Sunday, December 10, 2006

I wrote this once, never got around to posting it...until now

Q: I went to an interview, and the job sounds awful, but they offered it to me. What should I do?

The biggest reason so many people end up disillusioned in law school is because of unmet expectations. We come in expecting great jobs, interesting work, and endless opportunities. We later come to find out that jobs are scarce, the work is boring, and the opportunities are limited. Thus, there often comes a turning point when we have to decide whether to accept it for what it is and take it, or move on to look for something better. If you have been offered a job that you don’t want, but think you need, you have an important decision to make: Do you accept it and the accompanying unhappiness, or do you take the road less traveled and go for what you really want?

My second year of law school was a personal struggle: I realized that I wasn’t really interested in becoming a lawyer anymore, but I didn’t want to burn that bridge yet. I had no interest in a large firm job, so by default I thought I’d end up with a small firm. I had a few interviews, with varying success, but I hadn’t accepted any jobs yet. Then, during spring exams, I got a call from a local bankruptcy firm that I had applied to. They wanted to do an interview. The firm was well-known locally, and was a highly respected small firm around town. It would have been a great opportunity for someone interested in doing this kind of law.

I went in for the interview, where I met with the two partners. The office we were in was messy, stacks of paper all over the place, files piled on the floor, a half-eaten sandwich on the desk. The two attorneys looked to be in the same condition as the office: large bags under their eyes, sleeves rolled up on their dress shirts, top buttons unbuttoned and ties loosened, and they seemed genuinely relieved to be able to take a 45 minute “break” to interview me.

From the outset, the interview was going well. I established a good rapport with them, I gave good, bullshit answers that they wanted to hear. They explained the position to me, and I could not have been more bored. Bankruptcy law is just as dry as it sounds. My interest in the job went from ‘low’ to ‘negative’. I looked around the messy office, looked at the two stressed out lawyers interviewing me, and realized that I had no desire to do this.

But it wasn’t that simple. I needed to do something that summer and I wasn’t in the position to be turning down jobs. It would be so much easier if I wasn’t offered the job; then I could go out and take a risk, find something I really wanted. But from how the attorneys were treating me, I knew they would make me an offer. So at that moment I made a decision. I was going to take a dive.

I would throw the interview.

Just when I made that decision, they gave me the perfect opportunity to start, by asking if I was going to be able to work during the school year. I looked right at them and said, “I don’t know, my schedule is going to keep me pretty busy.” I was hoping it would turn the interview sour, but one of the attorneys said “That’s okay, we understand. We’ll work around your schedule, whatever it is.”

Damnit! I needed to do better than that. So when they opened it up to me for questions, I put Interview Mike back into his box and brought Real Mike out to continue with the rest of the interview. “What kind of vacation time will I get?”… “What sort of hours will I have to work?”… “How long can I take for my lunch break?”…”Can I run home at some point to let my dog out?”

When they told me there would be long hours, I winced. When they told me that I probably couldn’t take any vacation time, I grumbled. When they told me lunch was an hour and that I could go let my dog out then, I seemed positively confused.

Soon, the interview ended. Their demeanor went from happy and enthusiastic at the beginning of the interview to cold and annoyed by the end. Obviously, I had met my objective. So you can imagine my shock when they called me and offered the job. So I did what I should have done in the first place; I asked for a ridiculous amount of money, and when they refused, I told them I had to pass.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Counting Down To The Last Post....

Could you post your thoughts on gunners with poor aim? I think those poor souls who try so hard to be gunners but whose answers are so completely inane and/or off topic deserve some blog space.

Excellent topic. I have been meaning to post about a former classmate of mine who fit this description to a T…

Most law students fall into one of two categories: Those who came to law school for better career options and those who came because they didn’t know what else to do. A very small minority of law students came of another reason altogether; they have a genuine interest in learning about the law. (Quick sidebar: Many people will claim to have a genuine interest in learning about the law, but most are just fooling themselves. If law school didn’t offer better career options than a liberal arts degree, then they wouldn’t be there. And if they say otherwise, they’re full of shit and well on their way to being a successful lawyer).

But there was one guy in my class (we’ll call him “Darren”) who was in law school first and foremost because he wanted to learn about the law. He was middle-aged and left his successful career on a whim to go to law school. He was eager and enthusiastic and hungry to learn. He always had a bounce in his step and was always ready to discuss that day’s reading, or any other topic so long as it related to the law. He loved law school for what it was. This would have been somewhat refreshing, but his newfound love affair with the law gave rise to three annoying traits which drove his classmates crazy.

1) He took every opportunity to volunteer not as an option to speak, but as a duty. Often he would raise his hand before the professor even asked for volunteers, ensuring that he would be heard before anyone else had a chance. He approached class like there were two people in the room and thus, many classes devolved into one-on-one conversations between him and the professor. Now this wouldn’t be so bad, except…

2) He was one of those guys who liked to research topics outside of the reading, and bring that information to the classroom discussion. But that wasn’t the problem (although it’s totally gunnerish). The problem was, he usually got way off track with his research, confusing the issues, and often the professor in the process. It wasn’t that he was trying to expand the topics; he just missed the mark. It would be like if you asked someone to explain the impact of the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series on Boston sports fans, and they came back with a report on the Patriots winning the Super Bowl. Related? Somewhat. Relevant? No.

3) He had no Time-Left-In-Class Awareness. Countless times he broke the unwritten rule that you are not allowed to raise your hand in the last five minutes of class. The ends of classes would become anxious with him around, everyone nervously shifting their eyes back and forth between the clock and his right arm, hoping he didn’t have anything left to say. When he would raise his hand, there would be an audible groan, which didn’t deter Darren in the least.

One story that I have perfectly describes the Darren experience. Fall semester of my 3rd year, I took Landlord/Tenant Law with Darren. The class met for two hours one afternoon per week. During the last class before exams, with 15 minutes left, the professor passed out a sample essay question and told us to just identify the issues. Since I hadn’t read a page all year and had yet to study for the final, I had no idea so I just kept on surfing the internet while my classmates dutifully identified the issues. After ten minutes, the professor told us to stop because she wanted time to go over the correct answers.

“Would anyone like to share their answers?” she asked as Darren’s hand shot up. She looked hesitantly at him for a second, knowing all too well there this was going, and undoubtedly regretting offering him the option. But before she could change her mind, he launched into his list of issues.

Instead of sticking with the expected landlord/tenant issues, Darren went all out. He found legal issues that fell under commercial paper, secured transactions, contract law, and civil procedure. Conspicuously absent, however, were many landlord/tenant issues. The professor interrupted him, in an attempt to reign him in, but he couldn’t be stopped until he read all 16 issues that he found. He finally finished, pleased with himself. All 70 people in the room were staring at him, with the same look of confusion and amusement on their faces. A few people snickered, and one person was loudly laughing at Darren’s answer. (Okay, that was me.)

“Um…well,” the professor said, choosing her words carefully. “You should have found five issues in this question, all of which pertain to landlord/tenant law. How many landlord/tenant issues did you find?”

“Two, but…”

I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and left. To my surprise, half the class followed my lead, leaving the poor professor and an oblivious Darren there to discuss how civil law would apply to landlord/tenant situations in our common law state.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Won’t Be The Last Post, But...

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the posting on this blog has become sporadic lately. Both contributors have been dealing with some serious personal issues.

Russ recently had an old girlfriend return to his life with twin sons he never knew he had. The old girlfriend is no longer in his life, but she left the twins to him to care for.

Mike is experiencing advanced kidney failure and is desperately awaiting a transplant, and he just can’t find the humor in life anymore.

This isn’t the last post, necessarily. If Mike finds time between dialysis treatments, or if Russ finds time between cleaning spit-up off of his shirt and trying to support this new family, they may post something from time to time.

May your prayers be with them.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Job Search Post #7

For some people, especially those out in the working world, this post is going to go straight into the “No shit, Sherlock” category. But for other people, those naïve souls still lucky enough to be sheltered away in undergraduate or graduate schools, or the even luckier jerks whose family connections ensure that their next cushy job is just one phone call away, I came to learn a hard truth over my three-month job search: Employers treat job seekers like shit, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

I could make a list a mile long of my grievances, but I’ll stick to the three worst instances:

1) I had an interview with one company that was scheduled for 2:30. Like a good little candidate, I arrived ten minutes early and was instructed by the secretary to take a seat in the lobby. So I sat down and waited….and waited….and waited. I kept pulling my cell phone out of my pocket to look at the time. 2:30 came and went, and no one came to get me. By 2:40 I was annoyed. By 2:50, I was furious. The fact that the secretary sat 15 feet away from me but made no attempt to find out what the delay was or even acknowledge my wait only added to my anger. I decided that if 3:00 came and I was still waiting, I was going to leave. After all, if I had shown up a half hour late to an interview, would I have a chance at getting the job? Of course not.

I was staring at my cell phone, rooting for 3:00 to come so I could justify leaving. Finally, and to my chagrin, at 2:58 the guy came out to get me. By this time, I was livid and I had no desire to be there, but I decided to give him one more chance; if he apologized for the wait and gave me an explanation (even a bad one would have sufficed) I would have been appeased.

We sat down, he looked at his papers and said “So you’re my 2:30?” I told him that I was. And with that, he launched into his questions. I decided right there that I was no longer interested in the job, and my answers reflected as much. I gave short, sometimes monosyllabic answers to all of his questions; I told him that I wasn't really interested in the industry; and the only question I asked him was about vacation time. Twenty minutes later, the interview was over. My whole experience there led me to believe that it would suck to work there. That impression was solidified when, an hour after my interview ended, they called and invited me back for a second interview. Given how intentionally bad I had made my interview, I certainly didn’t want to work for any company that would have that version of me as an employee.

