Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So you're not getting any callbacks: a primer.

This column originally appeared in the Georgetown Law Weekly Vol. 43 No. 6 on Oct 24, 2006.

I have a secret to confess: When I was a 2L I did not get a single call back from EIW (Early Interview Week, which is the on-campus interview program). Not one. I went on thirty-three (thirty-three!!!!) interviews during EIW, and snagged zero of them. I write this column for all the students here who have a rejection letter stack bigger than they ever expected; if you have a job/clerkship/rich spouse, then congratulations. This column may not make much sense to you.

Let's review: I have approximately a 2.8 GPA. Please do not freak out because I told you my GPA; I have revealed much more damning, and much more biological, information in this column over the last three years. I have what is generally considered a "B-" GPA, which is totally and completely adequate so long as I do not try and become an actual lawyer. I have heard tell of law firms that hire people with such a GPA, but most of those turn out to just be Nigerian scam artists. The job search experiece was not an exercise in self-empowerment for me; it was an exercise in reliving junior-high era self-esteem issues.
Getting a job is stressful in general, whatever your profession may be. What makes getting a job as a law student more emotionally crippling is the fact that your very best friends, the ones who drink with you, study with you, and occassionally make out with you, are so much better at getting them than you. People who are your peers, who take the same classes and eat lunch at the same time, are much, much more desireable lawyer-material than you are. You know that because you see them take time off from class to "go on callbacks," "fly to interviews," and "get offers." You, on the other hand, are busy trying to network with your mother's dentist's brother, because that is the only personal leverage you've got left.

Why am writing about all this? I'm writing about all this because there is a series of untruths we've been spoonfed, and I want to relieve you of them. I will be the ipecac of untruth.

Untruth #1: EIW is stressful.
Bullhockey. EIW is an annoying meat market, but you at least leave it with some honor. The real stress is the four, five, eight months you spend after EIW getting rejection letters and waiting for a job offer. You think dressing up in a suit and lying for fifteen minute interviews is bad? Try sitting in the cafeteria and overhearing people at another table discussing the pros and cons of accepting one of their offers versus another. THAT is stressful, not EIW.

Untruth #2: You may not be at the top of your class, but interviewers will get a sense of how great an addition you would be.
The average interviewer has the following ability to bump you to the top of this list if you have sub-par grades and a great interview: none. Interviews are done via committee, and no one impresses so much out of a 15 minute interview that they can convince the firm to hire you over someone with a so-so interview and a 3.8. What the interviewer CAN do, however, is write you a nice email back to elaborate on the rejection letter's opinion that you do, in fact, have a bright future ahead of you in law. And that there were many qualified applicants. Note, however, how few rejections letters say that you are one of them.

Untruth #3: It was a mistake to come to law school.
You're just thinking this because you'll have almost a quarter of a million dollars in debt to pay off. You're worried that it was a mistake to come here, that maybe you should have accepted that offer to go to Local Regional Law School on a full scholarship, or that maybe you shouldn't have come at all. This is crap: you're not even halfway through law school, and the reason you've soured on it is that you haven't done anything yet. You think your difficulties during 1L mean that you won't be good lawyer? The only people who care about what happened 1L in the long run are people who write law school guidebooks. You haven't hit the meat of law school, which come up in your 2L and 3L classes, or in your clinic, or in your internship. If you want to feel better about yourself as a future lawyer, sign up for pro-bono work; I guarantee you'll be less likely to feel bad about the privilege of being a law student.

Now, let's move on to some truths.

Truth #1: You only wanted a firm job because that seemed to be the thing to do.
You don't actually want a firm job. What you want is to be a lawyer, which is not the same as being a firm lawyer. Everyone around is getting firm jobs, and that gnawing chasm between you and them feels the same as when everyone else saw The Matrix without you and kept making references to it you didn't get. You feel like you're doing something wrong because you're not juiced into the $$$ for the summer, and that you're in trouble. THAT'S why you feel bad, not because you were really dying to work as a summer associate for the firm of Wasp Name, Wasp Name, Jewish Name, LLP. You haven't considered what more there is to do as a lawyer and with a law degree because no one really talks about anything except applying for a big firm; there's more and you shouldn't be afraid to look for it.

Truth #2: Oddly enough, your future happiness is independent of the crappiness of your job search experience.
This is not a feel-good statement; it is the truth. If you think having a big firm job right now will make you happier in the long run, then you are just projecting your self-worth onto something you think you can control. A big firm job will not make you happier; it WILL make you richer. Now, money is a good thing. Anyone who tells you that money is evil has never been broke (Credit: Ice Cube). No, my point here is that, if you look at the top partners and the senior associates at most any law firm, you will not find people happier or more intellectually challenged than in the population at large. Is the rate of alcoholism greater or less in the big firms than in the population at large? You know the answer to that question without even having to look it up. Don't trick yourself into creating any surrogate for happiness; only happiness is happiness. You WILL get a job, you WILL end up hating in about five to seven years (this applies to everyone, the bad and the good students), and you will take up a hobby that you will like more than your practice. "Yes, I'm a lawyer, but what I really like doing is Indonesian cooking."

Next week, I'll discuss what it is like to be a 3L, jobless, and with a family history of diabetes and heart disease.

Mark Nabong's columns can be found online at http://chicago-typewriter.blogspot.com.


Blogger Lyco said...

Hey P,

this is a really fantastic post - I'm gonna send a link to it in fact. Although I really don't agree that EIW is not stressful. I was in a similar boat to you, and you're right that the latter experiences affect you more... but EIW was really taxing on me. Just my cent.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Paleobiology said...

Hey Lyco

Thanks for the compliment & the link! I agree that EIW was stressful and demeaning; I was just surprised that it wasn't the most demeaning activity I went through last year.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter's in the same boat, and it's interesting that she's come to the same conclusions. I like you guys a lot better than the shoo-ins for big firm jobs. I predict you will have much more interesting futures and a more profound effect on the universe. Carry on!

10:01 AM  
Blogger Paleobiology said...

Thanks, LawMom! I can only hope that my own mother never reads anything I post here...

9:55 PM  
Blogger hsuper said...

Didn't do EIW, but did do clerkship apps... man, is this column right on about that? Yes, yes it is.

Except that with clerkships, there's only the callback, and no first interview, so you get those "nice" letters from people you've never even met. Which makes it all the more special.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Maddie said...

Great post, but at the moment it didn't make this jobless 3L feel any better. :(

Do you think someday I'll be able to throw away my stack of rejection letters?

5:24 AM  
Anonymous AC said...

Dear Chicago Typewriter,

Just when I had nearly forgotten about your blog, you turn up in my google search for Ways to Shore Up Your Self-Esteem When You Anticipate an Ungodly Wave of Rejection.

Thanks, bud. Wish you were still donning the pages of the Law Weekly.


8:20 PM  

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