Associate Life

Owen Allen

Choosing WilmerHale

October 9, 2012 5:11 PM | Permalink | Print

I graduated from law school during the “good old days” in 2007. Better yet, I interviewed for summer associate positions in 2005, when they were literally handing out offers from street corners. I was lucky enough to have had a choice of several firms at which to spend my summer, entirely attributable to my fortunate timing. For those of you lucky enough to also have that choice today, you may be trying to figure out what differentiates firm A from firm B from firm C, besides the office décor or location or size of the water feature in the lobby (we have one of the biggest, by the way). It’s really difficult to figure out what a firm is really like from a few hours of interviews with a few people, especially when you are trying to woo these people to give you an offer. It’s also difficult to figure out what a firm is really like from the glossy literature that you get from the recruiting people. (No offense to our recruiting department! The brochures are lovely.)

I can’t speak for what other firms are like (aside from hearsay, but I’ll refrain from going there), but I can speak for why I decided to spend my summer (and the next five years) at WilmerHale. First, the firm emphasized that, as a summer associate, I would be able to explore many different practice areas, and also embraced the crazy notion that, after one whole year of law school, I (a) didn’t want to be an appellate lawyer and (b) didn’t really know anything about the other practice areas. I was going in with an open mind, and they encouraged that.

Second, the people I met during my interviews genuinely seemed like a great bunch of people. I could see myself working side-by-side with them to meet crazy deadlines, and having a good time doing so. Lots of firms—strike that, all firms—say that they are collegial. This word was thrown around so often during my interviews that it lost all meaning for me. The real question, I think, is whether a firm feels collegial. Do the people you interview with, partners and associates alike, strike you as the type of people you would feel comfortable throwing ideas around with late at night while working on a big case? Do you get a good vibe from them? The people I met during my interviews at WilmerHale definitely gave me a good vibe, and I was happy to discover that everybody I worked with as a summer associate was supportive and helpful.

Finally, the firm really emphasized a strong commitment to pro bono work. I had a chance during my summer to work on a pro bono project, and have had several chances to work on pro bono projects as an associate and senior associate (see my previous blog post). The firm gives full credit for all hours spent on pro bono work, with no cap. That’s a very nice policy.