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Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal is the Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline and the Editor-At-Large of Breaking Media. He’s appeared...

Joe Patrice

Joe Patrice is an Editor at Above the Law. For over a decade, he practiced as a litigator at...

Episode Notes

Joe and Elie are off for the Independence Day holiday but wanted to leave you with something to listen to while you enjoy your holiday. Last year, we spoke with Vanderbilt Law School’s Associate Director of Career Services Nick Alexiou to discuss the on-campus interviewing process. A good guide for those of you preparing for the interview of your lives.

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Mentioned in This Episode

This episode ran on August 14, 2o18: Mastering On-Campus Interviewing


Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer

An Independence Day Lesson In Interviewing





Joe Patrice: Welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. It is holiday week obviously it’s Canada today, no actually it’s not just that it’s Canada today but we have the Independence Day Holiday coming up and obviously that means we’re not recording an episode for this week but we don’t want to leave you empty-handed. So for many of you this is also the time when you start thinking about those on-campus interviews that are rapidly approaching and we thought this would be a good opportunity to revisit an episode from last year where we talked with an actual expert in career placement about how to approach on-campus interviewing.


So if you will excuse probably some dated references in our grinding of gears moments by all means enjoy this archival episode about on-campus interviewing.


And as always thanks to our sponsor




Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture, all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.




Joe Patrice: Hey, welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law. With me, Elie Mystal.


Elie Mystal: I am so close to vacation.


Joe Patrice: You are. You are going on vacation, that’s exciting.


Elie Mystal: Pretty much after we do this, I don’t have to be here, like technically Friday, but come on, so this is my last like real thing.


Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, I mean that’s cool. What are you doing?


Elie Mystal: I have two kids, I am staying in my house and playing video games.


Joe Patrice: I mean with two kids there are plenty of things that people go on vacation with children too even.


Elie Mystal: I live in the suburbs, so I will inflate some kind of plastic crap, put water in it, and then watch them from my window while I am playing video games.


Joe Patrice: I see. Okay, so that’s a fact.


Elie Mystal: So I am generally in a good mood, but before I take my hiatus, I have found something that is really pissing me off today.


Joe Patrice: Okay.


Elie Mystal: If one more person tells me the ability to subpoena a president has never been tested, I am going to wring that person’s neck. Joe, as you —


Joe Patrice: Why is that?


Elie Mystal: –on TV this weekend, because I do TV now, on TV this weekend, I was making this point, the reason why the president’s — the ability to subpoena a president, the reason why that’s never been tested is because no president has argued with the subpoena power.


Joe Patrice: Oh right, yes. I was going to say it hasn’t been tested, but I see what you mean, as in it’s never gotten to the point of —


Elie Mystal: Because think about what a subpoena is. It’s simply an order to compel evidence, right, compel documents, compel testimony, that’s what a subpoena is. If you are the President of the United States, why do you need to be compelled to give assistance to law enforcement that you were arguably in charge of? Like how can we live in the society where you, the president, think that you are so far above the law that you do not have to assist in law enforcement investigations?


I know people are going to say oh, well, most law enforcements aren’t about the president. The president isn’t the target of most law enforcement. Tell me — tell that to Bill Clinton, right?


Joe Patrice: Right.


Elie Mystal: Bill Clinton, Clinton v. Jones, he tried to avoid having to be sued at all.


Joe Patrice: Right, that was not a law enforcement issue. .


Elie Mystal: That was not a law enforcement issue; it was a private investigation. He was like I don’t want any bit of this, but once the court ruled in Clinton v. Jones, he was allowed to be sued. He testified. He didn’t try to argue against the ability of the plaintiffs to subpoena. He did not.


Joe Patrice: No, and he did, but ultimately, the discussion and the war of words and letters got to a point where they determined it was in the best interests not to challenge it and make a court precedent on it. But yeah, I mean obviously they tried not to.


Elie Mystal: Clinton testified. Trump should testify if Mueller wants to talk to him. And look, I don’t want to hear this crap about it being a perjury trap, all right, it’s not a perjury trap.


Joe Patrice: No, it is not.


Elie Mystal: Your client’s inability to tell the goddamn truth is not a perjury trap. If Trump —


Joe Patrice: That is a term of art for our listeners, and no, being in a situation where you commit perjury does not make something a perjury trap.


Elie Mystal: If Trump is worried that he will incriminate himself and if I was Trump’s lawyer, I would be worried about that, because the man is a goddamn liar, but if Trump is worried that he will incriminate himself during testimony, there is a legal recourse; it is called the Fifth Amendment.


