Aloud and with Feeling
When I was in high school, the band director of the Royal West Academy used to say all the time that when you’re new to an instrument, you should play it loud and with confidence– not only can you hear your mistakes better, but by putting your head on the chopping block like that you learn to take responsibility for your mistakes.
One of my favourite teachers in the law school advocates the same method when it comes to learning about law– without attempting to articulate concepts in your own words, you never develop the sharpness of expression that you need to really discuss the topics with effectivness or convincingness.
Yesterday, I was interviewed over the phone for round one with a Hong Kong law firm. It was, by far, the hardest interview I’ve ever had to do. Frankly, I didn’t know the answer to some of the questions– but I think I managed to just bash my way through it by demonstrating, if not my complete knowledge to answer their questions, then to demonstrate fearlessness at moving forward.
This interview was particularly difficult because it didn’t ask me any questions at all about my personality or my achievements– instead, it asked extremely specific technical questions about contracts and torts. Pretty much all of the stuff about torts, I haven’t touched it in 2.5 years! My last torts class was in the first semester of my degree, so to have several of the questions going into an analysis of the strategic differences between suing in contract versus suing in tort was all quite frightening– especially, because even if I could remember the specifics from first semester, the questions still covered hypothetical practical situations that I’ve never dealt with in class.
But I got a second interview. She told me straight away, after about 40 minutes, that I was going on to the second round.
I was ecstatic. It was a huge win, because the interview was on shaky ground at some points– it really felt more like formal oral subject exam than it did an interview, and I was constantly speaking with perhaps only one second of buffer between me coming up with a thought and saying it.
One of the questions, which also caught me off guard, was “what is the cause of the reason governmental shutdown in the United States?”
Considering that I’m in Australia, and that the firm is located in Hong Kong, that’s about as left field as it gets. Luckily for me… I just happened to be reading up on Obamacare a couple of days ago, so I got away with it.
I feel that, aside from the first round interviews that I got during clerkships, making it to second round in this situation finally feels like I’ve gotten what I deserved. I don’t think I could have done as well in this interview if I hadn’t read my textbooks where other people were reading internet summaries. I don’t think I could have articulated what I wanted to say if I hadn’t spent years stepping up to public speaking roles head on. I don’t think I could have been able to conceptualise the policy questions if I hadn’t always been trying to make myself a functional member of society, and not just a bystander.
Unlike other interviews, it didn’t feel just like they were trying to see if I was what they were looking for in terms of personality– this place was actually looking straight at my competency. The directness was refreshing, but at the same time, a bit scary.
I have a second interview coming up in the next couple of weeks, so I can only hope that I do as well as I did on the first. This is the first time I get to a second round.