Category Archives: Interviews

Interview #35 – The Red Carpet

So this partially explains my hiatus. And at the same time, continues on  with more interview stories.

So I became gainfully employed earlier this year, shortly before the posts stopped. In point of fact, I was hired on here as a full associate. I said yes because… well… the job title was “Associate” and I figured if nothing else, I could stick it out for a little bit and then lateral to something more palatable. Plus they were paying real money! Not a fabulous salary to be sure, but it was a damn sight better than the majority of jobs I have been running across of late. I also have this horrible addiction to food and living indoors, which for once, I am able to cover fully on my own! (woo for being an adult!)

Well, sticking it out has gotten very difficult. I will be posting a bunch of stories about the weird as hell (and ultimately ethically bankrupt) stories garnered from working at a huge Personal Injury firm. After working there only a little while, I realized I needed to get the hell out, and fast. I talked to several attorney friends of mine, and before I even got to some of the good stories, I was told by every one that I was ethically obliged to quit the job due to Professional Responsibility reasons. These stories are going to appear once I am safely away from this place. But until then…

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Only a few months in I am now worried for my license if I don’t get out. So, I started up the application process once again. It wasn’t nearly so difficult, mostly because all my jobhunting bookmarks were still fresh enough and I never actually unsubscribed from Indeed.com’s job alerts I had setup forever ago.

For the first time ever, I got a hit off of a LinkedIn job posting for a small to mid size law firm. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a call back from a LinkedIn application, so this was a novelty at the minimum. Maybe having the ‘Associate’ title actually did grant me a little bit of cache as I was hoping.

I showed up at the office in a small mid-rise building in one of the nicer areas of town. Mind you, it wasn’t in the expensive area… it was more like it was a few blocks down the street from the expensive area. Enough so that rent was lower, but you could still claim your office was in the right neighborhood to clients.

I walked into one of the larger, and nicer lobbies for a smallish law firm that I have seen. Besides the significant use of glass walls, the first thing you had to notice was the wall-to-wall plush red carpet. It was just solid, bright red and slightly squishy when you walked on it. I thought it was a little bit of an odd choice for a waiting room, but didn’t think much more about it. The receptionist brought me into the back offices and I immediately noticed the red carpet continued on throughout the whole of the office. All I could figure was there must have been some super sale on it, because who would put this in their whole office?

I get put into a small, oddly shaped library room / closet with (red carpet) a little table. The managing partner came in as the interviewer, which I suppose is the benefit of a somewhat smaller firm. The firm is a general practice and for the first time ever, they thought my resume and background, with all its weird specialties, was a perfect fit. They loved that I had done a whole bunch of different types of law, and they were very interested in several points on my resume which not one single other firm has ever asked about. I am hopeful about this one.

I was also told that I was only one of a couple applicants they interviewed, out of a stack about 3 inches thick. So apparently I am gaining mad skillz at resume creation, maybe.

We got down to talking about how much notice I’d need for my current job and things which sounded very hopeful. I had the same unfortunate moment of most likely low-balling my requested salary, especially as we continued talking, the managing partner dropped the bomb that the firm had its own private jet. This was a new one… even with some of the big firms I’ve been to, none had seemingly had their own private jet. Truthfully, that was my big take away from the interview. I am sure there were nuances in our other discussions as well, but “private jet” loomed large in my mind walking out the door after the interview.

The interview was thankfully normal, and the managing partner was quite nice, plus the billable requirement was seemingly attainable unlike many other firms. I am hopeful. They’re supposed to bring back a few for a second interview. I’m hoping I have to take a sick day to head over to a second interview because I really like the feel of this firm… minus the squishy red carpet.


minor addendum:

So even though the firm was talking with me about how soon I could start working for them, they never bothered to get back to me. After 2 weeks, I dropped an email to the interviewer / partner. They told me they had gotten really busy and hadn’t made any decisions as of yet, so not to worry as he was going to get back to me very shortly. That was literally the last I heard from them. I followed up with a thank you card via USPS about another week to two later. Basically said thanks, I would love to work there if they were still looking etc. etc. Nothing came back. Not even a rejection. I mean at least send out a short note to the very very few people you had come in for an interview. Shit… be human about it.

Interview #34 – Magnum PI

When I started law school, I swore I would never work in Personal Injury. When I graduated law school, I planned on working in Intellectual Property litigation and patent work and never even considered the possibility that I would work in Personal Injury. As the years have worn on, I broadened my scope and began applying to everything and anything  in various sub-specialties in an attempt to become gainfully employed, but still I completely avoided Personal Injury like the plague– it was the one field I never sent an application in for. As you may guess, my most recent interview was for a very large personal injury firm.

My chronic addiction to food has worn down my extreme distaste for PI work, and as it seems to be one of the few legal fields which is actually consistently hiring in this economy I swallowed my pride and my morals and applied to a Plaintiff side PI firm. Not just any PI… no, I sent off to one of the big ones. No late night infomercials advertising the ‘hammer of justice’ who will ‘fight for you’. I suppose a high mark in their favor is that they are a particular, somewhat higher quality PI firm who doesn’t resort to such tactics.

