Summer Clerkin’: Getting Here

I have a summer job.

I am a law clerk.

I consider myself lucky as hell to have carved a spot in the working world during some brutal economic times. Law school is a giant arena and law students are intellectual gladiators. We constantly jockey for position, struggling against each other for grades, class rank, spots on law review, and judicial clerkships. It’s a wonder they don’t make us fight for our literal seats in class or give us a quiz to see which lucky few can go to the bathroom. With that climate of competition, it’s no wonder that the job hunt can devolve into a Darwinian struggle for survival. The economic belly flop has whittled the available jobs list down a little further than usual, making the competition that much more fierce for the jobs that remain. Some of my friends in the upper strata of our class rankings were still without an offer when the school year ended. One even had her offer rescinded by the big law firm she was banking on and she had to take an unpaid position. That wasn’t really an option for me. The Girlfriend works and she is super-supportive, but even though I would leave to be a Kept Man even she can’t afford to provide for us both in San Francisco, the City of Exorbitant Cost of Living. Plus, it looks like my law school may be having some financial problems next fall and I’d like to have some dough stocked away just in case.

So work it was. I entered the job hunting fray. I tweaked my resume. I tailored it to each specific job. I wrote new cover letters for every application explicitly geared toward the firms I was applying to. The number of resumes and cover letters I sent out was far too large to recount here, but suffice it to say they were numerous. This made the deafening silence I got in response all the more maddening. Every day that went by with me sending out more resumes and not hearing back increased my stress and anxiety. The sheer multitude of applicants for each job meant that I rarely got even an acknowledgment of application. I was sure that all the other bastards applying for the same job were better than me in every way. Not only were they smarter Top 10%ers, but they probably had better experience, brighter smiles, funnier jokes and a more pleasant odor.

Eventually, I started getting a few acknowledgments. I had a quick and positive response from a nonprofit that I have no trouble identifying as my Dream Job. For a few days I was pumped and swollen with pride as I pondered a summer working on cyberlaw Cool Stuff and padding my resume at the same time. But my initial enthusiasm proved baseless, as they went another way. In an effort to make me feel better, the person doing the hiring stressed how competitive the process was and told me about the awesome things the other candidates had done. This was an attempt to be nice and her heart was in the right place, but it only made me feel like a bigger liability. She confirmed several of my fears, that all the other 2Ls fighting for the same jobs are far more qualified. She was silent as to the issue of their odors, though I had no doubt they all smelled like roses.

Around April, I started getting a few interviews. I was closer to the goal of earning a job, but it still seemed out of my reach. I am not a naturally nervous person, but the stress of the process and the pressure that mounted every day I went without a summer job made me a little jittery. Add to that my introverted nature and ingrained apprehension at meeting new people and you have a recipe for awkwardness. I tried too hard. This usually manifested in the form of extremely lame jokes and hopelessly geeky references:

“Do I know anything about diversity jurisdiction? You bet I do. You can call me the Civ Pro.”
“I notice you advertise as SuperLawyers. Is this the Fortress of Solitude?”
“You’re all much smaller than I expected. Working on Joost Street, I assumed you’d all be on steroids.”

But I hung in there and I tried to learn from my mistakes. At each new interview, I was slightly less awkward. My jokes were slightly less groan-inducing. I got a feel for the rhythm of the interview process. When in doubt about a question, I erred on the side of honesty and tried to stress my enthusiasm at getting to learn new things. Some went better than others, but I am still completely unable to gauge my performance after the interview. There were some where I felt like I kicked ass and charmed the pants off of everyone in the room. There were others were I felt sweaty and dull-witted and that they would all have a good laugh after I left the building. But my feelings seemed to have little correlation with the firms that actually made offers.

I had applied to a gazillion firms, heard back from 15 or so, scored interviews with 7, and got offers from 3.

I chose 1.

And so my life as a summer law clerk began. The firm is a small-ish one here in San Francisco, but it looks like I will get some serious experience with a group of determined trial lawyers during my time here. I’m not sure what all my work will entail, although it has gotten off to a rocketing start. My goal is to document my experience here, although I can already that I will be an extremely busy man all summer long. I will blog when I am off the clock and I am no longer neck deep in research, memos, depositions, and the occasional happy hour. I’m looking forward to it.

4 Comments on "Summer Clerkin’: Getting Here"

  • There is always Johnson’s Lumber. Get em’

  • Greedy Links: Asked and Answered Edition…

    You might see some old stories and recurring themes popping up in this week’s links. What can we say? The great themes never change, and some discussions just have to keep on going and going…Work Life: Everyone Is Still……

  • Found this just now as I’m panicking because I did not get even one interview for this summer. And I’m a 2L with lots of experience. And everyone else I know has already started their super-fabulous paid and unpaid summer jobs.
    Kinda desperate at this point but this post is making it easy to put it all in perspective…2012 is way worse than 2009, can’t believe people are still applying to law school…

  • Well, I truly sympathize. The legal job-pocalypse is still reverberating and law schools are turning out more freshly-minted JDs than ever. Best of luck!

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