Joe Patrice: Sure.


Elie Mystal: So instead of — and here is the thing people, instead of elevating yourself and placing yourself above the law, if you simply place yourself subject to laws, the law will protect you, that’s what it’s there for.




Joe Patrice: Right. I mean that’s fairly Pollyannaish, but sure.


Elie Mystal: Any citizen has the right against self-incrimination. Donald Trump is no different. If he does not want to incriminate himself, he cannot be compelled to. All he has to say is, I take the Fifth, that’s all he has to say. He doesn’t have to have a Supreme Court battle royale over the subpoena power, just Mueller, you know what, I take the Fifth. What up? And then we are done.


Joe Patrice: Actually, the way you phrase that makes me wonder if that’s true, just because if you believe, and soon there will be a Supreme Court justice who does, that presidents aren’t amenable to being charged criminally with things. If he can’t be charged criminally with something, he would not have a Fifth Amendment right, right?


Because like when we — a common trick the prosecutors can do is grant full immunity to somebody and then they no longer have the ability not to answer a question, because they have immunity, so they have to — they don’t have a Fifth Amendment right anymore.


Elie Mystal: Well, it’s because he doesn’t need a Fifth Amendment right. The Fifth Amendment was a right against self-incrimination.


Joe Patrice: Self-incrimination, right, and once they are immune, they can’t be incriminated. And the question is, if you believe, as Kavanaugh has articulated in his work, that presidents aren’t amenable to criminal suit, period, then they actually can’t incriminate themselves anyway.


Elie Mystal: Yes, but then they also can’t ever be compelled to testify.


Joe Patrice: Well no, this would be that they — that’s the whole separate question, the question of whether or not they can be forced to testify is one issue, which I am sure Kavanaugh thinks they don’t also, but if they are somebody who can get subpoenaed, you say the law gives them that Fifth Amendment right, and I am saying sure, I think it does and should, but if you are a part of that group of people who thinks that you can’t criminally try somebody, then I guess theoretically you shouldn’t have a right against self-incrimination.


Elie Mystal: I mean you are trying to get into Kavanaugh’s mind. I mean Kavanaugh thinks that the president has the right of prima nocta, all right, like he is — it’s hard to tease out the logic of Kavanaugh’s belief in the absolute power of our monarchy.


Joe Patrice: Right. Yes. And obviously, a lot of chips would have to fall into place, and as you are pointing out, I think correctly, if it got to the Kavanaugh front, we wouldn’t even have a subpoena. But I just am saying that there is like a fun wrinkle to that hypo, that is if he is compelled to testify and you believe that there is no chance that you can criminally try him, then I don’t know why a Fifth Amendment right would even exist.


But alas, so that was just kind of a weird hypothetical the way you phrased it.


Elie Mystal: It pisses me off that the president is not viewed as a citizen, because if we can simply view him as a citizen, then the law already offers a citizen all of the protection they need to avoid self-incrimination.


Joe Patrice: Sure. And that’s fair. So yeah, that was today’s grinding of gears, I think.


One thing I wanted to say, and I am going to say this now, I will probably repeat it at the end, but it strikes me that maybe some people don’t keep listening after we check out with our guests. So I was just going to point out, everybody who is listening right now and subscribing should absolutely give us reviews, some stars, and write something nice about it and tell everybody to keep listening and to start listening, because that helps. So I am going to say that now, because I usually say that as part of our ending credits and I just thought that it was worth throwing out there.


Elie Mystal: I mean, if we are going to go down that route, you should read Above the Law.


Joe Patrice: Right, that’s an excellent point. We have never really talked about that. We kind of assume people read Above the Law, but that’s a good point.


Elie Mystal: I met a guy today that was like I love your podcast, do you have a website? I was like, yeah.


Joe Patrice: Yes, Above the Law, where you can learn all sorts of —


Elie Mystal: That’s how I afforded this fancy shirt.


Joe Patrice: Yeah. So speaking of things you can learn on Above the Law, one of the things you can learn on there is if you are a law student, you can learn how to advance your career, in both fun and more methodical ways, depending on the columnist.


Elie Mystal: It’s OCI season bitches.


Joe Patrice: Yes, OCI, which is On-Campus Interviewing, different schools call it different things, but it’s when all of the firms show up and like chattel all of you in law school, march in front of them and try to peddle your wares to them for the next summer.


