A friend told me of a funny interview they had recently the other day.  He had been persuaded to go see a tier 3/4 firm that was said to be on the up.  They wanted an experienced CoCo lawyer to push the department forward.  To protect the guilty, I won’t say who the firm is (or who my friend is) or where they are based: just that they are somewhere in the South-east, but not London.

The agent sent in my friend’s CV and the firm took the bait and arranged the interview at the office he would be based at.  Then all of a sudden that had to be moved to the main office.  Availability did not seem to be the cause, as he gained the impression that he should have a dose of awe at their new offices.  That was not a problem as he would be passing that way anyway.

The night before the interview (after 5pm) he had an email asking him to do some aptitude tests.  He had already said that he was not going to get to them until after the interview.  He just did not have the time in the few hours before the interview.  It turned out that the tests would need over an hour to do.

Of the 5-page job spec (delivered after the interview is arranged) at least a page was around fees, billing and collection.  Don’t get me wrong: these are brutally important, but a whole page (at least)?  Of the extensive and numerous person requirements, everything, no matter how peripheral, was “Essential”.

He turned up for the interview, sacrificing a couple of hours pay (he is interim at the moment).  The first thing the receptionist does is loudly and publicly ask him if he has done the tests and if not, will he do them now?  The answer was ‘no’ and that they can wait until he had seen the interviewer.  Oh Dear!  This was not in the script.  The reaction was apparently reminiscent of the notices often seen in pubs and corner shops: “Please don’t ask for credit as a refusal often offends”.  He is shown into a meeting room and kept waiting for 10 minutes past the due time.

The interviewer arrives, eventually.  He greets him rather strangely, mumbling as if he is distracted.  It turns out the interviewer is completely overwhelmed by the lack of the aptitude test results.  He is apparently inarticulate and what they are looking for has to be practically wrenched out of him.  Of course, nothing like it is written in the job spec.  They want a rainmaker, someone who is flexible and won’t keep all the work to himself and similar high ideals.

All well and good, but none of their documents or behaviours so far has matched the stated aims.  What is clear is that they are determined to treat my friend with little or no courtesy: after all they are a law firm and they must show who is master.

Personally I have had sensible conversations with firms of little better standing.  In those conversations – all of which were preliminary – both sides rapidly recognised the fundamentals of any eventual relationship.  That fundamental is whether that practice has enough work now for someone like me to get properly started, and is it placed to get more (enough) albeit on my efforts.  Progress may stumble at that point, but everyone understands why.

So when after a couple more minutes my friend was told, rather angrily, that the interview was ended and that he should leave he was not surprised and did as asked.    As he walked across reception, a cross ‘goodbye’ was flung after him.  There was apparently nothing creditable to say in response.

The lesson my friend has learnt (again) is that firms that have an inconsiderate way of dealing with interview candidates are not going to be nice places to work.  I have had interviews like his that have gone the course.  I once even got the job, and my suspicions were confirmed.  Others have rejected me, often with a nasty disparaging remark when a simple ‘no’ would do.

I have concluded that there is no lesson that will be learnt by a firm that behaves like this.  After all they are a law firm.

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