An Inside Look at Law Firm Recruiting

An Inside Look at Law Firm Recruiting was originally published on Vault.

Q&A with Nicole Levin Mesard, Partner—Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Nicole Levin Mesard is Debevoise & Plimpton’s Deputy Presiding Partner, Chair of the firm’s Hiring Committee, a member of the firm’s Management Committee,  and a member of the firm’s Real Estate group. She is experienced in all aspects of real estate law, including acquisitions and sales of retail and commercial properties, sophisticated financings, joint ventures, infrastructure transactions, and restructurings of commercial real estate loans, including in bankruptcy. Ms. Mesard joined Debevoise in 2001 and became a partner in 2008. She received her B.A., magna cum laude, from the State University of New York at Albany in 1994 and her J.D., magna cum laude, from Tulane University in 1997. In this Q&A, Ms. Mesard provides an inside look at Debevoise’s recruiting process and advice for legal jobseekers.

How do you prepare for the summer associate recruiting season?

To keep up with recent developments that impact our candidates, my Recruiting department and I stay in contact with law schools. Being an adjunct professor at a local law school also provides me with a firsthand view of the current law student experience. Within the firm, we work throughout the year to keep our lawyers highly motivated in helping us with our summer associate recruiting efforts. I also spend time with previous summers to understand their experiences at the firm and to hear their thoughts about the recruiting process, here and at other firms, and anything new happening at their schools that is relevant to us.

What is the biggest mistake you see candidates make during summer associate recruiting and lateral recruiting?

If I had to pick one, I would say when a candidate is not being their authentic self. Not being yourself during the recruiting process means that the fit between you and the hiring firm will be off, and that can have a negative impact when you arrive at the firm and begin navigating your career. Researching the firm you are interviewing with, including practice areas, offices, size, and the firm’s value proposition, will make for a more productive interview.

Finish the sentence: Every legal resume should have                                 .

Your relevant experience, of course, but just as important are your extracurricular activities and interests to distinguish yourself from other candidates.

How can candidates maximize their summer experience to understand everyday practice?

Be sure to select a summer program that allows you to work in a variety of the firm’s practice areas and client matters so you get a real perspective of the work that each entails. Also, try to meet and spend time with junior lawyers to get a feel for a typical day.

How can laterals set themselves apart when interviewing and integrating into the firm?

Laterals should be well versed with the hiring firm and its practice areas. Also, be sure that your skill set and experience match what the firm is recruiting for. Once hired, be proactive about meeting people and diving into work.

What sets your firm apart as an employer and recruiter?

What sets Debevoise apart as an employer and recruiter are the focused and innovative steps our talent development leadership has taken to provide our lawyers with professional development tools and opportunities at every stage of their careers. Our Management Committee members and practice leaders regularly assess the firm’s talent and talent development offerings to identify gaps, strengthen existing programs, and create new initiatives. Today, our programs appeal to lawyers at all stages of their careers, from new associates seeking insights into the legal, business, ethical, and practical issues and problems they are likely to encounter, to experienced partners who can benefit from business development strategies, people-management tools, and tailored guidance on how to optimize their client portfolio. Importantly, all of our talent development programs are designed to help our lawyers develop and refine their commercial knowledge and communication abilities, as well as their legal skills. Other career development tools Debevoise offers to our lawyers include formal and informal mentoring programs, real-time feedback, and formal evaluations.