Elie Mystal: This guy only ran a 3/6 in con law, but he ran a 3/8 in contracts.


Joe Patrice: Yeah, it’s the combine for law students. So, we are very excited about that, but first, we will take our break.






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Joe Patrice: So we are back. So we thought we should have an episode now that OCI is about to begin, talking about On-Campus Interviewing, what it is, how to get through it, tips and tricks, just kind of a little overview of the process, and so we brought on a guest. It was a returning guest.


We brought Nick Alexiou on. He is the Director of LL.M. and Alumni Advising and also the Associate Director of Career Services at Vanderbilt Law School.


So welcome to the show again.


Nick Alexiou: Hey everybody. I am just trying to think what it’s like to actually take a vacation with two kids and it sounds worse than maybe anything else I can envision.


Elie Mystal: It’s real bad. It’s real bad. We went to Mexico back in the day with both of them and it was the worst trip of my life. It was the worst trip of my life. My children made Mexico not fun.


Nick Alexiou: I have traveled like semi cross-country from Nashville to San Diego with my wife and two kids and it is an adventure. It is something that you really can’t prepare for until you actually do it.


Joe Patrice: Yeah, it sounds easy to me. Anyway.


Nick Alexiou: Welcome to OCI. We are here at day 3 at OCI here at Vanderbilt, so we have already sort of got the ball rolling.


Elie Mystal: So you are in the — you have got the hotel room, you have got the students going through. Does Vanderbilt do it with a hotel room, in a hotel block?


Nick Alexiou: We do not, because we are fortunate, even before the #MeToo era, we have very nice interview rooms in our building that we can use and so we have not yet had to go down the hotel route.


We had done — we do regional job fairs before OCI starts, because one of the themes that I brought up in the columns I have been writing for Above the Law on Career Services is sort of how OCI keeps going earlier and earlier into the fall and even into the summer, and so we do regional job fairs in a couple of markets before OCI even starts. And we had done those in hotels in some of the markets in years past and for not surprising reasons we no longer do those in hotels.


Joe Patrice: No, that’s fair. Now Elie, you did this in a hotel block?


Elie Mystal: I did this in a hotel block.


Joe Patrice: Interesting. So where I went, we did it — at NYU we did it in the dorms. So the dorms were cleared out and each firm basically had a little suite and you went in to interview rooms off of that suite.


Nick Alexiou: It’s very weird to like walk into a kitchen and there is like a stack of magnolia cupcakes and then you are just like going to someone’s bedroom. And you might have actually been in that room like the previous year because you were hanging out.


Joe Patrice: I interviewed with one firm in the room that I had had, not my bedroom, but my roommate’s bedroom of the suite that had been mine the previous year.


Elie Mystal: Yeah, it was normal back until eight seconds ago.


Nick Alexiou: And it’s also weird when they take out the bed and they leave the headboard up there and you are like, that’s just strange, that’s just not how it’s supposed to look.


Elie Mystal: So back though a little bit, the first round of On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) involves basically speed dating with law firms, not every school has this, not every school is quite frankly lucky enough to have this. But the firms come to the school, they set up their partners in hotel rooms back in the day, now places on-campus, just in a row of Skadden here, next is Cravath, next is Wachtell, next is DPW, so on and so forth.


And students come in and interview 15, 20 minute interview, kind of intake interview with the assigned partner for that firm, and then they go on to the next one and it’s based on those 15 or 20 minutes that a firm makes a decision whether or not to invite you back for a longer full call back interview at their offices where they really make decisions.


So it can be a stressful time. There are a lot of kind of tricks to the trade. One of my favorite OCI questions is, actually a friend of mine on Facebook threw it up there, I am going to leave you with this box of Legos, I will give you five minutes, please construct something that represents your love of law.


Joe Patrice: That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard.


Elie Mystal: I think that would be a great question.


Nick Alexiou: That is terrible. The first time that happened, a student from my office, and be like what just happened, and I would shake my head and be like I don’t know what to tell you.


Elie Mystal: What’s the best and what’s the worst OCI question that your students have kind of reported to you, Nick?


Nick Alexiou: I mean I would say the best question and the one that I like to give a lot in when I do practice interviews with students here at Vanderbilt is, if I was to reach out to a previous employer of yours, what’s something that they would say that you can improve upon?


And I think that question is great for two reasons. One, it’s not just what you think of yourself, but what you perceive other people to think of you. So it makes you sort of think outside of your head for a minute; and second, because it makes you be a little bit introspective.