2) In early September, a little more than a month into my search, my first really good opportunity came along. The job was a good combination of my undergraduate and law degrees, they were hiring multiple people to make up a training class; and it paid well. For the first time in my job search, I found something that I was actually interested in and I prepared accordingly. I’ll spare the details, but the interview went very, very well. The guy I spoke to was so impressed that he went and got his boss to meet me. The big boss and I hit it off as well, and spoke for almost a half hour. Among the topics of our conversation was how important professionalism is in that company, and how important it is to treat coworkers with dignity and respect. I dutifully agreed with him, and he passed me back to the original interviewer. We spoke a little longer, and he sent me on my way. As I left, I was sure that I would get the job. So sure, in fact, that I decided to take a break from job search activities for the rest of the week, and I even started to splurge on some nice new clothes to wear to my job (not suits though).

The following Monday, there was an message in my junk mail folder from the HR department of the company. I opened it, and was treated to the following:

Mr. [Mike],

Thank you for your interest in the [job I interviewed for] position with [the company]. We regret to inform you that we cannot offer you a position at this time. We will keep your resume on file in case something else meeting your qualifications becomes available.

Human Resources

What happened next was like the five stages of job rejection. At first I was in denial. This email read like some generic auto-response that I received when I submitted applications to other jobs which I never interviewed for. Surely this must be some sort of mistake. "Maybe I should call the HR department and get it straightened out," I thought.

Next there was disappointment. I was so sure that I would get the job, I had mentally gotten away from the job seeking mindset and moved back into lazy relaxed mode. The prospect of going back to the job seeking grind was not a pleasant one.

Next, I got confused, because my interview had gone great. I had every single qualification they were looking for, my law degree actually brought something to the table that impressed them, and they were hiring five people. Sure, one person could be a better candidate than me. But five? No way, not for this job in this market.

After that, I got pissed. I accepted the fact that they didn’t want me. I can take rejection. But it was the way that informed me that made me mad. They didn’t have the decency to call me, mail me a letter on company letterhead, or even send me an email from a real person. They sent me a generic rejection letter from an email address I couldn’t even respond to. I wanted to call the guy I interviewed with and tell him to be a fucking man.

Finally, I accepted it, but I wanted answers. I figured that if I wasn't going to get the job, I at least wanted to know why. Over the next two weeks I left four voicemails for the guy I interviewed with, none of which were returned.

Professionalism my ass.

3) About a month ago, before I was offered the job I eventually accepted, I responded to a job posting in the Sunday paper. It wasn’t particularly interesting, but it was a decent opportunity, so I figured I might as well apply. The next day, Monday, I got a call from that company, asking if I could come in for an interview the next day at 4:00. I accepted, and was happy to find on mapquest that the company was located in the office park across the street from my apartment complex. So at 3:50 I hopped in my car and drove across the street.

By 4:05, I was home.

What happened? Well, I walked in and was directed to a conference room. A minute later, some guy walked in and introduced himself, and asked for a copy of my resume, which I handed over, freshly printed on high quality resume paper. He looked it over and asked me about my experience in the field. I told him that I had none, and launched into my spiel about why I was uniquely qualified because I went to law school, blah blah blah. When I stopped, he said, annoyed, “Okay, but the job requires at least three years of experience.”

“Then why did you call me for an interview?” I asked.

“Uh….Not sure, to be honest.”

“Oh, well that makes sense,” I responded sarcastically.

“Sorry,” he said, as he stood up to indicate to me that it was time to leave.

“Not to worry,” I told him as I also stood, this time in an overly cheery manor. “I’m sure it happens all the time.” He looked at me blankly for a second, then finally got that I was making fun of him. As I was walking out the door, I stopped and said, “One more thing…I want my resume back.” I snatched it from his hand and left the building.


So those are my stories. What are yours? Send me your best job seeking stories to barelylegalblog@gmail.com, and we might post a few of the best.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sworn Into the Bar Today

So, I'm officially an Esquire.

I've joined the elite ranks of Bill S. Preston and the only men's magazine that doesn't have nudity and yet still manages to sell copies.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Job Search Post #6/Random Rant #9

You know what really bothered me more than anything during my job search? Having to wear a suit to interview with a company where professional dress is not required for the job. There are few things more awkward than wearing an uncomfortable business suit when the guy across the table from you is comfortably kicking back in some Dockers and a polo shirt. If the job doesn’t require you to wear suits to work, then why wear one to the interview? (Also, why do we wear the same suit in warm weather as we do in cold weather? No one else wears jackets when it’s 90 degrees, except crazy homeless people. Shouldn’t it be a sign that something is wrong with a social trend when the only other subset of people who follow the trend are the mentally unstable?)

My question is, what is the point of wearing a suit? It’s all well and good if professional dress is required for the job, because if you are required to wear a suit to work, wearing one to the interview proves you own the proper wardrobe. But if the job is business casual, wouldn’t you want to look business casual? Just because it makes you look professional doesn’t mean you are professional. The only thing that wearing a suit signifies for certain is that at one point in your past, you purchased a suit. It’s not as if owning a suit is prestigious. Suits are not a scarce commodity, only sold to those people with the dignity and class required to wear such a fine piece of clothing. Suits are getting cheaper and cheaper to purchase. It won’t be long before Wal-Mart is marketing a suit, shirt, and tie combination for $49, meant to be worn to custody hearings and weddin’s. Any idiot can put on a suit and have someone tie their tie for them. Employers can’t possibly gauge any real level of professionalism from what they wear to an interview.

Maybe it has some other aesthetic qualities, but so what? Lots of things look nice. Can’t we come up with a more comfortable way to dress well? Whenever a suit is considered proper attire, it is undoubtedly an important event (interviews, business meetings, trials, weddings, funerals, and so on.) These events are the most likely places where a man is going to get nervous. So why did we settle on the most uncomfortable combination of clothing to be the proper attire for formal and professional events? It’s like a cruel joke. “Hey, let’s take a heavy fabric, like wool, and make a jacket and a pair of pants out of it. Then we’ll make a shirt out of cotton to wear underneath. But we don’t want that shirt to be too comfortable, so we’ll add starch to it, so it’s stiff and rigid. Then, we’ll take a long silk piece of fabric and tie it tightly around the neck, thus constricting breathing. For shoes, let’s not give any padding or support, so as to limit comfort. Then we’ll make it pretty much mandatory for men to wear this crazy costume to every important event in his life.” Now tell me, does that make any sense?

People say, “clothes make the man”, but if anything, it’s the contrary. After all, a genius in sweatpants is still a genius, and an idiot in an Armani suit is just a sharply dressed idiot.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Recent IM Conversation

Reader: That wasn’t very nice to call Courtney an ignorant slut
barelylegalblog: I didn’t really mean it, it’s a classic pop culture reference
Reader: I’m not familiar with it
barelylegalblog: Well you’ve proved your ignorance…was that the only part of it you were offended by?
Reader: Haha, I may be a slut but I’m not ignorant
barelylegalblog: Your parents must be proud
Reader: Why?
barelylegalblog: I guess I’d rather have my daughter be known for her ignorance

Monday, October 30, 2006

Point/Counterpoint

…with Mike and Courtney.

Topic: Did the social scene at our school suck more than at other schools?

Courtney: I contend that the social life at this school is much worse than at other schools for several reasons: First, the city itself sucks. There isn’t anything fun to do and all of the bars are overrun with undergrads or local white trash. Second, the people at our school suck; they’re either overly serious and pretentious dorks, or they’re obnoxious idiots. There are very few people cool, laid back people who are fun to be around who won’t discuss law all night, or who don’t start acting like 19 year old loud sorority sluts after three apple-tini’s.

Mike: I contend that you’re wrong. You aren’t describing our law school; you are describing every law school. Sure, our city isn’t great, but unless you’re in Las Vegas or South Beach, what would you expect? It beats some hick town with four bars and a college where the locals look down on book learnin'. And do you think there is some magic school out there with only cool, laid back people who are fun to be around? Of course there isn’t. It’s no secret that law students aren’t the most happenin’ group of folks, but I think you’re being pretty harsh. It could be worse. Law school will not be as fun as undergrad, if you did undergrad the right way. Your best bet is to find a handful of people like you and ignore the rest. You’re just bitter because you think you made a bad school decision, but in reality it’s pretty much the same everywhere.

Courtney: Nuh-uh. I know people who went to law school at [Fun Undergrad Party School] and they had a blast, always going out and having fun.

Mike: Yuh-huh. If you had gone to [Fun Undergrad Party School] for law school, you’d be just as annoyed by your classmates. There’s nothing to stop you from going out all the time here. I knew people at our school who went out all the time, and they were really annoying. And having more options as to where to go out doesn’t mean the people are going to be any better. After all, if that really obnoxious drunk girl that everyone hates had gone to any other school, she’d still be just as annoying, right?

Courtney: Okay, fine, but other schools have other graduate schools, so you can hang out with med students or MBA students or whoever, instead of just law students, so I could go out to bars and not be surrounded by classmates or undergrads or townies.

Mike: Courtney, you ignorant slut. Do you even hear what you’re asking for? Have you ever hung out with a med or MBA student? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ll take my chances with law students. I just think you’re letting your passionate bitter hatred of law school get in the way of reason and logic.

Courtney: Reason and logic having to do with law school? Now who’s being ignorant? Plus, I’m not being unrealistic…

Mike: No, you’re not being unrealistic…You want a law school filled with cool, laid back people to hang out with, but saving that you want a school that offers bars and other establishments where there are no law students, undergrads, or townies, filled with fun and exciting med and MBA students. Is this correct?

Courtney: Yeah…

Mike: No wonder you can’t find a man.

