FastCase Blog Retardation

Read this.

I’m not sure why FastCase has a dog in this race… lord knows, they should be staying out of it.

I do like their logic: No one is applying to law school because there are no jobs after graduation. BEST TIME TO APPLY TO LAW SCHOOL!!! Oh yeah. And all that ‘scholarship money’ which will disappear after the first semester… because as everyone knows, when applications are way down and you start having to make the hard decisions of letting in woefully under-qualified students, or merely accepting fewer students (you know… in line with market forces), I’m sure the free money they hand out to people won’t possibly start drying up.

This argument is like looking to invest and seeing a company about to go bankrupt… Perfect time to invest all your money in that company.

Kudos FastCase. Kudos.

Local Bar Associations

The ABA is effectively a special interest group who primarily legislates for attorneys. They are supposed to do more, but they really don’t. They also continue to accredit worthless schools and seemingly refuse to disqualify the lowest of the low as they should be doing. So what about your local State / County / City / Metropolitan bar association? What do they do? Is it worth paying to be a member of the ABA or your state and local bar association?

Well the first thing they do is they all offer you a free year membership once you pass the bar. At one point I think I was titularly a member of 7 bar associations between state and local level. They also offer discount on CLEs in your area, which became significantly less of an incentive once I found and their email listserv of free CLEs. And those CLEs are not all the free CLEs offered in your area, usually there are a ton between events at Legal Aid, the local courthouse / city hall, and the local law school. But you only need so many, so you can usually meet your bi-yearly requirement just through the website.

I ended up asking a senior partner of a large law firm what benefit there really was to joining any of these multiple bar associations. They thought for a moment and then told me there really wasn’t any. Local bar associations are more akin to social organizations where attorneys can network with each other, think Rotary club or Kiwanis. So, if your practice doesn’t rely on referrals from your local peers, there is no reason at all to join. Some local ones offer attorney referral services in which your name gets thrown out to people who call in looking for a referral so long as you are a member, which may or may not be worth joining for depending on your viewpoint. The referrals might be so few and far between, or of such low quality (no-pay) that enlisting in the referral service might be a detriment, so consider accordingly.

Some states apparently require that you pony up the money. To be able to practice you need to belong to the Bar Assoc. (GA, NC, among others). Sorta sucks since you are getting hit for dues to the actual Bar and its social arm, Bar association whether you want to belong or not. After looking around a bit, I did find one real positive, some local bars give you access to FastCase (the poor man’s Westlaw), or similar single state based case law archives. That is assuming you need to do case research, which not everyone does.

My goodness, I almost forget what the local associations are best at… newsletters. I got so many junk bar e-newsletters that I setup a ‘Law Spam’ folder for them to all fall into. And of course, most of them also send you a paper copy once in a while too.

I suppose it is mostly irrelevant however. Its not like I have the money to throw away on them anyway.

Why should I renew? <– Pretty good discussion on pros and cons

Yes, Join the local bar assoc. <– He seems to just reiterate it is a social club…

Working for Free?

Check out this job posting… They are available all over the country, this one is merely an example. They have been ‘hiring’ for these unpaid positions for a bit over 2 years now. My question is, who the hell is agreeing to do this? A ‘Special’ Assistant US Attorney… I’m guessing the ‘special’ connotation is the right one to put in front of this. Lets briefly break down the job position. You don’t get paid. But you are supposedly required to work there full-time for a year (or possibly 18 months.. woo!) assuming responsibilities as if you do. Working there will not help you get a job there. In fact if a job opens up during the free year you have given them, they will not consider you for it even if you apply. And by the way, you aren’t allowed to work anywhere else either, plus you have to go take a random drug test for us to come work for free (I guess they also think you’d have to be on crack to consider this). There are also some implicit considerations for this position… no medical insurance. No malpractice insurance (even though you are working in a legal capacity for them as a lawyer). No actual status within the DOJ (so you cant even get a G rating to leverage yourself for later jobs). Oh, and since this isn’t a real Fed. position, your student loans will not be eligible for the forgiveness for working in a public sector position. Hope you enjoy clicking forbearance on your loans for the next 12-18 months (and have a spouse to keep you fed and housed).