I think oftentimes — the answer can go sort of like in two ways. Some people try to say things like I love too much and that’s a terrible answer. And then some people say like I am a fall down drunk, and that’s also a terrible answer. But you sort of have to walk the line, showing like you can be a little bit introspective, but not so much that you are giving away the game a little bit.


So I think that’s a great question because it makes people think sort of outside the box. It makes them think about themselves.


The worst question, I have not heard a lot of terrible ones, I got one when I was going through EIW, as it’s called in NYU, during a call back, like I literally got the what sort of tree would you be if you could be a tree question, and I was super excited years later that that firm went out of business.


Joe Patrice: My answer on the worst question ever is a story that happened to a colleague of mine from law school which was, the partner said, it says here on your résumé you went to Yale for undergrad, but you didn’t go to Yale Law School. I went to Yale Law School, why didn’t you go to Yale Law School? And my friend’s response was I don’t know, why don’t you work at Cravath? That ended that one, but that was the worst question I have heard.


Nick Alexiou: That’s great.


Elie Mystal: My worst question wasn’t at OCI; it was at call backs, and a partner at a firm that I still will not name said, can you mail this for me, because he thought I was a mailroom guy. So I didn’t go to that firm.


Nick Alexiou: I think the worst answer I ever gave, because it was actually a perfectly fair question, because I had gone to law school in New York and I was interviewing in DC, and it was a great interview; it was with like the partner in charge of the summer associate hiring committee. And his last question was all right, so where do you see yourself in five years, New York or DC, because he knew that I was interviewing in both markets, and the obvious — I mean it’s the easiest answer of all time, you just say New York, that’s not the right answer, just move on with your day.


And for some reason I just heard the words New York come out of my mouth and I was like oh God, and he just looked at me and he is like, is that a Freudian slip, and I was just like yes. And I did not get a call back or I did not get an offer.


Joe Patrice: Yeah. That’s a key one that we should localize and isolate for our listeners. So if you happen to be going to law school in New York, you probably are working in the major market, and that’s cool, but whether you are in those schools and looking to go elsewhere, or you are at a school like say Vanderbilt, not everybody from Vanderbilt is trying to work in Nashville, indeed quite a few of them aren’t.


So how do you deal with the questions of where are you interviewing and when it’s in multiple markets, how do you really sell somebody that that’s the market you want to be in?


Nick Alexiou: I think there’s two ways to approach it. I think it depends on the market. I think if you are talking about big markets, your New York’s, your Chicago’s, your DCs, those markets are large enough that they recognize that people want to come there from all over the country.


And so if you are looking to go to DC, you can sell yourself to the fact that I want to go to Covington & Burling because you guys have a fantastic, world-renowned litigation practice and that’s why I want to be there. I want to go to Williams & Connolly because I want to do appellate litigation, things like that. You don’t need to sort of prove some sort of personal connection, but that’s sometimes the case with smaller markets.


So if you are looking to go to Denver or Seattle or Phoenix, places like that, you can still try to sort of highlight the industries that are in that particular area and maybe there’s a particular industry in Phoenix, for instance, that you are really interested in, but sometimes that personal connection can be best.


Joe Patrice: Yeah, the personal connection is the only way. I mean I didn’t — I interviewed almost exclusively New York, and to the extent I didn’t, I interviewed in places that I had lived before, so I could claim a personal connection, but I know that’s not a common experience and people do have that, so I thought it was worth going into.


Nick Alexiou: And I think one thing you want to avoid also is like, I would much rather someone go to Denver and say I want to be in Denver because of this sort of market than my wife’s aunts, their cousin’s brother lives in Denver, because no one cares.


Elie Mystal: Nick, how do you deal — how do you advise students to deal with stink bombs on their transcripts? At some schools the employers don’t get a chance to see this transcript before they interview the students, at other schools they do. You are in an interview, the partner brings up the B that you got in contracts or the B- that you got in torts or the C that you got that means that you are never going to get the job.


Joe Patrice: And if I — I want to jump in real quick here, because this is a key point for our pre-law listeners, which I know are out there. This process is by and large handled after your first year, so you are talking about grades in those first year classes, so don’t think you have time to improve on your grades throughout your, whatever; you do, but that’s to get in the back door. This process is based on your first year grades generally.


Elie Mystal: And as long as we are talking about that, it’s also worth pointing out that your first year classes are — this is why your first year classes are the only ones that matter, but you will learn that soon enough.


