September 30, 2023


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Biglaw Talent Acquisition – Biglaw Investor

13 min read


The law faculty work outcomes are weighted greatly toward Biglaw placement despite Biglaw building up a minority of JD put up-graduate options. Biglaw is an elite task consequence, and it is no surprise to any individual fascinated in Biglaw that attending the best educational facilities and earning the greatest grades are necessary characteristics for the ideal applicant. Such standards travel the Cravath Technique. Breaking down and knowing the Cravath Method can support regulation college students (1) realize both equally the obvious and concealed criteria of Biglaw selecting, (2) know how to best prepare for Biglaw interviews, and (3) obtain unconventional means to snag a Biglaw career even as a significantly less than great candidate.

A transient record of the Cravath Process

You may perhaps have listened to about the Cravath Scale, a well known name for the industry-matching lockstep affiliate payment construction in Biglaw,  but Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP (“Cravath”) also has its individual design for expertise acquisition: the Cravath Procedure. The Cravath System boils down to securing entry-stage associates who deliver the greatest “raw materials” so that prosperous lawyers can be formulated internally. These uncooked materials would incorporate the capacity to deal with advanced authorized issues, reputable get the job done behaviors, and a need for expansion and longevity inside of the organization. Although this write-up will emphasis on selecting practices, lawyer development is a essential part of the Cravath System. Cravath’s web-site states that the method is “our design for building talent, incentivizing collaboration and consumer services, and making extensive-term relationships of believe in.”

The Cravath Procedure currently relies on the axiom that accessing graduates who go to elite legislation educational facilities and generate top grades is each an effective and administrable system for capturing wished-for expertise. But why? 1 cause is that the lawful education and learning landscape appeared fully distinct when the Cravath Program was born. The LSAT did not exist until 1948 and most legislation universities did not need an undergraduate diploma. The only indicators that a law faculty candidate could be valued for right before conducting interviews have been attendance and performance at an elite law school. Harvard, Columbia, and Yale, on the other hand, just about every required a college or university diploma for admission and, by 1948 when the LSAT came about, just about 70% of Cravath’s associates had graduated from a single of these a few legislation colleges.

The Cravath Procedure perseveres right now

The law school admissions approach has improved immensely and these days, it even reinforces the Cravath System’s first justifications. Whilst in the past, ample performance at a legislation faculty that expected college levels would qualify candidates in a rough yes-or-no manner, all of the law educational facilities nowadays greatly screen candidates. Not only are the status of regulation colleges and relative ranks carefully monitored by all people and their mothers, but undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores have come to dominate the arms race for aptitude at the admissions phase.

Cravath and other legislation companies can outsource the screening procedure to the admissions places of work that toil endlessly to contend amongst them selves for experienced college students. Baked into regulation college admissions is school admissions which also provides an excess layer of screening that is even more multi-factored than law school admissions. In addition, regulation university grades, course rank, and extracurriculars are created to build relative “winners” and “losers”, so even additional screening takes place in advance of an software at any time reaches a legislation firm’s door.

Though it may perhaps be disheartening to listen to that Biglaw, which has by and large universally adopted the Cravath Procedure, appears to be only at two goal variables – regulation university status and grades, summarization does not essentially preclude holistic overview. The supreme objective in the talent acquisition phase of the Cravath Procedure is to come across worthy molds for associates that can be educated from the inside to develop into successful company attorneys instead than to be certain that extravagant establishments and prime grades are mentioned on the firm’s web-site (while this collateral consequence has sizeable promoting electrical power). The criteria, whether you concur with them or not, are made use of as a indicates to an conclude. Trusting that students who produced it to elite regulation educational institutions and gained large marks are probable more than enough to healthy the right mildew, the Cravath System lives on and dominates today’s Biglaw expertise acquisition scene.