So what is this?  A hobby? A career path with less money and benefits than a hobo?

Lets consider this like we would an internship.

Federal Fair Labor Rules governing Internships (PDF) (web link)

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

… If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.  If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA.

It sounds pretty similar… right? Except for the fact that you are expected to work full time, not for an educational benefit, for somewhere that definitely receives a benefit, and you are effectively taking the place of a paid worker, and hold all the responsibilities of a US Atty with none of the benefits, protections, or money.

But this isn’t an internship is it… It’s not even a fellowship. Crap, most of the time both of those are paid positions (or potentially so). So why does this position exist? Well, what if instead we look at some of the full US Attorney job postings, you might find that a great many of them state this:

Who May Apply: Due to the Attorney General’s hiring freeze, only current permanent employees of the U. S. Attorney’s Office and EOUSA may be considered and selected

Ahh… so now we see what this is. The US Attorney’s office needs more people, but can’t pay for them. So instead they ‘hire’ free people. I guess because they can. No one else in the US could… they would get sued for violations of fair labor standards out the ass. I guess the US attorney’s office figures no enterprising employment attorney is going to sue them over this. I wonder how that’s going to work out for them.

Do not pick interesting, pick easy: Course selection in law school

Sometime towards the end of your first year, you will once again be given a modicum of choice in your class schedule as you choose what to enroll in for second year. There will still be required classes you have to shoehorn into your schedule, but at least now you can choose to shoehorn them in at 2 in the afternoon as opposed to 7:30 in the morning. At this point, if your law school is anything like mine, there will be a required meeting where the Academic Dean will pontificate about what classes they think you should take. Don’t listen. Not even a little.

There is a myth propagated by everyone in academia. They themselves do not ever put stock in it, but they pay it lipservice at every turn. It is the myth of the well-rounded student. A few centuries ago when you went to college, you studied classics, history and philosophy, and math. A so called “classical education” which studied the Big 3 (grammar, logic, rhetoric). Then, slowly, as more universities sprang up you started seeing specialization. One university would be known for engineering, one would be known for the arts, another for business. People became attracted to those universities for that one facet… Think of Perdue, there is absolutely no reason to go there unless you are going for engineering. None. The majority of the money in the university gets poured into one department. A professor once told me he enjoyed reading the Fall course catalog at his university to see the ‘sexy classes’. You see, each year’s departmental funding by the university was determined based on Fall enrollment into that department’s various courses. So in the fall you saw courses like “the history of video games”, “Erotic literature: The Marquis de Sade to 50 Shades of Grey”, or… any of these. You also saw the gut courses which got rid of a required class like the so called ‘Rocks for Jocks’ class of Geology 101 which counted as your singular required science credit that every single person who had no science ability took.

I have never had one person give me any credence for a single class I took in college or law school. Employers ask for transcripts so they can see your class standing, they could care less if every single one of your classes was “The legal underpinnings and principles of basket-weaving”. So why should you? When you look at the courses offered, recognize that no one else will ever bother looking at what you took. Instead, choose based on what you know you are better at than most of the people around you. Additionally, remember… and I will reiterate… REMEMBER… Law is not an academic field. It is a practical field. A JD is a professional degree; the concept being that you will be vaguely prepared for the  practical education you will get in law once (if?) you are employed. An except from Wikipedia on the subject...

  • As a professional doctorate, the Juris Doctor is a degree that prepares the recipient to enter the law profession (as does the M.D. in the medical profession). While the J.D. is the sole degree necessary to become a professor of law or to obtain a license to practice law, it (like the M.D.) is not a “research degree”. Research degrees in the study of law include the Master of Laws (LL.M.), which ordinarily requires the J.D. or LL.B. as a prerequisite, and the Doctor of the Science of Law (S.J.D./J.S.D.), which ordinarily requires the LL.M. as a prerequisite. However, the American Bar Association has issued a Council Statementadvising that the J.D. be considered as being equivalent to the Ph.D. for educational employment purposes. Accordingly, while most law professors are required to conduct original writing and research in order to be awarded tenure, most only have a J.D. The United States Department of Education and the National Science Foundation do not include the J.D. or other professional doctorates among the degrees that are equivalent to research doctorates.

