I Want a Top-Tier Job


QI’m a second year at a good second-tier school (if that’s possible). I’m in the top 40% of my class. What are my odds of getting a job at a firm like Cravath?

AZero. So stop even thinking about it. You’re the skinny high school geek with pimples working at McDonald’s. Cravath is Gisele. Do the math. But the good news is, there are still lots of jobs within your grasp. Focus on pursuing those. In other words, try to date the cute gal in your Evidence class—not the supermodel dating the NFL quarterback.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

12 Comments

  1. Al Dickman

    September 17, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Unfortunately, the “cute gal in your evidence class” probably looks like a Water Buffalo by non-law school standards.  But fear not–when youre around lawyers all the time, those Water Buffalos begin to look good, particularly after 3-4 Jack Daniels with beer chasers.  As applied to work, you will be able to work elsewhere, but not at the top firms.  So go out, have a few Jack Daniels, and head right for the Water Buffalo herd.

  2. Art Vandalay

    September 17, 2008 at 6:03 am

    There is nothing wrong with not getting one of those top tier jobs.  Get in somewhere that will teach you everything you need to know and then get into court and start kicking some ass.  The money will come eventually.  Big firms like Cravath are where your career goes to die unless you want to sit in war rooms at 3am.  I started out at a big firm in NYC and now I am at a medium sized firm in Chicago.  I took a little less money, but the hours are better, I am getting to do more substantial work, and I am never at work at 3am anymore.

  3. Me

    September 17, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I think it depends on what you mean by “second tier.” Maybe this advice is correct if we’re talking about the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, but a quick review of Cravath’s website shows plenty of graduates from the likes of Brooklyn or Fordham, each of which are “second tier” depending on how you characterize it.  Of course, those people all were probably 1 or maybe 2 in their class, and that’s the advice that should have been given here.  That is to say, you might have a shot if you’re 1 or 2 in your class and second tier doesn’t mean the worst of the worst.

  4. Alan

    September 17, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I think you missed the “top 40% of my class” part, Me.  This kid’s dead.  Where do you guys get these hilarious pictures? 

  5. Greeny

    September 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    If you are at a non T14 law school, and you are not in the top ten percent of your class, just forget about prestigious NYC law firms.  Period.

  6. Big Firm Snob

    September 17, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    post is dead on.  this kids’ got no shot.  also, greeny, where did you come up with top 14?  why not 13 or 15?

  7. anon

    September 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    short and to the point

  8. Jim

    September 18, 2008 at 1:00 am

    First, I really wish everyone would stop referring to the NYC firms as “prestigious” – maybe in the minds of us lawyers, but my observation of our clients says that they view us with as much disdain as any other set of lawyers.  Also, the crazy hours and wasted life (good luck trying to make partner unless you are well connected), are just not worth it.  So, no, you will not be able to work with one of the NYC law firms in NYC – I think you just dodged a bullet my friend.

  9. Me

    September 18, 2008 at 8:28 am

    I guess I didn’t read the one-sentence question carefully enough.  I still think it’s relevant data to relay that if you are top 1 or 2 you can get into places like Skadden or Cravath from places like Brooklyn.

  10. Heckler

    September 24, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Big Firm Snob, T14 is generally used as the cut off for top tier schools (at least by ranking snobs). It comes from the fact that if you look at the lists for top 15 schools by US News rank and by employment placement, 14 schools are on both lists. See Anthony Ciolli, The Legal Employment Market: Determinants of Elite Firm Placement and How Law Schools Stack Up, 45 Jurimetrics J. 413, 430 (2005). I believe usage of “T14” was popularized on Autoadmit.com.

  11. Anonymous

    October 9, 2008 at 5:33 am

    Actually, I thought that the mythical “T14” grouping came from the fact that 1) these 14 schools have always remained the top 14 ever since US News began ranking, whereas other schools have slid around a lot more, and 2) these are the only 14 schools that have ever been ranked in the US News Top 10.

  12. Big Dog at the Dog Pound

    October 16, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Cravath, you are probably slim to none.  However, if you expand your horizons a bit (meaning what you mean by a top firm), and take some pro-active steps, you may not get in right out of law school, but it is definitely not impossible.  If you are a 2L, you still have time to improve your grades and I would stress this to you as absolutely the most important thing you can do.  The other thing is to get some good experience, possibly in the federal government where it may be a little easier to get in, but you will have marketable skills a couple years afterwards (depending on what agency you work for).  A good clerkship, while very hard to get, is also worth pursuing.  I would say getting into a prestigious firm (top 20) will be hard but not impossible.  I did it, and I was similar to where you were as a 2L, but I did manage to improve my gradxes over the course of my career.  Also, the state of the legal job market is going to impact you greatly.  If it’s what you really want (other than Cravath and a few other places) go for it- it’s not impossible.  However, I cannot stress enough the impoirtance of doing as much as possible to improve your grades from now until the end of school.  You will probably not get into a top firm through OCI or coming out of law school (but, again, some people can do it), but that does not mean that you can never do it.  Work hard and stay in school!

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