Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

800 Words About Callback Interviews

A partner said to me, “Look, the work is going to be pretty much the same at any of these places. Unless you have a very specific kind of law you’re looking to practice, and everyone says this firm or that firm is the absolute leader in that field, then the work’s going to be the same wherever you go. And you can say you’re going to choose based on the people, but the people everywhere are going to tell you that the people there are great; and if they didn’t like the people there, they wouldn’t still be working there, so what can you really tell from that? Plus you meet a handful of lawyers out of the hundreds in each place – it’s not a big enough sample. Think of it this way: really there are no wrong choices. You’ll end up here, or you’ll end up down the street, but wherever you are, it’s all pretty much the same.”

And with that, my callback interviews were off and running. It’s hard to go through this process without feeling like you’re turning into a cartoon version of yourself. In reruns. “Here’s the episode where I talk about my senior thesis and the lawyer nods her head.” It's been on seven times this week. Like South Park. “Here's the episode where I accidentally walk into the wall.” In between interviews at one firm, I asked the recruiter who was escorting me from room to room if I could use the restroom. She looked at me as if I’d violated some rule of interview etiquette – that we ought to be trained well enough to know not to drink too much before the interviews, because a good lawyer doesn’t ever go to the bathroom. He just absorbs it all back into his bloodstream. On the way to the bathroom, I concocted an elaborate story that I would use to explain my trip just in case one of the lawyers were to accuse me of unprofessionalism for having gone to the bathroom in the middle of the callback interview process. It was research, I decided. Surely seeing how clean a firm’s bathroom is can be an important factor in making the ultimate decision. I was forcing myself to go when I didn’t really have to, just to do some undercover bathroom research. Yes, that was it. And sparkling clean. They won points for that. Three points, to be exact. Three points on my firm-o-matic ranking machine (licensed by Vault, by the way). Bathroom cleanliness is worth a maximum of three points; variety of snacks in vending machines can earn up to seven points, a water cooler is an automatic five, every plush piece of furniture I pass is worth one-and-a-half, and every painting of an unidentifiable landscape that looks nothing like a city is worth two for atmosphere. It does seem like the art in some of these offices shares a similar theme. “We’ve all moved into the big city because the work is exciting here and life is grand. So let’s put up paintings of fields and farms and hilltops and meadows on the wall. Remind us of life back before we lived in an antiseptic office building for a hundred hours a week.”

I walk into the second lawyer’s office. She must have been chosen as one of my interviewers because we have the same color eyes. I feel like I imagine the interviewers are more carefully chosen for us than they really are, and I find myself thinking up complex reasons for why I’ve been assigned to meet with each of these people. Her husband works for a software company. I used to work for a software company. That must be it. He’s a baseball fan; I mentioned in my on-campus interview I like baseball. She just came here from the firm down the street and really wants to talk smack about it; I mentioned to the recruiter by accident that the firm down the street is really my first choice. Oh, wait. That one might actually make sense. But seriously, I have a friend at a firm who burst my bubble on this one. “They send out e-mails that ask who’s free to interview on Thursday at 4,” he said. “And that’s how they pick the interviewers.” Oh. And next he told me there’s no Santa Claus. It’s such a letdown.

Santa Claus in the lobby, by the way: four points. Two-ply toilet paper: three points. People saying hello to each other when they pass in the hall: ten points. People spitting on each other when they pass in the hall: minus ten points. People leaping from the windows – floors 1-25: minus five points; floors 25-50: minus ten points; floors 50+: minus fifteen points. Free food: one point per bite.

Heck, my system probably makes more sense than whatever it is Vault does.