“Why? Because this shit just got real?”
I thought about the question, still unable to suppress my grin. “Yes,” I replied. “That’s a good way to put it.”
I was in the library of the tower, somewhere on about 50 floors up from ground level. The view of Sydney was amazing. I had been invited here by [RW], who worked in the firm. He was going to help me out by running through a mock interview for the upcoming real thing. He had gone to his office to get a copy of my CV and cover letter, and when he returned, he basically found me holding one of the books, basically smelling it.
The need to actually go to these tomes of legislative information is mostly behind us, with the digital age upon us. Regardless, being in a major law firm’s law library, high above the city, is one of those Hollywood moments that is the kind of cliche that you never really wonder if you’ll ever live out. While it was true that I was just a guest there, I couldn’t help but feel suddenly that RW was right– shit had somehow gotten very real in the last five minutes.
It’s been a bit over a year now since I started law school, and a bit short of a year and a half since I left Montreal to meet up with [CM]. These were both huge decisions in my life. The decision to apply for law school over two years ago represents me, wondering if I could do better than odd jobs that didn’t care about my education. The decision to come after CM when she told me she was going to move represented me, taking responsability for my love life.
The two events are important because, all too easily, I think that we, and I include myself in this “we,” tend to consider these sorts of major choices as “optional.” It’s optional to go after the really hard degree. It’s optional to get on a plane and go halfway around the world to take a chance to be with someone you love.
But that’s all life is about, really. Options. You never really have to do anything outside of the routine if you don’t really want to– the routine will still be there. In a first world setting where we’re not going to be forced into situations of do or die, we can’t be complacent with our survival. Change requires an acknowledgement of responsability for our own direction, as well as the ability to pursue it, without knowing precisely if there will be any payoff.
RW stood beside me and started pointing out several landmarks available from the high-rise view. “Your hometown, Glebe, is somewhere over there.”
It was a few minutes before we started working on the mock interview, because, frankly, I was too excited. Being there was a major wakeup call. I never imagined 5 years ago that I would be in this position, which makes that typical interview question (“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”) seem even more ridiculous: who knows where tomorrow leads!
I have a lot to thank RW for. When I first arrived at the NCYLC, he dumped over 60 pages of legislation on me and told me to be ready to discuss it in about an hour. At that point in my education, I’d almost never read a piece of legislation yet, nevermind a full document without teacherly commentary. I was a total n00b back then, and didn’t know the first thing about the law beyond what I had garnered from Alley MacBeal and Law and Order. He had expectations for me from day one– not because he knew me, but because that’s the sort of person he is. Almost a year later? I’m suited up and standing with him at the firm he works at, and he’s helping me apply for a job at his company.
“You see what you did there?” he interrupts. “You said ‘a lot of my peers might do it like this…’ why do you do that? That suggests that your peers matter. This interview is about you– don’t waste word count sounding like you’re not confident about your methods. Just talk about why your way is best, and stop sounding like you always have the competition in mind.”
“Okay,” I reply, taking a moment to think. This shit is hard. He’s right though. Something about being in lawschool has made me acutely aware, at all times, of how my peers are really smart people– it’s something I never used to care about during my undergrad, or at work, because I was supremely confident in myself. Nowadays? I still do well in school, but doubts always loom: do they know something I don’t? Am I getting too old for this? How do they remember all that?
“That’s an okay answer, but I think that you’re thinking too much about applying for a healthcare job. This isn’t public service anymore– all that stuff about human connection and stuff, say it once, but that’s it. You should always be thinking– how do I make this skill relevant in a commercial context?”
“Client relations and teamwork?”
“Yes. It’s not that empathy isn’t important– but you can leave it hanging on goodwill. It needs to be functional to us. Don’t say anything that doesn’t get tied to the main idea– we’re a commercial firm.”
The fact is, I’m very excited to have an interview at this firm. It is a huge commercial firm, which is quite different from the sort of policy work that I wanted to do. However, the firm does have a huge department that deals with policy and civil liberties issues as well– but it’s not where you start off. Those sorts of projects are reserved for the trusted– I’ll have to pay my dues the old fashioned way first. I’ll have to spend a few years learning the trade and working for “the man.”
From a personal perspective, I feel somehow that I’m selling out– so I sometimes have doubts. I find myself in the same position as Marshall from How I Met Your Mother— he always thought he’d be working to help people, not a puppet to Goliath National Bank. (Apparently this turns around at some point, but I’m only up to season 5 so don’t spoil it for me!)
I’m not rationalising my desire to work for this firm– I’m still keeping it keenly in my head what it is that I want to do in the end.
But first? I need to get through the interview. I’m a clear underdog here, so it won’t be easy… but we’ll see how it goes.