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What, me arrogant?

typing.jpgEarlier this year, a 39-year-old law student from Northwestern learned that he had been rejected by the law firm of Vinson and Elkins. Now, a naive and younger man might’ve taken this opportunity to tell the firm off, letting said firm know it would rue the day, etc. But our more sophisticated 39-year-old, George Luce, apparently took the higher road, sending a looooooong e-mail to the fourteen attorneys involved in Vinson’s hiring decisions, explaining to them why his many virtues deserved reconsideration.

Well, unsurprisingly, that e-mail is now making the rounds, being sent back and forth by attorneys and law students all over the place (and since it’s summer associate season, the forwarding is particularly extensive). As I say, the e-mail is wicked long. Although we’ve included the full text of it for you below, I thought you must to get right to the quick and dirty highlights (and due to the nature of the Internets, we acknowledge that there is always a questionable amount of veracity with these sorta’ things, so take it for what it’s worth):

  • “In law school, I earned the top score in my section on EVERY PAPER in both of my legal writing courses.”
  • “Judge Amy St. Eve, a federal judge with whom I externed, will tell you that I was the best extern she ever had.”
  • “I have seen enough during my clerkship to say with confidence that I am capable of better work - far better work - than most of the ‘experienced’ attorneys who practice before my judge.”
  • “I would also add that there are intangible factors to be considered. I left a lucrative job in my mid-thirties, working hard to score in the top 1% nationwide on the LSAT so I could go to an elite law school. (I was the oldest guy in my class.) When I was a computer programmer, I was a one-man consulting firm, saving my employer (the state of Louisiana) millions of dollars in costs and making the lives of thousands of people (the system’s users) easier. Often, I would go to bed at night, half dreaming, half awake, obsessing over a thorny problem that I encountered. When the creative inspiration would come in the morning, those were the greatest thrills of my life. I know what its like to work 80-hour weeks for months on end. I know what’s it like to be considered the expert of last resort - the guy they call in the middle of the night when the data gets corrupted and no one else can figure out what to do. I take my work SERIOUSLY and I take great pride in what I do. I would submit that these are the qualities that can make me a ‘franchise player’ at V&E.”
  • “[I]f you are not willing to change your verdict on me, would you please do the favor of giving me some honest feedback about why you were not impressed enough with me to make an offer? Is it my age? (I’m 39, but I’m healthier than most 25-year-olds.) Is it that I’m losing my hair? (I am willing to undergo transplants!) Is it the fact that I wore a pink shirt to my interview? (My wife picked it out.)…Is it because I have a minor speech impediment (a ‘lacerated S’)?”

And the topper:

  • “Do I come across as arrogant?”

Nooooooo. Nope. Arrogant? Never!

Anyway, here’s the full e-mail for you:

From: George Luce
Sent: Monday, May 15, 2006 11:25 AM
To: Johnson, Loreatha
Cc: Schick, Robert M.; Davidow, Jennifer; Harvin, David; Pipkin, Emily; Kornegay, Nancy; Mehta, Persis; Murphy, George; Hodge, Justin; Reeder, James; Chatman, Carliss; Held, Kenneth; Lawson, Corey; Powers, Jason; Omar, Amin

Subject: request to reconsider George Luce

Dear Loreatha,

I received your letter dated May 11, and I am extremely disappointed that Vinson & Elkins has chosen not to extend me an offer. I remain convinced that V&E is the right firm for me. While it is hard to quibble with the verdict of a panel of 14 people, I believe that a real mistake was made, and I ask that my application be reconsidered.

I assume that V&E’s chief objective in hiring new associates is to get the best people it can get. Please consider the fact that in law school, I earned the top score in my section on EVERY PAPER in both of my legal writing courses. (The grading was done anonymously.) My article was selected for publication in the Northwestern Law Review, which is one of the top law reviews in the country. Judge Amy St. Eve, a federal judge with whom I externed, will tell you that I was the best extern she ever had (and her externs were mostly cream-of-the-crop Northwestern students, many of whom went on to federal appellate clerkships). The Judge I work for now, as well as other people with whom I have worked, will tell you that I have unusual talent as a legal analyst. I suggest that before you conclude that I don’t measure up to V&E’s standards, you ask people with whom I have worked what they think about my work and my abilities. At risk of sounding arrogant, I submit that I would be a standout performer at V&E, even though V&E is an elite firm that can select from among the best candidates.