In short… not a whole lot you learn in law school is directly applicable to actual practice of law. In theory, law schools have been trying to fix this disconnect, in fact, they are still doing a crappy job (yes… even yours). So what am I trying to say? The takeaway is that your specific classes in law school by and large are not going to effect any decision an employer makes when looking at your resume. Instead they want to see GPA / class rank.

So what is that party line you are going to hear?

  1. You’re going to be be told to take Admin Law (which has no practical value), since you already are required to take Civ Pro and Con Law, this is an applied version of both together with damn little relevance to real legal work. Its basically the ins and outs of rulemaking in government agencies by people who aren’t lawyers, making arbitrary requirements for lots of other people who aren’t lawyers. File 3 copies of this; That’s the rule, don’t ask why… it just is.
  2. Everyone says take Appellate Practice, don’t. Every gunner in your class will take it, and as someone who argued in front of real appellate courts in my 3rd year, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the real thing. It will only serve as a grade dump as you fight to convince the professor (who likely has very little if any real appellate experience) that your polished papers have a nicer font and margins than anyone else. Basic trial advocacy skills and solid brief writing will serve you 10,000% better in an Appellate Court than whatever your professor is trying to teach you.
  3. Constitutional Law II, or Con Law lecture applied to (death penalty, guns, etc etc). You would like to think you will someday use this wonderful high-concept rhetoric in defense of your client. You won’t. That’s not to say you don’t throw in a constitutional argument into briefs. Of course you do, “everything here violates the 4th your honor”. But the likelihood of getting it to stick is near to negligible, and it approaches the throw away Civ Pro arguments you also put in a brief hoping the judge wants to be lazy and dismiss on a technicality so they don’t have to work out a complex legal answer. Usually, when you win with one of these arguments you are shocked they bought it, and end up wistfully thinking how you would prefer they had actually decided on the merits instead.
  4. Any “pass the bar” sort of class. Sorry.. Face it. I know you are broke, but everyone just accepts that you are going to have to take BarBri to teach you what you need to know. No law school class teaches you your state specific law. It is all a general federal-ish mish-mash that at times teaches you comparative / conflict of law. To know what is actually tested, you have to just bite the bullet and take the outside bar review course. Don’t be cheap now that you already dropped over $100K on a worthless degree. Whats a few thousand more but a drop in the bucket you won’t be able to pay back anyway.
  5. Conflict of laws. You know how to research right? Then don’t bother. Big firms have compliance departments and neat-o computer software to make sure you don’t snag a cross-jurisdictional rule when dealing across state lines. Contracts by boilerplate define the jurisdiction of presiding law. The likelihood of a real conflict of law popping up for you is about the same as being attacked by an albino shark. And if you do have it happen, a few hours with Westlaw will fill you in. Save yourself the semester of pain.
  6. Historical law of anything. Remember… you are not getting an academic degree.
  7. Anything that sounds too PC… Feminist Theory of Law… Animal Law… anything that sounds a bit too granola-crunchy  — (Environmental law however is actually useful so there is an exception.)
  8. Patent. If you are eligible to take the Patent Bar (the likelihood is that if you are in law school you probably aren’t since it requires a technical degree or equivalent credits in science) Don’t. You won’t be hired by anyone, ever, to work with patents unless you hold a degree that ends in “engineering” (yes I am simplifying, but not by much). Your law class if it is like mine will have approximately 5 people total (I’m being generous) that can sit for the Patent Bar. If you aren’t one of them, don’t take Patent Law courses. It is worthless and arcane for you.

So, I’ve told you what not to take… I will make a quick mention of what you should take.

