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The Tale of the Bloomberg Law (BLAW) Legal Analyst Interview August 25, 2009

Posted by admin in : Tales , trackback

one day after I parted from the big Evil Law Firm, which I will abbreviate as ELF in this and future posts, I applied for a Legal Analyst position with Bloomberg I found on The next day I was contacted to schedule a phone interview.

This is just about the worst thing that could have happened to me. Why you ask? Because it gave me a false sense of hope, here I was not even a week out of my ELF job and a firm looking for a legal analyst was already calling me.

I thought this was a sign of how sought after a well-credentialed ELF lawyer would be, even in a down economy. Boy was I wrong. After my early March interview with Bloomberg I did not get another serious interview until mid July, 5 months later!!! But enough about what happened after the interview let me explain a little bit about how the actual BLAW interview played out.

The Phone Interview

First, I was asked to schedule a phone interview, which I did. Someone from the BLAW group called me and asked me some generic questions about my background. She was nice, but the interview seemed routine, and I actually didn’t think it was going very well at the time.  After the woman had asked me about 8 minutes worth of questions she began to tell me about the BLAW group what it did and what her day to day work entailed. She also informed me part of the job was frequent travel to India (where much of the BLAW work is outsourced) – but only for those who “wanted” to go.  I got the feeling that those who were hired were the ones that “wanted” to go. Personally I couldn’t imagine traveling to some sweatshop in India to supervise computer coders for a legal citation software program. But to the woman on the phone it was actually a selling point. Unfortunately, I had trouble feigning this interest and I think it carried through. However by a stroke of luck my lackluster phone interview somehow landed me an in-person interview.

By the time I was granted an “in-house” interview as they called it, I was beginning to get a glimpse of how bleak the legal market really was.  At this time I didn’t really know the true depth of it but I cleverly scheduled each part of the Bloomberg interview a week later to give me a chance to schedule other interviews if they should arise. Since I was not personally committed to leaving the practice of law to work on a citation system, I was secretly trying to line up all my other options so if an offer from Bloomberg came I wouldn’t be forced to take it out of necessity, since I would have other traditional legal options available to me that I cleverly scheduled in-between my BLAW interview. The only problem with this plan was I received no other offers to interview.

My initial e-mail from Bloomberg wanting to schedule a phone interview was March 3, I scheduled the interview for March 9. When I was contacted about an in-person interview on March 10th, I scheduled it for March, 17th. This gave me 14 days to look for another job before I would, in my mind, be forced into making a decision over Bloomberg (little did I know I would actually have no decision to make).

Unfortunately, this did not work out- as no one seemed as eager to interview me as I was eager to send my resume to them,  but at least I had trusty old Bloomberg ready to interview me… right?

The Three Piece Suit

The interview fell on a Tuesday. That Monday I decided I needed a new suit, a new three piece suit.  At this point, since I have no other interviews scheduled despite my best efforts, I realized I could no longer take the Bloomberg opportunity for granted I had to lock down the position by giving a stellar interview. I needed to dress to impress, I found a sharp, pin-striped, three piece suit– had it tailored right in the store and took it home that day. Once I arrived home I thought to myself that it might seem pretentious to wear a three piece suit on a job interview. I then convinced myself  that this was not the case, I was an ELF lawyer afterall and ELF lawyers had to dress the part it was part of our whole persona. Bloomberg agreed to interview an ELF lawyer, that is what they wanted so that was what they were going to get. I did some quick internet research to see if wearing a three piece was taboo but unfortunately  found conflicting recommendations. One website advised “You should wear a two or three buttoned, two-piece suit. Four buttoned suits may be seen as too trendy, and three-piece suits may be viewed as ostentatious.” whereas users on  Style Forum responded to the question “when is it appropriate to wear a 3-piece suit” by answering ” anytime, a three piece suit is a timeless classic like a double breasted suit. They come in and out of style for the masses, but any well dressed man can wear them at will.”  Since the internet research was a wash I did what I wanted to do anyway—I wore the three piece suit.

