BY RAFFI MELKONIAN
As 2Ls begin their long and intensely boring search for summer jobs, fate is conspiring to make the whole process seem, well, glamorous. Some of you may know, for example, that the newest version of Donald Trump’s hit show, The Apprentice, features a Harvard Law School graduate. The program’s official description of the 29-year-old Jennifer Massey couldn’t be more enthusiastic Ñ “While at Harvard, Jennifer was heavily recruited by a powerful San Francisco law firm, where she now serves as a securities litigator, working with management teams from startups all the way to Fortune 500 companies. She resides in San Francisco with her husband Aron.” Just last week, the careers office piled on with a reminder that during On-Campus Interviewing, “you will be introduced to some of the most interesting lawyers and employers in the legal profession. You will have the chance to hear about compelling cases, fascinating practices and day-to-day routines. So, try to enjoy the experience, not just the outcome.” It’s enough to make the most cynical among us smile.
I’m here to ruin everyone’s bubble. The truth is that Ms. Massey wasn’t heavily recruited, whatever that might mean Ñ like everyone else, she leafed through hundreds of identical-seeming law firm brochures before bidding blindly on a few in vaguely the right city. The firm she initially chose wasn’t powerful but broke Ñ Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison is infamous for having collapsed under the weight of appalling mismanagement, while the firm which bailed her out has been bleeding money on the West Coast ever since. It’s extremely unlikely that a junior securities litigator will have worked with any kind of management teams, and while Ms. Massey may be married, she probably only sees her husband on every second weekend, and occasionally by last-ditch video conference. As for the interviews, well, I appreciate the effort, but compelling cases and fascinating practices are not high on the list of things I remember from my interviewing experience. The whole process reminded me most of an elaborate kabuki play, where we students pretended to own more than one suit, and the lawyers pretended we weren’t idiots. I can only cringe thinking back to some of the things I thought were good ideas to say last year, and my amazement is only deeper having observed that it all worked out.
The unavoidable fact is that being a lawyer in a private law firm is usually not glamorous work. As one of the other summer associates at my firm joked, “I almost skipped the fine print. But then I realized that I couldn’t skip the fine print. That’s my job. I’m going to write fine print for a living.”
But the fact that the job isn’t always glamorous and is occasionally difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be enthusiastic about doing the work. However unpleasant I found interviewing, representatives of the best law firms in America are now uncomfortably cooped up in Harvard Square hotels solely for our 2Ls’ diabolical pleasure. Furthermore, American law firms are making deep, gashing inroads into their global opponents’ markets Ñ these people are the world leaders of our odd profession. While wading through piles of documents isn’t the most fun in the world, it’s also true that these firms give us the opportunity to be the valued advisers to some of the most important businessmen and litigants anywhere. You might not be driving the deal as a lawyer, but transactional lawyers absolutely add value to deals that might not get done without them, while the litigator, as she has been for centuries, is the principal’s sole guide in the confusing thickets of procedure and law. These are really important roles Ñ roles that should make anyone proud to serve in them. I’m not saying that law students should shed their usual veneer of jaded irritation Ñ I’d be the first off the boat if that was the standard for interviewing Ñ but a little bit of idealistic fervor is useful to have around. And if that doesn’t work, well, there’s always the chance to feel like a star during the summer associate program. You won’t get the chance again.
Raffi Melkonian is a 3L who writes columns that make the most cynical among us smile.