Ah, Autumn. The smog takes on a golden hue here in Los Angeles, the birds fall from the trees, and the graffiti combines the festive colors of the season with the bright-eyed eagerness of students returning to class. “Wrd up Mutha! Frankie!” Ah, word up indeed, Frankie, word up indeed.
And with it comes interview season — my chance to eat gourmet food for free, drink to excess, and play head games so cruel and intrusive that they would make Hannibal Lecter take me off his Christmas card list.
Yes, interview season, when hordes of second-year law students arive at the firm, having secured a callback interview by refraining from drooling on themselves or addressing the on-campus interviewer with a racial epithet.
They come here shiny-faced, dreamy-eyed, believing that this will be the job where they will Make a Difference and Forge a Rewarding Career in the law, including enjoying Work and Life Balance, Significant Pro Bono Work, and Significant Courtroom Experience in a Collegial Environment ™. They come seeking a coveted spot in our summer associate program, where in the summer between their second and third years of law school, they will be paid obscenely, pampered nauseatingly, lied to exclusively, fed gluttonously, and rendered drunk frequently, all in hopes of convincing them that the life of the law is glamorous.
It’s my job to crush their spirits.
Well, not right in the interview, obviously. And not even during the summer program, unless it becomes obvious that they are not Firm Material and we want them to drop out rather than mess up our nice offer ratio.
No, I get to wait until they have signed on as associates, shouldered debt for silly cars and overpriced apartments in Manhattan Beach, and gotten accustomed to the lifestyle. THEN I break them.
Now and then, though, I feel a twinge of pity (or twinge of something — now that I think about it, it usually happens when I have had Mexican for lunch) and crush their illusions beneath my wingtipped heel right during the interview, lifting the veil and giving them a true notion of what the life of the law is like. Better that way, really. Like ending a relationship that’s going nowhere or ripping a band-aid off quickly. They don’t build up their hopes and dreams that way, and can start building up the spiritual calluses that will serve them well as a wretched first year associate. Whenever I do this, it’s always so cute how they try to wrest their little game faces back on, pasting on that smile as they soldier on into the next interview. Attaboy!
Now and then I interview someone and realize that they already know perfectly well what they are getting into and are as cynical as I am about it. Then we can give each other the nod of kindred spirits, like two serial killers bumping into each other carrying Hefty bags on the way to the lake. Usually we give up on the interview and talk about money.
But mostly, I just have fun. I get to have so little, it’s only fair. Often, by the time I get to an interview, I have been shat upon by partners, clients, opposing counsel, clerks, and judges that day. I cannot allow this to simply build up in me. The laws of physics must be respected — there must be an opposite and equal reaction.
So I ask them demeaning, impossible questions. “Hmm. I see as an undergrad, you dual-majored in Communications and Philosophy. Explain, in detail, how that will enable you to serve our clients in the manufacturing and securities sectors.” This is actually good practice for them, as they will soon be devising meaningless answers to judges and clients. I like to ask them to explain their interest in an obscure part of the firm’s practice in which they are probably not interested, emphasizing that it is an important and growing department. Or I might ask them a hypothetical legal question to test their analytical skills. Of course, the question might have some internal inconsistencies, and could even be completely incoherent. I get a little draggy in the afternoons.
Once I’ve tired of toying with them, it’s time for the recruiting dinner. Off we go, one or two applicants and two to four lawyers, to gorge ourselves and drink ourselves silly at the firm’s expense. Or, the lawyers gorge themselves. The applicants are usually too terrified to enjoy the meal. I like to strongly recommend something extremely messy from the menu, like lobster or boullibaise. Especially if they are wearing white. It’s also fun to ask serious questions the instant they have taken a bite, then look bored and lose interest as they chew so that they can answer. Occasionally, you get one who thinks that manners require them to match the lawyers drink for drink. Heh. Plus, if I want to eat half their dessert, I can. And it’s free!
Also, it’s great ego development. They all act like they think that I am the funniest and most interesting person on the planet. How else could I get young, attractive, intelligent professional women to hang on my every word, giggle at my jokes, and pay me respect? Unless I had coke to share, I mean.
The golden season will come to an end soon. I probably won’t get more than six or seven free meals out of it. But for that brief, shining month, I walk a god among men.
Or, at least, among law students.
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