The Cravath System is echoed in other kinds of companies as properly and can be viewed as an extremely-market exercise. Professor Lauren A. Rivera, in her e-book Pedigree: How Elite Pupils Get Elite Jobs, places significant legislation corporations into a class named “elite specialist service” corporations (“EPS”), generating law firms cousins with financial investment banking and consulting corporations. The features of EPSs are that they:

  • were traditionally dominated by the American higher course
  • require both of those analytical and interpersonal do the job
  • have small business with comparable huge company clientele
  • have time-intense perform – averaging about sixty-5 hrs for each 7 days
  • engage in comparable employing treatments for entry-amount hires: on-campus interviewing (“OCI”).

OCI processes are quite similar in that each and every EPS 1st sets the bounds of competitiveness (college status and GPA), screen resumes to select for generally two rounds of interviews (the “screener” and “callback”), and candidates are interviewed independently by earnings-producing pros (associates and associates) who may well finish up perform straight with the candidates.

As a result, regulation corporations are not absolutely unique in its adoption of the Cravath Method. MBA students in distinct may be able to relate to the career research struggles of law students. It is really probable that this sort of a talent acquisition model could have turn out to be what it is currently less than a unique name, or no identify at all. Irrespective of the origin of the Cravath Technique, it carries on to display incredible inertia, and few, if any Biglaw corporations deviate from it.

The common prospect

In short, Biglaw’s conventional candidate has high ranges of pedigree. Rivera defines pedigree as the shorthand expression for “a task candidate’s record of accomplishments.” The regular candidate’s biggest strength or most putting weak spot in his or her pedigree will be the popularity of the regulation school attended and the grades attained. Some of the highest rated colleges spot above 70% of their graduating course into Biglaw (outlined as 100+ legal professional headcount by the ABA). Most T-14 schools are higher than 50% in Biglaw placement, but only a couple of educational facilities in the T-30 are in equivalent putting reach.

It’s a broad generalization, but elite educational facilities appear to open somewhat quick doors to Biglaw and are much more forgiving with grades, although getting substantial marks becomes ever more significant as a school’s prestige decreases. The moment a legislation school’s Biglaw placement is close to or previously mentioned the 50% mark, some remarks start to get thrown all-around that “anybody who needs it can get it” after factoring out people who intentionally go after any other variety of legal occupation.

For educational institutions significantly from that strength of placement, regulation university applicants are typically suggested to estimate that the placement share will mirror how properly they ought to perform academically to have a preventing prospect for Biglaw. If the BLI College of Law’s Biglaw placement is 10%, then 1 could be expecting to have to area at or close to the prime ten percent of the class to achieve Biglaw. Of course, this heuristic does not promise anything at all, and does not component in pre-existing connections or particular and suitable do the job record.

Substantially of the spotlight on school status is due to administrability and internet marketing. Regulation corporations seldom deny that if not remarkably-competent candidates can be observed at all establishments. Even so, the streamlined entry to a pool of candidates employing year-to-calendar year interactions fashioned with occupation solutions at elite educational facilities is the place a firm receives the most bang for its buck. A agency may possibly perform 50 screeners at a T-14 though interviewing considerably less than a handful at a regional, reduced-rated university. Several candidates from decrease-rated universities who are at the top of their course nonetheless have to utilize specifically as a result of a firm’s internet site to even make it onto the using the services of radar.

Prestige is also a worthwhile marketing software to clientele and levels of competition. Shoppers will want to see that the attorneys they are shelling out hundreds of dollars for each hour came from the very best educational facilities. Biglaw corporations are stuck in this arms race simply because the 1st-mover to diverge from the observe of amassing pedigree will stand out like a sore thumb and will have to justify why their less pedigreed attorneys are no much less competent.

Even though firms frequently do not consider grades to be indicative of upcoming functionality, Rivera says that “grades give a clear-cut and ‘fair’ way to rank candidates.” Two objective numbers can be compared a great deal additional effortlessly than character, writing samples, or simulated operate. 1 constructive perception about grades appears to be to be that even if they do not forecast efficiency, fantastic grades can serve as evidence of pressure-management or meticulous get the job done. The belief is that the overpowering greater part of higher tutorial performers could not have gotten to where they have been without having a degree of self-treatment, ambition, coping mechanisms, and diligence.

