Picking Your Poison


Let’s say you are going to die next week (perhaps not the cheeriest introduction, I know, but bear with me). Let’s also imagine that you can choose the manner in which you will be killed. You might start by considering which method would be the quickest. So, a shotgun wound to your dome might seem preferable to, say, coating yourself with honey and popping a squat on an ant hill. Or, you might look into which methods seem the least painful. Here, running your Jetta in the garage with the windows down (perhaps some OK Computer to set the mood) will likely beat out evisceration with a rusty butter knife. Finally, there might be logistical considerations. Drawing and quartering might seem like a blast, but once you start making phone calls to rent the horses, find skilled riders, etc., you’ll be wishing you had just opted for something as simple as ordering the scallion platter at Chi-Chi’s. Where am I going with this? Glad I asked. The point is that while you could spend your last few days researching the truly optimal way to die, the reality that your life was nonetheless going to end would remain. No matter what you chose, you’d be dead. And so it is with picking firms: no matter how much effort you put into finding the best firm, you’re still working at a firm. Wherever you end up, you’ll still be reduced to an emasculated shell of your former self, sapped of all dreams and passions, damned to a tedious, soulless, unrewarding Lexis-Nexistence. So relax, 2Ls! I just saved you hours of needless poring over Vault rankings and NALP guides. Trust me, whichever firm you decide to attend, you’re gonna be just fine. And I mean that literally — just fine.

Still, as this is the Career Issue and all, I figure it can’t hurt to offer a few tips on how to get the most out of your on-campus interviews. To that end, I’ve put together a list of questions you might want to ask your interviewers. They’ll be refreshed to hear them, plus you’ll gain the insights that will allow you to convince yourself that you’ve distinguished the truly indistinguishable.

1. Which Internet sites, if any, does your firm block access to?This is probably the most important question you can ask. While all firms generally take measures to prevent access to porn sites (I know, right), some take the idea even further by preventing employees from accessing a whole slew of websites. Fantasy baseball? Instant messenger? Joey Fatone’s weblog? All gone. Some firms even have the temerity to block genuine news sites like The Onion and Gawker. Just imagine a job where you would actually have to wait until you got home to order that third season of Gilmore Girls off Amazon. Where you couldn’t update your Friendster profile with bands that make you appear more dark and indie than you ever will be, or even try to sell your collection of Thundercats action figures on eBay. Some people might be OK with this, but Huxley & Orwell LLP certainly isn’t a place where a procrastinator like me could survive.

2. How cold do you maintain your office?This summer I felt like I was working in a goddamn meat freezer. Living in New York City, where it was ninety degrees with a relative humidity of 100% every single day, I would have found the inside of a pizza oven refreshing. So I don’t understand why firms think it’s necessary to maintain a temperature of twenty-below in the office. Believe me, itÕs hard to type up a memo while wearing Gore-Tex mountain gloves.

3. When the firm takes us to lunch, what kind of water are we expected to order?Don’t feel ridiculous asking this question. It can actually reveal a lot. Fiji? Expect big bonuses. Evian? White-shoe alert! (Jews weren’t allowed at the firm until last year.) Tap? Employees purchase their own office supplies. Proper etiquette for ordering the water is also important. After the waiter poses the question, there should be a brief and awkward period of gratuitous mulling and indecisiveness, accompanied by some inaudible mumbling. A brave soul will eventually be bold enough to throw out a suggestion, and this normally will be followed by shoulder shrugs and a synchronized vertical nodding of heads. At this point, it is acceptable to go ahead and declare the selection to the server. Ignoring this time-tested procedure exposes a callous disregard for the well-being of firm employees. At one lunch this summer a presumptuous partner responded that “tap was fine” almost immediately – and on a day that I fancied sparkling. It’s amazing I didn’t quit on the spot.

4. How clean are your bathrooms? We tend to take it for granted that most adults are, well, you know… housebroken. Not at my firm. In the morning, the bathroom on my floor was a pristine antiseptic shrine. By the afternoon it looked as if it had played host to band of wild gorillas with irritable bowel who had a feces-flinging contest. The pool of urine beneath each urinal could host a high school swim meet. Do you have any idea how many pairs of galoshes I went through this summer? And another thing — it’s really discomfiting to have someone who only minutes ago gave you a research assignment proceed to evacuate his bowels with such tsunami-level force that you notice the walls actually bend while washing your hands. Dude, you have a seven-figure salary, it’s time to stop lunching at Burrito Palace.

5. How many Native American partners do you have at your firm?Every firm is huge on celebrating its diversity. In reality, when it comes to upper-level associates and partners, most firms are whiter than the audience at a Dave Matthews concert. Sadly, the place where youÕll find the most diversity at a firm is the mail room. So I can safely tell you that the answer to this question will be “zero.” Even more disturbing is the fact that if you substitute “African-American,” “gay,” or “female” for “Native American,” the numbers won’t be much higher. Remember: any firm can hire a diverse summer class. The test is whether the firm creates an environment in which minorities are comfortable and able to establish a long-term career. Hearing your interviewer refer to “the black partner” does not bode well for numerous reasons.

6. Your place or mine?Do not be afraid to ask your interviewer back to your dorm for sex. Too many interviewees think that it’s important to maintain a certain level of decency and decorum and refrain from anything that can be construed as sexual harassment. What these puritans fail to recognize is that your interviewer, as he or she currently works at the firm, doesn’t have much in the way of a social life and probably hasn’t been laid in months. This is his or her chance to break the slump! It’s no coincidence interviews are held not in cold, austere classrooms but rather inviting hotel sex lairs. They’re not plying you with chocolate-covered pretzels in the hotel suite for nothing. Chocolate is an aphrodisiac, you dolt. I’m telling you, getting your Gropius on will only improve your chances of landing an offer. Women might want to try lines like “I know you saw my grades, but I’d like to show you two D’s that you won’t find on my transcript.” Gentlemen might go with a “Speaking of my property class, I’d love to get a temporary easement over that ass.”

These six questions are all you need to get the right information to make that fundamentally wrong decision. If all else fails, just go with the firm that gives out the nicest highlighters. That’s what I did, and I really sort of kind of liked my summer experience…I guess.

Justin Shanes is a 3L. He hopes to meet a hot Tulane student this semester.

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