QDuring the course of the last 3 weeks or so of bar prep, I had a few interviews. I got an offer (for a lot less money than I thought they’d offer) a few days before the bar, and the hiring partner tried to strong-arm me into accepting over the phone, even threatening to rescind the offer if I didn’t accept it by “the middle of next week” i.e. the Tuesday and Wednesday of the bar. I was able to talk him off the ledge and convince him to give me a few more days to think about it. My second interview was four days before the bar, and again I was told that if I didn’t want to come on that day, then I wouldn’t be considered for the job. This is a small (30 attorneys) firm.
In the midst of all of this I was contacted by a much larger, more prestigious firm (200+ attorneys) about an interview to do almost EXACTLY what I went to law school for. This firm was considerably more gracious in considering my bar study schedule, and recommended that we talk after the bar. I had a first interview with them last week, and am awaiting contact about a second interview, which I was told would happen in the next couple weeks. I attempted to push back my deadline for acceptance of the original firm to no avail. Reluctantly, I was forced to accept this job and try to push a start date way back in order to accommodate a possible second interview with the second firm. The second firm hires in at double what the original firm offered me.
If I get an offer from the second firm, I’m bailing on the first one in a heart beat. Is this unethical? Can I just call the first firm up and say I’m rescinding my acceptance? The original firm planned on hiring one person, but ended up hiring two so it’s not like they’d be totally screwed by me bailing…. right?
AUmm, right. Unethical? Hardly. It’s business. And the faster you understand that it’s all business, the better you’ll get ahead. I’ve talked about offers being rescinded before and even noted possible NALP standards that could apply, but formally rescinding an acceptance when you haven’t started anywhere else? That’s nuts. And while two potential job offers in the bush is not worth one actual law job in your hand, you can still keep your fingers in the bush once you take the job. Know what I mean? Sure, you may end up working for firm number one. And it may be awkward to give notice to the firm, which, honestly, seems to have no real interest in you as a human being. But you’ll forget about firm number one within hours of starting work at firm number two. At least that’s the hope and idea.
But, whatever you do, don’t go off and start burning bridges. Don’t go thinking “I’ll show this law firm who’s boss now and really fuck them over.” First, you won’t fuck them over. It’s business and, while it sucks to have to reopen a search for an associate, it’s par for the course. If you are a punk about it, though, it will just come back to bite you in the ass later, sometime and someplace. Seriously, I’ve been there. Take the high road and tell the firm you’re leaving for another firm. Call it an “opportunity” if you must, but leave it at that. Thank them, but get on your way. If it works out for you, a genuine congrats is in order. But, then again, you really won’t know how well it works for you for a few months after starting. By then you’ll understand what you are really in for.
Update: The writer reports that he’s started work at the small law firm but is waiting (and assured that he is still in the running) for further news about the position at the second firm.