Articles of Frustration: Part 14 – The Problem

just a prank

May 2015

*This is a direct continuation of Part 13 – Scotch With Psychopaths.  Go to that entry if you would like more context for this one.*

The evening pressed on.  I sat and continued to politely reply to the conversations going on around me.  The naivete that comes with being a non-drinker filled me with hope that the scotch would become easier to down as I drank more of it.  Instead, the burning intensified and I began to feel as though I was locked into the Tilt-A-Whirl from hell.  I knew that abject humiliation would come in the form of standing up and walking, so I continued to resolutely sit in the crowded office.  To my right, Kyle was finishing off his latest glass with the slightest of grimaces.

It was 6:30 PM by the time that the first of the gathered associates bid us good night and left.  Over the next half hour, the room gradually emptied.  By the grace of God, the lawyer who had elected himself pourer of my scotch had also left.  Mr. Vincent had disappeared without a word shortly beforehand, as well.  Oddly, his briefcase full of drinks remained.  Mr. Gladstone was one of the last to leave.  He pumped the hands of myself and Kyle and reiterated that he looked forward to speaking with us again.  There were only a small group of younger lawyers, myself and Kyle left at the party.  We sat around awkwardly, almost as if we were waiting for something or someone.  The remaining lawyers were making plans to continue the festivities at a bar in the downtown core.  Just as I began wishing that I could will myself to become invisible,  Mr. Gladstone reappeared.

Approaching myself and Kyle with a serious expression on his face, he leaned into where we were seated.  “Gentlemen, Mr. Vincent would like to take you on a personal tour of the offices before you go.”

His voice was hushed and his expression was one of utmost solemnity.  I risked a sideways glance at Kyle before nodding my head and responding in the resoundingly positive.  Over Gladstone’s shoulder, the remaining associates were giving us big thumbs up signs.  You might have thought that someone won the lottery.  I rose unsteadily to my feet and followed Kyle and Mr. Gladstone out of the now-stinky office.  Keeping my head down, I willed myself to walk in a straight line and at a slower pace than I was accustomed to.

The tour began, once again, in Mr. Vincent’s office.  This time, the head of the firm went into greater detail about the various framed pictures that adorned his walls.  Most of them captured him and dignitaries of various governments and ranks.  I nodded politely and risked asking interested-sounding questions after doing a mental check that I was capable of asking them without slurring.  Then, we walked around the rest of the office.  Mr. Vincent pointed out the offices of various members of the firm, where the bathrooms were, where we would likely be working if we got hired (or, more accurately, where I would be working – Kyle would be working at the office in Vancouver).  Gladstone tagged along, chiming in where he could and generally nodding his agreement at every sentence that left Mr. Vincent’s mouth.

By some miracle, I stayed both conscious and vertical.  The dizziness was extreme but I was not feeling very nauseous (notwithstanding the company I was in).  The tour began and concluded within ten minutes.  We ended up back in front of Mr. Vincent’s office.  Sensing that he was about to depart, Kyle and I made sure to shake his hand and thank him profusely for the opportunity.  Ever the enigma, he shook our hands and nodded at us blandly.  Stepping briefly into the drinking office, he collected his mini-bar, snapped up his briefcase and left.  Kyle and I then thanked Mr. Gladstone over and over for all of his help.  Gladstone was a little more expressive than his boss and reminded us to give him a call if we had any further questions.

At this time, the young associates who had previously been drinking with us reappeared.  Hooting and hollering that they were going to continue the party downtown, they demanded that we join them.  I was assured that shots would be involved, as well as a few cold ones.  In addition to never drinking, I had also skipped breakfast and lunch that day.  All I wanted to do was stumble back to my hotel, order a burger and pass out.  Instead, I shoved this fantasy aside and responded enthusiastically to their invitation.  Although I had, by that point, many reservations about this firm, I realized that the downtown portion of the evening was yet another head on this Medusa of an interview.  I had to go along with it.

We piled into one of the lawyers’ SUV and proceeded to an Irish-pub style establishment in the downtown core.  The pub was crowded, but we managed to squeeze everyone into a table towards the rear of the building.  The lawyers ordered us a round of shots.  Throwing up was a realistic concern, but I found solace in the fact that I had nothing in my stomach to throw up.  Dry heaves were the worst I could expect.  Smiling confidently, I downed a shot of rum and tried to mask my anguish.

The night proceeded in a fairly predictable fashion.  I ordered some chicken wings and was about to bask in the glory of finally eating something when I noticed that everyone at the table was helping themselves to them.  I think I ended up eating two before they were all finished.  More lawyers from the firm showed up, introduced themselves and lamented the fact that they would all be working Saturday.  Kyle drunkenly knocked his own beer off the table and into my lap.  The group laughed and hollered at the accident and I facetiously assured Kyle that it was no big deal and that I didn’t like this suit anyway.

It was after midnight when I realized that I couldn’t do this any more.  I was exhausted, starving and just about nodding off in the middle of a crowded, noisy bar.  Getting to my feet, I announced loudly that I had to be getting back to my hotel.  The assembled associates jeered and called me a pussy (good naturedly, I like to assume) for leaving so early.  I faked a laugh and told them they were right.  For what felt like the thousandth time, I shook hands with all assembled and thanked everyone for taking the time to speak with me and show me around Regina.  In an attempt at camaraderie, I shook Kyle’s hand and wished him good luck with everything.  I think he realized it was me, but I cannot be sure.  He was slumped over in his chair when I left.

