August 12th, 2014
When writing all of this down, I have often struggled with how best to balance honesty with prudence. Law firm names are a good example. I have named large, public organizations (such as ICBC and the Alberta Justice Department) because I feel that these entities are really too large to care about one person’s peculiar experiences with them. When it comes to individual firms, however, I feel that caution is more warranted. To properly set the stage for what is to come, I have therefore decided to use fictional law firm names. As you may recall from Part 7, I had four interviews scheduled for August 12th. I knew for sure that at least two of those interviews included cocktail parties later on in the evening.
It’s difficult to remember exactly what the schedule was for that day, but it went something like this:
- Sebben & Sebben: interview at 8 AM
- Morgans: interview at 10 AM, cocktail party from 6-9 PM
- Gage Whitney: interview at 1 PM
- Pearson Specter: interview at 2 PM, cocktail party from 5-7 PM
All four of these firms practiced (almost exclusively) insurance defence. The largest boasted about 70 lawyers and the smallest had approximately 20.
You have to budget, at the very least, an hour for each interview. That is the safe bet. With that said, you will see that (as is a recurring theme), my schedule was dangerously crowded. I could do little to change that by the morning of the 12th. Furthermore, I assumed that my first interview of the day was already a foregone failure. Sebben & Sebben was the firm whose cocktail party I had missed the night before. To add insult to injury, it was also a cocktail party that I had specifically RSVP’d to weeks before. I had made sure to send a snivelling, e-mailed apology to the hiring coordinator at that firm the night before.
I awoke early, having mainly tossed and turned in the hours previously. To begin a day as packed as this with not much rest is not advisable. Truth be told, I was nervous and more than a little upset at myself for the previous evening’s mishap. On top of that, Robin Williams had died. Fighting off the rising tide of melancholy, I suited up, ensured my hair was semi-presentable and caught a ride to the train station with my ever-supportive father. He wished me a hearty good luck and I was soon bound for downtown Toronto.
It’s funny – as soon as I got to the downtown core, it seemed like there were a multitude of nervous-looking young professionals wandering around. I wondered if they were doing what I was doing that day. I also wondered whether it would be advisable to clandestinely push one or two of them into the path of oncoming traffic and thus narrow the playing field. Letting these plans mentally percolate, I checked my e-mail as I made my way to the address of my first interview. There was a reply to my apology from the hiring person at Sebben & Sebben. I wondered whether it would be beneficial to my mental health to read the e-mail before my interview. I took a deep breath and opened the message. It was not as bad as I feared. The coordinator assured me that my absence was no trouble and that she was sorry for the hectic nature of my arrival in Toronto. She concluded with saying that they looked forward to meeting me.
The entire articling process up until that point had made me cynical and suspicious. I did not dare take the coordinator at her word that my flakiness was of no consequence. Still, I reasoned, it was better than a more curtly worded reply or none at all. Thinking these hopeful thoughts, I made my way to the glass and steel complex that was the Richmond-Adelaide Centre. I rode the elevator to the appropriate floor and approached the receptionist. I stated my name and business. Checking her list of appointments, the lady behind the desk flashed me a grin.
“Oh! YOU’RE the guy who missed the party last night and was coming all the way from Vancouver, right?”.
I smiled (and grimaced inwardly) and confirmed that, yes, that I was indeed that guy. I mumbled something about a friend’s wedding. The woman chuckled and said that a few of the lawyers had a laugh when they heard about me getting to the party just as it ended. She told me to take a seat and that my interviewer would be with me shortly. I sat down and pretended to peruse a newspaper as my mind raced a mile a minute. Could….could it be possible that my scheduling screw-up had, in some bizarre way, endeared me to the powers that be? Would victory be snatched from the jaws of defeat?
A few minutes later, I heard a man’s voice call my name. I rose and shook hands with a well-built, young associate who was not much older than I was. He had the voice, mannerisms and tone of a seasoned bro. He pumped my hand in a jocular fashion and asked how I was doing. Before stopping to consider whether the following would be wise to say, I blurted out: “Well, I WAS doing well. Frankly, I’m just still reeling from Robin Williams’ death, you know?”
