Rejected lessons


Most of us now have rejection letters where the firms included the warm personal touch of putting our names into mail merge. “Unfortunately, there were too many qualified students such as yourself,” the letters always read, which is a polite way of saying, “Objectively, you’re a mild-mannered candidate who didn’t lose bladder control, but subjectively we laughed at the idea of paying to see you again.” “We wish you the best in your legal career” they also tell you because they know you’ll need all the wishing you can get. They refrain from wishing you “luck” because that might offend you, whereas an antiseptic rejection letter certainly won’t. “We enjoyed meeting with you” is inevitably included in the letter as well, and it is a little-known euphemism for “you suck.” While all the firms try to package it as nicely as they can, the truth is that you can gift-wrap a dunghill all you want and the recipient will still think the present stinks. Especially when that recipient is a law student, an occupation that lends itself to irrational cynicism.

We’ve all been rejected before this at one time or another. Any of us who have put any effort into dating have experienced that. And we’ve known failure. We tried sports and the only mark we left in the world of athletics was a worn spot on the bench. We may glorify our high school days now since there’s no one to call our bluff, but we all secretly remember the conversation in which the coach tried to convince us that the equipment manager was the most prestigious position. This was particularly awkward when it was the cross-country coach. But now comes a new kind of rejection with OCI. We now get rejections in an area where there are expectations of success. We go to Harvard, and potential employers are the one group on which the “H-bomb” is actually capable of working. And now we find the H-bomb is no nuclear missile, but instead wreaks all the shock and awe of a shaken bottle of club soda. We become more than social rejects. We become literal rejects. We become failures. And I say this is good.

Be thankful for rejection. You don’t want to be the law school version of Ned Flanders. If you hadn’t gotten rejected at least once, you would feel you were universally loved only to find that you were universally loathed. We admire Superman only because he’s a fictional character. If he were real, we’d throw his cape over his head and give him an atomic wedgie with the red underpants he wears outside his clothes.

More importantly, rejection builds character. While the phrase “it builds character” is generally a phrase used by demon spin doctors referring to activities usually reserved for the fifth circle of hell, you should trust me on this one. Most of the time building character involves dirty clothes, sweat, an aching back, and blistered hands. But carrying exceptionally heavy casebooks (with the extra weight from the highlighter ink being almost too much to bear) is the closest law students get to manual labor, so this is character building for us. Of course, some of you have managed to thwart this physical work by purchasing a backpack with wheels, the contemporary equivalent of the pocket protector, but the ridicule you must receive for this is also quite character building.

Having character reaps benefits. For example, the next time a loved one throws you into a burlap sack with a host of cranky wolverines and forces you to read James Joyce, you’ll recall your insanely polite rejection from Cravath and draw strength from it. You’ll realize you’ve experienced discomfort before, and you’ll be able to focus on the situation’s silver lining of exposing a systemically ignored population to great literature. You will have been steeled by the harsh crucible of receiving courteous letters with wishes of success from firms identical to the ones that gave you callbacks, and you will remain stalwart even in the face of such adversity as having a thirty-dollar limit on your lunches this summer.

Additionally, you will learn from your mistakes and failures. Because of that rejection letter, you will realize that it is not the best idea to ask your interviewers how they can possibly sleep at night and follow that up with a question about the firm’s policy on giving free legal advice to associates on criminal matters. You must remember that to fully understand anything, you must first foul it up. It was not until you spent an entire night staring into the abyss of the toilet bowl that you truly grasped the significance of the adage about the order in which you should drink beer and liquor. Einstein didn’t fail in school because he was so smart. He was so smart because he failed in school. The more mistakes you make, the more opportunities you have to learn. The enormous stack of unpleasant papers on your desk holds as much knowledge for you as all the dusty tomes on 15th century utilities law in Langdell. If you don’t believe me, then I don’t believe you’ve ever actually read any 15th century utilities law – or at least not in dusty tomes.

So embrace those letters that are the business equivalent of the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. Quietly thank the firms that reject you as well as the ones that foolishly consider saddling themselves with your neurotic butt. And if you amass so many rejection letters that you realize you are personally the cause of the destruction of ten acres of Amazonian forest, just think about how much character you’ve built with all those trees.

Taylor Dasher is a 2L who will remain stalwart even in the face of such adversity as a thirty-dollar limit on his lunches this summer.

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