So anyway, Nick, how do you deal with if you are a student who got a particularly bad grade in one of these core classes their first year and it comes up in the interview?




Nick Alexiou: Yeah. And I think even it’s not just first year, I think as more and more firms are shifting to hiring 1Ls, it’s about your first semester grades, so that even becomes — there’s even less of a chance to sort of prove yourself.


But in terms of bad grades, I think it depends sort of what that class is in and what you want to do long-term. So like if you know you want to litigate and you got like a B- in contracts, and you could try to spin it that I got a B- in contracts, but I really want to be a litigator and I got an A in civil procedure or I got an A in criminal law or I got an A in something that shows that I can be a pretty good litigator. And maybe I am not going to be a transactional attorney, but let’s focus on the classes that I did well in that are in line with what I want to do.


If it’s not something like that, if you don’t necessarily know what you want to do yet, or if it’s a grade that’s in something that you want to do, again try to pivot just sort of in generally saying, that was maybe something that I — something happened in this class or I thought I answer a particular question correctly, but I didn’t, and sort of ended up getting this grade. But let’s look at all of the other classes that I did well in.


One thing you don’t want to do in this situation is you don’t want to like throw your professor under the bus, you don’t want to say I got a B- in contract, but professor so-and-so is terrible and no one can do well in that class because A, oftentimes people that you’re interviewing with went to that law school and they might either have had that professor and done well or know that professor socially and it will though get back to them sort of saying, oh, you know that, Bobby Joe over here like threw you under the bus, and that’s something that’s not going to be good for you for long term.


And then if it’s maybe one bad grade or two bad grades, if they happen, if you’re doing OCI right for your second year and you’ve got a couple of bad grades from first semester but you really turned it on the spring semester, then you can sort of spin a narrative about how you were trying to figure out how to study for law school or you are really trying to get adjusted to a new city and a new surroundings.


And took you a semester to get your feet under you but now look at what I did in the spring semester that’s a much better indication of what I am, as an attorney what my abilities would be and I’m confident that my grades will continue to increase as I go throughout the rest of my law school career.


Elie Mystal: I was talking to a student that I met through Above the Law and he was — he had some bad grades and he was kind of Facebooking me about ways to get around it. One of his suggestions were that he wanted to go into OCI and explain to the partners that, well, you know, he’s not a game-day player, not yet, he needs to practice on that, but, you know, he’s a really good practice player, it’s just game day he tightens up a little bit.


Joe Patrice: Practice, practice, practice, talking about practice?


Elie Mystal: You want to tell a big law partner that you freeze up under pressure, that’s your strategy man.


Nick Alexiou: There’s not a lot of opportunity in the big law world to redshirt or to spend a couple of years sort of getting your feet wet. If you go to the big, big places you are going to spend a couple years probably doing more — less glamorous tasks but they want you to do those less glamorous tasks at an A+ level.


And so, if you’re telling someone, yeah, it’s going to take me a little bit of time to sort of get situated, get my feet underneath check back to me when I was like a third-year associate and I think I’ll be ready to go, you’re not going to get an offer.


Elie Mystal: Yeah, look, the other thing is, look, people have to also understand, people have to have some self-awareness with this, and that kind of gets into the bidding process, but in the schools that are lucky enough to have multiple employers coming to campus, not everybody gets interview with every firm, right? You have to pick, you have to bid on which firms you’re going to try to interview with.


And so, one of the things about — if you’ve got a stink bomb on your transcript, you have to be aware of that, right? You have to be aware of that and maybe like not waste your bid on Cravath, number one, if you’re rolling in there with a C in Civ Pro, maybe Cravath doesn’t need to be on your bid list, maybe you aim a little bit more I’m not going to say lower, I’ll say realistically.


Nick Alexiou: Yeah, and it’s about making sure that your GPA sort of aligns usually at a school that doesn’t do GPA, if you know that there’s something on your transcript or you know there’s something in your personality. Like if you are a more introverted person or a quiet person and you want to bid on the top litigation boutiques in a particular city, they’re looking for standout personalities, they are looking for people who can command a room instantaneously.


Even if you have the best grades in the world if you can’t command a room, they’re not going to want to bring you in for a call back let alone hire you because they need people who can both do the work but can also sort of thrive in the environment that they practice in day in and day out.


Elie Mystal: Which brings me to my — kind of indirectly to my next question, Nick. Given the moment you’ve already mentioned how MeToo has changed even the structure of on-campus interviewing, what do you do with your personal politics in this moment? There are a lot of people who are in law school, who went to law school specifically to kind of fight the good fight. And then they realized that money buys things and they find themselves kind of interviewing for these corporate jobs. How should they handle it?