The brosociate’s eyes widened. “Me too, man! That’s so crazy, you know? You have the world in the palm of your hand one moment and then it’s all gone in the next.” I heartily agreed and mentioned something about life being fleeting. He led me into a side office, just off the main reception area. The interview began in a fairly standard fashion. We spoke for about 40 minutes. At first, the conversation centred mostly on questions about my resume. Leafing through the sum total of my academic/professional life a little later, though, my interviewer’s eyes narrowed:
Bro: “You didn’t include an ‘Interests’ section, man! What are you into? What do you like to do? What’s your idea of fun?”
Me: “Uh, I like hosting parties and going out to dinner with friends. I also like stand up comedy and play video games occasionally.”
Bro: *nods sagely* “For me, you know, it’s all about letting loose and having fun. I mean, just last week, you know what I organized? I organized a fucking axe-throwing night! We just went out and threw axes. It was honestly a fucking gas. Only thing was that none of the chicks came. Pfft, so lame, you just gotta have fun, that’s my motto. I like biking. Are you into biking?
Me: “Yeah, definitely! I like getting out there whenever I can!” (bullshit)
Bro: “Awesome, dude. I just love biking. I have four bikes. Know what I’m doing later this week? I’m buying another fucking bike, dude. Like, why not, right? I had four, but I want another. I’ll have five bikes, and that’s totally cool with me. You just gotta do what you want, you know?”
Me: *nods enthusiastically*
Bro: “What about sports, dude? You into sports? You like hockey? You a Leafs fan?”
Me: “Ha, I guess I’m a fan when they’re winning.”
Bro: *laughs dismissively* “Ah, you’re not a very committed fan, then. I get it.”
Me: “I…I feel like being a Leafs fan in this day and age is like being in an abusive relationship.”
Bro: *stares stonily* “…..so, tell me some more about X job you mentioned in your resume.”
Obviously, joking about the Leafs in an interview with any kind of business located in downtown Toronto is something to be done with caution. Nevertheless, the interview seemed to end well. We shook hands, and brosociate traded places with a young, female associate who spoke to me for another half hour or so. This portion of the interview was a little more standard and did not give rise to any hilarious exchanges. I felt that I managed to make a good impression. She fielded a few questions that I had and then we parted ways. Before I left, she said, “We’ll be in touch.” I knew that was a polite nothing, but I could not help but feel hopeful. In any event, I thought that the entire experience had gone well despite the cocktail faux pas.
My next interview was at 10 AM with Morgans. The walk to their offices from Sebben & Sebben took about ten minutes. I walked into the large office building just east of Yonge Street when I felt my phone ring. The female-sounding voice on the other end introduced itself as the hiring coordinator from Sebben & Sebben (the very same one that I had e-mailed an apology to the night before). The coordinator asked if I had enjoyed my interview. I responded ecstatically in the positive. Then, she informed that I was invited to a dinner party at the house of one of the firm’s partners. This dinner would commence at 5 PM that evening and would include some more of the firm’s employees, as well as a “select” group of articling candidates. I quickly and firmly confirmed my attendance. Saying that she looked forward to seeing me there, the coordinator ended the call.
I must admit, I was excited. Somehow, the stupidity and misfortune of missing the firm’s initial cocktail party (which had been open to every articling candidate) had morphed into a coveted invite to a much more prestigious event. Of course, this made the evening of August 12th even more harried. I realized, however, that turning down the dinner invite would be ludicrous. I had clearly impressed my interviewers and progressed into the next step of the process. Seeing it through was mandatory.
As fast as these thoughts ran through my mind, I tried to temporarily quell them. The interview with Morgans was starting momentarily and I could not get distracted. I quickly ran over what I knew of Morgans as I rode the elevator up to their reception area. I followed the typical reception process and, before long, met my interviewer. In this case, I was being interviewed by one of the partners. I did not let this go to my head – many partners served on articling hire committees. This interview lasted approximately 45 minutes and was fairly standard, as interviews go. I managed to elicit a few laughs and even a few incredulous looks when I answered questions about the student life and culture at UVic. Apparently, some of the controversies at a west coast, left-of-centre law school are lost on downtown Toronto lawyers.
As the interview wrapped up, the partner invited me (again) to the firm’s cocktail party of later that evening. More importantly, she mentioned that the cocktail party, in essence, served as a “second interview” opportunity for articling hopefuls. I ensured her that I would be in attendance, thanked her for her time and mentioned (probably not for the first time) that it would be a privilege to work for Morgans. Bidding farewell and thanks to the receptionist, I rode down to the ground floor. It was 11 AM.
