Category Archives: Interviews

Boiler Room

In business, the term boiler room refers to an outbound call center selling questionable investments by telephone. It typically refers to a room where salesmen work using unfair, dishonest sales tactics, sometimes selling penny stocks, private placements or committing outright stock fraud. The term carries a negative connotation, and is often used to imply high-pressure sales tactics and, sometimes, poor working conditions. – Wikipedia — alternatively… watch the movie.

I’m classifying this one as a pseudo-interview. Because it wasn’t really an interview, but they wanted it to appear that it was. Anyway, to the story.

I happen to run across several postings by a head-hunting company looking for what amounts to roughnecks for oil companies. In the past 3 weeks, they supposedly had held several job fair style hiring sessions and they were listing quite a few positions. I looked at their website and ran a quick Google search, including a quick streetview of their office. Seemed generally legit. So I contact the recruiter and basically say “hey, I’m not what you were looking for, but do you think your clients might be interested in an attorney.” I was assuming that if someone was doing a fair bit of placement with oil companies, throwing out a resume to their clientele might get me into some of the smaller companies I might not have otherwise heard of before, or even interest from bigger companies who skipped over my resume from the dreaded web application.

I get a quick email back saying “thanks for taking a leap of faith and reaching out to us.” They seemed genuinely interested and had someone call me back the next day. Pretty quickly however, it became apparent the caller had no idea what an attorney actually does. And they made a point of asking if I wanted instead to work on an oil rig (because… you know, why not?) The call didn’t instill me with confidence in the company, and then they asked me to come in to fill out an application. There was a bit of a pregnant pause and I non-verbally expressed I’d rather not with a long.. ehhhuuuuehhhhhh… before saying “Can’t I just do that online?”

Apparently not. So they setup a time for me to come in. I assumed for some sort of interview / paperwork hybrid thingy. I’m told they’ll send out an email with the info. Several days later the interview date arrives, but no email. So I merely assume it is an oversight and I drive on down to the address I had found earlier. The building was located in the ‘wrong’ section of town, but it was close enough to downtown that I just assume they were just being cheap on the rent. I had no idea…

I arrive at what can only be described as an abandoned building. There are random people sorta wandering around, not exactly street people, more like the general increase in random (and weird) passers-by you normally see when you enter the wrong neighborhood. I’m sitting in my idling car staring at the building, thinking, this can’t be it. So I call them up. Apparently, it is. I’m told to go through an unmarked door and go to the third floor. (I swear I’ve seen horror movies start like this) So I park and am shocked to find a working elevator that takes me to the 3rd floor. I walk out to an open air atrium with a bunch of offices facing a courtyard that has several rather large dead, potted trees in it, but that’s ok because the dead trees are covered in kudzu so they sorta look alive. The offices are all empty and dark. Not a soul seemingly around. The outside of the building was run down — the inside was veritably crumbling, and reminded me nothing so much as a by-the-hour hotel that someone tried to convert to office spaces.

I stood in place a few seconds taking it all in before deciding I’d rather not add a story here about how I was mugged by a crackhead going to a fake interview. So I turn to leave and get a few feet before an interesting dressed woman standing near the elevator and talking on a call phone says “Hey sugar, is there something you’re looking for?” My mind first wondered if I had just been offered what I thought I was… then I sorta said “Uhm, I was looking for ‘Company X’… they were supposed to be up here.” She pointed and said “oh yeah, honey, they over there in the corner.” and went back to her phone.

So I had a moment to consider whether to leave, or just to satisfy the morbid curiosity that was now equal with my self preservation instinct. I mean… I was already there, right? What’s the harm in going to look? So I wander over. It turns out, the offices aren’t all vacant…  There are probably three that have some folding chairs, and a folding table in the middle of the office… and a solo attorney’s name emblazoned on the door. (ouch). More telling was that there really wasn’t anything in those offices other than the folding table and chairs, no lights on, and no one inside. I end up at the corner office and the reason I didn’t see it is because it doesn’t really have a large atrium window, just a nondescript door with the company name taped to an 8.5X11 on the inside of a tiny window on the door.

I open the door, and the first thing through my mind was “I’ve made a mistake.” The office is tiny. It had at one point had carpeting that had long since been ripped out leaving a bare cement floor; but the glue was still rather prominent from where it had been removed at some indeterminate past. Someone had painted the walls and every other flat surface ‘Kelly Green’ in a rather fast and haphazard manner. The room was crammed with folding tables and cheap chairs manned by probably 20 or 30 call center serfs dialing out to ‘contacts’. I had walked into the office in a nice suit with a valise. Work stopped. Every eye was on me. This was apparently a highly unusual event.

