[BigLawFilter] Just been no-offered at Nor Cal law firm, on campus interviewing is essentially dead for 3Ls. Experiencing hysterical panic.
August 13, 2009 7:18 PM   Subscribe

[BigLawFilter] Just been no-offered at Nor Cal law firm, on campus interviewing is essentially dead for 3Ls. What to do? This is going to be long I think but I am on the edge of a panic attack.

Coming from a T6 law school and top tier undergrad. GPA is above median but school doesn't rank so I don't know more than that. My no offer is technically a "cold offer" - I have been encouraged by this firm to tell other firms that I actually did receive an offer but have chosen to look elsewhere. This is so that they can attempt to mask what I believe is the real reason behind my rejection, economic difficulties. My discussions with attorneys at the firm now reveal that everyone (at least claims to have) liked my work and liked me. Career Services is skeptical of this cold offer business, as am I.

But I don't want to look like a psycho drunken unable to work freak to later firms who may consider me. I know that this is happening more frequently in this economy, but I am concerned that if I tell other firms that this one no offered me for economic reasons, when they call to check, this firm will give them the same bullshit reasons that have been mentioned to me: "fit" and on two occasions I had to be reminded to enter my time. The attorneys and the recruiting people I have spoken to since have indicated to me off the record that "fit" is not at all a problem. I'm a friendly, reasonably outgoing girl, and was regularly invited to lunches and after work events, even when other summers were not invited. Of course I'm aware that it's possible that someone I didn't speak to took a disliking to me and made that feeling known. Perhaps my yearning to pin this on the economy is me trying to deny this.

I know this market is very hard to break into, and that no one is hiring 3Ls. My Career Services office is not particularly helpful or optimistic. I am going to contact all the firms that were willing to give me an offer or a callback last OCI. Does anyone have any idea how state clerkships work, or how law firms view staff clerk positions or pro se law clerks, etc.? how does the transition from small/midlaw to biglaw work? throwaway: scared3L@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Be completely honest with anyone who is considering hiring you. Tell them that you got a cold offer. It is completely unreasonable for your firm to suggest that you lie to others--especially when you are negotiating for employment! You are starting out on a career where your credibility, honesty, and trustworthiness are your most important assets. Do not blow them now.

Also, don't worry about the firm lying and saying you received an offer. Maybe they will lie, but others will be able to see through that. The legal community is small and word about financial troubles gets around fast. If you tell the truth, you will be believed.
posted by profwhat at 7:36 PM on August 13, 2009

Geez--I'm sorry to hear of your plight. Echoing the prof, in a way--keep in mind that we ALL know that this economy is a doozy. Every firm is laying people off, giving cold/no offers and reducing the size of the summer classes. And every associate (except those smug restructuring/bankruptcy bastards!) is (or should be) aware of his or her very tenuous grasp on employment. I know a lot of fine lawyers who have gotten laid off, including a former colleague I regard as the finest young lawyer I knew.

Your cold offer is one of many out there. It's not you, it's the economy. We know this--and you don't have to somehow substantiate that the firm that dinged you is in some sort of financial straits. Everyone is hurting and cutting back where they can. Just get back on that horse--you're going to be fine. Breathe.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:45 PM on August 13, 2009

No specific advice, sorry, but: it's the economy, not you. Everyone will understand this. If you're a rising 3L, you have more than a year to figure this out. Don't panic.

A clerkship would be a fantastic use of your time, and a state-level clerkship would be viewed very well if you're committed to remaining local. In fact, the connections you make on the local level can be more useful to regional firms. And aren't federal judges taking applications right now?
posted by palliser at 8:25 PM on August 13, 2009

Lying to lawyers is bad...lying by omission of facts to lawyers is kinda annoying bad. Lying by ommission to lawyers who are in a position to offer you a job on behalf of lawyers who aren't giving you the job is fucked up.

Don't do someone else's dirty work.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:39 AM on August 14, 2009

The cold offer is common among the top firms. The interviewer will likely ask you why you decided not to stay with your summer firm. I think it's totally acceptable to say you just decided the firm was not the right fit for you, at leave it at that. Most interviewers won't go beyond that.

As an alternative to BigLaw, clerkships are a great idea, and firms like people who do them. It will probably be competitive this year, given the economy, but you should still apply to as many as possible.

I also suggest looking for public interest work - a paying position may be hard to find, but if you can afford to do it, pro bono is a great opportunity. Even top firms are deferring this year's summer associates to Jan 2011 at the earliest, so finding an alternative position for 1yr or more is a wise idea (even if you had received an offer). You may also be able to qualify for forbearance on your (federal) student loans if you do pro bono or are otherwise unemployed.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:20 AM on August 14, 2009

Clerkship might be an ideal substitute to bridge you over until firms are more active in their hiring. It will most likely advance your class year tracking within the firm, offer a bonus and open doors when done. I'd pursuit it as strenuously as you are looking for other big law positions to hedge your position, in case nothing comes to fruition.

Good luck.
posted by stratastar at 8:36 AM on August 14, 2009

From the original poster:
i'm going to apply to every federal and state judicial position i can. the biggest problem is that most federal jobs are on a strict timetable and are coordinated through a website that needed to have recommendations in by july. by august professors are often traveling or visiting at other schools and i'm hesitant to put any pressure on them to churn out yet another letter of rec on extremely short notice because i'm the idiot who didn't start the process on time. any strategies as to how to approach this?

a few other questions: how do firms view staff clerk positions, pro se clerk positions? how do courts view the applications of people who have no geographic ties to the region? should i honestly explain why, for example, new hampshire's unique political climate draws me to the state (find a legit reason why x state seems interesting)? fictionalize a fiance who is employed in the state? should i just be straightforward and say while i have no ties to, say, vermont, i have always been interested in an judicial internship and while i know it is harder to find a position in a location to which i have no tie, i did not want to take an opportunity off of the table that might be rewarding and a good fit for me simply because i've never been to the area?
posted by mathowie at 2:13 PM on August 14, 2009

Isn't a cold offer still an offer (although one they would rather you didn't take)? If so, why not accept it?
posted by JonB at 2:45 PM on August 14, 2009

I'm well-late to this party, but I just thought I would add a couple of things. I am a state court of appeals clerk:

JonB, a "cold offer" isn't really an offer, and can't actually be accepted. It's shorthand for the firm saying "we're not going to hire you, but we don't want to inhibit your ability to find another job, so if you want to say you left us, fine."

In talking with employers, I would be straightforward about the fact that you got a cold offer. In fact, if I was considering hiring you, and you told me you walked away from an offer at a prestigious firm, I may even consider you a touch unbalanced. In a terrible economy, there may actually be less stigma attached to getting no-offered due to economic circumstances. Turning down a job that will get you experience and, more importantly, a paycheck, seems strange without a good reason to do it, and "fit" isn't a very good reason.

Local ties are somewhat important, but that is going to depend a lot on the judge, if you're eying clerkships (obviously, the fed clerkships are pretty much out the window at this point in the year). Most clerkships last for a year, maybe two, so the judge isn't too worried about you skipping town after you've received all sorts of valuable training like a law firm might be. Most judges won't drop you from consideration merely due to a lack of local ties, though local ties will be in the plus column.

More than anything else, getting a clerkship is about your fit with the judge, especially since you'll be working so closely throughout your clerkship. Good luck, and feel free to mefimail me if you have follow-up questions.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:53 AM on October 29, 2009

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