I got a phone interview very quickly from my application and I talked with the recruiter for about an hour. The most interesting tidbit dropped by the recruiter was that if I move up the ranks in the firm I would ‘probably not have to worry about money’ and then gave me some very interesting potential dollar figures. They rather quickly setup an in person interview at the main office. I trekked down to the physical office which was not horribly local to me for a face to face to see what it was that I had been avoiding for the last couple years.

My first thought on arriving at the office was “I thought it would look nicer.” My impression from researching them was the firm makes …. a lot… of money. But the physical office space was, to be nice, cheap. Small waiting room, cheap flooring, chipped paint, sparse / non-existent furnishings… it just didn’t exude money the same way as other offices I have had the opportunity to pass through.

After a few minutes in a tiny waiting room with all of 3 chairs in it, a paralegal comes by and says she’s taking me back to a conference room. We head back and bypass several decent sized conference rooms, with the standard large table and 10+ chairs around them, and instead I’m led to what may well have originally been a large closet. But the closet has a table and 5 chairs around it, so I guess technically it is a conference room for itty-bitty conferences. It was so small that if someone were sitting in one of the afore mentioned 5 chairs, you could not technically walk behind them unless they got up out of the chair, pushed the chair in, and allowed you to pass. What was it with this firm and tiny rooms? It merely lent to the idea of ‘cheap’ even though I still had the impression (hope?) the firm was doing very well for itself.

So after a few minutes, what turns out to be a junior partner, walks in and starts the interview. It was intended to be a sequential interview of increasingly more senior attorneys. The concept of speed dating comes to mind. After a few minutes, one was supposed to bow out, and another come in. The junior partner and I got along famously. The only glaring warning bell that went off was when they asked ‘why I was applying there considering I was very overqualified for the position’, while they sort of waved my resume at me like an accusing paper flag. It’s hard to know whether it was an honest question, but I think it probably was; where the firm is located likely made my credentials stand out glaringly against others from the same locale. Other than that, it was a very friendly interview bordering on just being a fun conversation. They seemed quite happy with me and ducked out to tag in the next attorney.

The second attorney comes in, and starts asking more difficult questions. Quite a few of which I’d heard before… ‘what were you doing between college and law school.’  ‘What is with this or that specialty and why do you have it.’ ‘Tell me about your research / litigation experience with X or Y’,  Etc. etc… Had I not heard most of these questions before, I might have been more ill at ease answering them, but since I have had a great deal of time to consider answers to them in light of the post-mortem provided at least in part on this blog… well, I had some pretty good answers.

About 5 minutes in however, another attorney wanders in and sits down and says something along the lines of ‘oh you started without me’. So apparently it wasn’t quite like speed dating because you usually don’t try to flirt with several people at the same time, at the same table; Unless of course you are on some horrible FOX reality TV show. The problem was, they both continued as if they were alone conducting separate interviews. They each had divergent lines of questioning, and they stuck to their own scripts. So one would ask a question, I would start answering and within a few moments the other would break in to try to get you to answer their (generally) unrelated question. The main problem was, the new attorney was asking decidedly negatively themed questions.

This went unabated for about 10 minutes when the door opened again. This time an interesting change in tenor happened. The only way I can describe it is when Norm from Cheers walks into the bar, as the other two shout out his name and start joking around. And the image wasn’t far off… rather than wearing a suit this partner was in jeans and a Bermuda shirt. They wander in and setup at the head of the tiny table. (which of course involved everyone standing up and shuffling a bit so they could actually get to the head of the tiny table). I immediately assume ‘rainmaker’ as everyone was a bit deferential and one of the attorneys actually fistbumped him over a dumb joke he made. It turned out, this guy wasn’t even on the roster of attorneys I was supposed to be interviewing. They were passing by and just decided to pop in for amusement value I guess.

This became an exercise in a bit of the ridiculous as the previous two part unrelated questioning became a 3 part rapid fire non-sequitur. The only difference now was that the rainmaker was also throwing in some off color / bawdy jokes instead of questions or referencing owning high end luxury cars. So I had one attorney who was joking around and asking nothing of import, one who was asking substantive questions, and one who was asking probing and relatively hostile questions. None of which were arranged in any sort of order, so I would finish answering one and the other attorney would start up “getting back to my question…” (which I think we had left 5 minutes previously and I now had little recollection of what you asked after the unrelated conversation inserted between…) Maybe this was some sort of deposition tactic to throw you off guard; maybe it was just several large egos jostling in the same room. Either was legitimately possible. It felt like a ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine with an added ‘Frat-boy cop’ thrown in.

The most irritating concept reared its horrible head from the hostile attorney. They pointed out that I had mentioned in a previous answer that I had interviewed for a job in a different legal sub-specialty… not PI, and followed this up pointing to my diverse array of specialties. And he said that it seemed I was just interviewing everywhere to get a job. There was a beat of silence in the room before I said, yes that’s right. And I explained it was less about the specific specialty and more about the rigor of the work and novelty of cases. I gave a good accounting of this reasoning, and as you might expect, the other two liked my answer and Mr. Negative really did not. His opinion seemed to be that he didn’t want to hire me if I needed a job; he only wanted to hire me if I already had a job and didn’t need a different one. This type of backwards thinking permeates the legal field and it is infuriating.