  • anything you are remarkably good at, or are damn near guaranteed of doing well in.
  • ERISA – boring, but applicable to job market and people are always hiring for it. Try to use it to leverage a job somewhere.
  • Tax – again.. only if you are good at this. I have found that much like science, a startling number of lawyers are horrible at math. Even basic math.
  • The small 1 credit courses your law school likely has which meets infrequently and is taught by a random non-academic lawyer. You are much more likely to get an A in it, if you are sociable you might even be able to swing an internship or connection from the lawyer teaching, the course material is invariably more interesting than the rest of the classes in law school. And all those 1 credits add up in the end if you keep putting them on your schedule whenever one fits.


MIA, Interview 7, other random job updates

So I initially had intended to just not post anything in December, because of the holidays and short trips and over-eating and all… and then it just sorta stretched out a bit longer. Mostly due to varying bouts of depression and manic energy to effectively spam as many job applications with my resume as humanly possible. January has most definitely been my most prolific application month to date. If you had a legal job damn near anywhere in the country, you have my resume sitting somewhere in the applications.

I also broke down and threw my lot back into the pit that is document review, if for no other reason than to pay for food and other such inconsequentials. It has been going about as well as you might expect if you have read anything I have written about the topic. In January I was called for 4 doc review positions. One started out sounding quite promising, more a project attorney… and then the employing corporation decided that they no longer needed a small team to do the job and instead hired one person. The second one just died, big rush by the recruiter to get in all the paperwork at the behest of the firm, and then the whole project was canceled. The third was purported to be a big project that would last a few months, and after the initial phone call getting all the reviewers on board, it turned out the firm hadn’t expected the doc review company to be able to pull it all together so fast and they weren’t ready to proceed (that was 3 weeks ago). The fourth one is actually 2 projects by one firm, so here’s hoping one actually goes through if for no other reason so I can make some gas money.

In my forays across the myriad applications I’ve been filling out, I ran across a few gems.

  • This vacancy is limited to the first 200 applications and will close early at midnight on the day we receive the 200th application.  (so now, applying to a job becomes almost like a lottery system… maybe you’ll find the job posting in time… maybe you won’t.)
  • In a similar vein – **Applications will be accepted from all qualified individuals until the scheduled closing date of 05/06/2013 or until 50 applicants have been received, whichever comes first.  (this one closed on the first day it was posted, before the end of the day.. you think they hired the person they had picked for the position before they posted it?)
  • This one is an actual job posting and I’ve seen the sentiment repeated over and over again. It drives me insane. I guess it wants you to be both entry level and experienced at the same time?job1

Recently I had another interview. It was with a small firm and it was actually one of the better interviews I’ve had. The downside is that if I actually get an offer from them I would have to move a fair distance for a middling job with no possibility of upward movement. I have been weighing what would happen should I actually get a call back. Quite literally, I would be moving a very long distance just so I could have a halfway decently paying job for a few years that I could put on my resume as experience so that I can get a real job at a later point. The interview started off a bit rocky. I had applied to a blind posting and gotten a call back for the interview wherein they gave me the particulars of the position and the firm. I researched the firm and its attorneys online and had generally come to the conclusion that had it not been a blind posting, I probably would have passed over applying to it. I’ve become gun-shy of the little 3 person law firms because invariably they are offering no money you can live on, and every interview I’ve been to with a small firm has been very strange. Usually meeting the attorneys in person explains why they are working in solo / small self-managed firms. (I am sure there are normal people out there who work in small / solo firms, but I have not met you. Much like unicorns, I won’t believe you exist until I see you myself.)

Anyway, although it was still small, they had not updated their website since they had put it online (I guess not very technically minded). The firm is supposedly twice the size it stated on its website, putting it closer to a regional mid-sized firm (or so claimed the interviewer). I think I ended up putting the interviewer on the defensive a bit, especially since I had initially written the job off. This strangely may have been a positive. I ended up asking pointed questions about the cash flow of the firm since I knew that the consumer side of their purported business is cutthroat and the small guys can not survive. Which resulted in a much more detailed conversation with the interviewer about the position and legal market in general than I think I’ve had in any interview to date. Food for thought for future interviews.

Experience Required – Corporate Accounting

“Individuals with insufficient experience need not apply.” – Attorney job posting in DC.

