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Interview with the OAF ! (The worst law interview ever) September 18, 2009

Posted by admin in : Tales , trackback

At times I think I have a mischievous sprite watching over me, one that enjoys toying with me, never putting me in serious danger but always putting quirky little absurd obstacles in my life, just to see how I might react.  In essence I believe “Puck” from a Midsummer’s Night Dream is my guardian angel, and boy, has he been having some fun lately.

I’ve recently wondered if I might have some secret message hidden in my resume that exclaims how much I like to be played with like a mouse dangling from a cat’s paw.  Maybe it is written with lemon juice or only visible under special infrared light. Of all the legal interviews being conducted in all the law offices across New York City, the real “winners” somehow have a way of finding me.

This story starts with me searching for a position on, I came across a posting in soft IP law (trademark and copyrights) advertising for a position as a litigation associate admitted to Federal Court.  Since I have two published articles in the area of trademark law I thought this sounded like a position I could be suited for. I am not admitted to Federal Court so after reading this post I did some quick research (nothing extensive) to search for the procedure to become admitted to Federal Court. I came across an application on the NYSD website, I skimmed it briefly and made sure none of the application questions were odd or anything that would stand in my way of getting admitted.

I determined from my review of the application materials that admission to Federal Court would not be difficult and that I should apply to the position.  I also believed that if the person reviewing the applications truly only wanted to consider applicants who were admitted to Federal Court at the time of their application they would screen me out and not offer me an interview (it’s not like that hasn’t happened before). So I said what the heck and I sent it in.

The next day I got an e-mail from an Attorney at the firm to call his assistant and make an appointment to meet. I did this.

I determined after researching the firm and preparing for the interview that the firm was a solo practice. I never liked the idea of working for a solo-practitioner as a young lawyer because I am certain I would feel like the person’s lackey—not a feeling I ever wanted while in law school—but since the work was in soft IP, entertainment and internet law which are areas I would most prefer to practice in I thought I would overlook this “principle” of mine. Being jobless as long as I have you start to learn that the time spent watching the days on the calendar pass is directly proportional to level of erosion of your principles. Mine were putting up a valiant effort but every now and then one minor one had to go, this was one of them.

When I arrived at the firm I was impressed with the lobby. It looked like a smaller version of a lobby you might see in a top AmLaw firm employing hundreds of attorneys.  It had a selection of over 30 magazines laid out neatly on a table in front of vintage hard leather couches, the floor appeared to be marble and the office name sparkled in shiny gold plated lettering

oafAfter waiting 20 minutes past the interview time I finally met the “Over Aggressive Fellow” (OAF).

The interview begins by him leading me to his office. “Office” however is not the right word to use in this circumstance… cave, dungeon, pack-rat lair would provide the better description. Whatever impressions the lobby made the OAF’s office immediately negated them and then some. The office was an absolute mess. Papers thrown about everywhere, three different cups filled with three various liquids enjoying three separate spots in the room. Poorly clipped newspaper articles hung next to crookedly hung degrees gracing the walls. A pink dish towel was randomly thrown about in the middle of the floor, having no apparent function (except of course besides adding to the chic décor of the room). A suit jacket was tossed in the window sill as if it was on display for fashion week. It was simply an absolute mess.

Although I consider myself observant, I was only able to pick up all the nuanced details of this room because I sat in it idly for over 30 minutes while waiting for OAF to finish up work that had piled up during the day.  As he made calls to his secretary, typed e-mails, proof read documents I simply sat in the office pondering how disappointing it is having gone from ELF to OAF in a matter of six months. I had never been treated so rudely during an interview in my life, and this was just the beginning.

Although, on a typical day the three windows in the OAF’s room probably provided enough light for comfort, the day I interviewed was a rainy day and the skies were pale. The OAF was apparently trying to save money on the electric bill because for the entire half hour I sat in his office watching the OAF work the lights were off.

The OAF finally shut his door and turned the lights on. The first thing he said was “I don’t have a copy of your resume.” I shuffled through my briefcase for an extra copy and promptly handed it over. His first question was “so you have been looking for a job since [ELF].” He then spent some time looking over my resume. He asked me what “TA” meant I explained “Teaching Assistant.” He then asked if “there really was a course in Internet and E-Commerce law” at my school, as if to see if maybe I had fabricated it for my resume.  I explained that yes the course did in fact exist. He asked if during the class we ever spoke about some esoteric legislation that was being considered that could potentially affect Google, he spoke too fast for me to process what he was talking about, but I honestly had no idea what he was referring to.  So I explained that was not something we covered, although we did cover “initial interest confusion” and “trademark infringement as applied to meta-tags” which did apply to Google.

