This fundamental point is related to another very important lesson with regard to how lateral attorney candidates (and their respective recruiters) should communicate with law firms during the interview/recruiting process. Busy lawyers are often swamped with emails and phone voicemails. Sometimes they have more than they can possibly answer in a timely manner. So naturally, they prioritize. Many lawyers will thus respond to clients and senior partners right away, while putting most other less critical emails and messages on the back burner until they can get around to them. But what may work for lawyers in their everyday practice does not necessarily work when a lawyer is in serious discussions with another firm. I have seen how lawyers all too often treat communications with an interviewing firm, as well as related communications from their recruiters, as “non-critical” and therefore shoved to the back burner. Regardless of whether the lawyers are doing this out of habit and/or because they are not taking their job search as seriously as they should, this is a major mistake.
The reality is that – for the reasons stated above – law firms expect to have “top tier” or “critical level” priority when it comes to lawyers returning their communications. In other words, law firms want to be treated like clients or senior partners, so that their communications to interviewing lawyers (or their recruiters) will be promptly returned, ideally by the next day (if not the same day). Consequently, I have seen law firms become clearly irritated when an interviewing attorney has failed to promptly respond to an email or voicemail from the firm. When this happens, the firm usually assumes that the reason for the delay in responding is due to the attorney’s lack of interest or enthusiasm in the law firm. This assumption – whether accurate or not – can seriously damage the attorney’s chances to obtain an offer. In one particular case, I witnessed a law firm withdraw an offer because the partner candidate failed to timely respond to the firm’s emailed offer and also to a voicemail from one of the firm’s partners (both the partner and the firm also failed to timely inform me of either of these communications – if one of them had done so (as they should have), the miscommunications would have most likely been avoided). Again, this happened because the firm assumed the partner no longer had any interest.
For these reasons, I find myself having to constantly remind attorney candidates that they cannot afford to treat an interviewing firm’s communication as a low priority no matter how busy they are. If the attorney does not consistently treat such communications as top priorities, they are likely to harm – or even ruin – their chances of obtaining an offer from that firm.