Friday, October 27, 2006

They're Looking for a Few Good Men

I'm trying to start a business, so I need someone to employ me part time as an attorney straight out of law school. Needless to say, it's not easy. Especially since i graduated in the fat part of the curve, which seems to always come up in interviews, especially the one "C" I received. Here's how one of my interviews went.

Interviewer : "According to your transcript here, you got a C in Advanced Torts. What happened there?"

Russ: "You want answers?"

Interviewer: "I think I'm entitled."

Russ:"You want answers?"

Interviewer: "I want the truth!"

Russ: "You can't handle the truth. We live in a world where 100,000 law school graduates are plunked out onto the streets every year, hungry to pay off their student loans, thirsty for tortworthy issues. You want those attorneys to casually abandon the law as a youthful dalliance while they move into real estate or consulting. Well who's gonna make them do that? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You question my grades while you curse the law system. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that my legal inneptitude, while widespread, probably saves people from lawsuits. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves people from the anxiety of dealing with our labyrinth of a legal system. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at ABA funtions, you want me getting a C. You don't want me in that courtroom standing next to your ex-wife. You need me with that C, not knowing that the bird feeder in your backyard could be classified as a "nuisance". I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who sleeps under the blanket of legal impunity that my legal incompetence provides."

So, if anyone needs a part time attorney in Chicago, let me know.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Know Your Customer.

The other day I was at the grocery store. While pausing and looking at the products a man approached me and said, "Can I share something with you?"

I was going to say, "Thank you but I already have a Book of Mormon", but I just nodded.

The stranger then said, "Have you ever heard of prepaid legal services?"

"Yes I have," I replied.

"Then you know that that with prepaid legal services you just pay a small policy and if an incident ever arises you'll have access to fully paid attorney to assist you..."

"Actually," I interrupted, "I am an attorney. So, essentially, all legal services I'll ever need have been prepaid."

The disappointed salesman stopped his pitch and glumly said, "Yeah. I suppose so."

"In fact, my prepaid legal services plan cost me $75,000. I bet you guys offer a better deal."

We shared a frank look and he said, "We sure do."

"Well, I wish I had run into you four years ago"

Like any good salesman, he had suddenly come up with answer to my objection. "Don't they say that if you use your own legal services you'd have a 'fool for a client.'"

"Tell me about it," I said as I turned and headed towards the liquor section.

Monday, October 23, 2006

It Had To Happen Eventually...

I finally got a job. Not just any job, but a job I actually wanted and am looking forward to. I will post more details later (including how I almost blew it before I even got an interview), but for now, here is what I want to know:

I start two weeks from Wednesday. To all the people who are now stuck in the working world, what is the best way to spend the last two weeks of absolute freedom that I'll have for the next 40 years? What would you have done if you knew you had two weeks before work started, if you could do it all over again? Email me at barelylegalblog@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book Update #1

As many of you know, we plan on writing a book. Actually, we have two books that we want to write; the first one will be geared towards the law school crowd, while the second one will be for a much larger audience and has a lot more potential to make us relatively rich. But we want to do the law school book first, and so that’s what we’re focusing on.

Part of the reason we kept the blog going after we graduated was to keep our readers updated on the book process. I’m not quite sure what we expected to be happening; perhaps being jetted off to New York by big publishing houses trying to woo us with expensive Manhattan dinners and meetings with smart, urbane editors who share our vision. And while I still hold out hope that that happens, we are learning that the publishing industry moves as slowly as the obese guy in your class when he gets to the third flight of stairs. Basically, at this point, we have written a proposal, which our agent (who is fantastic, by the way) sent out to a handful of publishers. Depending on what happens with those publishers, she will keep sending it out until someone decides to make a very smart decision. And when someone does, we’ll let you know.

In a nutshell, our law school book is going to be an anti-guide; an insider’s look at law school written by the average law student, for the average law student. It’s going to be brutally honest, funny, and hopefully informative. It’s not going to paint law school in a negative light, per se; rather, it’s going to be the honest appraisal of two people who didn’t like law school and found that a lot of people shared their view.

This brings me to the point of this post. Today, our agent let us know that a publisher had passed on our proposal. This isn’t a big deal in and of itself, but what did strike me was the reason why. After explaining that our proposal was very funny, and that the book could do very well, the publisher said that she thinks the authors need to come from “big name schools” and that our schools lack name recognition (which isn’t really true; our schools lack ivy covered walls.) Essentially the publisher was saying, “If you had gone to Harvard, I’d publish this book.”

This logic pretty much flies in the face of why we want to write the book to begin with (other than money). All the law school books out there suck because they are written by top students from big name schools, and are about as useful to the average law student as an advanced English dictionary would be in the kitchen of your typical restaurant; only a few people can actually understand it, and even fewer actually get anything useful out of it. This blog, and hopefully our book, is meant for the proletariat of law students, whose numbers far outweigh the big school elite. For every kid at Harvard or Yale or any of the other handful of elite schools, there are hundreds of law students on the other side who have to do more than show up and graduate to get a plum job. So when it comes to name recognition, I have no doubt that our lack of “elitist” pedigree will speak to a much larger audience than some “insider’s” guide written by a guy from a school that most of us had no shot at.

But if it’s name recognition that they are looking for, then look for the book under our new pen names: Russell Hemingway and M.D. Salinger.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Job Search Post #5

As soon as I walked into the office, I got a weird feeling. The lobby was drab, with beige colored walls and tan couches, with no art work on the wall, and only a slightly pitiful looking fake plant in the corner. I followed the secretary back to the boss’s office, and I noticed that the employee cubicles were devoid of the typical decorations and individual touches that usually pepper modern offices. It didn’t sound like a normal office either; I didn’t hear any boisterous employee banter or even a spirited phone voice. The employees seemed subdued, speaking in hushed tones or busily staring at a computer screen. No one was up walking around. I made eye contact with one woman, and she looked warily at me with exhausted eyes. Just as I was starting to wonder what the hell was wrong with this place, I got my answer.

The secretary led me into the manager’s office, where I met the source of everyone’s discontent. A short, muscled man with a crew cut and a sour look on his face was standing behind his desk, waiting for me. I immediately guessed that he was an ex-Marine. Within 30 seconds, he confirmed my premonition and informed me that he did two tours in Vietnam. After 90 seconds, he twice informed me that he was the regional vice president, and that he had been brought in here from the Pittsburgh office “to right the ship” and that he had done just that. This man was clearly a stern disciplinarian, a micromanaging taskmaster who took a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. He had succeeded in hiring an office full of people who would roll over when he bullied them around. Finally, after his ego stopped talking, he started the interview.

At this point, I could sit here and write out the transcript of the first ten minutes of our conversation, but I won’t because it mostly consisted of him asking a question about law school, and then before I could answer, he would go and make a negative comment about lawyers. Now, I have no problems whatsoever with talking bad about lawyers. I do it all the time. But my comments are well-informed critiques coming from personal experience, not ignorant opinions lifted from a book of lawyer jokes. Nor would I have had a problem had the man been kidding around. However, I failed to find the slightest hint of humor or irony in his voice when he told me that “lawyers would have everyone burning flags and let terrorists run free”, apparently confusing lawyers with liberals. (I told you he was ignorant.)

Finally the conversation turned to the actual job, and with every answer I could see that he despised me. Granted, he didn’t know anything about me, but he must have seen my kind before. So when he asked the next question, he gave me the perfect opportunity to transform from “Interview Mike” to “Normal Mike”.

“Let’s say that you have to manage an office full of 25 people. What do you think the best way to do that is?”

“Well, there isn’t one best way to do that. I think the most effective managers are the ones who can get to each employee individually, and learn how to best motivate the individual. What might make X work at a high level might make Y pull away and alienate them. Some people like to be told exactly what to do and how to do it. Others like to be made to feel like they have an input in the decision making process. Others can be left alone with just the occasional pat on the back. The real talent in managing is to identify what works best for each person and to do that.”

Then I added the kicker. “Any idiot can stand in front of his subordinates and tell them what to do. Good managers are adaptable. Bad managers are not.”

He stared through me with a look that was previously seen only by the North Vietnamese soldiers he killed 30 years ago. Finally, he found the words to express what he felt. “Where did you learn that?” he asked, with utter contempt. “Law school?”

“No, it’s just common sense.”

And the job search continues.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Attention Fellow Bloggers

Someone recently asked me what it takes to get a link on this blog. The answer is surprisingly simple: Just ask, and link us in return.

I'll admit, we aren't the best linkers. Sometimes someone emails us their blog, with a link request, and I have all the intentions in the world to update our blogroll. But I forget, and their link is never added. But this week, since I'm bored, I decided to do a link cattle call.

If you have a blog and would like a link on ours, just shoot over an email and let me know. Don't be shy. I know there are lots of blogs out there who have linked us for a long time, so it's the least I can do. And don't take the lack of a link to your blog as some sort of insult; it's just laziness. So good or bad, we'll link you if you ask. So send me an email at barelylegalblog@gmail.com and I'll take care of it.

Update: Keep them coming. If you don't see your link on the side (or any link) it's because blogrolling.com is having issues, but don't worry, it's getting fixed.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Email Exchange With A Reader

Hey guys,

My friends and I have been having a debate. What is the proper etiquette for missing class when you are sick? I say that you should miss when you are contagious, otherwise you should suck it up and go; one friend says you should go if you want, contagious or not; one friend says that you shouldn't miss class if you're sick becase you are showing weakness if you do, and one friend says that you shouldn't go if you're sick, because, "why would you?" Who is right?

Josh


**********************************************

Um...Is this a joke?


**********************************************


No, I'm serious, we need you to settle this. We have a bet going, and we decided to let you settle it. So please, who is right?