‘We only want you if you don’t need us.’

Shortly after battling off the hostile attorney the rainmaker decides it’s time to make an exit and takes the hostile attorney with him as he leaves claiming he needed them for something. So I finish out with the original attorney, and they then say there is one final attorney to speak with. He leaves to find this last attorney and disappears for a good 10 minutes before reappearing and telling me the last attorney couldn’t be found and apparently went home for the day so I won’t be talking with them.

I am walked out of the firm and the implication was I would be contacted very soon. I guess I have to decide pretty quickly if I actually want to work in PI. The salary range they gave was pretty damn attractive, especially when compared to other places I’ve interviewed and knowing the salaries of friends who got into firms… I guess the money is spent on the attorneys and not the office. Not a bad system I guess. We’ll see how it pans out.

I never wanted to do this, but at this point, I will.

 

 

Interview #33 – Nap Time

So I scored an interview at a government agency. The downside was that it was about 3 hours away from where I am now…  Hey I’m happy to relocate if they want me.

I got a phone call setting up the interview and as the secretary was trying to get off the phone I reminded her she didn’t tell me where the interview was… as in the address or office… or anything. So she seemed bemused at forgetting and relays the address to me and says ‘head up to the 3rd floor once you are there and they will direct you where you need to go.”

Seemed simple enough. Well, first off, I show up and it turns out the secretary actually gave me the wrong address… but it wasn’t a big issue because there were enough signs along the road to direct me to the right place, not the best first impression though. I wander in and am confronted by the security desk who wants to know who I am meeting. I say I wasn’t given a specific name.. merely an interview with the legal department on the 3rd floor. This doesn’t seem to go over well but after a minute he begrudgingly hands me a visitors badge and lets me pass muttering that I really should know who I am supposed to see (well thanks for the helpful info!). I head up to the 3rd floor and the elevator opens into.. well basically a maze of cubicles. I look around and wander over to what I assume is a secretary since their cubicle is more open than others and ask who I am supposed to see for the interview. They give me a name X and send me to another secretary on the opposite side.

I talk to the second secretary and tell her “I am here to see X for the job interview.” The secretary turns to look at me, and quite literally looks me up and down, and says ‘I don’t think so… what are you supposed to be here to interview for?’ I respond the attorney position…

Ah, she says. ‘X is interviewing for legal secretaries, and you,’ (with a wave of her hand) ‘don’t look like a secretary.’ I suppose that’s a point in my favor.. I guess. So I finally get routed to the correct people and I am ushered into a conference room with 2 other attorneys in it.

One attorney introduced himself and told me the other one was there to basically transcribe my answers. The second attorney introduced himself and thereafter never spoke a word during the interview. The first attorney started off by asking a few quick standard questions before asking more pointed and specific ones. This is where it got fun… the attorney asking the questions… I guess was tired (or something) so he would ask a question, wait a beat or two for me to start talking, and then he’d just close his eyes and seemingly doze off.

I’d continue talking to the half asleep attorney and directing the answer moreso at the silent one writing everything down, and once I’d reached an end point and silence would fall on the room, the first one would re-animate and ask the next question, only to once again start to doze once he was done.

I really don’t know what the point of the interview was considering the complete lack of interaction and impersonality of it. I could have just written answers to the questions and emailed them considering the level of conversation that went on. (later, a friend of mine helpfully suggested maybe the interviewer was mentally imagining my answers… about litigation.)

At the end, the interviewer woke up enough to walk me back to the elevator and confirm my fear that I would be working in one of the cubicles if I were hired. (shit). Then as it happened, they knew the city from where I had driven up from and mentioned he hoped I had a good drive back. So, maybe bonus points for driving a really long time to have a shitty interview? Dunno.

Got back into my car and drove the 3 hours back annoyed at how unprofessional the interview had been conducted. Par for the course I suppose. There are so few normal, decent people in this profession it is astounding.

Interview #32 – Name Game

I had a few interviews recently, and most of them are going to be posted. I’ve just been banking them up, all the while hoping one would come through.

So one of the more recent ones… I got a call for an interview for an insurance defense position. The phone connection was a bit broken while I was talking to them (not sure if it was my cell, or their slightly odd phone system) but the end result was I ended up missing a few words here and there. Most of the conversation was fine, but I didn’t want to keep saying “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” too much so at a certain point I just decided I would figure out some of the details after the phone call. So I was able to get the address of the interview and who I would be talking with. I mostly got the name of the company but the phone kept cutting out, but I was 99% sure I had it. Let’s call them Insurance Company X, or InsCoX for short.

So the phone call ended and I decided to look up the pertinent info for the interview at InsCoX while it was still fresh in my mind. Here’s where it got a bit odd though. The address I was given was not for the insurance company’s offices. It was instead for a small law firm called “the law offices of Name1 and Name2”. But, the principals for the firm both had listed under their credentials that they were Staff Counsel for InsCoX.

As I had previously interviewed at several insurance defense firms, this seemed somewhat normal. From the scant information I had, it sounded like InsCoX subcontracted out their regional litigation work to this firm; but there was veritably no information online about the firm (also not too strange… for example try looking up information about consumer collections firms, you won’t find hardly any info… something about having angry defendants show up and send stuff to their offices I imagine).