This post to going to meander all over the fucking place, but it is by far the one thing most wrong with the legal industry to date. The legal field was designed around the concept of an apprenticeship system. A junior attorney gets hired by a more senior attorney or a firm and they are taught all the more practical side of the legal career, not just the legal concepts needed to pass the bar that law schools teach (they don’t even really teach to the bar, but you get the idea). To a point, internships do teach some of this, but as we all know not all internships are equal and often you get out of them what you put in (within limits). So what happened to this system? Technically this system does still exist on a very limited basis, but in no recognizable form. Certain states actually allow for ‘apprentice attorneys’ who go through a 4 year apprenticeship and then are allowed to take the bar exam without going to law school. You always wondered why so many various  criteria for attorneys say something about an ‘ABA accredited law school’ and this coupled with the handful of unaccredited schools explain it.

It didn’t die overnight, and I honestly don’t think it was an intentional result. Interestingly, others have a slightly different view of the management of attorneys at law firms once they have been hired. But, as near as I can tell, the problem started when law firms became corporations and started emulating larger corporate bodies. I’m not talking about tacking on the LLC or PC to the law firm name, no I am referring to a style of hiring associated with large companies.

For example, as it stands now the hiring partner looking for a promising associate will jot a quick memo listing idyllic qualifications, the Platonic Form of the employee they seek, which they do not necessarily expect perfectly composed in one person; rather they are looking for a good fit to become the employee they seek. In other words, most realistic employers do not look for someone they hire to hit the ground running from day 1. That employee doesn’t exist. What they want is someone who they can train to fit their needs rapidly so that the person they hire becomes the ideal candidate they were ultimately looking for. The problem is that this concept of finding a candidate that they can grow into a position is not a corporate theory. Instead the corporate concept of hiring is trying to lure away the person working in this position from your competitor. Or as corporations call them… laterals. So the lions share of effort in hiring suddenly is shifted to trying to find disgruntled laterals who you can hire away from your competition. Damaging their business and at the same time bolstering your own.

I know someone who is a senior partner at a very large multi-jurisdiction law firm. They told me their work is divided probably 85% to running the corporation that is the law firm, and only 15% actually working with the law. By necessity, when a law firm gets to be a certain size it adopts the trappings of a retail corporation. This involves hiring a significant number of underlings and most dreaded, some form of an HR department. The HR department obviously are not attorneys, and what happens next is the same problem you will run into with headhunting firms. A rigidity of thought. If you do not meet and exceed all of the qualifications for the position, you are do not get passed up the chain to the hiring partner. Unfortunately, since more effort is placed on hiring laterals, every job listing you see requires that you have 3-5 years experience at a large law firm to qualify for their ‘entry level positions’. I applied to a position which was looking for an entry level attorney. Specifically advertized as no experience required for new attorneys. The candidate who ended up getting the job had over 7 years experience. So why list it as entry level? Mainly because the company decided that regardless of the experience or quality of attorney they were going to hire, they were only going to pay them entry level wages.

On top of all that, I have had a ridiculous number of applications rejected because the person reading it does not understand what they are reading. I’m sure your applications are also being read and rejected by a secretary with a high school education before any hiring attorney ever sees them. How do I know this? Well at some point you start getting limited feedback. My favorite feedback is from USAJobs, where the best we have all come to expect from the federal government reads through your application and decides you don’t fit the criteria for some laughably inaccurate reason. My favorite so far has been one who claimed I did not prove I was an attorney. Think about that for just a moment. How do you prove you are an attorney on an application? Well, in this case I put my bar number(s) and jurisdictions prominently on the application. One might assume that is all the proof you would ever need especially since that is all the proof you can actually put on an application (and also consider that not all jurisdictions hand out fun cards with your atty number on them). Another rejected my application because of a gap in my employment which amazingly meshed with the time I was in law school. Mind you, on the resume it states when and where I was attending law school, so most people would infer that crucial bit of information that I had no employer while I was in law school…. but not this genius. And there is no recourse to their infallible thinking. You are just rejected.