I had a bit of a break until my next interview with Gage Whitney at 1 PM. Being the middle of August, the city was a humid heat sink. As brutally attractive as I find myself when pouring with sweat, I realized that finding some air conditioning was key. I headed to the Eaton’s Centre food court to charge my phone and take a breather. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast of chocolate glazed doughnut and Coke as I browsed my phone and updated friends and family on my progress. I was still riding high on my Sebben & Sebben dinner invitation, but I knew that juggling two cocktail parties and a dinner was not going to be easy.
Yet again, I found myself in familiar (and hated) territory. Did I dare ditch out on one of the cocktail parties entirely? At this point, doing so would effectively be refusing a job with that firm. Unlike the Sebben & Sebben cocktail party, the soirees happening this evening would, in all likelihood, be the last chance anyone had to impress the firms. Turning down such a chance would be letting the firm know that literally everyone who HAD attended the function would be a better fit than you. Unless I could somehow land a second interview on the following day with one of these firms, the cocktail parties would be crucial. Conversely, would splitting my time wisely between three events (that were all occurring consecutively) even be possible? If it was possible, was it advisable? Could I really make a lasting impression on so tight a schedule?
I headed to Gage Whitney and made it to their office about ten minutes early. Waiting in the front office area, I struck up conversation with another articling hopeful. We exchanged awkward pleasantries for a few moments before our interviewers arrived. Again, I was being interviewed by a partner. The gentleman was pleasant and down to earth. This interview was the most business-like of the day. We discussed the firm’s practice areas, how they aligned with my interests and what I hoped to get out of the articling process. This was also a firm whose cocktail party I had missed the night before (due to flying in from Vancouver). Luckily, it was not an RSVP situation, but I nonetheless made sure to apologize for my absence regardless. Ensuring me that it was no trouble, my interviewer then led me to another office. There, I met with the head of the articling committee for a few moments.
In retrospect, I should perhaps have realized that I was not making a very memorable impression. For one, it was the briefest interview of that day. Secondly, I don’t think my primary interviewer was all that interested in me. The reason I suspected so was that he dropped me off at another person’s office (and didn’t hang around) after just a half hour or so of chatting. Finally, the person whose office I ended up at (the head of the articling committee) seemed surprised and a little distracted when I arrived. He was polite enough and asked me a few questions, but also ushered me out after about ten minutes. The oldest trick in the book for getting someone to leave without actually asking them to do so is to mention that they mustn’t be late for their next meeting. Saying as much, the articling chair led me to the front desk exit and bid me farewell.
I did not think too much of the brusqueness of my exit at the time. I still had another interview to get to for 2 PM. Pearson Specter was the smallest of the firms that I would be interviewing with. They were located in the very same building as Sebben & Sebben, so I had no trouble navigating back to that area. In fact, the quick dismissal from Gage Whitney actually worked somewhat to my advantage in ensuring that I was not late for my final interview of the day. I enjoyed some good-natured banter with the sarcastic receptionist at the front desk before being ushered into the back offices for the main portion of the interview.
The interview at Pearson Specter reminded me of my OCI experiences. I was interviewed by five associates, in total. The first group was a pair and the second was a trio. Interestingly, the groups were also totally divided by gender. The first group was comprised of two women. Similar to Gage Whitney, this portion of the interview was fairly formal and professional. We shared a few laughs, but the conversation was formulaic and resume-driven. We spoke for roughly 40 minutes before the female duo left and were replaced by three, male associates. Conversely, this second half of the process was much more akin to the interview I had with brosociate at Sebben & Sebben. We cracked jokes, used colourful language and shared funny stories about law games, law student alcoholism and the joys of working in Toronto. I felt as though we got along fairly well. We finished with the associates answering a few of my questions. It was just after 3 PM when we said our goodbyes. The trio reminded me of the cocktail party beginning just two hours later and mentioned that they hoped to see me there.
I wandered out to a patio that was set up in front of the Richmond-Adelaide centre. Slumping into a shiny, metal chair, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. I was exhausted and it was not even 4 PM. Schedules and plans and strategies chased each other through my head. I needed to decide: cut down on my obligations and eliminate a firm entirely, or try and do everything? What should my priority be? I called home and chatted with my Mom about these most first world of problems for a few minutes. She was sympathetic to my bourgeois dilemma, but ultimately told me to decide for myself. I glanced at my watch. One hour to go until the cocktail party for Pearson Specter began. I got to my feet, buttoned my suit jacket and began walking.