Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Court Jester

with 9 comments

Total Black: $433.11
Total Red: $229,875.12

Last night, while writing Bubbles Galore, I received a voice mail from Drunk Texter, asking me if I could cover a shift from him this week.  Somehow my brain worked that event into my sleep and I dreamed about having to leave him for the clerkship.  The only other image I recall now from that dream was that I somehow ripped the blue shirt I was supposed to wear on the interview.  Premonition?  Because today felt like a waste of time and energy.

The headache I awoke with in Bubbles Galore didn’t fully depart.  I kept it at bay yesterday with medication, but I think it kicked back in during the interview this afternoon, probably triggered by nerves.  Of course, to make matters worse, I learned upon arriving in chambers that I would be interviewed by four judges, not three as I had initially been told.  Four.  For a federal magistrate clerkship.  Insane.  This wasn’t a FISA court clerkship.  And to compound the situation, as soon as the Chief Judge walked out to greet me, every drop of saliva in my mouth evaporated.  I talked my way through the twenty-minute interview with only gums and teeth.  And a carafe of water and cups sat on the table.  Just out of reach.  None of the judges offered me a glass.  Odd, isn’t it?, how the higher up people go, the further they get from basic manners.

I can’t describe how the interview went.  When I think back on it, a dimly-lit room comes to mind with four pale, white faces scrutinizing me.  A scene from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” comes to mind.  I did attempt to banter playfully with the judges.  It worked.  But perhaps too much so because the questions they peppered me with really were irrelevant.  One judge asked me how my Polish was, since I had served in Poland in the United States Peace Corps.  Fine, a fair-game small-talk question.  Except that came near the end of the interview.  Another judge, the recalled-to-active-duty judge, if you will, for whom I would be clerking, asked me how the name of the airport outside Amsterdam is pronounced.  A few moments prior we all had been talking about my time working abroad while an associate.  But that one really took the cake.  It took me a beat to remember the name of the airport: Schiphol.  After I pronounced it (skip-hole), the judge remarked, “Oh!  That easy, huh?”  How pronouncing a foreign word related to the duties of a judicial law clerk is beyond me.  And a third judge asked me where I lived while in Amsterdam.

Each question would have been fine if merely one-off questions asked while chatting about my experiences in general.  But these occurred during the core of my interview and nearly consumed my allotted time.  I’m left thinking that I either wasn’t a viable candidate to begin with or they had already made their decisions before I arrived.  I wasn’t asked a single question relating to work-product, ability to meet deadlines, working independently or with others, and so on.  All questions I had been asked, for example, by the judge for the farther opportunity.  Still no word back from him, but at least know I have a serious clerkship inteview to compare today’s with because otherwise today’s “interview” left me feeling like some jester brought in to dance and entertain the court but not to be taken seriously.

As I write, it is now nearly 10pm on the East Coast.  I attempted to nap twice today both to expedite the downtime waiting for a call that never came and to cut a migraine off at the pass.  I was unsuccessful at both.  The administrative assistant whom I met upon arriving in chambers this afternoon had asked me for my telephone number, explaining that the judges wanted to make a decision today.  No call for me yet.  And it’s past federal closing time too.  Unfortunately, I’ll probably be stuck wondering and holding out hope until that slim envelope arrives in the mail a week from now.  Given my physical reaction to anticipating this rejection—I guess it’s safe to say I did want this opportunity after all.

I suppose I’d best file this under “Life Experience” and move on.  An early bus back to New York, and temp work, awaits.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

March 29, 2010 at 21:58

9 Responses

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  1. They could call you tomorrow. The judges are making the decision today – that doesn’t mean you will be called as soon as the decision is made. Most federal court offices work at glacial speed – I wouldn’t be surprised if they call you on Wednesday or Thursday. Most federal court employees will be off on Friday and Monday so you may hear something by Thursday. Try to keep a positive attitude.


    March 29, 2010 at 22:04

  2. Is it possible your resume was so damn good that they already knew they wanted you so only engaged in irrelevant banter?

    Probably not, I know…so sorry, dude.

    Personally, I think it would’ve been a financial misstep for you anyway at 50k.



    March 29, 2010 at 22:48

  3. I wouldn’t write this off just yet.

    I’ve gotten jobs with interviews like the one you describe. I went to one interview unprepared due to a hurricane (the area where I lived had been declared a disaster area the day previous), we talked about my activities helping family members directly involved (I explained why I was unprepared). I got that job (I had almost cancelled the interview, but went to not burn bridges).

    A second time I interviewed for a position I didn’t want, but a friend was involved in recommending me and it made the most sense to just go to the interview. We spent little time discussing the position (I just said what I wanted to do, even though I thought they wanted something else). I got that job, doing what I wanted to do.

    My conclusion: from screening resumes, they already know everyone they interview can do the job. The interview is primarily to determine whether your personality is agreeable to them and if they can imagine working with you (all interviewees are going to say they pay attention to detail, meet deadlines, etc., so there’s not much to be learned from that type of question). Maybe the court recently had a case involving folks from Poland, and were curious about the pronunciation of Polish names or something similar.

    If you haven’t done so already, i suggest you send each of these judges a thank you note by mail, and include some clever follow up to something non-law related mentioned at the interview.

    I hope this works out!


    March 29, 2010 at 23:01

  4. Yeah, since you said, based on your reaction, that you really did want this opportunity, you might as well go all out and send out some thank you notes…can’t hurt, that’s for sure.

    Send them each a Polish Kielbasa gift basket (not).

    Check this site out… you can put in your debt, interest rate, the timeframe you would want to pay it off, and it gives you a bunch of info (how much of a salary you should earn to reach your goal, etc.). Probably not pretty, but maybe it’ll be useful for you:



    March 29, 2010 at 23:25

  5. The happiest lawyers I know are judges. They already know you’re qualified, otherwise they wouldn’t be talking to you. They want to know if you’re interesting and fun at lunch, too.


    March 30, 2010 at 00:53

  6. A lot of judges assume you’re qualified if you get the interview, and it’s not uncommon to see if they just plain like you at the interview. They work in close quarters with their clerks for a year (or two), so that’s of vital importance.


    March 30, 2010 at 08:56

  7. All but two of the short-form legal interviews I’ve ever had have been like that. It’s rarely worth their time to do a lot of experienced based questions, since all you can really tell in 15 or 20 minutes is whether you’d like to keep talking to the person. Your ability to succeed in a particular office is usually more about how well you fit in and can socialize with the people in that office. The way you reacted to their banter is likely more important than the number of cases you’ve written memos on in the past, I’m sure.


    March 30, 2010 at 11:47

  8. I thought it was pronounced “skip-il”? Maybe not. Don’t sweat these judges. They were just tooling on you because they can. Probably went back to their chambers to watch porn.


    March 30, 2010 at 11:55

  9. Good one.


    March 31, 2010 at 11:40

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