Who Wants to Play Survivor – At Work?

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By Michael Kelsheimer

Sometimes posts should just be fun.  One of my co-workers forwarded me a story yesterday on Lowering the Bar, a humor site for lawyers – about lawyers.  Apparently, a law firm in San Mateo, California has decided to hire some new associate lawyers and they are doing so with a little twist . . .

The firm plans to hire many candidates and then vote them off the island, so to speak until there is only one standing.  This is taken from the post on Craig’s List:

The Firm utilizes the following hiring process:

* All candidates are allowed to begin a paid contract legal assignment at $20.00/hour. If you apply you will be given an assignment.

* Each day the candidate with the weakest work product will be cut until one candidate remains. This process will take one or two weeks until the final candidate is offered on-going employment. If you have seen reality television shows where contestants are cut from episode to episode such as Top Chef, Top Shot or Project Runway — it will be like this. Do you have what it takes to be Top Associate?

* If you want to participate you will come to the first day of hiring with your laptop ready to begin. You will be given a group orientation, and then an individual interview. You should be free to work 8 hours per day for the next two weeks to participate in the evaluation.

If you are interested in applying to the Mellen Law Firm please call Molly Bell-Mellen re: “hiring” at (650) 638-0120 between the hours of 12:00 and 5:00 pm on October 3, 4th and 5th.

Setting aside the apoplectic reaction most HR professionals would have about what this might do to the moral of the applicants, the process sure feeds on the competitive personalities many lawyers have and that the firm likely wants to cultivate.

But is it legal?  I can’t speak for California where the firm is located because of all the unique laws they have favoring employees, but in Texas it certainly would be.  Texas is an at-will state and employers can hire as many people as they want and then fire them as soon thereafter as they choose.  It might not be the wisest decision in terms of your unemploment claims count with the Texas Workforce Commission, but you can do it.

And, in this case, I am not sure I object.  The applicants who choose to participate know the score at the beginning.  There are no secrets about how it will work.  It is not facially discriminatory.  In the end, the law firm benefits from what it percieves is the most important characteristics in a future employee.

The traditional method of interviewing candidates is such a crap shoot anyway.  They all will tell you in varying degrees what they think you want to hear.  The only way to know for sure is to take a chance.


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