February 17, 2005

Advice from the front lines on interviewing for those coveted p.d. jobs

Not Guilty and Woman of the Law both have just gone through interview hell to find public defender jobs.

Man, do I feel for them!

If I could convey just one thing here, my sistren, it's this: however you do in that kind of interview is NO indication of how good you'll be as a p.d.

Their interviews sound like some kind of ego-fueled hazing ritual. Me, I've never figured out the interview-by-ordeal approach. Why humiliate a potential ally, especially when the law schools aren't really cranking out that many people who aspire to be p.d.'s? Particularly in a small state or jurisdiction, if you aren't going to hire me, you and I will end up in the same courthouse or CLE eventually, or you'll need a favor or an assist, and I will remember how you respected or disrespected me back in my job interview with you. So, interviewers, knock it off! Thank you.

Back when I was the guy doing the hiring, I wanted to make up for some of the tsuris I'd received earlier on the receiving end of the process. Therefore, easy on the hypotheticals, no role-playing or abuse, no attitude or asking about grades ("Grades are less important than commitment and a sense of humor."). None of that "let's see how you perform under pressure" b.s. or "you and I have never met, but I'll pretend I'm your client and now you advise me to plead guilty to manslaughter." Give me a big heart and a glowing phone call from your clinic professor instead, and you were in.

Back in Twin, I wanted the job interview not just to give me a sense of a law student's character, but also to sell applicants on the prospect of working at my office over others. Of course, back when the office was an old and overcrowded little house, when I gave people the choice of in-person or telephone interviews, I wasn't doing it merely as a convenience to starving law students. Also, phone interviews helped me to keep from new hires the knowledge that the air of our town frequently smelled like frying tater tots until after they'd committed to work for me.

So to all of you looking for public defender jobs this semester, best wishes and more power to you. Don't be too afraid to take a job out in the country - the experience will be worth it, even if only to tell the tale later on. Hang in there and keep the faith.

(Remind me to tell you some time about my own flaming car wreck of a job interview, the one and only time I interviewed to be an assistant federal p. d. By the time my role-playing, brow-beating tormenter turned to me and asked, "Now, do you have any questions for us?", all I could come up with was, "Yeah... what the hell?" Then things really started to go downhill... True story.)


WomanoftheLaw said...

Whew. That makes me feel a little less incompetent. I've been a bitch on wheels since these interviews - I go through my entire day thinking that I am clearly not qualified to be an attorney!

aaron said...

Hi. I am a third year law student currently looking for a pd job. I have an interview in a few weeks. I have to give a robbery summation in front of a committee, I am not looking forward to it. I enjoyed your post and I regularly read your blog.

notguilty said...

What I found particularly disturbing was the fact that they admitted they don't get applicants with my credentials. (Legal aid as well) and I'm thinking, well why the hell are you giving me such a hard time then?? HIRE ME! I'm good!