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.

Monday, April 19, 2004

A 'Job Advice' Session for the Soul-less

"Go to firm social events, and collect information from what people say when they're drunk - but you can't be hammered yourself." This is apparently what the Office of Career Services exists to tell us. At today's session, "What Law School Doesn't Teach You, But You Really Ought To Know," I learned that I should spend my summer lying, manipulating, brown-nosing, scheming, and "the most important rule: don't be yourself" in order to ensure my law firm success. Aside from the shameful fact that there are actually people who will take this advice and become just a few more examples of why people hate lawyers, it's even more shameful that the school has its name on the session. If my tuition is paying for this, I want my money back. We should aim higher than this.

"I'm going to teach you how to turn fabulous opportunities into great careers," we were told. And how to turn pounds of raw meat into delicious beef jerky in just twenty-five minutes with the brand-new, state-of-the-art deluxe Food Dehydrator. "It's not how smart you are. It's how smart people think you are. It's not how hard you work - it's how hard people think you work." Come on. "Don't be yourself, and don't follow your instincts." In other words, be phony and disingenuous. Exactly the kind of person everyone loves to be around.

"Students often ruin their image by making casual comments around the office. If someone asks you how you like the job, say 'I'm learning a lot,' even if what you're thinking is 'I'm learning a lot about how I don't want to work here.'" At this point in the session, I was learning a lot. I was learning a lot about sad the world is, and how pathetic it is that someone thought this was something students would benefit from. Here are some more things I'm going to say when they ask me how my summer is going - not lies, of course - just ways of "disguising the truth" - "I've never had an experience quite like this," "It's certainly been something," "What a great question," and "Pardon? I'm not quite sure I caught that."

"Always carry a copy of the evaluation criteria with you - so you can constantly check that you're getting the right experience. Keep a file, and write down every compliment you get." November 13, 1:25 P.M. Paralegal said she liked my tie. November 14, 2:03 P.M. Senior partner thanked me for holding the door for him. November 15, 9:17 A.M. Fifth-year associate said I have nice penmanship. What exactly is the file for? Creeping people out, or evidence for the wrongful termination lawsuit after you're accidentally "yourself" one day and tell someone you think you might be coming down with a cold. Tsk, tsk.

"Make friends with the support staff to get gossip... one associate [bribed them with] muffins every week." Wait, wait, wait - so you're not supposed to make real friends at work - "work is not a confessional" - but you're supposed to make friends to the extent they can feed you gossip (if you feed them muffins). Got it. Personal integrity, no, I don't think you're part of this session, sorry.

"Never get defensive when people are criticizing your work." "If someone comes back to you and says you did something wrong, you should just show them the e-mail you sent them to confirm the assignment, and prove [they're the ones wrong]." Uh, consistency? "Not my fault - the e-mail I sent you said THIS!" sounds pretty defensive to me.

Bottom line: I think this stuff is awful. I think that the law school underestimates us if they think any advice like this is helpful advice, and should be ashamed if they think that this advice in particular is appropriate, dignified, or even any good. The workplace environment the speaker would like us to create is an environment I can't imagine anyone finding fulfilling, enjoyable, or even tolerable, whether a law firm or any place of business. My "most important rule" from now on: don't go to sessions like these (unless you need to write a column).