I had a roommate in college — his uncle was a white guy from West Virginia. In the early 80’s, his uncle had been a facilitator of a consortium of corporations making inroads into China. Basically, he was a fixer. If a company wanted something done in China, he smoothed things over and tried to get the government to do it. He was one of the people responsible for the construction of a large swath of interstate highways in China, and had also paved the way for Coca Cola to enter China and setup shop there. The uncle was killed in a car accident on the interstate he helped build, in a collision involving a Coca Cola semi-truck. The extended family often joked that he had committed suicide in a very circuitous way.
So I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what went wrong with this interview. It had gone amazingly well and I had been told point blank they wanted me. After replaying the interview in my mind as I am want to do, I realized what happened.
Anyway, with my copious amounts of free time I finally hooked myself in with a legal aid situation wherein I actually have some pro-bono work. It took far more wrangling than should truly be necessary to volunteer, but I persevered. I had been trying for a while now to get into a legal aid organization so I could actually do something meaningful with my free time and growing pile of licenses and certifications. I’m not going to get into specifics, but the legal air organization is religiously affiliated; to the point that there are nuns (in habits) roaming the hallways of the legal aid office. (Several of them are attorneys too!) It’s well funded and well known and everyone universally agrees it is a great organization.
So as I had mentioned in the original posting, at one point in the interview, I was asked if I voted for Obama. Fantastically illegal, but it was thrown out there. I deflected the question, but to some people’s minds that is proof one way or the other. A little later I was asked if I had any outstanding cases, and I admitted that I only had one connected to a pro-bono representation. Now, I never really thought doing pro-bono work was considered a ‘liberal’ passtime. What you don’t know apparently can hurt you.
One interviewer in particular became a bit too interested. I told them it was completely unconnected, legal specialty-wise, to the position I was applying for, so there was no cross over or conflict. I was pressed a bit more. (Other attorneys might note that one attorney pressing for information about another attorney’s case is considered very poor form, as they are effectively asking you at the minimum to bend privilege for them.) I was then asked if I would be willing to drop the case. This again, is a very very weird question. There is no bar association in the United States which doesn’t laud the merits of doing pro-bono work. To have an interviewer try to convince you to drop a case you have already filed appearance for, in addition to the fact that it was a legal aid case connected to a well known organization full of adorable nuns… It should have hit my warning bells harder than it did. I told them I would rather not drop it if possible, but if it was really deemed necessary I would.
The issue seemed to be dropped, until the end of the interview when the ‘concerned’ attorney handed me a conflicts sheet and asked for the pertinent details of the case. This was being attached to my resume which was being ‘sent up’ as the candidate of choice.
I got the rejection almost 3 weeks later. No reason given. I tried to contact the managing attorney to find out what happened, but to no avail. As if by some cosmic joke, I was driving in my car and a news story came on NPR. It was the head attorney for this state office… he described his job as “waking up everyday trying to find new ways to sue Obama.” My application had to be rubber stamped directly by this man. Suddenly my rejection made sense. I had been rejected because I had taken a pro-bono case which was politically adverse to this man’s politics. He was a rabid republican. I was just trying to find something substantive to do with my free time… I am not politically motivated. But it didn’t matter. I was determined to be ‘too liberal’ for the office.
I talked to another attorney who verified the state office was rabidly partisan. Much like my roommates uncle, I was my own undoing. My unemployment led me to try to do something legally related while waiting for work, and that endeavor ultimately led them to reject me from actually getting work. I literally can’t win.