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US Debt Finance Practice: Recruiter and partner insights

December 2022: What does New York partner Eliza McDougall look for when she's interviewing associates to join her team? "The people who are successful here are people who are high-energy, who thrive in a fast-paced environment, who are very proactive and who are very client-focused," she explains.

As head of the Americas Debt Finance Practice, she's also looking for associates who share the team's entrepreneurial spirit. But how do you identify this characteristic in an interview situation? "Somebody who's a self-starter, who is interested in the subject matter. They're asking questions, looking for opportunities in our practice group and open to discussion about where their preferences lie," she says.

Another quality top of Eliza's list: "We want people who are collaborative. Our culture is one where you really want to move forward but you also recognize the best way to achieve your goals is to work with other people to get there."

A high-energy Firm: Finding the candidates who will find this stimulating

Jennifer Mittelsteadt, White & Case's Senior Manager for US Lateral Recruiting, frequently liaises with recruiters, then is the first contact for potential candidates for Eliza's team and others. She says that it's all about finding the right fit for a specific team: "What I'm looking for is the right energy. We're a high-energy firm, we want associates who will find that stimulating and exciting. The work here is never cookie-cutter; every deal is different, so you need that appetite to find innovative solutions for our clients."

“We’re not looking for people who are satisfied with the status quo”

Eliza agrees: "We're not looking for people who are satisfied with the status quo. You have to piece things together a little bit differently to address a cross-border issue or a novel market issue or a client parameter that you haven't encountered previously. We want people who are comfortable with being a little bit uncomfortable, who are at their best thinking outside the box."

Joining a tight-knit team

However, even if Eliza and Jennifer are united in their choice of candidate, typically after an extensive interview process, the wider team's view is an important factor. "It matters that the lawyers a potential associate will be working with have a meaningful say. That goes from partner level through to the most junior associate," explains Jennifer.

According to Eliza: "We are a tight-knit, small team, we're leanly staffed and very integrated. Adding to our team is a group decision, where everyone's view counts."

Transparent career conversations and development plans

What kind of career progression can lateral associates expect? Jennifer notes that there's a formal program for all associates at Level 7 or higher: "We sit down with everybody to tell them if they're on partnership track or not. If there is partnership potential, we explain what they need to get there and what the timeline looks like. We are extremely proactive about managing people's careers, and I think that this transparency is something that sets us apart. You're not going to be hanging around in your ninth year wondering if you're going to make the cut."

Eliza also points out that not every associate comes to the Firm expecting to make partner and spend the rest of their career here; "Career progression looks different to different people, whether that's partnership, moving to an in-house role at a client or to a different office in the Firm's network. We are committed to supporting our associates, wherever their career takes them."