Saturday, September 25, 2010

I've got a golden ticket

It’s funny, I had planned to write a whole post about how horrible last week was, but I never got around to doing it. And while last week really was awful—I still can’t sugar-coat it—not only have things gotten much, much better since then, but it also turned out to be pretty lucky that I didn’t post just to complain.

To sum it up, last Monday was the first day when judges could call clerkship applicants to offer them interviews under the federal hiring plan. Of course, the calls immediately flooded in for all my most brilliant classmates, while I sat staring at a silent phone. It didn’t mean I would never get any interviews, since various judges have their reasons not to start calling right away, and that seemed even more likely in the less competitive locations where I applied. But people tended to forget this fact, and those who didn’t ignore me completely were a bit too sympathetic, like this whole career path had already closed for me forever.

I’m sure other people were also struggling with the feeling that everyone had gotten calls except them. But like me, they didn’t exactly advertise it. So I sat alone when I could, slinked straight home after class every day, and stayed there. It was the loneliest, most alienating time I’ve ever spent at Harvard.

But enough of that, because things changed a lot very soon. I was in Tax class on Friday morning when my former boss left me a voicemail saying she had been at a function with one of the judges I’d applied to, and she’d taken care to recommend me at length. She suggested, though, that I call chambers to make sure they had my application, because the judge hadn’t recognized my name.

In a class break, I got the message and called the judge, trying to sound calm and casual in a voicemail requesting confirmation, out of an abundance of caution, that they had received my materials. I guess this was just pushy enough, because soon after I got home that afternoon (and was thanking my lucky stars just to have survived the week), I got a call from the judge saying they had indeed pulled out my application, had been impressed, and would love to interview me.

I had to laugh at this point, because of course the call had come on Friday afternoon before a week-long school break when I would hardly have anyone to tell about it. It was like the cosmos wanted me to be successful, just not in time to disrupt the test it was putting me through socially. Thanks a lot.

Anyway, the judge gave me the weekend to schedule a flight to Austin, and when I called back on Monday, we set the interview for Thursday afternoon. Then she mentioned that her clerks had discovered my blog and thought it was “very well-written”—high praise, but you see why it was a good thing I never managed to post my long tirade about the injustices of last week! A nice big pity party about the lack of attention you’re getting from employers, full of bitterness toward peers who are doing better, is just not the first thing you want a judge to see when she has the good sense to probe your online identity.

(By the way, I’ve often questioned whether I’ll want to continue this blog after graduation, and I think my answer came when the judge said, “By the way, there will be no more of that if you come work for me.” I couldn’t help but joke, “What, good writing?” And she laughed, but she also made it clear what she meant: “Blogging!”)

Well, after a shopping trip for a terrific new suit, several hours of interview prep, and a hellish couple of flights to Austin (are you noticing a trend? Don’t all my flights to Austin lately seem to be hellish?) I was in the judge’s chambers for my interview. I won’t go into detail, but there were some tough questions, a lot of great information about the job, and a really encouraging amount of laughter. So I left feeling pretty good.

And that turned out to be justified, because I was stopped in traffic, not even home yet from the interview, when she called to offer me the clerkship!! She didn’t want me to answer right away and said I should call her next week, but I couldn’t wait and accepted first thing on Friday. We exchanged a couple of voicemails that day, in one of which she invited me to a party at her home over the holidays. What people say about the best judges making their clerks feel like family already looks to be true.

I’m exhausted now, having spent the rest of the Austin trip celebrating with every friend I could get my hands on, but I have enough work to do for classes Monday that I can’t relax completely. I think it’s going to be a little tough concentrating, but I have to power through—my work ethic dropped WAY below normal while I was so bummed last week, and I had better catch up.

However, I am beyond relieved to think how much attention I can give school, TAP, the journal, my friends, and everything else I should be savoring about Harvard now that my job search is over. Most of the great things about this clerkship haven’t quite sunk in for me yet, but that’s one blessing I’m very aware I have. I think I earned it, but if I ever take it for granted, please somebody remind me about last week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First and last

I can't really believe it, but my first full week of school is nearly over, and I've had all of my classes but one (a seminar that only meets every other week) at least once now.

All in all, it's going well. The first couple of days were rough, because I had trouble getting organized and finishing readings in time for class, and I was desperate to get off on the right foot and make sure that scattered feeling didn't linger on all semester. It didn't help that the temperature spiked for a few days there, so without air conditioning I was feeling much too sluggish to do any of the things that would have made me feel better. Luckily, that wrapped up around the end of last week - the weather is gorgeous now, and I somewhat have my act together.

Which is a very good thing, because this week the meetings for my various organizations started up, meaning all kinds of new responsibilities just for me. At TAP, I'm the chairperson of the Intake Committee now, so I run the meetings and train the new members instead of just bringing in cases to discuss (although I'll have those, too.) And at HLPR I'm a member of the new reigning Masthead, responsible for making actual decisions instead of just listening in and learning while others call the shots. Which makes it a little bit harder to use those meetings to eat lunch.

Classes are great, though. My Taxation and Administrative Law professors are old favorites, like my Modern Capitalism seminar professor will be, but my Environmental Law professor is about as new and exciting as they come. Fresh from a stint at the White House, funny and friendly but aggressively Socratic, she is pretty much my new hero. If my head doesn't explode from picking apart the extremely technical statutes she's already fond of assigning, it should be an excellent semester.

Meanwhile, a little bit of nostalgia has been attaching itself to everything I do these days. I sit down to start a post, and soon I'm thinking about my decision to start writing this blog two years ago. I remember being pretty nervous and uncertain about airing my experiences for the whole Internet to read, thinking this was some giant undertaking I might regret or not be able to maintain. Instead, of course, it has been such a welcome way to document this time, organize my thinking about it, and get just enough feedback to know I'm not crazy. Most things are like that these days - completely changed from how I knew or imagined them then.

Part of me misses that summer, when this whole adventure was still ahead of me and the questions weighing on my mind were mostly "Will my financial aid application get finished before I leave for Europe?" and "Will the registrar's website lock me out for mis-typing my student ID number one more time?"

That's probably an overstatement, because "Will people like me?" was a big one as well. (Hopefully, a couple of rousing successes at pub trivia lately signify the answer to that one.) But the biggest one now is "Will people hire me?" And it's the most anxiety-producing of all. Under the federal clerkship hiring timeline, my applications were released to judges this Tuesday, and they can begin calling to grant interviews next Monday, September 13th. Of course, enough of them are known for jumping the gun that there's already reason to be nervous if the phone isn't ringing. And of course, mine isn't yet. The universe would never make it so easy!

Faced with that, even my readings from the Internal Revenue Code are looking like a pretty attractive distraction. I guess it's a good thing I'm still a law student, if only for now.