Other elements

Soon after pedigree, in no particular buy, prior work, extracurriculars, and other essential software elements (often address letters, statements, and creating samples, etc.) can also go the needle. Prior work could be substantively appropriate (e.g., a earlier accountant looking to join a tax practice) or suggest workstyle familiarity if another person has past working experience in an intensive corporate natural environment. Whilst a lot of legislation university extracurriculars echo the stratification of grades, staying equipped to stability routines further than lecturers is found as a good, not to mention signaling aptitude for collaboration and leadership.

Finally, while Biglaw is regarded for glossing over, or totally disregarding application products, range positions may perhaps give much more excess weight to diversity statements, address letters can stand out, and a bad crafting sample riddled with problems can destroy an applicant’s probabilities.

The unconventional prospect

Rivera points out a hybrid talent acquisition model, the sponsored contest. In a contest system, all people can apply and preferably, the most merit need to get every single time. This sort of is the situation for the standard candidate. In a sponsored procedure, present winners get to choose the new winners. The unconventional prospect – an individual who lacks the pedigree of a traditional candidate – can access the job interview phase by actively playing the sponsored system alternatively of the contest procedure. Once at the interview stage, the two candidates typically find themselves on degree participating in fields. Rivera’s description of the sponsored contest is that anyone is allowed to apply, but “in actuality, employers take into consideration only these apps sponsored by current elites: both prestigious universities or marketplace insiders.”

The best weapon for a candidate lacking aggressive pedigree is that an market insider can supply chances to interview—a slight, but potentially determinative edge. On 1 serious stop, sponsorship by an insider can get the kind of “your father and I are fantastic good friends, this job interview is just a formality” or even regular nepotism. Thankfully, any law pupil today can receive sponsorship by an industry insider by the energy of networking.

Rivera states that “individual sponsors did not will need to be substantial up in the organization . . . insider-outsider standing was more salient than vertical placement in a company,” and I know from individual knowledge that junior associates and even upperclassmen who have ties to the organization can be a ample sponsor.

Associates at a organization typically have adequate electricity to push candidates missing in pedigree to the job interview stage. Particular person sponsorship is not official, and “the tie to an unique sponsor did not have to be solid. No explicit description of the marriage or candidate was needed.” Just finding to know a company insider and sharing a quick but personable dialogue would commonly suffice for the insider to “put in a superior word” for an software. Even an indirect partnership can be a prosperous sponsorship (e.g., a professor reaches out to an insider and mentions that her college student has used to the insider’s firm). Even though most sponsorships are a result of a personal, non-business relationship, high-touch referrals (from customers or broader industry insiders these kinds of as judges) can also have a similar impact.

The puzzle of the Biglaw interview

Both the regular and unconventional candidates can get an original interview on the basis of pedigree or sponsorship. Having said that, there is a sharp shift at the job interview phase from the goal to the subjective. Faculty rank, GPA, and irrespective of whether or not there was a sponsor at all are aim properties of a candidate. Even a prospect with top rated grades from a prime university, or a candidate sponsored by a rainmaking companion will be judged on a model new set of standards shifting as a result of the two rounds of interviews.

According to Rivera, legislation firm interviews are the most unstructured out of all of the EPS companies. Evaluators, who are almost constantly companions and associates, are typically provided minimal or no steering in how to decide who is and is not certified. Conversely, a structured job interview may have interviewees answering the same established of questions so that answers could be as opposed. Regulation agency interviews seldom (but proficiently never ever) rely on scenario or specialized interviews possibly. In the broadest perception, the interviewer has enormous discretion to share a discussion with the interviewee to get a grasp of the candidate’s in shape and polish.