So armed with very little info about ‘the law offices of N1 and N2’ I head over to the interview. The office was in a seemingly half vacant office building which had seen better days. I arrive at the door which has a modest black and gold plaque outside saying ‘the law office of Name1 and Name2’. I enter the office and the inside of it is just as dull and a bit on the side of run down as the outside parts. I head into the interview and meet with a single older gentleman. The interview starts and he asks me what I know about them.

I answer honestly and say not much as there wasn’t much available online. He looks surprised and says, there wasn’t much info on InsCoX? I say no… there was almost nothing online about your law firm. Now he looks confused, and says ‘what law firm?’ uh oh. Something is wrong. I respond – The law firm of N1 and N2. He says .. Oh yeah, that.

Apparently ‘that’ was a smokescreen. InsCoX puts out a fake law firm name as the place of business and stick up a plaque at all of their litigation offices so angry people don’t show up complaining. Good to know, probably better to know before the interview but how was I supposed to get that information.

Anyways, the interview continues on. He asks questions, I answer. There were a few I legitimately didn’t know and I quickly admitted I didn’t. Most of those, when explained to me, I quickly turned around and ended up saying ‘oh, that is identical to what we do in this other legal specialty and this is how we do it…” So ideally I was at least showing I was competent even if I wasn’t familiar with their specific code sections. Conversely, the interviewer seemed to sincerely dislike admitting they didn’t know something and there were several times during these discussions when I would mention some point of legal specialty he didn’t know and he would claim he did… and then it would become really obvious he was completely clueless when I continued on the topic.

The interview wound down and I wandered back out of the dingy offices. I feel like the confusion as to who they really were may have reflected badly on me, but how could I have known.

Interview #31 – Clueless at the Top

Much like the interview, this post will be short.

I applied to a BigLaw opening and somewhat surprisingly got a call back. The HR director gave me a quick run through the position and dangled a truly wonderful salary in front of me. It was supposedly for a real attorney position and in my specific field too. So I was excited at the prospect of working somewhere substantively in exactly what I want to do.

They got my availability and said they would double check with the partner to see when they were available for a phone interview. A week went by, long enough that I tried calling back but got no answer or return call. Finally HR called back and setup the phone interview for a week later. An odd sidenote, but rather than have them call me for the phone interview, I was directed to call them; a little weird.

Doing the usual pre-interview research I decided that if this man asked me to murder someone for the job I would. The job was almost literally everything I could want. At the appointed time, I called in and started talking to the guy. The job was even better than I could have hoped. They actually said they had a hard time keeping attorneys in the position because the corporate clients kept hiring them into higher paid in-house positions. It sounded amazing.

First the job suddenly was downgraded to a staff attorney position; still possible although I am sure the salary was also downgraded. It is possible he was not using the right terms, because he did say something about required billables which usually staff attorneys don’t have, so I’m not sure. Then the real stupid started. You see, it turned out the partner didn’t know the difference between a “Contract Attorney” and an “Attorney-who-does-contracts” (i.e. transactional work). Now, I know how to draft and edit contracts, but apparently they looked at my resume and thought “Wow, look at all the contract work this person has done. They sure do have a lot of experience with contracts!”

The next few minutes were horrible as I had to explain to a senior partner at a huge law firm exactly what a contract attorney actually is. Mind you, I know their firm has probably hundreds of contract attorneys working for them everyday. And this guy had zero clue about what they did or how they were hired (i.e. direct hire contracts versus 3rd party companies who provide contract labor etc.) He actually asked who is “Insert Giant Contract Attorney Provider Company Here”. The interview wound down pretty quickly thereafter. I don’t expect a call back.

I think I should have lied.

Interview #30 – Scraping the Bottom

I feel I should take myself out to dinner for hitting the big #30 without finding any real jobs! It was a close tie between this interview and another one which is slated to show up here in the next week or so, but the little law firm was nimbler and was able to setup the interview faster. So here goes…

I responded to an ad for an Associate. It was posted in a relatively legitimate place (i.e. not craigslist) from a small firm of about 5-6 attorneys; even during the interview the number of claimed attorneys at the firm seemed to fluctuate so I am not 100% sure of the actual size. I looked up information on the firm and it seemed to be a niche insurance defense firm, who like so many had one main client keeping it afloat and a handful of smaller cases going in an attempt to stay profitable.

My email was responded to within hours and after a few back and forth, an interview time was setup for the very next afternoon. Now, I would like to say that the emails were completely normal… (I would like to say that, but you know I can’t). Apparently something on my resume sparked a hidden passion within the interviewer, specifically one of the charities I work with is named ‘Saint Someone-or-other’ and the last email setting up the interview has a photo attached which says “I thought you’d appreciate this considering I noticed your work with St. Someone”. I opened the email and was greeted with a photo of what is known as an Incorruptible corpse wearing a mask (that the interviewer themselves was proud to have taken).

Fan-fucking-tastic. First impression is this person is either crazy religious or enjoys sending photos of corpses to people. Neither option bodes well for my upcoming interview. Morbid curiosity had me spend about 10 minutes researching the weird history behind the Saint before filing the whole thing away in the back of my brain with other things I really wish I had never stumbled across on the internet.

