I Want My Chance at a Top Firm

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!

Got a question for Ex-Bitter?  Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com

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.


  1. Elvin Hayes

    October 29, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Yes, fella, you have a shot.  As a go getter, you also should have put down your name and e-mail out there for the wads of undistinguished female lawyers and other skanks just waiting to finally hitch their wagon to a star like you (or in their case, their bon-bon eating keesters).  If you are interested in “carrying” an underachieving , overspending, and overweight whiner, come to New York, Philadelphia, or Washington DC, where they are a dime a dozen. This way, you can really appreciate life in the big city!

  2. The Jerk.

    October 29, 2008 at 5:42 am

    Unfortunately for this guy the fourth tier does not include Fordham Law.

  3. Anonymous

    October 29, 2008 at 6:55 am

    What does it matter what your chances are?  If you’ve decided to go for it, then just go for it.  Knowing what the odds are won’t change your odds.

  4. Anonymous

    October 30, 2008 at 2:11 am

    Hey, I know a girl who graduated from Fordham law, and wouldnt mind putting the blocks to her!  She’s FIRST TIER in my book!

  5. Peter Gibbons

    October 30, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Elvin Hayes, why are you a hater?  Are you having problems with the ladies?

  6. Moderator

    November 2, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Boys and Girls, please play nice on our website.

  7. Graduate

    November 11, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    As the asker of this question, I have a few comments.  First, I must say I was hugely encouraged by Ex-Bitter’s response.  I have a shot!  Now I will continue to try, but with renewed zeal.  Second, I want to correct Ex-Bitter’s comment:  I wrote in response to the column of 9/17 not 9/29.  Finally, thanks to Anonymous who recommended that I need not care about the odds.  Now that I am aware that I should not worry about the odds, I am going to run for governor.  Oh, wait, maybe vice-president!  I mean, after all, one really should not worry about one’s chances for getting the job.  Just keep sending those resumes!

  8. Anonymous

    November 12, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I’m not sure this advice is correct.  From what I’ve seen, you either get hired into the big firm as a summer or soon after you graduate, or you don’t get hired at all.  (at least until you develop a client base).  Perhaps it’s the market I’m in.  The problem I’ve seen those around me experience is that there are just too many people who apply to big firm associate jobs, and more often than not, unless you fit a specific academic mold, your resume will be shredded unless you have a relationship with the hiring partner.

  9. Anonymous

    November 15, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    I just accepted an offer with a pretty decent firm’s NY office. I often wonder why the heck they decided to hire me… I am unambitious and lazy. My personality doesn’t particularly stand out. The only thing I have going for me is that I go to a top law school. I think my firm made a mistake. They shouldn’t have hired me, they should have hired this person instead.

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