Interview with the OAF ! (The worst law interview ever) September 18, 2009Posted 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 lawcrossings.com, 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
After 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.
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:
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.
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) .blog comments powered by Disqus