Then he looked up from my resume and said “are you admitted to Federal Court.” I explained that all I needed was a sponsor. He said “that could be a problem.” To which there was a moment of silence. I thought to my quick review of the SDNY application form and sheepishly said “I don’t think it should be a problem” if things work out “you might even be able to sponsor me.” He looked up for a moment and said “that is an interesting solution.” To which I said “I believe you only have to be admitted to the SDNY” and “vouch for the candidate on the application.” Silence again. I then explained that I reviewed the application in preparation for the interview and my understanding was   “you only have to be admitted to the SDNY” and “vouch for the candidate on the application.”

At this statement OAF perked up as a blood hound would that just got a whiff of red meat. He immediately said “you just told me you believe that to be true,” “now you are representing the requirements as 100% true facts.”  I explained “I am not trying to misrepresent the rules, I am just explaining my understanding of what I read” he did not want to hear it, he immediately cut me off. Stating again how he believed I was representing to him that I was 100% sure of the rules. He then turned to his computer and started typing an e-mail. I couldn’t believe he went back to doing work.

Except unbeknownst, to me the OAF was actually typing me an e-mail while I sat across from him, explaining the rules of a little exercise he had just somehow conjured up.

When he turned back around he started lecturing me. At this point I knew the interview was going horribly, the OAF’s personality was a complete turn off as was the office environment he kept. I had already determined that as much as I needed a job, I would rather scrape clean the bottom of the deep fryers at Roy Rogers then spend another minute with the likes of the OAF. I kept repeating to myself, “just thank this man for his time and leave,” “just thank this man for his time and leave,” yet I was strangely drawn to see what the OAF had left to say, I guess I am just a glutton for punishment and I did not leave.

He continued with his lecture. He stated “the requirements of Federal admission are a legal rule, and as an associate you will be tasked with interpreting and drawing legal conclusions from these types of rules every single day.”  He went on “the correctness of these interpretations are of crucial importance for this job.” “You understand that right?” he asked. I realized at this point that I was no longer an interviewee (in fact I never was) and that I was merely a party being deposed. Cutting off witnesses, buckling them down to explain slight inconsistencies in their word choices is the bread and butter of litigators.  Only usually this behavior is reserved for court rooms and conference rooms, not sprung on unsuspecting interviewees.

I just simply said “yes.” He then said “what the rule actually says is of little importance, it either lays out the requirements you suggest or it doesn’t” he explained … “but what is important, is whether you are correct, because your correctness in this interpretation is an indication of how you will perform if you were to get the job and that is what is relevant for me evaluating your candidacy.” “You will research the requirements and provide a report of them to me, and if your understanding is correct we will meet again… if it is not we will not meet again.” “Ok so we are done here.” And just like that an interview I had waited for over 45 minutes to start was over in less than 10.

He actually said to me before I left “I will certainly see you again.” I wondered why someone so careful with word usage would say “certainly,” when he just explained to me that our meeting again was not certain (and I had already determined that regardless of the outcome of this little endeavor I would never step foot in this office again, so in fact it was certain that we would not meet again) but I digress.

Here is the OAF’s e-mail to me (that he typed to me during our interview):


I am just confirming that you will email me the requirements for admission to the SDNY as I have asked you to do several times…you are now insisting that you are 100% sure of them and you know with certainty that all that is needed is that you have a sponsor that is admitted to the District already and you are asking me if i would mind being your sponsor…please follow my requests and check the rules again and confirm for me that your understanding is correct….

We have not offered you a position yet and we may or may not consider your for the job but we need to make sure that your understanding of the rules is correct and since this is the type of conclusion that you would make as an associate, your cooperation and your answers will be meaningful to the application.

[The OAF]

As it turns out (after I thoroughly researched local civil Rule 1.3) that in order to sponsor a candidate for admission to the SDNY the sponsor must actually have known the candidate for a total of 1 year in addition to being admitted to the SDNY (someone meeting these requirements would not be difficult for me to find). But, oh well.

Here are select excerpts from my response:

Dear [OAF],

I stand by my statement that it should not be difficult for me to get admitted to the SDNY.

Had this been a central issue or even tangential issue to an actual case, that required analysis of court rules I would have conducted thorough research on the point, had the issue fully briefed and would have been prepared to discuss it at length. Unfortunately, although my statements are being held to the same level of scrutiny a formal fully briefed position would get I did not have the luxury of actually preparing for this argument.