Conversely, there are people in law school who are Trumpy. Does that come up? If you are Trumpy, do you want that to come up, do you want to avoid that at all cost, like do you — where do you put your MAGA hat on your way to OCI?


Nick Alexiou: Well, it’s a great Leo McGarry line from West Wing, you discovered at some point that you can buy things with money, and I think in terms of your MAGA hat or your Bernie pin, I think those are things that are best left at home for your OCI interviews and even for your callbacks.


I think that for these big firms, we’ve mentioned —


Elie Mystal: Sell out.


Nick Alexiou: That’s fair. But you both have jobs and I have a job and we’re trying to get everyone else here jobs as well. And so for the purpose of getting a job now once you have a job, and once you’ve been at that firm for a while, if you want to adorn your office with every sort of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez paraphernalia you can get your hands on by all means do so, if we have to actually get that job initially.


But in terms of the big firms, we talked about the Cravaths and the Wachtells and the Davis Polk and places like that, these are all massive organizations that have clients on both sides of the aisle and they know that they — let’s put you in front of clients that maybe run a little bit more liberal or run a little bit more conservative and if you can’t hide your — not hide, but if you can’t, not bring your politics out over the course of an interview, a 20-minute interview, what confidence can they have in you for not doing that over the course of a meeting that might have millions of dollars on the line. And so that’s something that you really don’t want to bring up if you can avoid it.


Now if you go into a callback and I wrote this in one of the — I think in the article I wrote for Above the Law, the four-part OCI series I did, I think part three was on callbacks and I said, if you walk into an attorney’s office for a callback interview and their office is adorned with Trump stuff and you are very much not a Trump voter; hopefully, it won’t come up, but if it does, try to pivot the conversation back to the subject hand back to your interview.


If someone says like, what do you think about Trump? You’d be like, oh you know, he is the president and then you sort of talk about something else. I think it’s something that you don’t necessarily want to bring up. The exception to that if you’re actually applying for a job at a non-profit, we have some of these who come to OCI every year if you’re supplying to them more broadly.


If you’re applying to a place like Southern Poverty Law Center, then you can bring up your politics. I mean, then it’s something that they’re going to want to see from you. They want to see your legal ability as well but they also want to know that you’re sort of a line of what they’re looking for politically. So, that’s one time that you can bring it up.


The other thing to keep in mind also is if you do feel that passion about your beliefs if you feel like you are selling out by hiding them, recognize that might limit some of your options because I’ll tell some students, if they want to have as broad array of opportunities as they can, like I joined the American Constitution Society, my third day of law school and I would not have left off my résumé because I wouldn’t want to have worked at a place that would look down upon that.


But if you’re going to have the broadest array of options available to you, have on what you do at law school but have the things that are maybe a little more nonpartisan on your résumé and sort of maybe leave off that your presidents are offside or you are President of ACS and things like that, if you want a broader horizon. If you want to work at a place that you feel comfortable, leave all that stuff on, but realize that your opportunities going to be a little bit diminished.


Elie Mystal: Yeah, I mean, I think that picking up on that, my thing is always do your research beforehand. People act like one firm is as good as another is the same as this other one and just the same, except for that one’s in DC, and that’s really not true and while it can sometimes be difficult to find out this information, especially if you don’t read Above the Law all the time, the information is still out there. I would not work for Jones Day and there are lots of reasons for that but all of them I can find online.


All of the reasons why a person with my politics would not want — well, I’m not saying that there aren’t liberals at Jones Day or whatever but all the reasons that a person with my politics would not want to work at a firm like Jones Day are obvious if you do a little bit of research into Jones Day.


Conversely, look at where I did work, right? A person with my politics can fit in pretty easily at a place like Debevoise and all of the information for that is available online as well.


Nick Alexiou: If you’re going to the DC market as well, one thing to keep in mind is be aware that sort of the DC firms are almost counter-cyclical to the politics of the time. And so, if you are at the big firms in DC in the Obama administration, a lot of the more liberal attorneys are out in the Obama administration.


And so, when things switched over to Trump, a lot of those attorneys came back and so there might be a lot of DC firms that themselves are a little bit more liberal now because all the conservative attorneys are practicing in the administration and then if things switch in 2020, that’s probably going to reverse itself.