The night air felt cool and pleasant after hours at the crowded, stuffy bar.  I clumsily consulted Google maps before stumbling towards my hotel.  En route, I called home and filled my mother in on what happened.  She didn’t believe that I had drank as much as I claimed.  Even still, she agreed the day’s events were fairly hysterical and said she couldn’t wait to hear about them in person.  I hung up with her shortly after entering my hotel room.  I peeled off my beer stained suit, guzzled some water and collapsed onto the bed.  It felt as though I was asleep before my head had even hit the pillow.

The next morning, a fellow UVic classmate and Saskatchewan native drove down from Saskatoon to spend the day with me.  My flight home wasn’t until 7 PM, so it was great to spend the day doing something.  I filled her in on the previous day’s happenings.  We laughed and agreed that the entire experience was absurd and that the firm seemed bizarre.  With all of that said, though, we also talked about the very real possibility of getting an offer from them.  Would I accept?  After all I had been through and all of the interviews I had tried (and failed), how could I refuse?  Could I be happy so far away from home and so removed from my friends and family?  These were not idle concerns – I really felt as though an offer would be forthcoming.  Granted, I had felt this way before.  This time, though, the reality of a successful offer hung over my head like a piano suspended by fishing line.

My friend was gracious enough to drop me off at Regina airport.  From there, it was a relatively quick jaunt back to Toronto.  My mother picked me up from the airport and we headed towards south Mississauga.  I talked to her about a lot of the same things that I had discussed with my Saskatoon friend.  The same kinds of questions entered into our conversation and the ever present theme of this entire experience floated once more to the surface: could I afford to turn anything down, at this point?  My mom wisely advised not to worry too much about it until I had heard from the firm.  In any case, she advised, there was nothing I could do until I found out more.

The next couple of days were fairly nervewracking.  I checked my e-mail and snailmail boxes with a mingled sense of excitement and dread.  Each time I found them empty, an inward sigh of relief swept through me.  Three days after I had returned, I was out on an errand when I absentmindedly checked my e-mail on my phone.  The top of my inbox was shaded bold with the subject line of a new e-mail:  “Articling in Regina”.  My heart skipped a beat and I decided to rip the proverbial band-aid off right then and there.  I opened the e-mail without hesitation.

Inside, the body of the e-mail was a single sentence:  “Please see attached a letter by Mr. Vincent.”  I clicked to open the PDF letter and began reading.  I will not copy and paste the letter in its entirety, but suffice it to say that I was offered a position.  Mr. Vincent’s letter was warm and complimentary – it stated that I had a lot to offer and would contribute well to the firm’s work.  It also spoke at length about the money I could be making (in all seriousness, the letter listed five or six exact number monthly salaries that previous articling students had made) and how much I would enjoy “living, working and building a career” in Regina.  Mr. Vincent also advised me that I could start immediately, as long as I was aware of a “problem” that the firm was currently having.

I read on.  Apparently, the “problem” was that, for the second time, the firm’s articling program was under an official review by the Law Society of Saskatchewan.  As such, the firm was unable to assign any articling principals, take on any articling students or employ anyone having the same duties and responsibilities as articling students.  The letter went on to state that the firm had no idea how long this review would take or what its outcome would be.  In the interim, however, I was offered a position as a “research assistant”.  In this role, Mr. Vincent advised that I could expect to be making $15 per billable hour.  He also assured me that this would “increase more or less on a monthly basis”.

I remember reading that letter once, twice and then several more times.  In all seriousness, I couldn’t really believe what I was reading.  I’ll be the first to admit that I have made mistakes or misread things in the past, but I know beyond any conceivable doubt that the advertisement I had responded to had been for ARTICLING students.  There is no way I would have applied for a position so far away from home if articling had not been a part of it.  This firm had solicited applications, held interviews and made offers under completely false pretences.  In retrospect, it now makes perfect sense why they offered to pay for my trip (and probably the trips of several other hopefuls): there would be less of a chance of further complaints to the law society if the applicants who had been lied to did not pay out of pocket for the privilege of wasted time.

I had never been interviewing for an articling position with this firm.  That is the most remarkable thing about this entire experience – a professional, established firm knowingly created a false advertisement and never considered revealing that they were incapable of taking articling students until days after my interview with them.  Knowing what I know now about the firm, its practices and its reputation, I perhaps should not have been surprised.  Despite thinking that I had seen everything there was to see in this insane, job-hunting mess, the Regina interview stands out from all others.

The next day, I wrote back to Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Vincent.  My e-mail was short, polite and to the point.  I thanked them yet again for their hospitality  but advised them that I would be considering different options at this time.  I just hoped that, in the future, these options might include positions that actually existed.

I never heard back.

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2 thoughts on “Articles of Frustration: Part 14 – The Problem

  1. Hey Stephen. I am heading into my second year of law at UVic in September and just stumbled across your “Articles of Frustration” series. Your posts have been SO interesting, informative, and hilarious. I am really hoping to find out how your story ends so just wanted to encourage you to keep writing! I gather that you eventually found an articling position but would love to hear how it all played out. Hope to hear more soon and thanks for the great read!

    • Thank you so very much for the kind words! I am actually mystified that this little collection of posts has garnered such a positive response. Also, I am very glad that it has been helpful to you and others.

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