In what I can only describe again as ‘weird’ I had not 1, but 3 people approach me and ask if they could help me one after another. Now, the room was very small, and everyone was already looking. So, the other 2 people had to have seen the first (and second) person talking with me, and then approached and asked if they could help too. I guess it was just a very helpful place. No one can find any record of the interview request, but they chalk it up to someone else’s incompetence and decide to move forward. I’m ushered into what at first glance I had assumed was a large closet, but in fact is their ‘conference room’. My mind is still processing, and at this point I feel like I shouldn’t walk out because that would be rude (not sure why my mind went that direction, my brain usually works faster than it was that morning).

I’m standing for a few moments too long in the conference room and the recruiter says “you look confused (or concerned.. or something).” My mind finally catches and I look over to the recruiter and finally say out loud what my brain had been screaming since I pulled up in my car. “I think I have made a mistake.” She brushes it off and says “oh don’t worry, we probably just misplaced the interview paperwork. It happens all the time.” The true meaning of my statement sails completely over her head.

The ‘recruiter’ asks me the exact same questions as the phone call several days earlier, including double checking to make sure I didn’t want to work on an oil rig. Then they hand me an application packet to fill out. I fill out some of it, but only some, because it was asking way, way more information than I felt comfortable giving to a recruiter not offering a job, let alone this recruiting company.  I say thanks and they assure me they’ll be calling shortly. I beat a hasty retreat, and count this one as a learning experience to listen a bit more to the voices in my head, and not always satisfy my morbid curiosity at what’s on the other side of the door.

I also harbor a slight fear that I’m going to have to deal with identity theft in the not so distant future from even what little information I gave them. I sincerely hope not. But it is a nagging thought nonetheless.

photoTrust me.. It wasn’t pretty. The photo does not capture the despair, disrepair, and dirt.

Interview #25: The state of frustration

Mo Government! Interview call and setup for about 12 hours from now. Sounds interesting.

Update: I am going to hold off on posting this interview. It went exceedingly well and I was told I was to be referred up the chain as ‘the’ candidate and get rubber stamped by the powers that be. I guess we shall see if that holds true.

Update 2: Fuck them.

So I submitted a resume to an atrocious state career site. Basically, think of the most user unfriendly system (no, not OSCAR, but damn close) that you can absolutely feel was made by the lowest bidder who was building the website while concurrently reading about how to build websites from a ‘For Dummies’ book. I had submitted probably 10 resumes to previous postings for the exact same job posted in multiple locations and never heard anything back… imagine my surprise when I got a call back and a request for an interview for the very next day.

So I drive out to the office. And by drive, I nearly mean a road trip, as the primary office was 100 miles away from me. I timed it, and the drive wasn’t that bad; less than an hour and a half because there was absolutely no traffic. I pull into the small town the office is based out of and had a slightly foreboding feeling. The town looked like the last dollar had dried up and blown away about 30 years ago. It had all the signs of following cities such as Gary, Indiana and Detroit into industrial decline; lots of boarded up buildings and almost nothing over 3 stories. At least Gary and Detroit had at one point been real cities… this place… really probably hadn’t.

Thankfully, the office was quite literally right off the highway. So I pull into a squat one story building and head inside. I briefly speak to the receptionist and I’m told to wait. The waiting room itself was distilled depression. Apparently there was no budget for cleaning with the state, as there was dirt everywhere and large spider webs that had long ago collected enough dust on them to basically be considered fabric. The waiting room itself could really only accommodate about 6 people… and it had 3 others sitting in it that looked (and acted) like rejects from a Jerry Springer casting call (woo state work).

So I’m finally called back for the interview. I walk back into a hallway with industrial carpeting so worn it is has a slight blackish color to it, and its ever so slightly sticky, which makes me believe that it had literally been worn down to the glue backing. Swanky. I sit down in a room across for one guy who informs me one of the 3 people who are interviewing me is running late and hasn’t arrived yet, so we start a bit of small talk. The managing attorney wanders in and we continue talking a bit half and half about random topics and more interviewy type questions. Eventually, the regional attorney walks in wearing a pair of jeans and a loose shirt. (casual? or too casual?) I am told (somewhat thankfully) that I’ll probably almost never be in the horribly depressing office, because I will be going to courthouses across multiple counties. The conversation continues and eventually they pull out a list of questions specific to the position.

The questions were really quite varied. And not only varied across the spectrum of my background and credentials, but they quizzed me on specifics of law and what decisions I would make based upon hypothetical situations. Normally, I would call this out as bullshit, because it was. This was for an entry level position, and they were asking questions that required quite a bit of nuanced knowledge of the field. I point it out, but at the same time, this was one of my sub-specialties and I was hitting a grand slam on their questions. They asked a few which I would normally even describe as trick questions; if you had this happen would you A or B, and the real answer was neither, you would do C followed by D.