I arrive the next day at the office. Nice building, but their office is small and it turns out it is an officeshare situation (two tiny firms sharing a secretary and officespace). Warning flags are waving in my mind already but as I am already there I may as well continue, plus how could I pass up actually talking to the person who thinks it is a good idea to email photos of corpses to potential employees!

The office is sparse, but functional. It is also the first law office I have been in that had a fish tank (a minor plus in my book). It seems like every office in the 1980’s had a fishtank and now almost no one does. Anyway, I meet the person on the other end of the email and they are generally pleasant to speak with. I get the general lay of the firm. I’m told relatively circuitously there is zero upward mobility. There were 2 partners when the firm started many years ago, there are still only the same 2 partners now. I ask about the firm size and the partner leans back and starts counting. (uhm.. what? He doesn’t actually know who works for him?) I’m told the firm loses people on a regular basis; at that exact moment it seemed like they had 5 actual employees and maybe one contract attorney, although it may have been 4 employees and 2 contract…. the partner didn’t seem to know. At one point they had more than a dozen attorneys at the firm, but beyond the core 4 people, they were all contract workers brought on temporarily and were eventually fired when the business slowed again.

Here’s where it started going downhill. I will preface this by saying I found this job posting on a 4th tier Law School reciprocity site, and nowhere else (shades of the Gaming interview?). The interviewer started to nitpick over my resume. ‘Hmm, I see you did this…’, ‘Tell me did you pass the bar on the first try’ (which didn’t work out well for him when I laughed I explained the multitude of bars and certifications I hold) yada yada yada.. They kept poking until they found something they could hook onto. I wasn’t in the top 25%? Gasp! And the interview ended up staring at my resume with a sour look for a few seconds more. (mind you the credentials on my resume beat out the combined resumes of every one of the attorneys at his firm because they were nice enough to post the info on their website).

The interviewer then said, ‘weeellll, we’ve generally found that academics show how hard you are willing to work at this firm so I couldn’t offer you anything better than a contract position here.’ (this from the attorney sitting across from me who couldn’t get in anywhere above 4th tier… and his partner from the same school, and the other 2 permanent attorneys from the same crappy 4th tier law school.

They then go on to say that it would be straight hourly based on billable hours. (which for those who understand, means that it wasn’t a straight hourly job). It also meant if they didn’t assign me work, I made no money. From the trackrecord of the firm, it also meant they were going to hire me short term and fire me in the near future. Oh yeah, and they said they were expecting billable hours of 2400 hours / year. (Again, for those unfamiliar, BigLaw firms generally tack the high at 2100). Which means even if they had the work, they wanted to kill me with hours, then fire me when it started to slack based on the veritable inability to bill out 2400 hours. Nice.

Short version was, they wanted someone to kill themselves with very long hours for little money, no benefits, no job security, and no upward mobility.

I hate lawyers.

Interview #29 – Opposites with the same result

I’m generally at a loss on this one. I was quite sure I had it in the bag… again.

I got an interview request from a blind Craigslist posting looking for an insurance defense attorney. The ad copy itself was probably 2 sentences long and most of the information it contained is in the sentence above this one. Craigslist interviews are almost without fail horrible. Imagine my surprise when this one wasn’t. The firm itself was a very respectable mid-sized firm with several satellite offices in various parts of the state. Even more surprising was when I found out it was also the rival of the firm from Interview #15; both firms worked insurance defense for the same huge client and whatever this firm couldn’t swallow, was given to the firm from Interview 15.

Anyway, the first contact with them was a little odd, the first contact email listed a date and time for the interview and basically just said ‘Can you make it? Respond yes or no.’ I fear if you said no, you failed the interview right then. But as I am fabulously unemployed, I was of course available. So I showed up on a Thursday at the appointed time at a nice mid-sized high-rise office.

The office was quite nice. On the slightly smaller size, but I think that has more to do with the fact that they do not have many client meetings. It was primarily all litigation contract work from their big corporate clients, although I was told they did have some one-off cases / clients from time to time.

I interviewed with the most junior partner. They told me since they were the lowest of the partners the interview was going to be more of an informal affair, effectively what counts as a social interview. Or to put it in their exact words, it was to make sure I / the other interviewees were not functionally retarded. I get it, I’ve been kicking around enough to run into quite a few weird as fuck people (as shown in glorious detail here) to know that this profession is full of interesting characters.

The interview started off as most all others do, talking about my background and skills. The partner was very forthcoming about the firm and told me they paid crap, but better than working as a prosecutor (which is decent but not great). They also said most people leave within 3 years because they get paid crap and go on to much better paying jobs from their firm. Maybe a little too honest?– but I was still more than willing to work there. Then we started talking a bit about family and personal life, and it turned out we had so much in common it was crazy. Within a few minutes we were talking and joking about some very similar and very particular shared experiences. We ended up having a conversation for most of the interview and topped out at an hour and a half until they said they had to go as they had already taken too much time.