The short version of this is that no one wants to train anyone for a position anymore. You are expected to be a perfect candidate requiring no training, and preferably no food or sleep either if it can be helped.

CBS / 60 Minutes recently posted a news article on just this point. On pg. 4 of the article….

Byron Pitts: What’s changed in the way that American companies hire workers compared to a few decades ago?

Peter Cappelli: I think there are big changes. And I think this is the heart of what is new. What’s new now is that employers are not expecting to hire and train people. If you turn the clock back a generation ago, there really was none of this discussion about skill gaps and skill problems.

Byron Pitts: Because companies provided the training.

Peter Cappelli: Companies did it themselves. Companies are now saying, for all kinds of reasons, “We’re not going to do it anymore.” And maybe they’re right, they can’t do it. But what they probably can’t do is say, “We’re not going to do it, and it’s your problem.


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.

Interview 6

My most recent foray was a disheartening trip to a small law firm. I knew I was in trouble when the office manager called me up to setup the interview and started off with “before we go any further so I don’t waste your time, the salary offered will be in the high 30’s.” Ouch. Well, let me count out the change in my sofa cushions… yup. Still owe $160K in law school debt, which means I could possibly pay that off the week after never on that salary. Anyway, I can always keep looking for a better job while padding the resume with a poorly paying job, right? It always looks better to be able to say you were an Associate at XXX Law Firm, even if for a short while.

So off I go to the interview. The firm specialized in Real Estate, and had a bunch of other side businesses operating under the same umbrella (title, litigation, etc). The office was nice. Nice enough that I walked through wondering why I was being shafted with an offer of a “high 30’s salary”. I guess because they felt they can.

The interview went well enough. Standard questions. The interviewer made the wonderful move when I came in to say let me refresh my memory of your resume, and then proceeded to read through it and my cover letter for the obvious first time during a nice silent 5 minute stretch. I asked a few questions about the place trying to obliquely figure out if the place was going bankrupt or whether they were just cheap bastards. I thought maybe some of the difference could be made up in benefits… hehehe… there were none to speak of. The interviewer actually stated something to the effect of ‘well… if you don’t already have insurance… there is something offered through the firm.” (translation: the offered plan is so bad no one here uses it so I can’t tell you anything about it.) This sentiment was repeated for the other non-benefits.

The office was also damn near empty of people. Several open offices which I was told used to and ‘would soon have’ a paralegal, and a law clerk… but didn’t now. And they were looking at replacing one of the attorneys who left; it was beginning to look like the only people actually working there were the interviewer / name on the door, and the secretary. In the end the interviewer seemed to reach an unspoken conclusion and I got the impression they were looking for someone with more experience in real estate than I had… for a salary in the ‘high’ 30’s…. I’m soo sure they will find that someone.

I don’t feel too bad that this one slipped away.

minor update: As with every job interview, I send out a thank you card for the interviewers. My rejection letter to this wonderful position showed up the other day… and in a perverse twist, the interviewer effectively mirrored back my thank you note in some parts verbatim, in their rejection. I’m actually not sure if the interviewer was just lazy… or whether this was a parting FU. Weird.

Bar Exams, the Batmobile

I went out to my car during the lunch break of the exam to eat and study for the upcoming subjects. Convention centers are invariably built on industrially-zoned cheap land which doesn’t have any food within walking distance; so stashing some food in your car for lunch is recommended. I was parked in the convention center’s massive underground parking garage which was strangely empty except for a scant handful of other cars, also there for the bar exam. And there, parked right behind my car, was the original batmobile. Not the crappy strange dildo shaped one from the 1990 Michael Keaton Batman, nor the APC of the Christopher Nolan Batman. No, this was the comic book style 1960 Adam West Batman convertible. And not a soul was around. I had a long moment of indecision where I stood frozen staring at the car. I mean, it was a convertible… I could just jump in, take a photo and jump out. No one would be the wiser. How long could it take.. 30 seconds? And shouldn’t someone be watching it? I did the quick 360 but there was no one, but now I noticed a bunch of other classic / special cars scattered farther back in the garage; it must have been parking for the centerpieces of a car show somewhere.