Josh


**********************************************

Congratulations, Josh. In this email, harmless at first glance, you were able to express everything that is wrong with law students in just 88 words. It would have taken me a trilogy of phonebook sized volumes to capture the essence of what you said about law students in just one paragraph.

You see, Josh, you were able to demonstrate the overall dorkiness of law students with the premise of your bet, while capturing the four main archetypes of law students through the individual stances of you and your friends.

Still with me, Josh? If not, let me elaborate. First off, who the fuck would sit around debating the "proper etiquette" for taking a sick day? Seriously, I cannot think of a stupider topic to debate, and yet, here you are, with enough difference in opinions to need to ask a neutral party to settle it. But that isn't the worst part, Josh. When I got the email, I figured, 'this must be a joke'. I even asked you if it was a joke, but in my heart of hearts I knew it wasn't, because you are a law student, Josh. I wasn't surprised at all when you told me it was a serious debate. So to answer my seemingly rhetorical question,who would sit around debating a topic such as this? Law students would. That's who.

But it was so much more than that, Josh. In each of your four unique opinions, you showed us just how warped the law student mind can be.


"I say that you should miss when you are contagious, otherwise you should suck it up and go."

Luckily, Josh, you aren't one of the bad ones. Your viewpoint is noble but misguided. It's considerate that you wouldn't want to go to class when you're contagious. But if not, you should suck it up and go? Why, Josh? If you are feeling ill enough to consider taking a sick day, what good will showing up do you? Is sitting in a class for an hour with a low grade fever and nausea going to improve your grade? Has anyone ever said, "I sure am glad I went to class that day I had diarrhea, or else I'd never have gotten that question right on the exam. I remember the professor talking about it between trips to the can."

"One friend says you should go if you want, contagious or not."

Now this is more like it. Not only is this person misguided, but he doesn't even have the decency to consider the classmates. No, this is the person who doesn't share outlines, raises his hand with a minute to go in class, and happily reports classmates for honor code violations. The fact this person even has friends to debate with is surprising to me.

"One friend says that you shouldn't miss class if you're sick because you are showing weakness if you do."

I never understood this attitude. What is this, boot camp? If someone misses class because they're sick, does this guy say "Looks like Sam can't deal with a little strep throat. How will he ever understand joinders? I can safely say I'll do better than him." What a tool.

"One friend says that you shouldn't go if you're sick, because, "why would you?""

Josh, I am glad to see you have one sane friend. My advice: dump the other two idiots and hitch your wagon to this guy's star. He's going places.

So do you need me to settle the bet? Okay, fine, here's my answer: You all need girlfriends.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Recent IM Conversation

AnonymousReader: Guess what? I passed the bar!!!
barelylegalblog: congratulations
AnonymousReader: Okay I gotta run to work
barelylegalblog: you work?
AnonymousReader: Yeah, I have been working at my parents store while I am looking for a real job...Now that I passed the bar, I feel like it's beneath me
barelylegalblog: I need to congratulate you again
AnonymousReader: What for?
barelylegalblog: You apparently passed the Snobbery and Pretentiousness portion of the bar too
AnonymousReader: Hahaha...Yeah, S&P was my best class in law school
barelylegalblog: and it shows

Monday, October 02, 2006

A View From The Bottom Of A Law School Class

We get lots of emails. Some of them are amusing, some of them are sad, and some of them are just so honest that they are both amusing and sad. This is an email we received today which pretty much sums up the futures of many of you (even if you don't want to admit it). Scratch that...she's probably doing much better than where you'll end up. Names and locations have been changed or removed at the request of the author.

I'm a recent law school graduate – ___________ School of Law 2005 – and here's a brief synopsis of my experience:

In late 2001, I was living at home in [Popular Mid-Atlantic Vacation City]-, bartending four nights a week, which was actually a highly lucrative career choice for someone with a BA (2000) in Art History. I spent all my tips earned for serving drinks by tipping others for serving me drinks, or buying clothes to wear out drinking. I complained when my parents wanted me to pay my own car insurance. Eventually, I realized that going back to school was easier than getting a god-awful real job. It also allowed me to suspend reality for another three years and excuse all my actions and inactions with the phrase "I'm a student." AND I would be able to move to a really cool new city. So I went to law school. In [Fun Desert Vacation Destination] .

I quickly found friends. I also found a gambling addiction…. But… back to the friends. With respect to the two close friends I made in law school, one dropped out after first year, one flunked out, and prior to those glorious achievements, the three of us nearly all got kicked out of law school for laughing in court while a rather unfortunate prostitute was arraigned. We had to write apologies to the dean and the judge, seriously. In the quagmire, I found a boyfriend… who, incidentally, had a wife. This boyfriend more or less saved my academic ass by teaching me Civil Procedure – to a solid C- level – in the course of 5 days so that I finished first year barely escaping academic probation.

Over the following two years, my dedication to my studies diminished dramatically, yet, strangely, my grades steadily improved. It reaffirmed what I had been convinced of for years – I am unable to self-destruct. The less I cared, the more I was convinced that I was a law school savant, destined to be discovered by some glamorous firm that would employ me for my natural mediocrity and impeccable instincts, and altogether overlook my absence of work ethic. This obviously did not happen.

I took the summer between 1L and 2L off, opting to spend my time lounging on the beach, occasionally bartending a night here or there, and dining and drinking with my married boyfriend. It was a summer of fantastical whimsy and utter avoidance. The summer between 2L and 3L, I worked for two lawyer friends of mine from [Popular Mid-Atlantic Vacation City], and on terms that can playfully be called "pro bono" – paid only by martinis and expensive bottles of wine, often consumed over lunch breaks. I used my paycheck-free status to excuse myself for showing up late or not at all, taking extended weekend vacations, and playing dangerous amounts of online Scrabble. I learned little of any pertinence to a possible career in law, mostly because "a career in law" was still far too disconcerting to take seriously.

Then came Third Year. Unprovoked, married boyfriend decided to leave his wife for me. The inevitable countdown to graduation occurred. I ran out of money and my parents refused to subsidize my career in professional sports betting. I was forced to work part-time waiting tables while frightfully considering the possibility that I may have to get a law-related job. I interviewed, and not well. My casual demeanor, personal charm and flawless conversational skills proved useless in the interview format. I decided that sometimes the best answer to a question was a question back to the interviewer. I thought these stodgy law types might appreciate someone who cares what animal THEY would be if they could be. Somehow, the artificiality of the interview process did reveal the truth about me – that I was completely unemployable in this realm.

While a strong sense of panic set in, my newly divorced boyfriend and I enrolled in a 2-credit class called "How to Start and Build Your Law Practice." The grade was based entirely on a final project called a "business proposal" that was, for me, a chance to make an artsy scrapbook designing letterhead and firm announcements, cutting and pasting pictures of classy office furniture, drawing blueprints and picking out hardwood floors. I got a B+, losing points only for my lack of examining financial pragmatism. Our class lectures consisted of a parade of lawyers delivering speeches about their successful practices. They always wore expensive suits and rarely mentioned the frightful phrases "zealous advocacy" "making a difference" or "pro bono." These lawyers, my boyfriend and I decided, were exactly who we wanted to be.

In his mind, I'm now aware, were dreams of business ownership, riches beyond belief, spending 24/7 to build something of which he could be proud, and doing all of this with his beloved girlfriend. In my mind were sighs of relief and joy for not having to endure any more interviews, for justifying taking 6 more months off before receiving bar exam results in October 05, and for installing hardwood floors and taking 3-hour/3-martini lunches.

We were able to fund this endeavor from the profits of the sale of his house in [Fun Desert Vacation Destination]. We both passed the bar exam and started our practice in October 2005. I somehow got stuck in this niche of doing [Boring and Depressing Area of Law], and I cannot articulate the extent to which I despise my life. But here I am, with real live clients, a website, a yellow pages ad, a 5-year lease on office space, and those goddamn overpriced hardwood floors. We just got a package in the mail reminding us to renew our malpractice insurance, and it is to me beyond all belief that one year has passed and I have not been sued for malpractice, investigated by the state bar, treated for a nervous breakdown, or had my stomach pumped.

Strangely, the firm is making (some) money, yet I have no idea how I have ended up here. Guys, I am spiraling out of control and cannot point to a definitive event whereby I could have prevented this hell, but I think I blame my parents for making me pay for my car insurance. (Not really. But this is the type of statement that best characterizes the level of absurdity of me being a lawyer.)

I just discovered your blog, and have thus far been immensely entertained. I guarantee you that no one could be less suited for the law while being so squarely ensconced in it as I am.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reflections on Law School

Someone recently asked me why I didn’t like law school very much, and it came down to one thing: the law is a serious business and, frankly, I am not a serious person.

I like jokes, and the law is no joke. One day you’re arguing in a wood paneled room, the next day 10,000 convictions are overturned because of a ruling. The WASPy dad from Legally Blonde was right; “Law really is for ugly, serious, and boring people.”

The more serious the subject, the less I cared. When my classmates would passionately make arguments about constitutional law, I didn’t bother to analyze them. All I could think was, “Jesus, he actually believes in this stuff.” I couldn’t imagine myself ever making a constitutional argument beyond some DUI search and seizure issue.

When guest speakers who were judges, clerks, or big firm attorneys told us that their greatest pleasure was “making an impact,” I made a mental note to steer clear of that hornet’s nest. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of the law being this end-all-be-all concept that most of my classmates perceived it as.

I never once imagined myself as a judge or big firm lawyer. My parents both own small businesses. To me, the law seemed like a skill set for a small business. I picked up what seemed applicable, and left the rest to the eggheads.

While most of my classmates used every moment to buttress their future careers of power and prestige with studying and activities, I just went with the flow. This contrast seemed especially clear to me during Trial Ad when we each had to pick an evening each week to present. My classmates fought tooth and nail to get the evening they wanted, ex: “I can’t do Tuesdays; I take depositions from victims of Asbestosis who are only conscious from 6 to 9 on Tuesdays.”

