Internship Internment

I have very mixed feelings about the internship I had. On the one hand, I loved what I was doing. It was interesting, and fun, and the people who worked there were almost without exception, great. There was one very big problem however, and that was what they did with you once you outlived your ‘free’ usefulness. You see, you aren’t actually allowed to work beyond the point that you got your JD (and definitely not once you pass the bar) without being paid and usually having malpractice coverage. (see previous post on why no one wants you).

It all started going downhill my last year of law school. I had interned at the same place for 2 years throughout law school. The first year I was there, I was told that I had a job there once I graduated if I wanted it. Some horrible person asked if I had gotten the job offer officially in writing, and I thought why would that be necessary? Anyway, while I was working there the summer before my 3rd year, 2 other interns there had just graduated and had been given the same offer of a job if they wanted it. So they stayed the summer for the job while studying for the bar, and passed the bar. And still no job was forthcoming. At this point both were licensed attorneys working for free without coverage. This went on for a total of 9 months. Nearly every week there was some minor statement about how paperwork was moving or had gotten hung up somewhere. They worked for free for 9 months waiting for the supposed job they had been offered. Eventually, the boss was able to push through hiring them. And it was right around then that I was graduating. And I got an extremely uncomfortable conversation about how they had blown their wad hiring the new attorneys and there wasn’t anything for me for the foreseeable future… so yeah the offer is rescinded. Sorry about that. Great use of my time trying to build an inroad there for 2 years.

 

So, the internship ended up being a bust in terms of a job. But I had other possibilities. I had thought the world was now open to me because I was getting my JD and would soon be licensed. So I setup a fellowship through my law school. On paper it looked great, prestigious and had the potential of landing me a job because they were woefully understaffed. On day one I am shown around by the head of the place, and then handed off to a woman who would be my supervisor. They waited till the head of the office was out of earshot and told me point blank “don’t even think of applying here because we won’t hire you or anyone else, so don’t get too comfortable” That was a direct quote… don’t get too comfortable. It was some ominous foreshadowing. During the tour of the office, she told me she had adopted 4 cats in the past month. This was followed by some tinfoil-hat / amusing conspiracy stories regarding local politics, including one where an intern released damaging information about their boss to an opponent and effectively sunk that person’s career. This was followed by a prolonged silence as the woman just stared at me after this story.

Anyway, I get put in a lovely office and given some files. It was at this point that I asked, “wait, what is it you want me to do, because no one has given me any instructions at all.” The supervisor appeared very put out by this and picked up 3 finished versions, tossed them on my desk and said “research, and make them look like that.” There was the grand total of my training. So it must be that simple. So I start with file 1. Research format it like one of the 3 wildly divergent examples I was thrown, and send it off to my supervisor with a message, “Here is a first draft copy. Can I meet with you briefly to discuss if I should be doing anything differently?” Nothing. Next day another email and nothing from the supervisor. Next day I stop them passing in the hallway and ask how the draft looked and they wave me off with a “fine fine”.

So I walk in on Friday after working there a week, and finally the supervisor calls me into the conference room to meet with me. Thinking I am going to hear very little more than what she has given me so far, I am completely unprepared for what happened next. She had a full blown bi-polar fit in the conference room. Throwing things at me, throwing them across the room. Screaming. Claiming I was out to get her. Crying. Claiming that I should have learned (a very particular skill) in my law school, mind you she was from an unranked 4th tier. This goes on for an hour an a half. During the ranting she mentioned that the previous intern (a recent 2nd year law student) had asked her too many questions and she was not going to be slowed down like that again; and that she had not used a single piece of work the prior intern had produced the whole 9 months he had been working there. First she started talking about how she stayed late the night before to read through the draft, then it became that she had come in early that day just to read it. Keeping track of what, when, and at times who she was talking about was becoming difficult. At first I was shocked, and then once I got over the initial panic, I leaned back and watched the show. It was hypnotic. Had the insanity not been directed at me it would have looked for all purposes like a schizophrenic on the street corner.

So her ranting reaches a tired lull, and she hands back my pristine draft (clearly labeled as a draft copy with the watermark DRAFT across every page) with no marks on it at all and she tells me she doesn’t want to see any draft copies of anything, only finished products. That I shouldn’t come out of my office, I should come in to work in the morning, close my door and leave it closed until I leave in the evening. That I was not to talk to anyone else because they all had their own work to do and I would just slow them down if I asked questions. Mind you… nothing was actually said in the meeting about the content of the work.

So I walk back to my office, close my door, and sit digesting what I just witnessed. It takes me a moment, but I pick up the phone and call my law school, to their credit before I even get to the worst part, the Career Service person says. “Holy shit. Quit. Get the hell out. Do it today if possible.” It wasn’t, mainly because the head of the office wasn’t back until mid next week. So i figure I will lay low, and talk to him when he comes in. By Tuesday the paranoid supervisor starts up again. The walls in the offices are paper-thin. I hear the attorney in the office to my left get a phone call “yeah.. Azrael is here. Yeah. uh huh. They were here yesterday too.” 5 minutes go by. Phone call to the office on my right. “Yeah, Azrael is here, do you want me to get them for you? Uh huh. ok then. bye” click. I’m sure that’s normal for someone to start calling everyone in the office just to check up on you.

So I finally get hold of the head attorney in his office. I start off with, “you know how you asked this morning in front of everyone how things were going for me and I said fine? I lied.” I told the whole story. He didn’t seem too surprised. His only reaction was to say, “huh, doesn’t seem like something she’d do, but she has been acting sorta weird lately.” The end result was that he didn’t want to put me with anyone else because he thought it would create internal strife in the office. And he was going to quietly take care of the crazy attorney. I had to write down everything that had been going on, and then I was effectively escorted from the office.

That was the end of my first fellowship. Oh.. and the crazy attorney woman? The reason it was going to be taken care of quietly was because we were dealing with cases that had massive impact on peoples lives, and it wouldn’t look good if the court found out one of the people making some of these decisions had been crazy while doing so. So I went on to find another fellowship.

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