At one point I was asked if I voted for Obama, I laughed and made a joke about the Hatch Act (yeah, I know a hard joke to make) but everyone laughed and they moved on. Yeah, it was pretty damn illegal to bring it up and the position was not political in any way shape or form.

So I was batting 1000 with the interview questions. The interview itself went on for 2 1/2 hours. It was long… I don’t think it was intended to be even half that, but the conversation was great and they were enjoying it too. It finally wound down and I got to ask the standard questions “when will you make a decision… yada yada” They told me they were deciding that day. The supervising attorney told me (in front of the other 2 interviewers) you have my vote as the candidate. They were all very friendly and were telling me that the background check would go through in about a month or less and the state office would call and offer over the phone. They told me that usually the candidate they select is hired and the process is merely a rubber stamping from the head office that wends its way through a few levels of the office before offering the hire. They were all but laying out what my schedule would be with them. I was told in as many words “you are exactly what this office needs” and “you’re the name we are selecting”.

So I was walking on air. It was a good interview. Now I just had to wait. And wait. And eventually begin to wonder why I hadn’t heard anything. And I finally got a letter telling me they went with someone else.

I sent the managing attorney my standard professional “WTF” email, asking for advice on what I can improve upon with my resume or interview. I really hope they respond, because I do actually want to know what the hell happened considering I was told I was the candidate point blank.

 

Interview #24: Money

So I got a call from an AM 100 firm asking for a phone screen interview. A few days later I get another call asking me to show up at their office for an interview “because their needs have changed”. I’m still not sure what that means, but I’m always game to show up for interviews – plus a Big Law office interview should be interesting if nothing else. I’m then told I’m going to be video conferencing with a couple attorneys in another state.

I sorta thought that meant that there would be someone in person to also speak with, but that turned out not to be the case here. Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I show up at the building and park in possibly the most expensive parking garage in this city (thankfully unlike previous ‘of course we will validate parking‘ interviews, this office actually did validate my parking). I then take a series of elevators to the top floor.

— Sidenote… I recall in other cities taking a single elevator up 100 floors or more, usually on an express elevator, but it was a single elevator. The city I am in now seems to have some sort of requirement that elevators can only go up 50 floors, and then you have to get out and go to a different bank of elevators to continue up any farther. Anyone know why this is? It just seems strange to me.

Anyway, saying it was the top floor wasn’t quite right. For this office, you go to the top floor, then get out of the elevator and walk up another flight to the their office. It almost seemed like they looked at the Realtor and said ‘we want the top floor’ were then told it was occupied, and then asked ‘What if we built something above that…”. That being said, it was beautiful. The decor dripped money, moreso than any other office I have been in. While I was waiting, someone came in whose sole job was to monitor and maintain the wood furniture and replace it if it started to look worn. I am quite confident that the fee charged by the decorator of this office cost more than most law firms spend on filling their office with actual furniture.

After waiting in an empty lobby for a few minutes, someone finally walked by. And actually got halfway down a side hallway before stopping and turning back to ask if anyone had helped me yet. It was a weird disconnect that apparently there are so few people who come into their fabulously decorated lobby, that someone waiting in it will be initially overlooked.

So after a few more minutes, I’m led back to a conference room with a large TV displaying the inside of a much less impressive conference room 1000 miles away, and I’m left there alone staring into another empty conference room. The existential implications were profound.

Finally the other attorney wandered into the frame and started talking with me and conducting the interview. I will say first that this was the most sane interview I’ve had in a very, very long time. The only weird part was that technically for this job, the direct supervisors were the people I was talking to 1000 miles away. I would likely almost never see them in person, but it also explained why I was sitting in an empty room talking to a TV. It also made me wonder why I couldn’t have done this interview over Skype from my apartment.

The whole situation gave a somewhat impersonal feel, but also showed that this was a very technically adept firm. The HR admin in one office setup an interview with several other attorneys across multiple states and it all went off incredibly smoothly. The only irritation was a slight delay of probably 1-2 seconds on the video-link which made me almost want to announce ‘over’ at the end of each of my answers, like some sort of ham radio.

But dear lord… if I was willing to kill to get the job from the prior interview, I can’t even tell you what I would do for these people. Probably something the Hague would want to talk with me about; but I think it might be worth it.

 

 

Interview #23: Good cop, Bad Cop

I think there must be one of those worthless business books written by a self-proclaimed guru with no credentials, that states the correct way to conduct an interview is to first have a sane interview with the candidate; and then send in the most obnoxious and deranged personality you can find for the second interview. I can not fathom any other explanation for why it seems to happen over and over again.

