The summer is coming to a close and soon to be 3L’s who happened to land a summer job are waiting anxiously and eagerly for the famous “exit interview.” I, too, am one of those 3L’s. Most likely the firm I’m interning at will offer me a job or tell me that I wasn’t a perfect fit. I want to be prepared as much as possible for how to handle both situations. I feel the summer has gone well, so I especially want to know how to react if I’m given a job offer. Personally, I would like at least a little bit of time to think about all the nitty gritty’s and frankly just some time to step away and evaluate the summer. At the same time, I looked at the list of OCI’s this year and there are literally only 5 firms coming to interview us 3L’s; all of which I’m sure I have, at the most, a 1 out of 10 chance of landing. Yes, the market is still quite awful. That begs the question of whether I should accept on the spot. Further, if I do decide to accept should I attempt to negotiate a salary, figure out expectations that they have of me, express my interests, etc.? I’m totally at a loss, and any help would be fabulous.
Great question. I think the best case scenario is the easiest to prepare for, but maybe that’s me. I’m really curious to hear what the readers say here. (Pictured: Welcome, originally uploaded to Flickr by alborzshawn.)
In the event that you’re offered a job:
The summer has gone well! They like you! Do you like them? The ball is in your court now. Reader J notes that she wants time to consider the “nitty gritty” details and evaluate the summer — but in this economy I’d advise caution, because I think a lot of prospective employers would be surprised (and WILL remember) if you don’t accept on the spot. What “nitty gritty” details do you want to consider? If they are questions that you haven’t asked yet — salary/bonus information, benefits information, information about the company or practice itself — those are all valid questions, and I urge you to ask them IN the exit interview. If the details you want “time to evaluate” are things like the general experience and the people… well, I’m not sure what further information you’re going to gain after leaving the interview.
Just to play the devil’s advocate, what are your other options at this point? As you note, your chances for getting another job through OCI are extremely slim — and I hate to break it to you but having a job already in your pocket puts you in a much better position for clerkships, fellowships, and more. (I might also argue that firms are fungible from the perspective of a junior lawyer, but I’ll save my cynicism for now.) From a realistic standpoint, also, I can remember a ton of other circumstances where people haven’t returned to the firm after accepting their offer, either because they had a baby, their significant other got a job elsewhere, they started their own company, or they followed a different career path that presented itself after the fact. If their relationship with the firm was affected (and I doubt it was, honestly), it no longer mattered at that point because they already had something else lined up. Here, where you’re just trying to “consider your options” in an economy where millions of people have been laid off or can’t find legal work — and so hot on the heels of the firm’s own consideration of WHO should get an offer that summer — your hesitance may not sit so great with the firm, particularly because they know there’s a dearth of other options.
Regarding negotiating a salary — if that sort of thing is on the table, by all means negotiate. Many firms are changing from the “lockstep” salary arrangements of years past, and you should make sure that you’re covered and even, perhaps, locked into the best position for you. One thing to keep in mind is that the economy is extremely volatile right now — if you accept the job offer and don’t return to work for one year to three years (say, if you take a clerkship or two in the interim) then the economy could have a) rebounded and the starting salary offered could be higher than what it currently is now, or b) sunk even further and the salary offered to people who did NOT negotiate could be lower than whatever you bargained for, which might make you a candidate if the firm needs to “defer” associates.
Some other suggestions for an “exit” interview:
- Try to go in with some questions. “Was there any specific feedback in my evaluations for areas upon which I could improve? Especially since I still have a year of law school left, I’d love to know if I should beef up my legal writing or research skills, or if I should gain more knowledge in a specific area of law.”
- Stay professional.
- Stay positive (unless there’s some feedback the firm really needs to get). Complaining about colleagues, whining about firm benefits (e.g., “Geez, could you improve the quality of the snack cookies? Other firms bake theirs from scratch”), or focusing on other petty things is not going to be helpful.
Readers, what are your suggestions for Reader J? Should she accept a job offer on the spot? What other advise do you have for the exit interview?