Finally, when my name was called and the professor said, "Russell, do you want Thursday or Tuesday?”

I replied, "Either is okay. I'm just happy to be here."

People say they always want a “Pit bull of a lawyer”. Alas, I am an easy going Golden Retriever type.

P.S.: No wonder some counties have banned pit bulls.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Brother, Can You Spare 1500 Dimes?

I was was making enchiladas the other day when my cell phone rang. I answered, hoping to hear about a job, but instead I was disappointed. And, it should come as no surprise that the source of this disappointment was my law school.

"Hi, Mr. [Mike]," a bubbly voice greeted me. "My name is Sarah and I am a freshman here at the University of ________, and I am calling on behalf of the University of _______ School of Law Alumni Association. How are you this evening?"

"A little bit disappointed," I said.

"Excuse me?"

"Never mind, what can I do for you?" (Knowing full well she wanted money.)

After getting my new address, the conversation changed abruptly. "So,when was the last time you visited the law school?" she asked. The question sounded rehearsed, and all the stranger coming from her bouncy, high pitched sorority voice.

"The last time I was at the school was the day I turned in my final take home exam," I said flatly.

"Oh okay…", she said. My caustic answer seemed to throw her off. "Well, are there any fond memories of law school you'd like to share for the alumni newsletter?," she inquired.

"Sure," I said, laughing. "The last day of school when I turned in my final take home exam, that was the best day of law school ever."

Sarah started giggling, and continued to do so throughout the next question. "So what are you up to these days?"

"Makin' enchiladas. Want to come over for dinner?"

"Hehehe...No, I meant career wise." Her giggling was getting out of hand.

"Still looking," I told her, not wanting to explain my job hunting situation to a giggly 18 year old.

"Okay, well, the reason for this call is…"

Here we go: She went into a long, choppy spiel about the law school, and new features it has added, and efforts to raise it's profile, etc., all stuff I knew to be just lip service. The proposed changes meant virtually nothing in reality to any current or future students. So when she finished, and asked for $150, I was ready.

"Sarah, here's the thing; as we just discussed, I don't have a job yet, so I don't have an extra $150 sitting around to donate. Why don't you call me in a few months, when I will have a job and presumably some extra cash, so when I decline to donate, I can actually look at the extra $150 I have and decide I'd rather waste it on something else."

There was another pause. I was afraid I had offended her. But, she burst out laughing. "You're much more entertaining than the other law school alums I call all night", she said.

"Sarah, you don't know the half of it."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Best Email We've Ever Had

Reading your 'why is law school so much like high school' piece, I, a 1L at a well known southern law school, suddenly became a little more at piece with the world... I was, for a moment, no longer one of the 85% who sits about despising the 15% despised.

I let it all go, man. I saw through all the bullshit, it all got so clear: I even remembered the name of the girl from 10th grade whose name I can never remember when trying to count how many women I've slept with...


Then I further remembered last Thursday, when one of the bopping socialite butterflys fluttered about to every pastel colored polo in the room whispering plans for a secret, "cool people only, ghetto-fabuluz 40oz theme party".

my clarity fogged over.

and as for Thursday night: 15% of the 1Ls attended a secret party. 82% studied or had a drink with a friend. and, luckily, the 3% of our class who are black, were somewhere being grown-ups.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Job Search Post #4

Interviewing is an inherently fake activity. The interviewer is being fake, in that he or she is trying to portray the company and the job in the most positive light possible, conveniently omitting the fact that your future boss has little man’s syndrome and coffee breath. You, the interviewee, are being fake in that you are trying to portray yourself as an idealized version of you, sort of the “you” without the lazy side and drinking problem. Both sides know that this is the case, and yet no one is willing to admit it. Is there any other social situation where two people can sit across from each other and lie, where each knows the other is lying, but accepts the lying as a better alternative than the truth…Well, other than dating? If employers knew everything there is to know about the people they interview, they’d never be able to fill the position because no one would ever be good enough. Conversely, if job seekers knew the full truth about the job and company they were interviewing for, no one would ever want to accept a job because all jobs have a downside.

The worst interviews are the ones where the interviewer doesn’t really know what he or she is doing, and has to fall back on a series of inane questions for which the desired answer couldn’t be more obvious. “Tell me about a time where you showed leadership abilities,” I have heard often. Unless you commanded some Army Rangers in Afghanistan or took charge of a hostage situation, there isn’t an answer for this question that really shows any actual leadership ability.

President of your fraternity? In my frat, we elected the least irresponsible person, hardly a ringing endorsement.

Student government? Is it really leadership if the organization which you led has no actual power?

Organized a project for the rest of the interns one summer? That just means you weren't competent enough to do a real job.

If I told an interviewer about my real leadership examples, I’d never ever get a job. No matter how qualified I was, I just don’t think they want to hear about how I successfully organized a large scale garage hopping expedition when I was 17, or how I talked a Mexican cop out of arresting my friends and I when I was 19 without bribing him. (Note: If you don't know what garage hopping is, send me an email or IM and I'd be happy to fill you in.)

So, regrettably, when presented with that question, I pause, put on a brave face, and go on about how I “took charge and saved” an important group project during my last year of college, while the interviewer nods encouragingly, knowing that I am feeding him a line of bullshit, which is exactly what he wants to hear.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Story Contest Winner

From Don:

There were 160 victims - I mean students - who were accepted into law school with me. The first week of our first semester involved mandatory student orientation. All 160 wide eyed, naive, “Perry Mason wannabes” were crammed into the law school's largest class room/court room. We were told how lucky we were, we were told how proud they were to have us, we were told how much better our law school was than the ratings reflected, we were told how great a class we were - standard bull-hockey. We were told who was who, what was what, and where everything important was. We heard from the Dean of the Law School, the Alumni Director (prepping us to donate to alumni crap was obviously higher on their priorities than just about anything else) (as a footnote I tell them every year when they call asking for donations that until I feel like I got my moneys worth and until they stop bringing in every crackpot liberal they can find to brainwash future lawyers I am not the least bit interested), the Career Services lady (can you say "teats on a bore hog"?) then the Dean of Student Affairs.

Finally some useful information? He proceeded to tell us that unlike undergraduate (exactly like kindergarten I realized much to late in life) 1Ls have no discretion in their classes, their professors, or their schedules. In alphabetical order we were arbitrarily assigned to sections based on nothing more than the first letter of our last name (the arbitrariness of this was a precursor to the whole experience and the profession). We were all given the same classes, the same number of credit hours and we were informed that there would be no change whatsoever. Since our next two semesters were preordained and non discretionary we were told that unlike those who had attended undergraduate school at the university there was "no registration process for you." He then politely asked if there were any questions. Of course someone immediately raised their grubby little hand and asked "so when do we register?" Dead silence. The Dean of Student affairs quickly scanned for the Candid Camera and then very nicely and amazingly non sarcastically said "well as I said earlier you don't register we have already assigned you your schedule and classes and it is mandatory." On cue another brainiac raises there hand - “Yes” says the dean, to which the 1L says "where do we go to register for our classes." (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP). I pulled a muscle rolling my eyes as the Dean reiterated that he had already registered everyone (even the stupid ones). I knew at that point that law school was going to be much more tedious and mind numbing than I was prepared for (if only I had had the insight to act on that knowledge!).


In fairness I must point out that neither of those two “goobers” made it out of the 1st year of law school (but I am quite sure that I have appeared before more than one judge in my career that was capable of making the same bone headed question) - but my first impression of law students was quite an impression.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

You know what is really sad?

We have a war going on where a dozen or more Americans die weekly, with no end in sight and no real point anymore...

A college degree is now required for jobs that didn't need a college degree a generation ago, and even then, nothing is guaranteed...

On top of that, the cost of education is soaring...

The government is slowly eroding away our constitutional rights...

And the one thing that gets young people really mad, finally ready to band together and fight, is the new facebook features?

Seriously, get a fucking life.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Look at a Cliched Topic

Russ and/or Mike,

I am a 1L, and have been in school for a few weeks now, and I have to ask...Why is law school so much like high school?!?!?!

I’m sure you have a good answer for this.

Kristy



Kristy,

First of all, way to make a fresh observation. Next up, are you going to ask why they don’t make the whole airplane out of the little black box? Perhaps a few President Clinton cigar jokes?

But despite the clichéd nature of your question, it is still valid nonetheless. While most law students make the inevitable law school/high school comparison at one point (and often, much more frequently), to my knowledge no one has ever tried to explain why this is the case, beyond the whole “lockers/assigned classes” theory.

In order to understand it, we must first examine the social structure of high school. If your high school was at all typical, then it broke down like this: 15% of the student body-the attractive, the athletic, and the dynamic- were the envy of the other 85%. Those 15% set the standard of cool. The 85% could either strive to be like them, or seethe with jealousy about them, or pretend not to care about them, but no matter what, those 15% directly or indirectly dictated the behavior of the rest of the student body.

Law school is made up primarily of the former 85%-ers. Without the attractive, athletic group to either emulate or despise, law students all jockey to fill the void at the top of the social hierarchy. Some do this by striving for academic excellence; others try to become socialites. But no matter the method, they are overlooking one major element: this is no longer high school! Social standing doesn’t determine who is cool and who is not.

At some point during the undergraduate years, the definition of “cool” goes from the standard high school definition to a more fluid, expandable definition. At this stage, “cool” is all about embracing who you truly are, and being comfortable with that. So if you like Star Wars and playing Halo 2 all the time, you are a dork. But if you admit that you are a dork and embrace it, then you are cool. Some law students miss this concept entirely. Still stuck in the high school mentality that social status determines coolness, they try to be something they are not. Instead of embracing the person they are, they try to be better than that person. This isn’t self-improvement; it’s self-denial.

