Advice For New Associates From a Global Chair of Recruiting

As Global Chair of Recruiting for Latham & Watkins, Tracy Edmonson says her law firm receives 6,000 resumes a year. So how can anyone possibly stand out? Intelligence, enthusiasm, experience, and a desire to achieve are obviously crucial selling points. But Ms. Edmonson also takes special notice when an applicant includes hobbies on a resume.

"One of the things I really like to look at is the interests a person lists on his or her resume," she says. "And I will often spend a great deal of time in the interview talking about what their interests are rather than their work experience at Paul Hastings last summer. I find I learn a lot more about someone when we talk about rock climbing or when we talk about theater."

A 1988 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Ms. Edmonson joined Latham & Watkins that same year. She made partner after 7 1/2 years and currently works out of the firm's San Francisco office. And speaking of partners, she recommends that new associates get over their fear of them.

Q: What do you look for when recruiting associates?

A: At Latham, because we're a global firm, what we look for are obviously bright, motivated students who want to achieve excellence. It's really the total package. We are very open to and embrace people with all kinds of different backgrounds and work experiences and interests. I think that makes us a more interesting place to work. Primarily, you've got to be bright, you've got to be motivated, and you have to want to pursue excellence.

Q: What's one thing they don't teach in law school that they should?

A: Patience. Patience with your adversary is one thing I've learned over time, and it definitely was never communicated to me in law school. You also need patience in terms of accepting the path your career takes. For most people these days, your career path won't follow a straight line. You have to have a lot of patience to accept that.

Q: Any advice for aspiring partners?

A: I think my best advice is actually, don't focus on being a partner. Focus on finding something to do in the law that you really, really love. That's what makes you happy. At least that's what makes me happy. Of course being a partner is a great reward for that. But I wouldn't be a very happy partner if I came to the office every day and hated what I did. Also, I believe that when you find something you really, really love to do and you excel at it, that can certainly help you on your path to becoming a partner.

Q: What do you love to do?

A: I love to do high-yield bond work. It's an area where very few women practice, so I enjoy that. Some areas of that practice are very, very complicated, and when you know it and understand it, then you practice with a very small group of people across the United States. And I find that incredibly energizing.

Q: What's the biggest misconception that new associates have about working for a firm?

A: That they should be afraid of partners. Partners are just people. And most of the time they are scary or intimidating only because they're so busy. But most partners are actually incredibly grateful to have young associates and really want associates to relax and enjoy the work experience.

Q: What's a common stumbling block for young associates?

A: Young associates tend to communicate solely by computer. And they really should pick up the phone or walk down the hall because everybody likes a little human interaction. I know I do. I think you miss a lot when you don't speak to someone in person or over the phone. You miss intonation; you miss sense of humor. You just miss a moment to catch up on personal things.

Q: Who's your favorite lawyer in books, movies, or TV?

A: I have to say it was John Houseman in "The Paper Chase." I just loved him. He was incredibly frightening. And it's great because that is the image of law school that is seared in your mind, and it's totally inaccurate.

Q: What was your own experience with professors and partners?

A: I think for the most part my professors were all very approachable and very eager to have us absorb all that they could impart to us. They were not autocratic, and they were not imposing. They were some of the smartest people I have ever met.

At Latham, when I joined, it was a much smaller place. I started in L.A., which was the largest office. I immediately formed friendships with a number of partners who are still my friends today, from the time I was probably a second-year associate on. I think that kind of experience still occurs at Latham, but it is definitely harder now that we are so big.

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