I Want My Chance at a Top Firm

Ex-Bitter Columns, Lawyer

I read your advice to the 2L at a second-tier school in the top 40% of his/her class looking for a Cravath-type job (9/29/08: I’m Nervous Law School Isn’t Worth It).  I wasn’t surprised by your advice, but I’d like to get your take on my situation—especially given the deteriorating state of the economy. 

I graduated in December 2007 from a fourth-tier school.  I was top 9% in my class, an articles editor on the Law Review, Moot Court Team, ran the Tax Law Society, passed the California and Wisconsin bars, and am currently an elbow clerk at a state court of appeals.  My clerkship ends in August 2009.  Do I have a shot at any NALP firms?  Doesn’t have to be a Cravath, but I have seen that most new associates make between $70k and $125k.  (Obviously, I’d rather be in the latter camp.) I’m flexible about where I settle—California, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin… What are my chances?

Yes!  You definitely have a shot.  If I were a hiring partner, I’d interview you in a second.  Your resume and real-life experience trump your less-than-white-shoe academic credentials.  But more importantly, it proves you’re a go-getter and willing to work your ass off to get ahead.  Lots of partners at lots of elite firms will appreciate that.

In a climate of Ivy League-Associate entitlement, your attitude and resume will be exciting to many firms.  A friend of mine, a Partner at a top New York firm, often tells me that he loves ambitious, overachieving young lawyers with academic chips on their shoulders.  Or, as one prominent ex-partner at Skadden once said, “Give me the top of the class at Fordham over the middle of the class at Harvard any day.”

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but you have a shot.  Keep working hard and you’ll be fine.  Good luck!

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