Interview #39 – Big Law Expectations, small law money

I was excited when I got a call back for an interview at this one. It wasn’t a BigLaw name I recognized, but the sheer number of attorneys employed by the firm across many offices definitely implied I should have known who they were. 

I show up at a decent office in a mid-high rise. I was pretty quickly met by the managing partner who led me back to a small room buried a bit farther back in the offices. This was notably only because most interviews I’ve been on have almost always been in a regular conference room everyone in the office would normally use for depositions etc. You know which one I mean, the one with the big long table and bank of windows on one side. Instead of using that conference room which was immediately in front of the office, we wandered back into a slightly-larger-than-a-closet room with a table.  

The office felt slightly empty, like someone had either moved a bunch of furniture around recently or they had only recently moved in. There was art (office art.. again, you know the type. Slightly better than hotel paintings and usually with some sort of theme picked from a hat.) on the walls so it didn’t feel quite like they had just moved in, more like they just never finished unpacking, for years. 

Anyway, the managing partner was a nice guy and we had a pretty pleasant interview. At one point he disappeared and came back with another partner. Still pretty good interview, nothing really changed. It was effectively commercial insurance defense. At a certain point, I brought up the question of compensation — largely because they are a huge law firm and yet I had seen vague statements online (glassdoor) implying that although they were a huge firm they did not offer BigLaw money. But I had no solid numbers, just that they paid on the low end for a firm that size… which could mean anything. And here is where I knew something was wrong. 

The managing partner said “Oh, I’m the last person you’d want to talk to about that, I have no idea.” As in… he had no idea how much they were paying for the position. Which seemed odd… partners are usually very aware of where the money in the firm is going, but hey, maybe he didn’t manage everything and had wisely delegated some of his duties to others. I asked about benefits, because again, the job post had zero info listed, merely the ubiquitous and useless “competitive” tag for benefits. What their benefits are competing with is often a very good question to ask considering some I’ve seen… often it seems they compete in the benefits Special Olympics in many cases.

Again, he professed ignorance. Except of course he did remember that associates got 2 or 3 weeks of vacation (he was fuzzy on which). But he then went on to state that they may actually have “no set vacation plan” and that associates could take as much vacation as they wanted so long as they got their hours in. Which was set at an amazingly reasonable 2200 billable. The further problem with that very high number was that he also had no idea how work was given out to associates. He did recall the bonus structure, mostly I think because it was very low. Again, where I am currently had their bonus beat by several thousand. 

Think about that for a moment. The managing partner had no idea about how work was assigned to associate attorneys in his own office. Apparently partners just assigned shit to you if you were free… associates weren’t attached to a particular lit group, or a particular partner. You just had an open schedule and people would fill it for you. 

So… no idea of money. No idea about benefits. No idea about workload. But vague information online about how they were potentially offering less money than I was making now for significantly more work hours. 

At the end of the interview the managing partner said he wanted to have me come back for a social interview with more partners because he had only found the one other one in the office to come talk to me. (Wednesday afternoon and only one of a dozen partners were there?) I never really heard back from them. I don’t even think they rejected me… truly the managing partner may have mislaid my info and I’ll just get a call in a month asking me to come in. I think I’ll decline that one. 

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