I went two rounds of interviews with a foreclosure firm recently. The first interview went quite well. I met with the named partner and the office manager. I got along quite well with the named partner, and based upon previous interviews, I thought that this was in the bag by scoring points with the big name of the office. Oh how wrong I could be. This particular firm was setup slightly differently, and operated on an almost franchise style of management. The firm had what amounted to a ‘mostly silent partner’ who rarely showed up and I would apparently have no contact with whatsoever. Except apparently for the interview. So, one of the silent partners showed up and was anything but. This is in contradistinction to the named partner who this time sat completely silent and smiling to my right through the whole second interview. Apparently I had misjudged where the power resided in this firm.

The silent partner started it off and said “I have three questions for you.” He asked for a specific citation to a state statute, the second question was a second point cite to a rule. I quickly stated ‘I don’t know’ to both questions, because honestly, that’s not something you should know off the top of your head for an interview for an entry level position which was offering to pay less than many paralegal salaries. (see the insane interview for reference).  He then proceeded to calmly step over the line of professionalism and well into the territory of douchbaggery and said “well, if you don’t know that, then what good are you to this office?”

(sidebar… so this means that if he had 3 questions already set, 2 of which he knew no interviewee could answer, he had his 1 phrased insult already chambered? Because he started off by saying, “I have 3 questions…” and I honestly don’t think I got a different version than anyone else, so the standard interview with this guy was to be insulted?)

There was a short beat wherein I had to process the lobbed insult which seemed a bit uncharacteristic in an interview, but at this point nothing much phases me; I’ve come to expect this abuse and like a Stockholm syndrome sufferer… I almost miss it when it’s not there. So relatively quickly my tenor shifts into a slightly more dick-ish stance and I state “I’m sorry, I was told that this position would include training. Was I misinformed?”

This answer actually caught him off guard, and he shifted in his seat a bit and stated that it would. So I continued on and told him I was bringing my multiple bars which were gotten via testing. My several advanced certifications, and my not insubstantial intelligence which I do believe was shown on my resume via several points. I finished my short (even keeled tirade?) statement by dismissively waving my hand and saying, “I am quite confident that I can pick up this relatively quickly.”

As with anybody who has just been told they said something stupid, the silent partner decided to double down on the dumb.  And he started listing off Probate, foreclosure, bankruptcy and asking if I had filed any of those cases before. Once he got to the third one I interrupted and said “Look, I am not hiding anything from my resume. If it’s not on there, I haven’t done it.” I proceeded to explain my actual litigation background in more depth. Which didn’t really sink in because he then proceeded to list off two other sub-specialties before stopping.

The interview came to a rather stilted end wherein the grinning named partner finally asked if I had any other questions before ending the interview. The interview itself only lasted about 15 minutes; not a horribly good sign. I walked back out, and the highlight of the experience was walking down to my car talking with another applicant for the job. He had a slightly similar background as me interestingly but he had just come out of his first interview with the foreclosure firm. I gave him the ‘3 questions’ on the off chance he was asked back and we chatted for a few minutes. He had previously worked at the County office referenced in Interview 18. I asked what his impression of the office was, his response was “It’s a meatgrinder… you dodged a bullet by not getting an offer there.” He said a few other choice remarks about the office as well as the interviewer I had spoken with, enough to seemingly legitimize his first statement, and that was the end of this latest interview.

I had been told they would get back to me in about 3 days. It’s been over a week. I’m not holding my breath for this one.

 

Interview #22: Welcome to the area, we just wanted to make sure you owned a suit.

In my continuing quest, I’ve sent out quite a few emails and resumes. They all have something in common however… they all state that I am looking for a job. Usually the attached resume and cover letter is a dead giveaway, but you have to make sure to bluntly state it for the more dense recipients. One of these cold resume emails is what brought me back to the hallowed halls of higher education.

I sent out a job seeking email to the tech capitalization office of a university, and I got a reply telling me to come in for “a meeting to discuss what I was looking for.” Now, most people would pretty readily recognize what I was looking for from the email and resume, vis a vis — a job, at the most basic level. For my part, I assumed I was headed into an interview, because when you send an email saying ‘I am looking for a job’ and someone else replies ‘Come over here so we can talk about that,’ one might naturally assume the ensuing conversation would be about a job.

Well, you would be wrong. At least so far as this meeting was concerned. I show up at a very well regarded university and park in the paid lot I was directed to by the secretary who was directed to schedule the interview. The grounds are quite lovely and I briefly enjoy the view before heading to the appointed office. The office is pretty much what you would expect from a university admin office, industrial carpeting, various functionaries and work study kids sitting in cubicles rather than a reception area; the standard attempt to use all the available space. Initially I am told to wait in the single folding chair sitting forlornly in a corner but instead I am quickly ushered into the office of the director.

