How to Make Sure You Have a Horrible Interview For a Law Job

The biggest reason so many people end up disillusioned in law school is because of unmet expectations. We come in expecting great jobs, interesting work, and endless opportunities. We later come to find out that jobs are scarce, the work is boring, and the opportunities are limited. Thus, there often comes a turning point when we have to decide whether to accept it for what it is and take it, or move on to look for something better. If you have been offered a job that you don’t want, but think you need, you have an important decision to make: Do you accept it and the accompanying unhappiness, or do you take the road less traveled and go for what you really want?

My second year of law school was a personal struggle: I realized that I wasn’t really interested in becoming a lawyer anymore, but I didn’t want to burn that bridge yet. I had no interest in a large firm job, so by default I thought I’d end up with a small firm. I had a few interviews, with varying success, but I hadn’t accepted any jobs yet. Then, during spring exams, I got a call from a local bankruptcy firm that I had applied to. They wanted to do an interview. The firm was well-known locally, and was a highly respected small firm around town. It would have been a great opportunity for someone interested in doing this kind of law.

I went in for the interview, where I met with the two partners. The office we were in was messy, stacks of paper all over the place, files piled on the floor, a half-eaten sandwich on the desk. The two attorneys looked to be in the same condition as the office: large bags under their eyes, sleeves rolled up on their dress shirts, top buttons unbuttoned and ties loosened, and they seemed genuinely relieved to be able to take a 45 minute “break” to interview me.

From the outset, the interview was going well. I established a good rapport with them, I gave good, bullshit answers that they wanted to hear. They explained the position to me, and I could not have been more bored. Bankruptcy law is just as dry as it sounds. My interest in the job went from ‘low’ to ‘negative’. I looked around the messy office, looked at the two stressed out lawyers interviewing me, and realized that I had no desire to do this.

But it wasn’t that simple. I needed to do something that summer and I wasn’t in the position to be turning down jobs. It would be so much easier if I wasn’t offered the job; then I could go out and take a risk, find something I really wanted. But from how the attorneys were treating me, I knew they would make me an offer. So at that moment I made a decision. I was going to take a dive.

I would throw the interview.

Just when I made that decision, they gave me the perfect opportunity to start, by asking if I was going to be able to work during the school year. I looked right at them and said, “I don’t know, my schedule is going to keep me pretty busy.” I was hoping it would turn the interview sour, but one of the attorneys said “That’s okay, we understand. We’ll work around your schedule, whatever it is.”

Damnit! I needed to do better than that. So when they opened it up to me for questions, I put Interview Mike back into his box and brought Real Mike out to continue with the rest of the interview. “What kind of vacation time will I get?”… “What sort of hours will I have to work?”… “How long can I take for my lunch break?”…”Can I run home at some point to let my dog out?”

When they told me there would be long hours, I winced. When they told me that I probably couldn’t take any vacation time, I grumbled. When they told me lunch was an hour and that I could go let my dog out then, I seemed positively confused.

Soon, the interview ended. Their demeanor went from happy and enthusiastic at the beginning of the interview to cold and annoyed by the end. Obviously, I had met my objective. So you can imagine my shock when they called me and offered the job. So I did what I should have done in the first place; I asked for a ridiculous amount of money, and when they refused, I told them I had to pass.

[thanks to mike]