Granted, not all law students act like this. In fact, many do not. But just a few people can bring down the maturity level of the entire class. Here is how it happens: Someone wants to be looked up to and admired, to be in that 15%, so to speak. But what they don’t realize is that the 15% doesn’t exist anymore, at least not like it did in high school. Nobody looks up to them because they are on law review or are the most obnoxious drinker or anything else. (If you want to be on law review or be the law school drunk because that’s who you are, then do it. But if you are doing it to improve your standing in the eyes of your peers, then you are part of the problem.) Their classmates get disgusted with them and their posturing, and start to complain about it, which makes the classmates the de facto 85%. So an odd balance is struck; even though the days of high school social structure should be over, they come roaring back, but instead of being split between the cool and the uncool, it is a split between the despised and the despisers.

But at a personal level, you can escape it. I was having a discussion with a 1L once, who was complaining about the high school feel, and continually bad mouthed and gossiped about many of her classmates, including some of her friends. When she asked me what she how she could escape the high school feeling, I told her that if she didn’t want to feel like she was in high school, then perhaps she should stop acting like an immature teenager herself. She didn’t like hearing it, but it’s true. If you can ignore the idiots around you and try to act with some semblance of maturity, you won’t feel like you have been transported back to the 10th grade quite so much, although you’ll never be able to fully escape it.

On the bright side, at least now you can stay out as late as you want…So that’s something…

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Time For Another Story Contest

Okay folks, lets hear your best 'getting called on on the first day of class' stories. It can be something that happened to you, or to someone else, or even be a law school urban legend. The winner's entry will be posted.

Also, 1Ls...how has law school been different than you expected? Is it better or worse? Any other impressions you have, we'd love to hear.

Send anything to barelylegalblog@gmail.com

Friday, September 01, 2006

Sour Grapes

I hated law school. In fact the more I think back on it the more I disliked it.

The objective ranking of subjective talent, the endless lectures about boring minutiae, the obsession with citation. I hated it all.

One thing I didn't really hate, however, were my classmates. Sure, lots of them were boring, pompous nerds but, realistically, so am I. So, if I ever disliked them I was only displeased with their features that I actually saw in myself. Most law students are actually surprisingly thoughtful and well spoken people compared to the general public.

But there was one guy who I did truly hate. Let's call him "Tim".

Tim was a short little wiener with a squeaky voice who, in my darkest law school days, I could point to and think, 'at least I'm not him.'

Tim was always happy to be in class. Never volunteering but always prepared when called upon. He never carried the scowl of being flustered or the empty look of boredom that most law students do.

In other words, he annoyed the hell out of me.

Then one day, he and I got to talking about our spring breaks. I always go somewhere really cool for spring break and was ready to do some well deserved bragging. Tim listened politely and then told me he was going to umpire some tennis tournament in Florida that spring break. He also mentioned Maria Sharapova was competing and he looked forward to calling her match.

"Well, try not to pop a boner on the court," I said, trying to minimize his accomplishment while I gritted my teeth in jealousy.

Another day in class some other student was thanking Tim for stitching up a wound. Tim shrugged it off and said, "It was easy. I get kids with open wounds every night."

Turns out, Tim was also a medical student who worked in the emergency room each night while I was at home complaining about 30 pages of reading.

He disgusted me.

A few months later one of the class' sweet, pretty and overtly Christian girls (there's always one) commented to Tim that she had seen him at church the previous Sunday. Tim smiled and said, "Yeah, most people don't see me there because I'm usually in back playing the organ each Sunday."

I wanted to throw Tim off a cliff.

Tim, if you're out there fulfilling your next accomplishment with ease and modesty, bypassing once again the angst and self-doubt the rest of us are cursed with, I want you to remember one thing: I'm taller than you and always will be.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Job Search Post #3

It was recently suggested to me that since I am looking for non-legal jobs, I might need a cover letter that better explains how my skills and education translate over to the business world. Here is what I came up with:


Dear Sir or Madam,

I am interested in a [Blank] position with your company. I have a Juris Doctorate from [Redacted] and a Bachelors in Finance from the [Redacted]. My previous work experience and education make me a perfect candidate to help use best practices to make industry-specific critical business decisions that will propel the organization into the 21st century and beyond.

In my previous work experience, I excelled at facilitating the company’s vision and core values into shifting paradigms. I worked with cross-functional teams to help foster client relationships while maintaining a high level of professionalism and efficiency. I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and push the envelope when it comes to making face to face presentations to industry movers and shakers. When you combine this experience with my educational background, you get a dynamic, proactive, results driven team player who is not afraid to think outside the box in order to add value to the bottom line.

I am eager to leverage my experience into a position where I can use tactical solutions and synergize emerging technologies into a proven business plan while getting onto the fast track to upper management, and this is just that position. I am always willing to push the envelope and refocus my energies to best live up to the mission statement. I am ready to apply my knowledge base and go the extra mile for your company. Please touch base with me at your earliest convenience so we can make a game plan to discuss all of the buzzwords I just used.

Sincerely,

Mike

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Job Search Post #2

A few weeks ago I interviewed for a job which I wasn't qualified for. Actually, I am overqualified for the job, but according to the company, they want somebody with industry experience, which I don't have. But they granted me the interview for a reason, which I assume was either a) they wanted to see if I could convince them that I was right for the job despite my lack of experience, or b) clerical error.

Usually in interviews, I can tell how well I am doing. I have had interviews where I knew all along that I was nailing it and that I would get the job, and I have had interviews where the conversation was more awkward than the waiting room at Planned Parenthood. But this interview was different than any other I have ever had.

First we talked about my background and how it would translate over, and he seemed genuinely impressed and interested. I started feeling more confident about it, when all of the sudden he started talking about the ideal candidate for the job, and it was clear I wasn’t close to what he was looking for. My newfound confidence was rattled, so I started trying to steer the conversation back to how my background would translate over to this job. The interview ended on an upswing, with him seeming interested in me again, and getting the assurance I would hear from him soon.

It was like going on a date and having the girl tell me how great I am and how much she likes me, then in the next breath talking about a guy from work who she likes, then getting short kiss, and having her seductively tell me “I can’t wait to do this again!”

Friday, after almost two weeks, I hadn’t heard back, so I gave him a call. He seemed kind of startled to hear from me. “Oh…hey Mike…Well, I regret to inform you that you weren’t selected for a second interview.”

“Okay….had you planned on ever contacting me and letting me know, or did you just hope I forgot about it?”

“Honestly, I just forgot about you, so I guess I hadn’t planned on contacting you again.”

I got legitimately pissed. “Oh, that’s real professional,” I told him, and hung up.

Then it slowly dawned on me, “I just called someone else unprofessional. What is happening to me?!?!"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Welcome to Law School

In the last week, I have been inundated with IMs from 1Ls who are about to start or just recently started law school. Typically, the 1L is seeking some sort of advice (which I am happy to provide) or some kind of reassurance (which I probably will not). But mostly, they want to know about my first days of law school. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps they want to draw some parallel; “If only my experience is better than his, maybe I have a chance.”

I realized early on that law school just wasn’t for me. Remembering my early days of law school took some prodding. I repressed those memories, putting them in the same place that I put those ugly childhood memories of being teased and picked on. I trudged through my year first and a half unhappy with myself and my decision. This blog, started during my 2nd year is the equivalent to when I grew 6 inches and gained 40 pounds between 7th and 8th grade and went from picked on by bullies to protector of nerds. That slightly depressing allegory aside, here are my memories from the early days:

First, let me say that I was really, really naïve about law school before I started. I knew next to nothing about it, so I went in with an open mind. In hindsight, this was probably a mistake. Since I didn’t really know about the downsides, when I faced those downsides for the first time, it was that much more of a let down.

One thing stands out about the first day of class: it was the longest day of my life. I had four classes scheduled over five hours, but I felt like I was there for much longer. The time just crept by. Part of it was the expectations; I didn’t know what the next class would bring, so it seemed slower. But part of it was just how boring law school classes are. I recall equating it to the time I decided to take a manual labor job during a summer in high school. I had never done such work before, and when I did, I realized then and there why people go to college. That eight hour shift was the slowest eight hours of my life. I resisted looking at the clock for as long as I could, and when I did, I expected it to be close to lunch time. In reality I had been there a little over an hour. Needless to say, I didn’t go back the next day. That was sort of how my first day of school felt, only I returned the next day. I am still debating the merits of that decision.

One more memory: During orientation I went to the assignment board to check what I had to read for the first day. All of my classes had an assignment, except for torts. My torts prof had posted an assignment, but it was assigned to section 2. I was in section 1. Never mind that section 2 didn’t have him for torts, and that I was fully aware of that fact. Never mind that my classmates seemed to make the connection and realize his error. I looked at it and thought, “Cool! One less assignment to read this weekend!”

I got to school Monday, and people were talking about the torts case. I asked what case they meant, and they told me. I said, “But we didn’t have an assignment.” They all vehemently disagreed and pointed to the pages. I then realized, much later than the rest of them, that our torts professor had simply made a mistake. But no worries, I thought. If I was called on, I would simply explain the mistake and he’d move on. Right?