I will start out by saying… they were an incredibly nice person. And I will follow it up by saying, they had no idea why they were meeting with me. Which is doubly odd since they were the one to directly setup the interview with me. We hit it off in the small-talk arena for awhile and talked about a few common points between us and gossiped about the academic world. Then they told me there was no job there. (thud). But there might be at some indeterminate point in the future, or maybe at the GC’s office, or somewhere. Then, to really drive the point home that they have no clue what attorneys do, they mentioned that they have some internships in the summer there. (not legal mind you… just business) Uh huh. They also seemed surprised to find out I was a patent attorney, which again seemed odd to me since it was on line 3 of my resume. and in the email. and in the cover letter. But honestly, the mention (offer?) of an unpaid internship usually gotten by undergrads in business majors really was the high point of the ‘interview’.

I’ve become an expert at disguising my disappointment, and to put it honestly, I’ve come to expect this type of thing. I think the real shocker will be when I get an interview for a job that actually exists. So we continued talking about whatever they wanted to talk about… for about 45 minutes more. I guess if they had been forthright and stated this would be more a networking meeting rather than about a job, I might not be posting it here. I’ve had lots of networking meetings at this point, but both sides are aware going into it that there isn’t a job offer in the balance.

So basically I got all dressed up to go gossip with someone in higher education. The meeting finally wound down, and I wandered back out of the office. As I left, I asked for the parking validation that had been promised in the email setting up the interview. The secretary looked at me and said “damn.. the person who does those things left for the day already.” I stood there for merely a moment and sighed, and said don’t worry about it.

Par for the course.

 

Interview #21: The one where I was interviewed because they didn’t know how to open my resume

So a cold spam resume sent to an Oil and Gas boutique resulted in an email telling me to show up for an interview. I arrive at a nice glass building and park in the connected garage. As a random side note, the garage had rather ridiculous infestation of spiders along the I-beams of the ceiling making me shirk away from every surface and slouch slightly with a vigilant eye upwards. But, inside the building it was quite lovely, and there was a pretty veranda with tables and chairs overlooking a little brook running behind the building that had a whole bunch of turtles in it!

Anyway, back on topic… I get to the office and it was a nice lobby, although some rather cheap flooring, but it was quite large. I’m told to wait and after about 10 minutes one of the soon-to-be interviewers comes out and asks if I brought a copy of my resume with me because apparently they can’t find where they put it. (apparently not a tech savvy office if they can’t search thru email…) So I hand them a copy and I’m ushered into the named partners office. Imagine a living room from 1975 done up with wood paneling and a lot of leather.

The interviewers for this 20+ attorney firm consist of the named partner, and 2 associates who are very likely younger than I am. We start talking about O&G in general and what my interest is in it, I answer I am interested in general business law and O&G is a subset I’d be interested in pursuing considering.. well its Texas (lots of O&G firms). Now, just to clarify, I come from a place where there basically was no oil or gas activity at all, although rather recently there is a great deal. There were no classes in law school because it was the wrong part of the country to have such things. So most of my answers to the O&G info are based on studying for the Texas bar exam.

This shouldn’t be a huge surprise, because this firm had people who had multiple bars in places all over the country, and well, its pretty obvious from my resume… which they must have read before I got here… right? So the general Q&A goes on for awhile and finally I ask (because if you recall… this was a cold resume with no job posting) “what are you looking for, for this position?”

The named partner speaks up and says “7-10 years experience doing title examination opinions in all the places you have bar licenses in.” Silence descends upon the room. WTF. He (theoretically) had looked at a copy of my resume which had zero O&G on it, and pretty close to zero title work on it, and oh let’s not forget I only graduated 4 years ago… so… the whole experience part was a bit of a wash. How was I supposed to respond to that? So after a few seconds of silence I finally just answered “Well, at least I have the bar licenses part.”

The interviewers seem to start winding down and I get asked the great “do you have any questions for us?” The firm had listed on their website that in addition to O&G they also did IP – specifically copyright, trademark, patents, and trade secret work; oh yeah, and Wills, trusts, estate planning, and probate. So, thinking I could leverage my other skills in place of the apparent absence of O&G work I speak up. “I saw on your website that you do IP work…” that was all I got out.

The named partner (possibly a bit too emphatically) spoke up “That’s a LIE.” Once again… silence in the room. Was he saying I was lying? Or the website? I was stuck just sort of staring – waiting for more, and finally he decided to extrapolate. “We don’t do any of that, I think in the past 20 years we’ve done it twice for a client.” So, no… I can’t leverage any other specialties. Apparently the person who made the website never actually consulted with the named partner.The firm ONLY did one thing. O&G title opinions. The other dozen ‘practice areas’ listed were space fillers and they didn’t actually do any of them. (ethics of legal advertising aside, how the hell is someone from outside the firm supposed to know that from looking at their crappy website?)

