Harassed at OCI: Do I Go on the Callback?
September 8, 2009 by Sweet Hot Counsel
Q: I just finished my first round of OCI screening interviews. I am in the top 10% of my class and on an honors journal, so I’ve actually received a few callback requests and may have a chance at landing an actual offer this fall. There’s one firm—top top tier Big Law, shall remain nameless—that’s the always been my dream firm and I did get a callback. The only problem is, the screening interviewer was a total, total a*hole. He was aggressively flirting with me in the interview, practically leering at one point, and made two disgusting comments, including one about female attorneys who get pregnant. (And before everyone jumps down my throat, I was conservatively dressed, not revealing skin, and was acting professional and appropriate in the interview, so please save the “she was asking for it” analysis, thank you.) I reported his behavior to my school’s career services office and they were appropriately horrified.
My question is: Should I even go on the callback? This firm has always been my dream firm and is big enough that I might never see this jerk again—but what if I do? What if he thinks that I’m supposed to “reciprocate” for him getting me a callback once/if I start working there? Do I even want to work at a firm that would allow some pig like this to interview potential associates?
A: Congratulations. It sounds like you have officially nabbed the Most Inappropriate OCI Interview Award for your school’s 2009 Fall OCI season. Well done. For this honor, you can expect your story to make the rounds among every 1L and 2L at your school—not to mention junior associates at firms nearby—for the next three to five years. (In my 2L year, the winner had an interviewer from a major firm who kept sounding off about “the Jews,” followed the next year by an interviewer who was fully drunk by 11:30 a.m.)
Now that you have this honor, the first thing you need to do is calm the hell down. See, here’s how OCI interviewing works at big firms: Ideally, two folks from the firm’s recruiting committee, usually one partner and one associate, are scheduled to be on campus. But then, at 6:25 that morning, their actual jobs get in the way and one or both of them have to bail last-minute. Because, as monumentally important as it may be to spend 10 hours in a stripped hotel room listening to law students who have no chance of getting hired talking about their life-changing experiences working with their school’s Immigration Law Clinic, the promise of a few hours of client billable work remarkably wins out almost every time. So, then, desperate for a last-minute replacement, the firm dispatches That Guy.
That Guy is the one you just met. He’s usually Of Counsel—or an income partner at best—and hasn’t been allowed to interact with associates, much less clients, in at least a decade. No one quite knows why they keep him around at the firm; chances are, he’s some sort of Big Firm Savant or his wife’s last name is either Goldman or Sachs. Either way, he has some time on his hands, but as foul as those hands may be, they’re pretty harmless.
Now, there’s no doubt your That Guy acted totally, wholly inappropriately. Good call reporting him to your school’s career services office—if for no other reason than to have it on the books to protect yourself. Now, drop it. Go on your callback. Who knows why he called you back—if you’re at the tippy top of your class like you claim, you were probably marked for a callback before you walked in the room. Or maybe he just liked your boobs. Who cares? You got the callback at your dream firm. The firm won’t let him interview you again (especially if your school follows up with the firm about the complaint) and it’s not like he’s going to corner you in the lobby and demand a blow job for the callback that he had next to nothing to do with in the first place.
Of course, there’s the issue of whether you actually want to work at a firm that’s so callous that it would send this lawsuit-waiting-to-happen to woo its young recruits. You don’t, probably—but not because of the unfortunate That Guy encounter. Sorry to break it to you, but working in Big Law, especially your “top top” Big Law firms, isn’t quite the dream party that you might assume it is. Why is this firm even your “dream firm”? Because other law students said it was? Because it has a high Vault ranking? Come on. Once you actually get in the door, you’ll see that most fancy, big firms are basically the same. The work’s the same, the pay’s the same, and the people, including the douchiest players, are the same. Every firm has its own version of That Guy. Consider it a boon that you’ve already identified him.
So, go kick ass at your callback interview. Smile, be charming and keep the body jewelry to a minimum. And if you actually do get an offer, stop worrying, put the bad interview out of your mind, and just take the money and run. A couple of years from now, when you’re on your sixth straight day without sleep, surrounded by stacks of due diligence, That Guy and his limp, pathetic law-firm lothario schtick will be least of your worries. Trust me.
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