As I was leaving they told me I would definitely be back for the interview with the head honcho and I would hear back really soon. I sent out the standard ‘Thank You’ card followup for the interview and waited expectantly. Flashcut to Tuesday and an email is dropped in my inbox that says in brief, ‘Thanks but we hired someone with more experience.’ Which would have been easier to swallow if I hadn’t also been told they had quite a few people working there who were straight out of law school.

So I hit a grand slam perfect interview with the low tier partner, and it got me absolutely nowhere. Because… I have no idea.

Interview #28 – Quick and dirty

I answered a Craigslist ad and for the first time in forever, I got a real response from an actual firm. The ad was a blank slate and offered no information beyond they were hiring an associate related to litigation. So I sent off a relatively sparse email and resume. About 2 days later, I got an phone call with an interview request.

The pre-interview research didn’t turn up too much. The firm’s website had possibly less information on it than the actual craigslist ad. It appeared they had intended to actually fill out the site with information, but had never actually gotten around to it. Most of the information sections just said “coming soon” once you clicked on them. They were located about 45 minutes away down a long straight shot highway from where I live, so I dressed in my standard interview suit and headed out to find their office.

I will admit, for the first time ever, I arrived late to an interview. Not by much, but walking in 10 minutes late is never good. I was held up trying to finish with one of the rare clients I have as a solo without looking like I wanted to bolt for the prospect of an actual paying job. I showed up at a mid-to-downscale officepark and walked into a really small office suite the firm was occupying.

Occupying might have been a bit too fancy a word. The office was veritably barren beyond the functional furniture. It was obvious whatever job they had in mind wasn’t going to involve client contact at the office itself. I came in as another interview was finishing, made my apologies for being slightly late and got down to business. This as it turns out was going to be a screening interview. The only 2 people in the room were the office manager and the other office manager (?).  I was a little unsure of what the deal was, but I quickly figured out, one of the women interviewing me was the office manager, the other one was local office partner’s wife. I’m not sure what her specific job title was, but that’s never a good sign. The wife did most of the talking and told me they were doing the screening interviews before setting up the interviews with the attorneys. (great).

There was nary a substantive question asked. It seemed to all be a question of whether this one woman (the wife) got along with you, as the office manager rarely spoke up. The firm had recently gotten a new contract which was causing the whole firm to double in size. (it was a small firm that was instantly moving into the mid-size territory with these hirings.) A little concerning that a single client was causing them to hire so many so quickly… there was a pregnant question of what would happen if they lost that client, but I chose not to ask towards such bad omens. They didn’t bat an eye when I asked for the salary, so I definitely was hitting the right mark.

The interview itself however was probably all of 15 minutes… maybe. And there was already someone waiting in the lobby. They had literally blocked out the interviews into 15 minute sections and scheduled quite a few of them. Apparently, they just weren’t that sure looking at resumes what they wanted, so just had a whole bunch of people come in to see if they couldn’t figure out on the fly. Having an attorney sit in, or even look at the resumes might have helped in this regard, but I’m guessing the wife thought she was all over this one; even without the benefit of a legal education. One of her wonderful ‘legal’ questions was if I had done any federal legal work. It took me a moment to realize that she seemed to think that “federal” was a specialty and not the incredibly vague question it really was; it seemed a revelation when I said of course and then told her all sorts of federal law unrelated to whatever she was fishing for.

Very quick, very venial. Not the best impression of the firm.

Interview #27: Game of Thrones

I’m surprised my rejection didn’t beat me home on the drive back from this interview.

So I got an interview at a county DA’s office for an ADA position. I drive out to the office which is located just a little bit farther beyond the edge of civilization than I thought it would be. You know the situation… driving along seeing large office buildings give way to strip malls, give way to further expanses of undeveloped land; and at a certain point you wonder if you drove too far and missed your exit, only to look over at the GPS and realize you’re still 5 miles away.

I show up at a small, but well maintained town which seems to be hovering on the better end of economically depressed. You know its a smaller town when all the parking in the middle of the city is free. But also a nice change. I wander into the wrong building at first, the courts building was… ugh. gross. And since it was right before court started, the hallways were filled with what looked like a casting call for the Jerry Springer Show. I had a creeping feeling walking through the courts building that the office was going to be dreadful. I finally find a receptionist who directs me to an adjacent building. I walk into the (correct) building this time and I am greeted almost immediately by one of the ADAs who walks right up to me and says “You must be Azrael!” Seems a bit odd that someone walking into their building in a suit can only be the applicant… and also a bit odd (though nice) that someone was waiting for me in the lobby.

So I ride the elevator up with the guy talking to me the whole time telling me how the interview is setup. He started throwing out names and titles at a breakneck pace. “You’ll be talking to X who is the ADA for Y, and also talking with Z who is assistant director of W…. ” He spun through about 6 or so people and titles without pausing for breath and I was still trying to remember the first name he had given to me as we whirled through the security door and into the main office.

It was really a nice office. Spacious and modern, and clean! A far cry from the building next door. Things were starting to look up. I’m led down a hallway and my guide is still talking like an auctioneer next to me while I try to sift through the information he’s gushing forth. He pushes open a door to a conference room with the aforementioned 6 other attorneys already arrayed around the table waiting for me. I’m motioned to a seat at the end of a big Gothic black table and told to take the end seat.