Suddenly it fell into place. The named partner was computer illiterate. He didn’t look at my resume because it was a PDF attachment… he didn’t download it or open it. He read the brief introductory blurb of my email and made a snap determination on the 3-5 sentences therein. He had no input on his website or interest therein… yeah… I suddenly realized that the first time anyone in that room had seen my resume was as I was sitting down for the interview. There was literally no chance of me getting this job because Mr. Techno-illiterate partner had no idea what my background was because he didn’t read my resume or cover letter, he just saw from the email that I had bar licenses in the right states and he was hoping I had the background he was looking for.

So the interview basically hit a wall and wound down pretty quickly thereafter. I tried to make some small talk surrounding a specific hobby listed all over his bio, but it went nowhere fast. The only bright spot was when I was asked how soon I could start if they were interested. I checked my watch, looked up and said “is now too soon?”

I was ushered back out of the office and felt vaguely confused by the whole ordeal. It was a friendly enough interview minus the whole “7-10 years of experience in a field I don’t have”. Maybe they were looking to train someone…

Yeah.. the answer was no. The email showed up an hour later. I contacted one of the interviewers with the standard “thank you, can you give me some feedback” notes. They basically said I needed to have shown more interest in the field by having joined about a half dozen different professional organizations in O&G to show commitment to the field. (mind you a field I have been incapable of practicing based on geography until the last 30 days). So, pay a bunch of membership fees to organizations that were more local than national, for a sub-specialty I couldn’t possibly have been connected with up until now.

Super. Great advice. I literally couldn’t be more happy with your help. Next time open the damned resume before you setup an interview.

Interview #20 – Murder for Hire

The first of the networking garnered interviews!

I was turned onto a medium sized commercial litigation firm by one of the line of networking contacts I’ve talked to over the past few weeks, and I got a call back. Well, actually I got an email, a very ambiguous email saying something to the effect of ‘we should talk.’

It started out I was meeting the attorney for breakfast. Personally I thought that was an odd choice but I don’t cast aspersions regarding food choice when there is a possibility of actual work. Breakfast at a location near me, turned into lunch, turned into a 15 minute meeting at their office. Pinning the attorney down with an actual time was ridiculous, the final email said “just show up anytime after 2:30”. Nothing in the emails ever actually said ‘interview’ so I hoped for the best and headed to their office at the ambiguously appointed time.

I parked by the address and headed over to the tallest skyscraper for miles in any direction. I walked into the lobby and checked the address, top floor. Swanky. I got to their office, and the first thought through my mind was “I would legitimately murder someone to work here.”

It turns out it was a job interview, but a very abbreviated one. The partner had been tasked with finding a few people to add to the firm without any real guidance by the managing partner; And they were headed out on a longer vacation at the end of the day, so the interview was going to have to be a fast one because of all the last minute work they needed to get done. I was effectively the first person they were interviewing. The job sounded amazing. Without going into many specifics, the job entailed almost everything I would want to do in law, and had the added benefit of being told I would likely be required to fly to London on a regular basis (the horror).

Then, of course, because it is me… the ‘but’ was finally stated. It turns out they have no timetable for hiring. The partner told me point blank, they may be looking to hire next week (unlikely) or in 9 months or more. They just didn’t know. I suppose it was nice that they were honest with me. But dear god, I was just dangled the perfect job in front of me wherein they said they were very interested in me but have no idea when they may decide to actually hire.

But truly… I would legitimately kill someone at this point for that job.

Interview #19 – Bait and Switch

Applied to a Junior Associate position at a nice mid-sized civil trial firm of about 30-ish attorneys. I got a call back and setup an interview. Received an email relaying the instructions to get to the office and various particulars relating to who I would be talking to etc.

Re-reading the email it never specifically mentioned what the job position I was actually interviewing for. I apparently assumed it was for the position I applied to (weird, right?). I roll into the firm’s office and the admin who setup the interview was out sick. Then the partner I was supposed to be interviewing with was subbed out for 2 associates (huh?). Sat down with two waifish women associates who started in with “Well we assume you know the particulars of the job from the posting…” Based on interview 17… I told them I would rather if we could quickly run through the particulars of the job and who I would specifically be working with (see… I am learning).

Boom. Document review. Temp project. The smile on my face drooped noticeably and at a certain point they noticed I was no longer apparently being nearly as attentive or perky. I appoligized and said “I’m sorry… I applied 2 weeks ago to this firm for an associate position. I assumed this interview was for that position.” No.. no it was not. They asked if I was still interested in the doc review. They dangled the hilarious trope of ‘maybe we might hire you if just possibly we like you’ which then spun to asking if I could work from home. (how would anyone ‘get to like you’ working from home I wonder…) The blonde of the duo then asked me 3 successive times if while doing reviews if I understood what I was reading. Apparently they had problems with people actually not understanding those squiggly lines on the page. Forget that I had more than twice the credentials of the 2 associates in front of me combined; they wanted to know if ‘I done read good.’

