Dispatches From Law Firm Interviews at NYU

Tourists hoping to get to their rooms at the DoubleTree Suites in Times Square on Thursday likely encountered some unexpected elevator traffic. Across nearly 20 floors of the hotel, rising second years at New York University Law School shuttled up and down throughout the day, some catching a moment’s break from their marathon effort to land Big Law summer associate jobs.

It was day two of the school’s three-day early interview process, the first step on the path to an offer letter for many. This year, approximately 150 Big Law firms will participate in 8,500 twenty-minute conversations with the NYU 2Ls, according to the school.

For many students, the process is a numbers game. NYU students participate in an average of 23 interviews per person in the hopes of getting a handful of callbacks to interview on-site with the firms. From those callbacks, they’ll likely get some offers. From those offers, they’ll choose the firm where they’ll likely be working after graduation.

The early interview process, taking place across top law schools this month, is not like most other job searches.

“You’ve just finished the first year of law school and we’re basically hiring you … forever,” Mark Brossman, a partner at Schulte Roth, told NYU students during a lunchtime panel the student lounge on callback interviews. “It’s a strange model.”

“It’s not common in any other industries,” he told Big Law Business after the panel.

He and other lawyers from Weil, Latham, Shearman & Sterling, and O’Melveny & Myers offered students tips on how to succeed during their callbacks. Don’t write a thank you email with typos or the wrong law firm name, they advised. And don’t get too relaxed if your interview involves lunch.

As the room cleared out following the panel, some students on a break from interviews stared intently into their laptops. Two students appeared relaxed as they told Big Law Business about the day’s progress.

“It’s like a total circus, obviously,” said one. But, she added, “it’s been much more of a bonding experience than I thought. Nothing like finals.” Her friend agreed, nodding his head. The students in this story agreed to speak to BLB on the condition their names not be shared.

The interviews, which take place in standard hotel rooms, are scheduled in 20-minute increments. A single chair is set outside each door for the the next student in line. When the time comes, the waiting student knocks on the door of the hotel room to let the attorneys inside know they’re ready. Eventually, the door opens and the preceding interviewee emerges. The door usually closes for a moment, giving the two students a moment to check in with each other.

“You warned me, coming out of Akin,” the young woman recalled to her friend.

“Yeah, that it was a formal interview.” Rather than set up chairs next to each other for a conversation, the interviewer had set the room up like an interrogation room, he explained. He had heard of some “horror stories,” though.

“A friend of mine saw his interviewer write down on his resume: Poor grades,” said the young man.

After ten minutes, the students excused themselves. Elevator traffic was bad, and they needed to be upstairs for their next interviews soon.

“The elevators are the worst part,” another student told Big Law Business a half hour later on the 37th floor as he waited outside of the Skadden interview rooms with two friends. One of them, citing NYU Law’s employment statistics, said he wasn’t worried about any of his classmates finding jobs: “It’s not like it’s 2008.”

Down the hall, in the Skadden hospitality suite, associates from the firm greeted students on break between interviews, offering coffee, cookies, sandwiches and swag. By the end of the day, the firm’s supply of branded fidget spinners were running out. The fidget spinners were the business product of a 15-year-old son of a Skadden tax partner’s close friend, Big Law Business learned. On a different floor, Shearman & Sterling was low on branded flashlights.

In the hallway of the 39th floor, two young women shared notes with BLB outside an interview room.

“I think the logistics stress me out more than the interviews,” said one. Getting down to the 6th floor bathrooms might take 25 minutes, she said. Students, she had heard, were discouraged from using the bathrooms in the hospitality suites. In the Davis Polk hospitality suite, a firm representative was dismayed to hear it. The firm offered no swag, but students were more than welcome to use the bathroom, she said.

Back down on the 6th floor, on the back wall of the large conference room reserved for students, printed sheets of white paper kept track throughout the day of the interview schedule for each law firm. Open time slots were highlighted in yellow for those students hoping to snag a last minute conversation.

Five minutes after lunch, two young students approached the wall, looking for available appointments that afternoon.

“There’s one in nine minutes,” said one. “I think I’ll head up.”

“Maybe they’ll like your ambition,” his friend answered.

“Where’s the location?” he asked, nearly out the door.

“Silicon Valley.”

“Silicon? OK.” With that, he went off to the elevator.

 

Write to the reporter at srussellkraft@gmail.com.

Write to the editor at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com.

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