If I did commit an error I believe the error was in approaching our interview merely as an interviewee and not as a subject being deposed. I did not realize my words were being parsed and analyzed for the slightest contradiction. Had I believed after waiting casually in your office for over a half hour with the lights off for you to finish up work, that a formal interrogation was soon to ensue I would have put my litigator hat on and certainly would have been able to more adequately spar over minute details. By the time I was able to figure out the direction you were taking the conversation, it was already too late and I had apparently painted myself into a corner as an attorney hopes a key witness will on the other side of a big case, when being cross examined on the stand.  Only your technique was more like a sneak attack, and not analogous to what truly happens when arguing a case, forcing me into a bizarre bet over an artificial position I never actually agreed to defend.

… Good luck with your subsequent interviews. It was a very interesting experience meeting with you.

~[Jobless Lawyer]

On that note, I’ll just say, I have some luck, thanks Puck.

The first half of the video below had me cracking up because it reminded me so much of my interview with the OAF, unfortunately the second half of the video takes a turn for the worst so I suggest you end it after the interview segment (the main differences being I did not get the job and I did not dance with a transvestite) .

  • Anonymous

    Fascinating. Perhaps you could also research the admissions to the Supreme Court.

  • Chris M.

    That’s truly a bizarre encounter! Good luck to the poor schmuck who actually becomes this OAF’s associate. I am sure that he or she will learn a great deal about “making important legal conclusions.” The funny thing is that the OAF probably never found your email through all of that clutter!

  • TB

    How much was he paying? Benefits? Did he tell you? Did you ask?

    It’s not a matter of his cross examining you, but that he was “training” or commanding you in an S&M fashion to follow his instructions. Hence, his e-mail and the word “certainly,” meaning that YOU must “certainly” come back. He was impressed with your credentials, but didn’t want to show interested. Hence, the wait and the disruptions. I guess you need to set rules on how much crap you can take at the interviews. Half-hour wait is the maximum. Get up and leave once 30 minutes are up. If the interviewer gets distracted, say that you see that he is very busy, that you won’t disturb him any more, and then get up and move towards the door. If he doesn’t ask you to stay, keep walking. Anyway, thanks for describing how the interview went. It was illuminating.

  • Forseti

    I have been a lawyer for more than ten years, so when I applied for a low-level legal tech job at Social Security in Sacramento, CA I never expected them to rate me as not having the requisite education or experience, but they did.

    Anyone else experiencing unjustified ratings and rejections?

  • Chris M.

    That's truly a bizarre encounter! Good luck to the poor schmuck who actually becomes this OAF's associate. I am sure that he or she will learn a great deal about “making important legal conclusions.” The funny thing is that the OAF probably never found your email through all of that clutter!

  • D. Machetto

    I am a young lawyer with less than 1 year of experience. I work at a boutique firm making only 55k. I graduated top third from a good regional school. I have no publications or journal/moot court experience.

    My job is an hour and a half commute from my apartment. You would say I could just move, but my apartment is equidistant from my fiancee's job, which is in the other direction, and we own the place, so we can't just pick up and go.

    I interviewed at a place that said Real Estate and Trust and Estates Litigation associate wanted. The place was 2 blocks from my apartment. I got an A in both of those classes in law school, and my job now has given me a good bit of real estate litigation experience. Even so, I thought it best to look over some T&E since I hadn't even thought about it since the bar exam. I took out my bar outline and reviewed it for like 15 minutes the night before the interview.

    I called in late to work (claimed there was a leak in my apartment) to go to the interview. I go in and the partner of the firm tells me that there is basically no real estate work, except SOMETIMES they will represent an heir in selling property that they have inherited. Despite the fact that the job posting said that real estate litigation was one of the firm's primary areas, the firm only does a couple of real estate closings. So it's basically a T&E shop, for which I have no experience and very little interest.

    Even though it was clear at that point that I was not what he was looking for and vice versa, He takes out a phony will that he had drafted JUST TO TEST ME. It was like a law school exam. He showed me the will and asked me what the problems with it were, if any. Then he gave me a factual scenario and asked me, based on that will, who takes what?

    I seriously considered just telling him to go fly a kyte, but I sat it out because it still beat going to work. I was then treated to know that the firm requires work most Saturdays and some Sundays, and that the work day started and ended at 8. So, if you're counting, that's potentiall an 84 hour work week, at a boutique T&E firm that couldn't have paid whomever they hired more than $60k.

    Obviously I never heard from that firm again, nor did I care to.

  • Name

    Solo practitioners who employ their wives as office manager are the worst. Their passive-agressive, and often vampiric marriage now brought to the office, the wife can focus her spite on the hired help in his presence, and they both get off on it. The hired help is you the associate (for some reason associates are underlings in these situations, even if the wife only has a certificate in accounting) and by a highly ritualized and daily catharis, he will sit himself in his office, and enable her to work out all her annoying, finicky, controlling nuroses on you, just so that he can live a quiet life at home.