Elie Mystal: It’s a great point about DC specifically, the counter-cyclical nature of it. And it’s also again, when I say “do your research”, also research like what practice area you kind of think you want to go into because there are practice areas where it just — it doesn’t matter a damn, what your politics are, the only politics that a lot of practice areas care about is green.




So, if you are really focused on doing certain kinds of work then it really ain’t going to matter what your politics are, other kinds of work you might want to put in the extra work to find a place where you think you’re going to be comfortable; that applies to diversity as well, wouldn’t you say, Nick?


Nick Alexiou: Oh absolutely. I mean, I think if you are a student of color and you want to go to a place that is supportive students of color or attorneys of color that’s research that you should definitely do. In summary, I mean, definitely read Above the Law, all day, every day especially the stuff that Elie writes and stuff that Joe writes and stuff that I write.


But, I think you also can talk to your classmates, if you are a member of the Black Law Students Association and you know of your upper class and second years and third years or even third years if you are a rising 2L, who have gone to these firms, ask them what it’s like to be an attorney of color at these firms.


And then once you get past the callback stage and you get an offer you can go for what’s called second looks, which is what — you already have an offer in hand so you have a little bit more freedom to sort of ask meet with certain people or ask to ask certain questions that you were afraid to ask why you’re still waiting to get an offer, and so, if you have an offer from a particular firm, and you are not sure how they are going to deal with matters of diversity, ask to go back for a second look and to meet with attorneys of color or ask them about the diversity policies and get that information before you make your decision and that information — the stuff that’s on Above the Law and on the Internet is great but the stuff, the information you actually get from the attorneys who are there and the people who were actually there might be a little bit better just as to what’s going on at that moment at the firm.


Elie Mystal: All right, so I want us all to answer the quintessential, the prototypical OCI question; Nike Alexiou, why do you want to work at this firm?


Nick Alexiou: I think I want to work at your firm because what I see myself doing for the next 5 to 10 years is to do — be in a bigger practice area, be a litigator with your firm. I have always wanted to do appellate litigation and I feel that your firm in Washington, DC is one of the standout appellate litigation practices in the nation. I feel that my background with a graduate degree and my standout grades in these various classes and what I am even taking this — this coming semester show that I have a real knack for this sort of work.


I hope to do a clerkship after I graduate and I think this puts me on a path to being a valued member of your appellate litigation team, but even not appellate litigation, I understand that’s difficult practice area to break into with your firm I think the overall culture of firm XYZ meshes well with what I can bring to the table, and I think I could be a valued asset to your team.


Elie Mystal: Joe, why do you want to work in this firm?


Joe Patrice: That’s a weird question because I am not invoice, I am just saying I that’s a weird question because it is so fact-specific in my mind and I think Nick gamely created a series of facts for you, but for people trying to answer this question you can’t have the same answer for every firm, you should not even try to. The reasons why I wanted to work at the firm I ultimately ended up choosing involved me saying a lot of stuff like, I am a fan of the work that you do in litigation, yada, yada, but also it had a particularly small litigation department at the time.


So I said I am actually looking for a big law experience but with a department that is more of a small law within a big law feel. The ability to have more close relationships with senior associates and partners than you would at a firm that is much larger department where it’s more regimented.


These are the sorts of things that I said in that instance. But I also applied because I was also interested in a firm for completely different reasons. When I was applying to a firm that did a lot of labor litigation that I found interesting, I talked a lot about how I not only was interested in the fields that they were in but I was quite frankly not necessarily interested in becoming a long-term partner but in the clients that they had and that I was interested in learning more about that business from the inside of a firm and maybe going on that which firms you would think they wouldn’t like to hear I am thinking of leaving before I join, but when you say, I am thinking of leaving to become a client, they are super-happy.


So, that was how I did that one. So, it was different in each case so I can’t really give a prototypical answer, but those are the sorts of things I looked at and thought about when I was answering which would be type of work but also type of environment. You can find write-ups out there and you also talking to people explain things about the environment like I knew that Cleary at the time had a small — not only had but advertised around that they had a small litigation practice that was more responsibility because of its size at the time.


Elie Mystal: I did have more of a standard answer I think that either you, Joe, or you Nick, partially because as I think this podcast has shown in a couple of different instances, I am not a great liar, I am not a great actor, my emotions kind of in real-time show on my face.




Joe Patrice: Yeah, your work on Law Review in college showed you were not a good actor.


