the interview pretty early on. The main talker of the partners had said they wanted about 2000 hours but that I would definitely have more because they were drowning in work and then they started talking about how this one had billed 260 that month and it wasn’t even up and the other guy had done the same or more… they had wanted to hire someone in to dump a ton of hours who would live at the office the same as them. I nodded and of course said absolutely I could, but that was the death knell for the interview in my mind. So telling them some incredible industry stories didn’t really change what was going to happen.

I left and wasn’t going to show for any further interviews. They may have felt similarly because I didn’t get invited back for the senior partner interview either.

Interview 50: Mixed Messages

I had an interview recently with a huge multinational corporation. Had the standard phone screen and got passed up the chain until I had an interview with the General Counsel for the Americas and Asia. It was a very interesting interview primarily because the corporation was a European based corp, the counsel I was talking to was in S. America, and I would have been working remotely but based in a state across the country on paper.

The interview went fantastic. In truth, I haven’t had an interview like this in forever… if ever. The two of us seemed to hit it off instantly and we were both bouncing around conversation topics, both professional and some personal related, with extreme ease. Our conversation was so interesting that we blew through the interview time and talked a fair bit longer and had to reconnect with another zoom call to keep going. Eventually, another appointment intruded and the GC had to finally go, but they specifically mentioned it was one of the highlights of interviewing that they’ve had. And it definitely was for me as well.

I sent along a very thought out thank you note and a few days later I got a phone call from HR. I had technically applied for 2 positions with the company. One as a Sr. Counsel and one as Lit Management attorney. HR called me up a few days after the interview with the GC to tell me that they were going to remove me from the applicant pool of the Sr. Counsel position… and that I might get a notification that I was rejected, but to ignore it as that was just how their system worked.

Now, to me… that seems like a very good sign. I was being removed from the applicant pool of one job, one might assume because they were planning on hiring me for the other one. Right? Stands to reason.

Well we would both be wrong apparently. A couple weeks later I got an email rejecting me for the Sr. Counsel position, and then another email a handful of minutes later rejecting me from the Lit Management Counsel position as well. I’m not really sure what happened, but it seemed like I had the job and then somehow behind the scenes, it was taken away from me. Sorta sucks. The company sounded fantastic to work for.

Interview 49 – Variety

This was one of those odd stories where I honestly would love to know what the reason was that I was had been brought in. There had to be something, but I doubt I’ll ever find out. So I had previously applied for a fair number of jobs with the local municipal entity. I had prior background working for several other larger cities so I vaguely figured they would pick me up for something. They never did. Not that I didn’t interview with them from time to time. At this point, I think I had interviewed with some department or another on probably 3 different occasions.

Anyway, this particular time… I didn’t apply to anything. Instead one of the senior attorneys reached out to me directly and asked me to apply to a position. Far be it for me to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I rightly assumed they were interested in hiring me for this position specifically, based on seeing my resume in the general pool. So I shoot off the application on the city website and rather quickly have an interview setup.

I show up, and as this happens to be in the midst of COVID we are all sitting in a large room, strangely distant for each other. This wasn’t the 6 feet everyone was asked to give.. no. There were 3 interviewer, the senior attorney and two counsel, and a paralegal. And they were arrayed about 20 feet apart from each other in a circle, a very large circle, with me in the middle.

The interview went very well. It was a litigation position so we started sorta going back and forth on cases we had done. The senior counsel was asking questions which were basically just to show that you knew WTF you were talking about regarding the local scene. I.e. how many trials, what firms were you most often opposed, what’s your opinion on judges… basically things you’d only know if you actually worked in the area for awhile. The short version is I answered correctly and ultimately we were joking a bit back and forth about some of the opposing counsel and some judges. I had been working the state and federal side more than enough to be able to match anyone in the room. The interview went really well.

I never heard anything back from them. I don’t even think there was a rejection. Just silence. I think I was brought in to interview for a position they already had a candidate for, but they needed to pad the paperwork to show that they interviewed more than just their one person. I will never know, but that is my guess.

Interview 48 – Bad Timing

Sometimes, the right thing comes along at the wrong time.

I had just quit my more recent firm job because of COVID and conflicting family commitments. (read small children with no daycare). Anyway, without knowing how long things would be in the state they were with COVID, I figured I should try applying to jobs because it usually took months of applications and multiple interviews at various places before a decent offer was presented. In this case, I was wrong.

So within the first week after I start sending out applications I get a response back. A small construction company was asking me to interview for a general counsel position. It seemed interesting so I showed up and talked to everyone involved. It was a small operation, but they usually had a large workforce. Construction often has a core operations group and hires (potentially hundreds) of contract laborers when they are staffing up for a job. The company was nice, it had some rather clear ideas of where it wanted to go, had a good revenue stream, and everyone seemed super friendly (which is damn rare)… and they really wanted me. Within 2 days they sent me an offer.

The problem was… I had literally just quit my other job 2 weeks ago because there was no daycare to be found, and I was going to handle the kids until things started opening back up more normally. It would have been an awesome opportunity and I really liked the company… unfortunately it was the most perfectly bad timing. I really killed me but I had to turn them down because I didn’t actually expect anyone to move that quickly in the hiring process.

Short and cheap

I had a recruiter reach out to me, it was the corporate recruiter for a particular insurance company… not just the rando headhunter. They effectively said they needed people in my market and I had the experience they wanted, would I be interested. I honestly was not horribly, as I have been attempting to leave litigation (for reference, see a great many stories on this blog) hoping that other avenues of legal work would be less toxic.

I figured it was not a bad position, even if I might still be looking for something else. And there was always the possibility I would be surprised, however unlikely. Plus I had worked with other attorneys and adjusters from this insurance company collaboratively on other cases, and I had walked away with a generally positive view of the company. So I told the recruiter I was interested and ran through a phone screen with them.

The phone screen interview ended with them telling me that my experience was just what they were looking for and saying I was going to have a phone interview with the regional HR to move forward. Nearly the moment my candidate file was transferred, the interview process became confrontational.

Prior to even speaking to me, the regional HR sent me an email stating “I assume you have no trial experience.” Which was odd, especially since I had gone through a rather complete conversation with the prior HR person regarding my trial and litigation background. I shot off an email which dissuaded this new HR functionary of their assumptions with approximate numbers of trials and court jurisdictions.

The phone interview with HR #2 could almost be described as condescending and angry. At every question, they reminded me that they only had half an hour to speak, but would ask open ended questions which required explanation. Shortly into the interview they started telling me that they had two positions open, one senior, and one which would best be considered entry level. They then fielded the question of whether I would be open to the entry level position and stated the salary… which was less than I had been making at my first job, and about half of what I had been making at my prior job. I told them no, that was a non-starter. They then continued pressing for me to accept being submitted for the entry level position. I finally stated in no uncertain terms that I was uninterested in the entry level position. And their response? To say that it would be a good position to work up to the senior position and that I could email them back if I changed my mind. The interview pretty much was over at that point, they spent most of their time attempting to come up with reasons why my experience was not good enough, and basically I told them that I did in fact have that experience and more and, with a bit of a soft touch, that they didn’t know what they were talking about.

I got an email after the interview asking if I would be open to the senior position but at a reduced salary from what they had posted it at. In effect, hire me in at a senior level, and pay me entry level. Apparently they decided to ultimately pass on my application.

Needless to say, my positive opinion of the company has changed.

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.