  • MJ

    What a bait and switch! I recently interviewed with a small (one partner, three contract attys, all from Orrick) shop in SF. The interviewing partner had me prepare an extensive set of board materials, options, update cap table, etc. It was very simple work, and I was confident I did it correctly. Well, not only did I not hear back when the partner said he'd revert, he summarily dismissed my candidacy with a one-line email. Didn't even have the courtesy to say thanks for doing two hours worth of work for one of my clients. Since all of the optionee and director names were real, I had half a mind to google these folks and send a bill to the the crappy partner's clients. The nerve!

  • crescent

    That's $15 an hour. Bus drivers make more.

  • The Jobless Lawyer» Recession Job Search Tips for the Unemployed Lawyer- Creating a Job “Surge”

    [...] Solo Practice, NY (1 Point)- After waiting in an un-lit messy office while the interviewer ignored me and did work he had piling up from the day- a high stakes special task was designed to test my knowledge of obscure court rules.  I gave up any chance at a second round interview by giving this gentleman a piece of my mind in a sharp-witted e-mail response to his task. (Full Post) [...]

  • chocolegal

    Your experience is hilarious. I know it wasn't very funny being interrogated by the OAF, at least you can laugh about it for many years to come.

    Just goes to show you the job market right now. I've been at a Biglaw for 5 years, got let go last year and have not found a job since. I went on an interview recently, a solo practitioner (“solo”) who said he did real estate litigation and closings on Craigslist. While the pay offered, $40k, regardless of experience, was offensive at best, I thought it couldn't hurt to work rather than not doing anything. While waiting in a conference room, during the 30 minutes waiting for the solo to arrive, I noticed that there was another woman in a suit cleaning out her office and asked the office manager if there were “other associates” and she said “that one” is leaving after working for 3 months. I guess this was a bad sign. Our eyes met and she gave me a funny smile. I chose to ignore this and focus on the interview.

    He showed up 30 minutes after the scheduled interview time, said rather proudly that he's never in the office because he's always in landlord tenant court and thus, I would be doing all the research, writing, motions, briefs and additionally covering various courts in the Bronx and occasionally Queens. And oh, half the day I would be in courts and for the other half I'd be producing briefs and memos and that the sheer volume of the work was “hectic”.

    During the interview I highlighted my strengths, produced a brief for a motion on real estate litigation, but told that he only deals with landlord tenant and does not do closings. Maybe he had a conscience when he said not to be “fazed” by the “modest salary”, there were opportunities for me to make another couple thousand after a raise a year after or so. Thought the interview went okay, I sent a thank you note. He emailed me and said he gave the position to another candidate but that he'd keep my resume “on file” just in case if “you'd like”. Don't know what that means. Just in case this one decides to leave after working like a dog earning less than a legal secretary probably.

  • Ramon Esquire

    you are a glutton for punishment. I once had an interview with panel of attorneys asking me what animal I identified with and how the characteristics of the animal related to the practice of law.

    Needless to say, I told that I did not identify with piranhas or sharks, got up and left the interview…..

    One of the women ran after me, but I told her to take a hike.

    I have little tolerance for bullshit, and I do have that wicked latino temper!.

  • Anon

    I think I know EXACTLY who you are talking about. I interviewed with him in 2008 and had a very similar experience. He spent most of the “interview” ignoring me and doing work or screaming at his poor secretary to bring him documents (which she had to remind him were already on his desk). At one point he asked me to go locate his intern and bring the intern to his office. He then returned to ignoring me and yelled at the poor intern. Eventually he got around to reviewing my 20-page writing sample in 15 seconds, concluding, “this makes sense. I like it.” Fortunately, I got an offer from a different firm a couple days later, so I didn't have to pursue that “opportunity” any further. Unfortunately, I lost that job in Sept. and haven't had the slightest bit of luck since then. I guess he must have burned through whatever poor chump did take the job, since I started seeing his want ads around the time of your post. One other thing of interest: It came out during my interview that, while he may do IP cases, and advertises the job that way, his associate actually does little but personal injury cases.

  • Marble Floor Cleaning

    Interview with the OAF ! (The worst law interview ever)!! Loved reding the article! Thanks for the post!!

  • Marble Floor Cleaning

    Of all the legal interviews being conducted in all the law offices across New York City, the real “winners” somehow have a way of finding me.

  • Concrete Services

    I also believed that if the person reviewing the applications truly only wanted to consider applicants who were admitted to Federal Court

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  • gop360

    Oh, I worked for an incarnation of this guy. He couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t keep an associate longer than exactly one year.

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