Elie Mystal: And so, I really did workshop my answer kind of in first in front of a mirror then with some friends and my standard answer would always start with a truth. I am not sure that I do want to work here, sir. Yeah? So yeah, that’s also good because you are kind of, oh, I am opening myself up now.


Nick Alexiou: Oh dude.


Joe Patrice: So, your approach to this was the nagging the firm?


Elie Mystal: Yeah, exactly.


Joe Patrice: Okay. You came in dressed in something Pea-cocky, nagging, you rolled all in with the singles game, nice.


Elie Mystal: I am a Harvard graduate, you want me.


Joe Patrice: Right.


Nick Alexiou: You’re like the mystery of OCI.


Joe Patrice: Yeah.


Elie Mystal: So yeah, I would start off with, I am not sure if I do want to work here. I am interested in the law and then I would do a little bit of what, both you and Nick did, like I am interested in the practice that’s important at this firm law, but I am also interested in politics and then my kind of finishing move was basically all the firms I interviewed with I had at that point a pretty good knowledge of all of their people who were USAS in the Southern District or the Eastern District of New York.


And so I would say, I am not sure I do like this area of law; however, I am also interested in politics and when I look at Lauren Chris just start naming people and I see of the work they are doing in the Southern District and I see the cases they are getting in the Eastern District, I am like, this firm is the one to train me to do that.


Joe Patrice: Well, that’s super-specific. Yeah, that’s useful.


Nick Alexiou: If you have like — usually you have a bunch of interviews, that level of research I think is definitely commendable because I mean — and especially in this sort of modern legal economy like when I went through OCI back in 2006 — wow, I am old. I think towards the end I was just like grabbing brochures I walked in the door and being like, so you are — okay, let’s talk about that, but I think if you can dedicate that sort of time to learn the names of certain attorneys at the firms and what they do, I think that will go a long way improving to the attorneys that you are interviewing with that you’re really committed or really interested in that firm.


Joe Patrice: On that note one of the best questions I personally was asked during OCI is the attorney interviewing me from Morgan Lewis closed the interview with gist and while we are here, spell “Bockius” which is the third name in that firm, and I was like I know, he’s like nobody does, it’s fine.


But yeah, that was very much their test on how much research I had done into the minutiae, and I did not know how to spell “Bockius”. I do now.


Elie Mystal: Debevoise, I think it’s still — Debevoise that a site redesigned recently so I’m not sure if it’s still there but it was definitely there for over well over a decade. You had to nest a little bit but there was a link, an audio link to pronouncing the firm’s name right because they were so sick of people walking in —


Joe Patrice: Walking in and not knowing Plimpton.


Elie Mystal: Right.


Joe Patrice: Yeah.


Nick Alexiou: And that’s actually a good point and one thing I tell my students here at Vanderbilt is if you are unsure on pronunciations, that’s something you are going to need to know every firm probably has like clips on YouTube or things you can find online, if you don’t know how to pronounce a firm’s name, go on YouTube just type it in and just listen to someone say it. Listen to someone say it 10 times and he’s got it down cold because the worst thing you can do is walk-in and say I’d like to work at Debevoise, and they are like, please leave.


Joe Patrice: All right. Thanks for joining us and giving us this update on OCI. Also, you mentioned it as we were going, but it’s worth noting that on Above the Law the website that — by the way this whole thing started with Elie saying some people will listen to the podcast, I don’t know there is a website. I think we have mentioned it between the three of us 15 times, but yes, on the website Nick writes a column and he has a Primer of OCI stuff, so you should also be reading that as kind of deeper supplement to what we are doing.


Thanks for joining us, Nick. Also thank everybody else for listening, repeating the call from earlier in the episode, you should be subscribing to this and you should be rating it and giving it stars and writing reviews and telling people, passers-by on the street that they should be listening and subscribing because we have shows that are fun and informative occasionally, like this one.


So, do that. Also read Above the Law also follow Elie @ElieNYC, @JosephPatrice on Twitter and listen to other Legal Talk Network shows. There are a bunch of them on the platform, so check those out, and that’s it.


Elie Mystal: PlayStation, here I come.


Joe Patrice: Yes, Elie will be going to do PlayStation and so next week we will – well, we will figure out what we will do, might be a different complement. Alright, talk to everybody later.




Outro: If you’d like more information about what you heard today, please visit You can also find us at,, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, and Facebook.




The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.



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Episode Details
Published: July 2, 2019
Podcast: Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law
Category: Best Legal Practices , Legal News
Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law
Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law

Above the Law's Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice examine everyday topics through the prism of a legal framework.

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