I know you are expecting me to tell you that he called on me, laughed at my excuse and ripped me a new one. But that didn’t happen. The nice thing about being in a section of 95 people is that you only have a slightly greater than 1% chance of being called on. And the odds were in my favor that day. However, nothing better illustrates my transition from naïve 1L to slacking 2L to jaded 3L better than this: My first year, I made the honest mistake of misunderstanding what was assigned and had the honest belief that the professor would understand. As a 2L, I would have seen that mistake and used it to my advantage by not reading and then pointing out the mistake to my professor and claiming ignorance if called upon. And as a 3L, I wouldn’t have bothered checking the assignment board to begin with, let alone read for the class. So incoming 1Ls, that is what you have to look forward to. Best of luck. If you need me, I’m here. It's the least I can do.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Job Search Post #1

About a month ago, after taking the two months after the end of school off to sleep late, watch TV, and be generally unproductive, I started looking for a job. Now, I sleep late, watch TV, and spend a couple of hours or so each day doing “job search related activities,” whatever that means, which by definition is productive.

The job hunt is a slow process and I am an impatient person; needless to say, we don’t get along very well. However, my patience is on par with a special ed teacher compared to my mother’s, who was incredulous that I didn’t have a corner office and cushy salary after a week of scattering my resume around town. To say that my mom has a vested interest in my job search is an understatement. She is, by nature, a worrier. She worries about everything, and her latest worry is that I won’t find a job. Ever. And that I’ll have to move back home like some Italian mama’s boy and live with her. And she’ll have to support me while I wear track suits and fall in with some local toughs.

All of these worries come despite the fact that I now am a proud owner of a Juris Doctorate to go along with my undergrad degree in finance, an actual useful major that is desired by employers; that I have good interpersonal and communication skills and do great in interviews; and most importantly, that I really do want to find a job.

It should come as no surprise then, that several weeks ago when I had a job interview, she called to wish me luck, we had the following exchange.

“Did you wear a suit?”

“No, flip flops and shorts, and a polo shirt.”

“You better be joking.” Her tone was ominous and devoid of humor. Naturally, I further prodded her.

“Well my polo is tucked in…” She was about to go off, but I stopped her before she could start. “Of course I wore a suit, lighten up.”

“Good. I never know with you. What color shirt?”

“It’s like a dark blue with white stripes, and a solid tie.”

“WHAT?!?!?! YOU CAN’T WEAR A STRIPED SHIRT TO AN INTERVIEW! IT HAS TO BE WHITE OR LIGHT BLUE.!!!” You would have thought I told her that I had knocked up my girlfriend or decided to become a Hare Krishna.

“Relax, it looks fine.”

“I don’t care if it looks fine. They will judge you on what you wear. It’s just not interview attire, go home and change.”

“No. Let them judge me. If they don’t want me to work there based on what shirt I wore to an interview, fuck them.”

“I think it’s a huge mistake. Everyone else they are interviewing will be wearing a solid shirt.”

“That’s to my advantage. In a world of white shirt followers, I’ll be a striped shirt visionary.”

Postscript: The interview went fine, and they invited me back for a second interview. However, I decided not to take them up on the offer because I wasn’t overly impressed with the company, and they wanted me to start a lot sooner than I could. So the search went on.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Email of the Summer

We received this the other day; I don't know the exact circumstances under which it was written, but I like to think the author hit his breaking point and decided to vent by sending us an email. He says it so well, I pretty much have nothing to add (which is very rare indeed).


Subject: THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH...

Thank you for being a beacon of truth to the innocent and naive contemplating law school. If I had it to do over again I would be an engineer or architect, but alas I am too old, bitter and jaded at this point to admit my mistake and start over from scratch. I too (being the approval seeking type I am) counseled with other attorneys and lawyers (there is a difference sometimes) about my vision of being the next great legal mind. They all - to the person - told me that it was not what it’s cracked up to be, that being a law student is not much better than being in the boil unit of the local medical facility, and that being a lawyer was a thankless, mind numbing, and usually unrewarding job. Instead of taking this solicited advice I was certain that I had stumbled onto directions to the mythical cities of Quivira, Cíbola, Shangri-La or El Dorado, or found the Fountain of Youth . . . I believed with all my heart they were saying these horrible things to keep me from entering the unbelievable life of enlightenment and joy that they greedily wanted to themselves. I was - with all this negativity - certain that I was headed for something so great and so wonderful, that an elaborate conspiracy had been erected to keep the weak at heart, or the cowardly, out of the “greatest profession” in history. Boy do I feel stupid now. It is closer to the “oldest profession” than the greatest. And while I have managed to distinguish myself and accumulate some degree of economic security, I am still overwhelmed every day with the feeling that I was totally screwed. More than ten years later half my graduating class that I know is out of the profession and happy or in the profession and as bitter as me. In quiet moments each and every attorney I converse with admits that they feel as I do about their chosen vocation. I know that any non-L reading this will probably feel as I did but at least I can sleep at night knowing that I told the truth about my profession. Keep up the good work guys.

Don

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Fought The Law, And Surprisingly, I Won

Last Friday, I was on my way home from running a couple of errands, driving down a street I had traveled hundreds of times. I came to an intersection where the light was red and veered into the right lane. I stopped, looked to my left and saw no cars coming, so I made my right turn to continue on my way home.

Or so I thought.

As soon as I made the turn, I glanced into my rearview mirror and saw a police car coming up behind me. “Five-0, be cool”, I said to my dog, Ike, who was riding shotgun. That very next instant, he sped up to get right on my bumper and flipped on his lights. I cursed to myself, and pulled over to the side of the residential street I was driving on.

I put the car in park, rolled down my window, and watched in the side mirror as the cop approached my car. He was short and stocky, with dark blond hair that he wore in a closely cropped crew cut. He looked like a cop sent over from central casting. He arrived at my side, sized me up, and asked for my license and proof of insurance. I handed them over and he examined them. After a few seconds, he looked back at me and said, in a tone dripping with attitude, “So, do you think these street signs around here don’t apply to you?”

My inner smartass begged me to answer, “Yeah, pretty much,” but I resisted, mostly because I was genuinely confused as to why I had been pulled over. “What street sign are you referring to?” I asked.

“The one back there at the intersection that says ‘NO RIGHT ON RED, SCHOOLDAYS 7:30am-4:30pm,” he informed me, none of the attitude having left his tone.

“Oh, that one…Yeah, I saw it,” I replied, with a hint of arrogance in my voice.

He became incredulous. “Oh, so that street sign doesn’t apply to you,” he said, his voice filling with anger.

“Not today, it doesn’t. Today isn’t a school day.”

A wicked smile came across his face. He glanced at his watch, and said, “Well pal, last I checked today is a Friday, and Friday’s are a school day.”

Without saying a word, I pointed to the sign outside of the school across the street from where I pulled over, no more than 50 yards away from the intersection where I had made the allegedly illegal turn. In big black letters, the sign read: WELCOME BACK! SCHOOL STARTS AUGUST 21.

He read the sign and turned back towards me. “That don’t matter. School days are Monday through Friday, and today is Friday. You made an illegal right turn on red on a Friday, which is a school day, it don’t matter if school ain’t started yet.”

“Yes, it does,” I replied. “If they had intended to prevent right turns on red Monday through Friday, the sign would have read ‘No right on red, weekdays’…But it doesn’t. It goes one step further. They specified only school days. Thus, it doesn’t matter if they could have school on a specific day. In theory you could have school any day out of the year. What matters is if there actually is school on that day. So just because today is Friday doesn’t mean it’s a school day. It’s only a school day if school is in session. And according to that sign and the noticeable lack of activity around here, it isn’t.”

The cop’s eyes narrowed, his jaw clenched, and his face turned red. A vein appeared above his right eye, and for twenty of the longest seconds I can ever recall, he stared at me. The tension was palpable and the silence awkward. The only noise was Ike’s heavy breathing. Finally, his anger and embarrassment subsided enough to allow him to speak. “I’m gonna go run your license,” he snarled. “It had BETTER come back clear.”

He returned three minutes later and threw my license at me. His face was still red. “If I see you do anything around here, and I mean anything, I am going to pull you over and write you a ticket.” With that, he turned around and walked back to his car.

I pulled away, careful not to exceed the 25 mile speed limit. I turned to Ike and said, “That law degree is paying for itself, one $90 ticket avoided at a time.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Don't Want to Practice?

Or are you thinking about what your alternatives would be to practicing law?

If so, send us an email to barelylegalblog@gmail.com. We have a quick survey we'd like you to fill out. We'd really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance.

P.S. we're not going to make fun of your responses (as we've been known to do).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I Hate Thinking of Titles

A friend of mine, who also recently graduated law school, relayed the following story:

Right after I decided to attend law school, my dad put me in contact with a friend of his, an attorney who worked for a large firm. We met for lunch, and at the outset he was condescending and arrogant, just looking to shoot me down. The first thing he asked me was, "How did you do on your LSAT?"

"I got a 165," I responded.

"Is that any good?" he asked.

"I suppose. It's in the 90th percentile."

He looked at me, trying to find the most delicate way to tell me something. Finally, he said, "Son, perhaps law school isn't for you."

Surprised, I asked why.

"Well, if 90% of the people did better on the LSAT, I just think you're going to struggle."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Yet Another Email Exchange

From: Mike
To: Russ
Subject: Recent phone exchange
Date: Monday, 07 Aug 2006 16:34:29 -0500

Just got a call from a company I applied for a job with. The recruiter said she was calling about my resume, and then said, "So the $64,000 question, why aren’t you practicing law", setting the bait to either give my canned, rehearsed reply or be startled by the question.

Instead, I said, "Depends, how much time do you have?"




From: Russ
To: Mike
Subject: Re: Recent phone exchange
Date: Monday, 07 Aug 2006 16:55:36 -0500

Funny. Here is your story put through the Opinionista translator:

"Here's the $64,000 question" said the recruiter, a lithe young woman hungering to take a bite out of Manhattan yet still using clichéd mid-American phrases. Girlfriend was trying to procure me through the other line so I nervously hemmed and hawed, unsure of what to do. "Shoot me straight" the recruiter queried, as I could practically hear her Tiffany diamonds sparkling through the phone, "I need to know why you're not practicing". I had asked myself that question with great numerocity. Was it all a mistake just like her scolding tone implied? At last I stopped pouting in my Dartmouth class of 2001 pajamas and answered, "I want to be a writer".