The chairs around the table were just as large and Gothic as the table itself. Huge, black throne like wooden chairs with gnarled armrests rising out from the sides and big bronze diamond-shaped studs holding the leather upholstery to the chair. And it’s not just regular leather either… oh no. It is cow-hide; the type of leather with the cow hair still on it. As I pulled out the chair to sit, a tiny voice in the back of my mind looked at the chair and went “Eww… Couldn’t we just stand?” I briefly wondered if it would stick to my suit like cat hair after I stood up. Completing the picture was a set of longhorns on the wall above the table that nearly went the length of the table itself. The conference room definitely made an impression. And that impression was ‘bad interior decorating skills’.

I sit down on my designated bit-of-cow chair and I am introduced to everyone in the room in the same rapid-fire manner in which they had been mentioned before. Fast enough that I probably only absorbed one more name (for a total of 2 now) before the interview began.

The DA looked at me and said that I had one of the most impressive resumes he had ever seen. (uh oh… nothing like that is ever uttered without a ‘but’ following it). The interview really began and ended with the first question he then asked me.

“Why do you want to do criminal law?”

The question seemed straightforward enough. He may have added a bit more inflection on the “you” part of the question though… which is where the interview really came apart.

I started talking about my background in criminal law and how I really enjoyed doing it and why. I was then asked again, by the ADA right next to the DA, ‘why did I want to do it.’ (there was that emphasis again…) There is the half second where I wonder if he wasn’t listening to the answer I just gave, but that can’t be it. So I take a different tack and start explaining using more specifics from my background, and particular cases I have done. I explain that I enjoy the novelty of cases with unique and potentially undecided law. How courtroom litigation in my mind was fun and enjoyable and provided real stimulation, how I realized that a large number of cases are rote in a DA’s rotation but the ones which aren’t are what I found to be enthralling. Everything I was saying was true, I was enthusiastic and energetic and I had a few moments where everyone in the room laughed at some anecdotes from one of my previous cases. I thought I had answered the question well, showing my knowledge and ability.

The ADA who had walked me up was sitting closest to me. He was severely balding which made his deeply furrowed brow seem to crease and ripple a greater swath of his forehead than should be possible. He asked the same question a third time… (god damnit, they were fishing for something) and finally stated bluntly what the others had been dancing around. (It was a moment much like the “why are you here” from my internship.) He looked at me and said, “what we are trying to find, is what is motivating you to want to come here and do criminal law.”

Still not recognizing what fish they were looking for, I relied simply “I really enjoy doing it.” The DA shook his head and he then said as he pointed in a general manner to the ADAs at the table, “No, we want to know why you want to. I can tell you are very intelligent, but I can also tell you the reason why each person is here at this table. Be it social justice, protecting the innocent, getting justice for the victim…” With each pronouncement he jabbed a finger in the direction of one or another ADA who nodded imperceptibly at their pronounced ideology.

It was a startling realization once it sunk into my thick skull. I was sitting in a room of true believers. They wanted a philosophical argument as the reason why I was there. A soapbox from which I was suppose to proclaim that I wanted to right the wrongs of the oppressed and be ‘the hammer of justice’ for the downtrodden. I hadn’t run across this before… this was new. Very early on in my internship I was told that it was not good to get too invested in a particular worldview when dealing with the law. This has been reiterated by many, many very accomplished attorneys to me over the years. True believers make incredibly impassioned, but ultimately bad attorneys. You lose sight of what is right, or logical and instead always find a way to favor your ideological standpoint. Victims never lie. Defendants are always guilty. Corporations are bad. Etc. etc. etc.

True believers are passionate litigators because they can’t see how anyone could see any point other than their own. They lend believe-ability to their arguments because they themselves believe it so fervently and completely. They make horrible attorneys because they don’t see the other side. They lose their objectivity. There is no moment where they step back and say, “I don’t think this is a good idea / could I be wrong?” They often end up stepping over the line and doing something illegal themselves in furtherance of their cause.

So I was sitting in a room of ideological extremists, and I was apparently being judged because I was not one as well. But then something amazing and novel happened. The DA decides to take a different slant on the interview. He looks over at me and says

DA: “What is it you really want to do?”

Me: “Well, I really like litigation and…”

DA: “Let me ask it this way, what was your favorite class in law school?”

Me: “Uhm… well, I took quite a few classes in IP and..”

DA: “Ok, I know a lot of people. A lot of people in different firms here and in (big city). I could pass your resume on to some of these people I know. But I need to know who I should be sending it to. Is it someone in IP? Is that who you’d like me to pass your resume along to?”

There was a brief moment where I almost asked if this type of trick had worked for him before. The DA had just baited a verbal trap and asked me to step into it. He constructed the trap with such ease that I really was rather impressed. If I said yes, it meant the interview was over. It would mean I was actually looking to do something else and just happened to apply to his office for convenience sake. The hypothetical of him having friends in one field or another and actually passing on a resume was probably close to nil, but it was such a tempting offer; As it was intended to be. You say yes — and thank you, platitudes and whatnot and you leave with his assurance he’ll pass your resume on to someone, but you’ve just taken yourself out of the running for the position for which you were interviewing. They don’t need to reject you… you chose to bow out. You rejected yourself.