In good shape

In shape is an fascinating phrase at initially look it seems synonymous to “qualified”, possibly pointing to toughness and conditioning, or potentially even the in shape of the candidate’s fit! Having said that, Rivera’s use of the term healthy is described as “the shared values that delineate proper office conduct.” Match is perceived to be steady character features, generally indicating a wide vary of suggestions this sort of as no matter whether or not a prospect could match a firm’s tradition, be personable or attention-grabbing adequate to get the job done extensive hrs with, or integrate on their own into the workplace social community. In summary, match is individuality and good healthy is when the persona both meshes perfectly with or mirrors the currently current personalities at a firm. On the other hand, every person admits that analyzing a person’s personality is an really subjective process, riddled with biases, and two totally fair evaluators can have reverse reactions to a limited snapshot of an interviewee’s in shape.


Polish, though commonly weighted less than healthy (yet again, there is no obligatory rubric), is the other major criterion and similarly subjective. Polish is equated with existence, presentability, or poise (why do they all get started with P?) but also has a vital transitive attribute, exactly where it is the final result of two people’s interactions and not just one person’s talent in a vacuum. Rivera states that “[p]olish consisted of seeming at relieve when putting the interviewer at ease, using the reins in conversation while preserving adherence to conversational rhythms and transform-having norms, displaying enjoyment but maintaining it inside bounds, and seeming confident however not cocky.” There’s a lot that goes into polish!

It is tricky to get a singular grasp of polish, but Rivera facts a few instances of great and bad polish. The most polished candidates appear across as interviewing the interviewer and flipping the roles (a talent greatest designed by practice via networking in my view), having a all-natural hard work to learn commonalities, and having great conversational timing. Polish is natural, polish is comfortable, polish presents off the proper emotions in the correct quantities, and typically is viewed as a ability that helps make a genuine discussion stream efficiently.

The interview conversation: a roadmap

Biglaw interviews, regardless of the comprehensive absence of framework, tend to observe conversational styles, screening fit and polish at every phase. Initially is the icebreaker. The interview hardly ever begins with a query associated straight to the place, but instead sets a quick phase for introductions and compact speak.

2nd is the autobiographical narrative, or frequently recognised as the “tell me about yourself” concern. Persuasive and emotionally arousing narratives perform very best, and an ideal autobiographical narrative shares equally past encounters and long term trajectory. Artful storytelling is far more critical than what the genuine experiences are, and the narrative is the candidate’s ideal opportunity to express ambition, ownership, motivations, passions, targets, and many other valued attributes. Hugely vivid tales, tales that “move” or “wow” the evaluator, and specifically stories that have been very comparable to the evaluator’s individual experiences are received ideal.

At last, interviews tend to depart time at the end for concern-and-solution. Getting no issues for the firm will come across as missing authentic curiosity and general preparedness. Whilst this ultimate phase not often can make the applicant (given that an evaluator has ordinarily reached a conclusion by this position), it can definitely crack one. Weak inquiries emphasis on quantifiable and extrinsic facts, though the best questions travel house the impression of an intrinsically-enthusiastic and genuinely excited candidate. Therefore, queries about time commitments, operate-existence stability, relatives leave procedures, and payment are obtained poorly while concerns checking out the favourable ordeals that arrive with the posture, or the evaluator’s own viewpoint will possible ensure any very good impressions now manufactured.


At the broadest degree of investigation, a prospect wants to be preferred in get to get the occupation the moment they have adequate objective qualifications, be it academic merit or sponsorship. Recognition of, and apply for polish, suit, and the frequent job interview phases can go a long way. Biglaw expertise acquisition typically has the impression of formlessness, arbitrariness, and luck-dependent outcomes. To a degree, that is possibly true compared to several other expertise acquisition styles employed elsewhere. On the other hand, individuals pursuing Biglaw will advantage from knowledge the parts of equally standards and process, and each developing on strengths when working on weaknesses.

Advisable sources

Joseph Kim

Joseph Kim A 2L at Notre Dame Regulation Faculty, Joseph grew up in California the place he developed an desire in working with music, powerlifting, and bowling. He’s been a member of the Hearth community because ahead of law university and ideas to pursue FatFIRE adhering to graduation.


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