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Recent Email Exchange

From: Mike
To: Russ
Subject: Why I Hated Law School
Date: Sunday, 06 Aug 2006 15:22:09 -0500


Russ, I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and I realized why I hated law school so much. First, let’s stipulate that everyone hates law school to a degree. Working off of that assumption, what bothered me was that other people didn’t seem as put out by it as I was. You know that I am not a bitter person in general. But law school made me bitter, at least towards law school. When I got out of my car everyday, it was like a black cloud appeared above my head, and followed me around until I got back out to my car after class, when all of the sudden the world would be sunny again. But no one else seemed to be like this. They all said they hated it, but then turned around and spent all their time with other law students, and joined clubs, and generally seemed to make the best out of it. And I couldn’t bring myself to make the best of it, so I was even more put out by it. Does that make sense?


From: Russ
To: Mike
Subject: Re: Why I Hated Law School
Date: Sunday, 06 Aug 2006 15:39:43 -0500

I don’t know if I follow you. What do you expect, everyone to make suicide pacts?


From: Mike
To: Russ
Subject: Re: Why I Hated Law School
Date: Sunday, 06 Aug 2006 15:43:21 -0500

No, what I am saying is, my problem wasn’t just law school, it was jealousy. Everyone else seemed to hate it too, but they made the best of it. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t make the best of the situation. I wish I could have sucked it up and found a way to enjoy it, but I couldn’t. And because other people could, I was jealous which made the whole thing that much worse. I guess part of it was my stubborn nature, part of it the degree of bitterness that had already built up. Some people can make the best of a bad situation, but I couldn’t, not this time. Maybe my coping skills suck.

I would have been a terrible addition to Ann Frank’s attic.


From: Russ
To: Mike
Subject: Re: Why I Hated Law School
Date: Sunday, 06 Aug 2006 15:49:12 -0500

Yeah, that makes sense.

Mike: “Hey, we're in here! I can't stand it anymore! ‘I believe that people are really good at heart?’ Are you crazy?!?!?!”

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Incoming 1Ls,

I know you all have dreams of being ranked in the top 10% and having the legal world be your oyster. But statistically speaking, you are just as likely to be this guy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ambition Run Amok

I have a friend; let’s call her “Courtney”. Courtney, like many of you, is a law student. Also like many of you, she hates law school with a passion. Courtney works for a fancy law firm this summer, which she hates. And Courtney has no desire to practice law.

I figured that Courtney got into her predicament the usual way: she was utterly clueless before entering law school, and by the time she realized her true feelings, she was stuck. Assuming this was her story, I made a remark about it to her, which she quickly corrected.

“Oh, no, I knew it would be like this,” she told me curtly. “When I was in college I had friends who were in law school, and they told me all about how much they hated it.” I was about to interject, when she continued. “Then after I graduated, I worked as a paralegal at a giant law firm for a year. It was miserable; the people were terrible, some were really evil. I was a naïve 22 year old when I started. I know this sounds weird, but working at the firm, I lost my youthful innocence.” I was about to make a virgin joke, but she kept going. “All my friends who were in law school when I was in college had graduated and moved on to big firm jobs of their own, and they hated it too. Plus, I started researching law school on my own, and discovered that most people I talked to, perfect strangers who were recent grads or current students all told me not to do it. I knew exactly what it was going to be like, and that I would hate it.

When she paused to take a sip of water, I got a word in. “Wait…so if all these people gave you such a bad impression of it, and you knew you’d hate it, may I ask why you even bothered to begin with?”

I assumed that this profound question would give her pause, and make her ponder her decision. I was wrong. “It was my goal,” she said earnestly as she took a bite of taco salad.

There's a real over-importance placed on ambition. Sometimes it's not always the best quality. Wouldn't the world have been better off with a lazy Hitler? He would've turned in and taken a nap halfway through Poland. He’d awake later and forget all about Europe, and decide to learn how to play the guitar.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Random Self-Indulgent Story About Me & My Dog

In the summer of 2003, before I started law school, I decided to get a dog. All my life, my family had dogs; they were always cute little furry creatures that my mom would put bandanas on and would prance around the house. These were great dogs, but I always wanted a dog more suited to me. It’s hard to feel masculine walking a Shih-Tzu down the street. So I resolved that when I finally got one of my own, I would get a dog that was quintessentially mine. This is how I came to own an English Bulldog, who I named Ike.

He was a good puppy; playful, friendly, goofy, and a total chick magnet. He never chewed up furniture or shoes, was housetrained fairly easily, and followed me everywhere I went. He was a great little dog.

Around the time that he turned six months, his bulldog personality began to really come through. He was stubborn and obstinate. He approached everything with the sort of persistent tenacity that made the breed famous. He absolutely had a mind of his own, and was never afraid to use it. If I would catch him doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing, like chewing holes in the drywall, I would scold him and he would take it like a champ. As soon as I was done, he would go right back to doing what I had just interrupted.

When it comes to stubborn, obstinate, anti-authoritarian, persistent personalities, Ike met had his match. He would have walked all over a weaker person, but not me. When I tried to make him do something that he didn’t want to do, he would sit down, ears back, eyes wide open, and stare straight up at me, defying me to make him do it. When he did, I had no problem waiting him out. If he didn’t want to pee in the rain, I would drag him to the middle of the yard and stand there looking at him until he was done struggling to try and get inside, and finally relented. If he didn’t want his ears cleaned, we’d have a Clash-of-the-Titans style wrestling match until he finally gave up and let me do it. And I loved every minute of it.


Ike's Defiant Look

When he wasn’t quite a year old yet, I left him with my parents for the weekend, and needless to say, he did not behave himself. When I got home I was told all of his misdeeds. “He wouldn’t leave Oscar and Mazey (their spoiled rotten Shih-Tzus) alone,” my mom told me. “He wouldn’t lie down and rest, he just was relentless in trying to get them to play. He is noisy, and just ran around all day and night. And when I tried to tell him what to do, he just sat there and looked at me like there was no way in hell he was going into his cage.”

“Yeah, he’ll do that,” I laughed.

“It’s one thing if you can handle him, but we can’t. Why don’t you take him to obedience school?” This seemed like a good idea. He behaved with me, but not with others, and if I wanted people to dogsit for me, he would need to learn to calm down and listen. Although I loved his stubbornness and independent spirit, I knew it was probably a smart thing to do. I researched obedience schools in the area, and learned that a top dog trainer was around here. I called and made an appointment for a free consultation. I liked the guy, and he said Ike would do better in one-on-one sessions. “Bulldogs are notoriously difficult to train. They take lots of work, but I can do it.”

“Don’t be so sure,” I told him. “He’s a stubborn little guy.” I decided to schedule three sessions for $100. “You might need more than that,” he said. I told him that if he was doing well, I’d schedule more sessions, but if it was apparent that it wasn’t going to work out, then I didn’t want to be out more non-refundable money.

We arrived for our first session, which was held in a big warehouse-like room. The first thing the instructor wanted to go over was the ‘sit’ command. Ike was a master sitter. I had been working on his sitting since he was a puppy, and it showed. He sat perfectly every time for the instructor. “This guy might be easier than I thought,” he told me. “Don’t count on it,” I said. Since Ike sat so well, he decided to move onto the ‘stay’ and ‘come’ command. He took out a treat, showed it to Ike, and told him to sit. Ike did. Then he said ‘Stay!’, and backed away, about 30 feet. He stopped, and called out, ‘Ike…Come!’ Ike barreled across the room, and received his treat. The trainer looked at me slyly, as if to say, “I told you so.”

He took out another treat, showed it to Ike, instructed him to sit and stay, backed away, stopped and called Ike again. Ike ran across the room, and got his treat. “I don’t know what you meant when you said he was stubborn. He’s a star!” the trainer exclaimed, clearly enamored with his own abilities. And I had to admit, I was impressed too. Had I been doing something wrong? Was Ike easily controllable all along, only I wasn’t fit for the task? Just as I thought this, the trainer again told Ike to sit and stay, and backed across the room. He called Ike to come, and Ike bolted in his direction. But halfway across the room, Ike suddenly put on the brakes, skidding on the concrete floor, and ended up in a sitting position, his head held high, ears pinned back, eyes wide, with a look on his face that said, “I know you are trying to train me, pal, and I don’t appreciate it.”

The trainer was baffled, and tried to get Ike to work with him, but Ike flat out refused. No amount of treats could entice him into cooperating. After 45 minutes of the one-hour session, the trainer quit trying, and said, “He’s a tough one. I suggest that you enroll him in our academy. I’ll take him for three weeks, work hard, and when you pick him up, he’ll be a changed dog. The cost is $2000.” I declined, and not just because of the price. When I watched Ike skid across the floor and defy the trainer, I decided that I liked him just the way he was.

Postscript: Ike’s puppy behavior was quite typical of bulldogs, I learned. They continue to act like puppies for two years. Eventually, he mellowed out and now spends most of his day sleeping and chewing giant rawhide bones. He still loves to play; some neighbors have puppies that he romps with until he tires out and decides to plop down. As gentle as he is with these dogs one-fifth his size, he is just as protective of them. Recently, when a strange dog lunged at one of his puppy friends, Ike went from docile and jovial to full on ready-to-attack mode, showing a ferocity that I had never seen before, ready to throw down with a large aggressive dog that got too close to his puppies. As for Ike and me, we still butt heads over things such as who gets the good spot on the couch and how far we are going to walk, and I still win. When I said I wanted a dog that was more suited to me, he was exactly what I meant.


Ike, with a puppy friend