At the same time this thought process is running through my mind, a counter current was also speaking to me. How embarrassing would it be if you were arrested during the lunch break of the bar exam. I could see the law blogs now… “Hopeful attorney breaks batmobile during bar exam.” I made an executive decision. If it is still there after the exam, that photo will be mine.

Sadly, it was not. I still regret not taking that photo, even if it probably was the right choice.

Bar Exams, Cheating

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve taken several bar exams, and am licensed in several states. So I figured I should post a few short stories regarding the bar exams since that is the omega moment of law school. Some of these stories happened at the same exam, but were worth posting separately.

I was sitting across from someone who cheated on the bar exam, and they got caught. In this particular state, everyone taking the bar exam was required to shlep over to the state capital and boost the local economy for a couple days by staying in hotels while taking the test. I don’t remember which day of the exam it was, but I do know it was one of the essay sections. Anyway, everyone (and we are talking well over 1000 people) are stuffed 2 to a small table in a convention center that shares more in common with an airplane hanger than a building meant for people; that includes the air conditioning. Since this was in July, it meant most people were wearing as little as possible and still sweating. There were some freaks who showed up in full suits to the exam… I just don’t get it. I suppose if you enjoy dehydrating over many hours while trying to do mental gymnastics then more power to you. For those unfamiliar with the rules of the exam, you are allowed to go to the restroom at any time, but given the time constraints, you would do better only going if it was a dire emergency. The tables were arranged so that you were diagonal from the other person at your table, which meant you were staring at the back of the person at the next table. I talked a bit before the start with the guy sitting at my table. While talking I told him that I had already passed a couple other bars and I was only taking this one because of what was effectively an expensive clerical error on my part, so I really didn’t care if I passed or not. (I did, he did too as it turned out). He was somewhat envious and said it almost seemed unfair since I was effectively playing with house money.

The bar exam in all jurisdictions have a multitude of test proctors whose responsibility it is to wander around the room looking for any sign of cheating, or of some computer malfunction or the like. To an outsider, it must have looked like a bookwriting gulag with the taskmasters wandering aimlessly up and down the rows of fumiously typing serfs. The proctors wander and if they get really bored sometimes stop and read what you are writing from a few feet behind you. Anyway, during one of the essay portions, I am banging away on my laptop when a proctor walks over and stops right in front of me. At some point shortly before, the girl sitting at the table in front of me had gotten up to go to the restroom. This didn’t really register at all, but then another proctor walks over and stops in front of me too. And another. A moment later there is a cluster of about 6 of them right in front of me talking in a whisper. By this point, everyone within a 5 table radius has stopped writing and are just watching to see what is going on. They seem to realize this, and make a quick decision. 2 of them grab the girl’s laptop and everything else on the table and they all walk away.

During the break, we plied the closest proctor for more information. It seems that the girl had gone to the restroom only a few minutes into the first essay section after they handed out the questions. This was slightly notable since we all had ample time to visit the restroom before it began, but who knows, it is within the realm of possible that it was innocent. The second essay section started, and she did the same thing. Got the questions and went to the restroom a minute later after reading them. There are proctors sitting outside the restrooms… and they noticed. The proctor followed her in a moment later and (in what almost borders on the creepy) looked through the crack in the stall. The girl had brought notecards that she was flipping through in the bathroom to find what she needed for the questions. A bit of a horrible way to waste $100K since she’ll probably never be allowed to take the exam again. Or minimally would be barred from re-applying for the next 5 years, which almost amounts to the same thing if you think about it, because what are you going to do for the next 5 years?

The interesting part of this was actually how some of this worked into the overall curve of the exam. It turns out after talking to the proctor, that if a person signs up for the exam, but doesn’t show, it is counted as a zero score but is included in the overall curve. So technically the odds are already in every test takers favor since there is always a small handful of people who never show up for some unknown reason, or decide to leave the test after day 1. However, if someone cheats and are thrown out, their score is completely stricken as if they had never even applied to take the exam. Good to know.