The Preparation

The day before the interview, I scoured the internet for any and all references to the BLAW system. I read reviews from libraries that tested the system, I read reviews from Lawyers that used the system– I read critiques on the price of the system, in depth analysis of its features, how it compared to WESTLAW and LEXIS, what students thought of it, and what codes it recognized. I read the BLAW reports that were written by BLAW analysts and accessible through the BLAW system. If it was available on the internet and it involved BLAW or the BLAW group at Bloomberg it was read by me, wholly digested and then committed to memory. That is just how I do things, I over-prepare, and then I prepare some more. I even found a rogue YouTube video that featured a jovial employee giving a tour of the BLAW group’s factory… I mean work environment (you’ll see what I mean by factory if you watch the video).  I even developed a strategy for how I would show support for the system by demonstrating I saw niche areas where BLAW could have a specific advantage over its competitors. I further prepared new features and ideas that I though could be incorporated into the system to make it better. I wanted this job, because there was nothing else out there ,and  I was ready.

The Live Interview

The morning of the interview, I put on a brand new pair of shiny shoes, I carried my stylish leather litigator bag, I wore my freshly pressed three piece suit, and a bold dark purple tie with a light blue shirt. I looked sharp if I do say so myself. In fact, maybe too sharp for my own good.

When I arrived at the Bloomberg headquarters I didn’t believe I was actually in a place where people work. It looked like some sort of adult playground for people who enjoyed StarTrek a little too much. I honestly had never seen so rooms made completely out of glass, and I certainly never saw so many colored lights, and so much futuristic furniture coexisting in a real place of business (as opposed to a videogame or a gadget spread in “Stuff” magazine). Nevertheless, I thought like it could be a cool place.

A member of the BLAW team greeted me in the lobby, she walked me up a flight of stairs which was above a pond filled with live coy fish to one of many glass rooms in a series of glass rooms. We made chit-chat about the building. Once we sat down in the room the interview marathon began. And when I say marathon I mean marathon. The interview lasted for nearly 2 and 1/2 hours, and I met with 4 separate people. As I interviewed I felt like I was in a giant fishbowl, everyone around the office could see inside the room. How I was moving, what I was looking at, who I was talking to… it was strange and a bit surreal. The worst part about it was I could see interviews being conducted directly alongside of me as clear as day as I interviewed … quite possibly even for the same position. Although I did not let all of these interior design antics faze me, it is something the those with light sensibilities should be aware of in advance. The interview process at Bloomberg is intense right down to the set-up of the physical interview room itself.

At first I thought the interview was going well. I made sure to include interesting and innovative ideas I had for the BLAW product (one of the interviewers was so impressed with one of my ideas that she confessed she actually had suggested the same improvement during a recent group meeting), I took out my iPhone which had a Bloomberg application on it so I could demonstrate some of the ideas I had, I provided bound copies of several articles I had published in law journals—which visably impressed the interviewers. As far as I was concerned I was passing the interview with flying colors. The only question, in my mind that I really I needed to answer was whether I was going to ask for a higher salary once they offered me the position.

The Observation

It wasn’t until the end of the interview that I began to realize that although I was interviewed by a variety of people from the BLAW group I was not faced with a variety of questions. It was more like I was asked the same exact questions by 4 different people.  By the time the interview was over a pattern had emerged that I did not catch on to quickly enough — for if I did the end-result may have been different. My unfortunately late observation was that these people who were interviewing me where the type of people that hated law school. These were the students that from the moment they stepped foot into the real world, away from their hallowed law school halls, couldn’t wait to find something that did not require them to actually be lawyers and they didn’t ever want to look back.

