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.

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