What little charm I have evaporated. I spoke frankly about document review and what a blemish it is on one’s resume. I told them I was actively seeking a real attorney position and expected I would have a job very shortly. I reiterated that I had applied twice to this firm and the last application was 2 weeks prior for a real position, which this was not. The blonde swung back around and wanted to know how much experience I had with Relativity. She really didn’t quite get it. I finished out the interview even though I should have walked out.

It’s a shame. The firm was in a beautiful building and had a very nice office. It had potential. It just turned out they were the standard douchbags that populate most of the legal field. Bait-n-switch job postings… nice.

minor update: I figured that since it could have been an error, I would contact the firm and make sure I wasn’t missing out on a real opportunity. I initially contacted the admin who setup the interview. No response. So after a few days, I reached out to the partner I was supposed to interview with… Radio silence. So apparently their M.O. actually was to try to pull in applicants with legit sounding job postings and then offer document review crap and hope it all worked out for them.

Interview #17 update: All Things to All People

I can never leave well enough alone, so I contacted the managing partner a week later to see where the misstep within the interview actually was (asking in a much more political manner). As a bit of a masochist, I can’t help but replay each of my interviews in my head  ad nauseam trying to figure out what I did wrong and where I can improve. At a certain point, you just have to write them and ask “what did I do wrong?”

Now I definitely feel there was some name-game issues with the Named Attorney. I almost wish that had been the whole reason, because that I can understand. No… the reason for my rejection was a new one. And I had to re-read what the managing partner sent me a few times to actually understand, because it looked like he was reiterating the reason he was told, and was trying to make it mesh with the interview we had prior.

The problem was that I had applied generically sending a cold resume to the firm for an as yet unlisted job which had no set criteria. And each attorney who interviewed me apparently walked into the room assuming I would be working in their practice group and apparently no one got together and determined what I would actually be doing if I were hired. Attorney 1 really liked my diverse set of skills and thought it was my strongest asset. He worked in a civil litigation practice group focused on motions practice. He also wanted to use me for my IP related background and potentially create an added niche within the firm to draw more business from existing clients.

Attorney 2 thought my diverse interests in the law were more a liability and therefore I lacked focus. He told me they wouldn’t be using me for any IP work and that he was interested in using me for his trial litigation section which would involve frequent travel.

Attorney 3 was overworked and just wanted someone that could help shoulder the burden of some of the appeals as he was the only appellate attorney in the firm. He wanted me to work primarily on research and writing and answering the various back and forth prior to arguments.

So, without copying and pasting the email… the extrapolation from what I was sent, amounted to saying that I should have presented myself very differently to each attorney. Seemingly, so much so that if they actually had gotten together and talked, it would have seemed like they had each interviewed a different candidate. And I was supposed to determine how to create my schizophrenic personalities for each based solely on their short bio-synopsis on the firm website. (as it was, I dropped so much info from each of their bios I thought I sounded like a creepy stalker memorizing facts about them.)

So, the reason I didn’t make it by this interview was because I was supposed to work in attorney 1’s civil practice group, while traveling and doing full time trial work with attorney 2, while writing appeals for attorney 3. And no one bothered to stop and talk to each other to decide what they were actually looking for when interviewing me. Strangely enough, had we all been in the same room at once, it would have been obvious. But they were all one on one interviews, so I was the only one who ended up with a full picture. Awesome. That’s some great coordination. Real stellar work. How the hell do they even manage to conduct inter-firm business if this is how they handle something as simple as an interview.

I’ve had experience litigating trials, doing motions practice, and doing appellate work… but somehow I was supposed to be able to claim to have focused in all of them, and have done nothing else. The joke of it all is that this firm had originally done Med Mal, and then after Tort Reform, changed to a completely unrelated specialty. So I guess the moral is, it’s good to be diverse when it suits us, and bad at all other times, unless we say otherwise. Or as the title says, I was supposed to be All things to All people.

 

Interview #18 – Reduction to the Mean

Reduction to the mean… the lowest common denominator… stupid… dumb… idiotic — take your pick.

On my latest foray to attempt to find a job, I doubled down and was able to schedule an interview a day before my ill-fated second interview of Interview 17. This interview was for an Asst. District Attorney position. I figured I had a pretty good chance considering my background which involved working for a DA previously.

This particular DA’s office handled both misdemeanor and felony for the county (i.e. the Cook County system). I had primarily previously been working in a non-unified system, and dabbled later a bit with the civil side in a unified system, so I was familiar with the concept but the painfully bad execution was something new to me. Anyway, I arrived and was interviewed by a division chief of the DA’s office.

It was possibly the worst sounding legal job outside another stint in document review.

