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by Vault Law Editors | September 01, 2010


The details of how elite law and business consulting firms recruit astonish me every time I hear them. Even getting an interview often requires attending an Ivy League professional school or a very few top tier equivalents. Folks who succeed in that round are invited to spend a summer working at the firm, the most sane aspect of the process.

So begins, reasonably enough, Conor Friedersdorf (guestblogging for Andrew Sullivan). But then he’s off to lurid hyperbole:

[Summer associates] participate in sell events where they're plied with food and alcohol in the most lavish settings imaginable: five star resort hotels, fine cigar bars, the priciest restaurants. A fancy dinner will be scheduled in a faraway city. Summer associates will fly there that evening, spend several hundred dollars on the meal, spend the night in a hotel, and fly back the next morning in time for a 10 am client meeting. They'll expense steak dinners or $150 cab rides without a second thought.

Um, not really. But his thesis is plausible:

The prize firms are after: talented people, to be sure, but also the ability to tell clients, "We can put together a team for your company that is entirely made up of Ivy League graduates." Apparently this is enormously appealing to companies, which makes sense, given that law firms and especially consulting firms are often used as a kind of responsibility deferral system, allowing managers to fall back on some variation on, 'Yes, technically I approved this consequential decision that didn't actually work out for the company, but as you can see we hired the most prestigious consulting firm in America -- a whole room full of Harvard graduates! -- who affirmed that this was the best option.'

Professor Bainbridge(who worked at White & Case and Arnold ) weighs in:

It wasn't that way when I was a summer associate or a practicing lawyer, but then again those were back in the days when the world was still in black-and-white. We actually used things called Wang workstations instead of PCs and phones were plausible instruments of homicide instead of minicomputers. Plus, we had to walk to work in the snow. Uphill. Both ways. […]On a serious note, I find it puzzling that some summer associate programs were so plush in this job market. One would think things are so tight that firms could feed associates bread and water and still have the associates walk on hot coals to get an offer.

In 2010, the summer associate reality is probably just a bit closer to bread and water than it is to jetting off to faraway "fancy dinners."
-posted by brian
Associated Press
The newly designed $100 bill will be employed by summer associates to light their cigars


Filed Under: Law

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