I sensed that some of my interviewers were uncomfortable with the fact that I am not committed to a specific substantive area of law. I would argue, however, that the tools that we bring to the table as lawyers are far more important than the direct, “relevant” experience we bring. “Practical” experience is no substitute for creative intelligence, intellectual sophistication, and pure tenacity. The career clerk in my judge’s chambers has 20+ years of experience, so she knows a lot of things that I don’t know. But she is not in my league as a legal analyst and writer. I have seen enough during my clerkship to say with confidence that I am capable of better work - far better work - than most of the “experienced” attorneys who practice before my judge.

As a judicial clerk, I have been deeply immersed in all sorts of cases at every phase of the litigation process. There are many procedural issues that are common across all different substantive areas of law. There are many connections and overlaps between the different substantive areas. Even within a given substantive area, every case is different, turning on its own facts. The relatively inexperienced associates who specialize in a particular area will have only seen a small part of the universe of possible issues that may arise in their area. Given these facts, I am highly skeptical that, say, a 3rd-year associate who has specialized in “oil and gas” is going to be light years ahead of me in that field. The hypothetical 3rd-year associate will certainly know a lot more than I know about the art and practice of lawyering. But it is highly doubtful that her substantive oil and gas knowledge (which of course exceeds mine) will give her a significant advantage over me when it comes time to analyze the next oil and gas case (which will no doubt involve issues that neither of us have seen before). I want to work on interesting, challenging cases, but I don’t believe it would be rational for me to arbitrarily limit myself to a specific substantive area of law at this point in my career. I’ll find my niche down the road. I would think that V&E would prefer that their new associates be open-minded enough to try different things.

I would also add that there are intangible factors to be considered. I left a lucrative job in my mid-thirties, working hard to score in the top 1% nationwide on the LSAT so I could go to an elite law school. (I was the oldest guy in my class.) When I was a computer programmer, I was a one-man consulting firm, saving my employer (the state of Louisiana) millions of dollars in costs and making the lives of thousands of people (the system’s users) easier. Often, I would go to bed at night, half dreaming, half awake, obsessing over a thorny problem that I encountered. When the creative inspiration would come in the morning, those were the greatest thrills of my life. I know what its like to work 80-hour weeks for months on end. I know what’s it like to be considered the expert of last resort - the guy they call in the middle of the night when the data gets corrupted and no one else can figure out what to do. I take my work SERIOUSLY and I take great pride in what I do. I would submit that these are the qualities that can make me a “franchise player” at V&E.

I recognize that the chance that you will reconsider and extend me an offer are very slim. (Lawyers tend to be extremely risk-averse and unwilling to do things differently than they’ve done before.) But please give this request some serious consideration. I suggest that you begin by talking with some of the folks who have worked with me.

Finally, if you are not willing to change your verdict on me, would you please do the favor of giving me some honest feedback about why you were not impressed enough with me to make an offer? Is it my age? (I’m 39, but I’m healthier than most 25-year-olds.) Is it that I’m losing my hair? (I am willing to undergo transplants!) Is it the fact that I wore a pink shirt to my interview? (My wife picked it out.) Is it the fact that I took the Louisiana bar exam before taking the Texas bar exam? (I took the Louisiana exam because I wanted to get licensed in my home state, and I wanted to get it out of the way first because I had to learn all that civil code stuff.) Is it because I have spent most of my life in Louisiana? (Houston is only a 3-hour car ride or a 40-minute plane ride from Baton Rouge.) Is it because I have a minor speech impediment (a “lacerated S”)? Is it because I am introverted? Do I come across as arrogant? Too timid? Is it because I’m not committed to a specific substantive area of litigation?

You judged me as a qualified candidate based on my paper credentials, as evidenced by your willingness to expend the resources to bring me in for an interview. I assure you that I am a much better lawyer than even my paper credentials suggest! Please give me another look. It would be a shame if V&E and me are deprived of a mutually profitable relationship because I failed to present myself well in person on May 8.

Sincerely,

George Luce

| Comments (4)


Comments

No truly excellent (and arrogant) writer would have made two grammatical errors in the last sentence of his email. Also, why would he spend so much time singing his own praises, only to devolve into a semi-hysterical litany of V&E's hypothetical reasons for not hiring him in the next paragraph? That, ladies and gentlemen, is reason enough to leave the decision in place.

This hasn't hit my firm yet, so thanks for the chuckle.

When rejected by a firm, apparently the best revenge of all is to BORE them all to death!

Wow! I think it was his age. I am a 41-year-old law student, with a couple of years of school left to go. However,I am going to have my age legally changed, so that this doesn't happen to me.

I'd point out that he is an exceedingly nice guy and truly is one of the more intelligent people I've ever known. That being said, he has more than a few social issues...

I fully expect him to decide to sue V&E over the release of the email "into the wild". Not being a lawyer, I have no idea of his chances for success but, knowing George and his inability to let things pass, I fully expect him to give it "a go".