Here’s how it went down. First, they explained how the place was setup and where they fit as a cog within the vast machine that was the office. At this point they looked at me and basically said “Why would you want to work here considering what you have on your resume?”  Uh, oh… this has already started off on the wrong foot. Specifically they were pointing to my IP / Patent background and also various specializations. I deflected and basically turned it back to my experience working in criminal law. I talked about my experience and went into my background working in both criminal and civil law. How I had an extensive background doing exactly what they were looking for. Then I talked about my appellate experience and how I enjoyed specifically that I could see a case all the way through to the end, all the way from trial court to the supreme court if it was appealed that far.

They interrupted me. “Yeah, you wouldn’t be doing that here.” Huh? Howso? It turned out that they had a completely separate appellate division and that anything appealed to anywhere, from anywhere went to them. So no more following your case from inception to its ultimate end. Huh… well I suppose that would make it slightly easier for the trial attorney. You wouldn’t have to worry about researching and writing appeals; even though that was one of the more interesting parts of practicing law in a criminal court. Then they told me that they don’t hire directly into the appellate division, so I would not be doing any appeals if hired there at all.

They mentioned something about my materials and I piped up, that if they needed anything else, I could send it to them, and oh yeah I’m not sure if it was included in the packet of information but I have a writing sample and if they want more I have others. I got as far as pulling it from my valise and I had just started to move my hand toward their desk when they waved it off and said “No need. You won’t be doing any writing.”

uhhhh… I was sorta frozen with the pages drooping from my fingers as I struggled to comprehend what they just said. As an attorney… I would not be writing at all… and they didn’t care about my work product. The gears in my brain finally caught and I said, “I’m not going to be doing any motions practice either?” And they said, “Sure you are, but it’s all oral and done on the fly in court.” So, no writing appeals, no written motions. I’m beginning to be confused by what I would actually be doing.

At some point, I went into my trial experience, a great portion of which was summarily dismissed by the interviewer as ‘merely plea bargaining’. They then proceeded to explain what the position would entail, which effectively was significantly … plea bargaining, or at least exactly the same as the experience which was apparently not valid per the interviewer.

Here’s where it got dumb. No matter who you are. No matter your experience and background. This particular office shoehorned you into doing traffic tickets and nothing but when you started. You could be a 10 year veteran appellate partner from a firm, and if you were a new hire at this DA’s office, you got stuck into the lowest position doing tickets. No writing. No appeals. No thinking. You then had to stick it out for a year before you were promoted upward. Each move up, you were given marginally more responsibility. It could legitimately take you 3+ years before you had to write a single page of legal work product for the office based on the career outline they laid before me.

Quite literally, they seemed very proud of the fact that merit had little to do with promotion within the system. Here, then, was the epitome of a government office. Which meant that mediocrity rose in the ranks, because anyone who was worth their salt, left and went onto better jobs. I asked what the attrition rate of the office was… apparently it was high, with ‘someone leaving every week or so’. But that was ok, because it was a big office, and the interviewer was sure they were just leaving because they could get better money elsewhere.

Here’s where it took a turn for the surreal. The interview was winding down, and I asked when they would be making a decision on who to hire. Seemingly a simple question. Well, not so much as it turned out. The system worked like this… The office made offers to graduating law students in the area; some who had interned there and some who had not (the ‘some who had not’ concept was anathema where I had worked previously, for a wide variety of reasons). These positions were guaranteed so long as they passed the bar. Any open positions were filled first by those offerees, and the remainder were filled by outside applicants. I then asked, how many positions they were filling… and this is when they dropped the WTF. They weren’t sure. In fact, the interviewer admitted to me that it was entirely possible that all positions would be fulfilled by the guaranteed positions to the offerees.

*twitch*

So.. I just applied and had an hour long interview… for a job which doesn’t even necessarily exist. What is it with local governments interviewing for non-existent positions. I feel like these job postings should include a warning in fine print *Caution: This job may or may not actually exist.*

So I was applying for a job which may not exist, which required significantly less ability than what I had done as an intern, and would take me years to work up to actually using any cognitive processes, promotion would be on seniority as opposed to merit, and you will be paid badly.

Awesome. Where do I sign up.

At the end of the interview I was walked out of the office to the lobby, and the interviewer met the next attorney waiting to be interviewed for the likely-imaginary job posting. I wish the bar or the ABA would fucking bother to do something about this.

 

** one of the better moments came when the interviewer told me the market was so bad, that they had fully licensed attorneys working in the office for free as interns. I had a moment wherein I was about to ask about the legality of that and if they were being covered by the office’s liability insurance… and then I thought best not to completely ruin my interview for the imaginary position. Their employment violations are their own concern, and any attorney who hasn’t considered what could happen as a result of this is foolish at the minimum.