During my interview they asked me questions like:

At the time I just answered each question as it arose, not realizing that the star candidate profile would have been a young lawyer disgruntled by big law looking for a permanent life change never to have to practice law again. Had I known this was the ideal candidate profile in advance, I would have tailored my answers accordingly. Instead and unfortunately for me, I blabbed on and on about how this was a turning point in my life and that although I still hoped to someday practice law I would be content, if I was offered the job, in putting my legal and analytical skills to use for an innovative law product

Mentioning that I still wanted to practice law, in retrospect, was the kiss of death, not only did I not get offered this position, but any future position I applied to with Bloomberg (and their have been several) I now get immediately rejected from their system within approximately 2-3 hours of applying.  Here I was the well dressed commercial litigator, playing the part of a practicing attorney in every way possible and no-doubt intimidating the heck of the BLAW group reminding them of all the reasons they hated law school.  They must now have my candidacy on auto-reject.

The Advice

Of course this is only a theory based on my reflections, but the pieces fit together so perfectly it’s a hard one to overlook. My advice to anyone who gets an interview with the BLAW group, if you want a  job, pledge allegiance to non-traditional law jobs. Play the part of a disgruntled attorney who wants nothing more than to leave the profession. Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    BLAW sucks…they don’t know a good thing when they see it. It’s their loss.

    I wish I was in a position to hire you….Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    I enjoy reading your blog everyday. You have a special flair for writing that keeps me coming back for more. I admire the fact that you can find humor in the midst of these trying times and can make other people laugh and want to take this journey with you.
    Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Anonymous

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog and loved the feeling of authenticity that shows into your writing. Perfectly agree with the comments above as to wanting to read again. Good work mate and may life span out fantastically well from now on for you.

  • TB

    Very well written. Excellent advice.

  • anonymous

    I work for the BLAW group that actually does the development. I didnt know any of it was outsourced as all the code i work on is in house. Good luck in your endeavors as this branch of bloomberg consists of a very very large group.

    It seems you might have been an excellent addition as well. :(

  • joblesslawyer

    Thanks for your comment. I assure you work on the platform was/is done in India as it was a topic of discussion in at least three of the four in-person interviews as well as the phone interview.

  • Anonymous

    Out of curiosity, how did Bloomberg advise you that you did not get the job? Did you get a letter, e-mail, or were you told over the phone?

  • joblesslawyer

    I was alerted via a generic e-mail.

  • Anonymous

    BLAW sucks…they don't know a good thing when they see it. It's their loss.

    I wish I was in a position to hire you….Good luck!

  • JoblessLawyer

    Thanks for your comment. I assure you work on the platform was/is done in India as it was a topic of discussion in at least three of the four in-person interviews as well as the phone interview.

  • JoblessLawyer

    I was alerted via a generic e-mail.

  • Name

    Just as a note, although it's legal software, it's still software. I worked for a software company for 5 years before law school- it's a very, VERY different culture than any kind of law firm, anywhere. When we interviewed, we were not looking at a candidate's answers, but rather into the characteristics of the candidate as a person. And that did not mean just saying you don't want to practice law. It's a question of how you think and how you work. We hired less than 2% of applicants after a fairly intense interviewing process. They're looking beyond your answers and your legal abilities to see how you fit into the company's culture. So don't take it too hard, it's not everyone's cup of tea.

  • Name

    I'm an attorney working for one of BLAW's competitors in a “non-traditional legal job.” From what I've heard from co-workers who escaped you were lucky to not get the job. One of the benefits of a non-traditional job is shorter hours, my co-workers have told me that it is not so at BLAW.

    Though it's always expected that attorneys being hired for non traditional jobs where I am may want to practice law again some day (when their burn out period ends after half a decade or so), you probably shouldn't have said that at the interview. And when interviewing, we also look at how a person will fit into our culture. A hard charging partner type wouldn't be happy either as a contributor or a manager.

  • iammichaelhamilton

    I have gotta syndicate this. I am believe it or not the actual jovial a-hole in the above referenced video. I no longer work at BLAW, however I loved the job and loved working at Bloomberg. I really did. BLAW- unfortunately is just not needed. I actually gave it away to my brother and my dad- both partners in larger firms and they just didnt need it or use it. great company though.

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