He had done it artfully. I was also a little insulted he thought I wouldn’t see it. I persisted in my claim that I enjoyed criminal work and parried around his verbal jousting. I successfully sidestepped some other verbal chicanery and apparently unsatisfied, he decided he’d reached his limit of patience with me and ended the interview with “do you have any questions for us?”

The questions (or maybe just singular question I suppose…) had so far only been asked to me from the 2 ADAs on the right side of the table and the DA opposing me at the other end, attempting to gain some ground (and failing) I quipped “Well, I haven’t heard much from the left side of the table, so…” I turned my attention to the left side and addressed a few questions to the other half of the ADAs silently sitting in the room like set pieces. I questioned them for a few minutes about various specifics of the office, but it was over. And it was obvious. I let it die and was walked out by the same ADA who walked me in. I rode the elevator down with a Game Warden and looked over at him and said, “well that sucked.” Briefly striking up a conversation about failing the interview hard. I actually sorta doubt I’ll even get a rejection it was so obvious.

Minor update #1: I told a friend the abbreviated version of this story. After telling them about the gothic conference room set and the true believers, they told me it sounded like they were crusaders. I think the analogy works amazingly well.

Minor update #2: Several months later, the same office started advertising for another open position. I figured, why the hell not and I sent a resume, I mean hey… now I know what answers they’d want in the interview. They sent back a letter which said (I wish I was joking) — Please don’t bother applying here in the future.

I am considering framing it.

Interview #26 – Touchy Feely

I think this one went decently, but the interview questions were a bit touchy feely as opposed to professional.

I sent in a resume for a county prosecutor position and by 8:30 the next morning I had a message that they wanted an interview. I got it setup with them for a mere two days later.

I show up at the courthouse and I’m somewhat surprised by the general lack of people. Most courthouses I’ve worked in were usually very active and full of people. Not so here. It was very laid back and you got the impression that nothing moved too quickly there.

I head up to the office and end up waiting for a time in the very small waiting room. On a random note, it was the nicest smelling waiting room I think I’ve been in yet. If it wouldn’t have been weird, I really wanted to ask to receptionist if it was an air freshener or potpourri, or what… because it was really nice. The office and courthouse, as with many state buildings, were wonderfully done up in early 80’s chic. The only photo on the wall showed an amazingly dated image that I am going to guess was taken around 1983 based on the big poofy hair and clothes.  (I would feel really bad if it were taken any more recently).

I’m eventually ushered back to the rather small office of the DA, who was an absolutely enjoyable woman. I suppose I thought she was enjoyable because she struck me as someone who spoke rather unfiltered. I am quite certain that if she thought someone was a fucking idiot, she’d probably look right at them and say, “Well aren’t you a fucking idiot.” Flanking me on either side were two prosecutors who spoke narry a word through the interview, with the exception of a question or two prompted by the lead DA.

But… (there’s always a but it seems), the interview seemed to have very little to do with my professional qualifications. I am pretty sure that once again, the interviewer had some sort of internal belief that they could ask probing meaningful questions that were vastly superior to all other interviewing techniques. So what I got was an interview that had such questions as “What was the most important thing your mother ever taught you?” and “What was your greatest hardship in your life?”

A great many questions were focused on my family (as in my parents and siblings). When I did start speaking a bit about my professional specs, I was interrupted and the conversation would be re-routed to a different topic. This left me rather unhappy with how the interview was conducted mostly because any attempt to explain in any sort of depth about my skills and qualifications, or explanations about my past never actually reached the answer I was trying to give. I would start the explanation but would be interrupted 2 sentences in before I hit most of the substance of the issue. But this tack seemed limited to the legal explanations… the touchy feely questions weren’t headed off quite so often. It felt like they wanted a very superficial view of everything and depth was to be avoided at all costs.

A primarily social interview is okay, if you’ve mostly decided on a candidate and already interviewed regarding their professional bona fides. Unfortunately, I got the distinct feeling that my resume had been barely glanced at. They asked me ‘Why work for the DAs office?’ and the beginning of my answer talking about working in one for 2 years in criminal as an intern and then another 6 months on the civil side, led to everyone in the room burying their face in my resume scanning furiously to find the pertinent section. In fact, anything I mentioned about my professional past seemed to be a surprise. The cover letter obviously wasn’t perused (they didn’t even print off a copy of any other materials except my resume, based on a surreptitious glance at the paperwork in front of the interviewer)

There was one moment in the interview when I hit a wall. They wanted to know “Why here, and why not somewhere else… like over at this specific place.” I had a judgment call to make. The DA here seemed to be very matter-of-fact; so I went for it. I gave her the short version of why it was a horrible place to work and I told them that I did actually interview there, ‘but neither of us were too impressed with the other” and further explained why I personally found it rather unfortunate. I think I hit the mark, but I realized I was skirting a fine political line. Telling the interviewer they are superior to a colleague is always good, explaining why is risky.

The interview wound down and I left with no real idea as to what their opinion towards me actually was. It looks like it would be a nice place to work, and a relatively relaxed atmosphere too. I have decent odds as they were only interviewing a handful of candidates and are making a quick decision.