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ramblings on a recent life change

January 24, 2011

my first post in months is thesis-less and all over the place, but if you’re patient, you can share some good news with me!

my whole life, i’ve always wanted to categorize people. introvert, extrovert, popular kid, nerd, jock. and yet, if i don’t fall into any clear-cut categories, it’s unlikely anyone else does. my entire life, i’ve over-analyzed, watched from the outside, been painfully self-conscious and brutally self-critical. in middle school, i dreaded getting off the bus because i was scared of tripping. no joke, i would tensely wait in my seat, picturing how i would get up and hold my bag just so in order to smoothly exit the vehicle. i hated it. i was self-conscious about getting up in class, or having to talk to a teacher. i rehearsed conversations in my head, and took different routes through school hallways because it was easier than having to figure out how to interact with certain people. i didn’t like shopping for clothes because i felt intimidated by the other girls in the juniors’ department. i’m still like this over a decade later. i always feel other people’s eyes on me, but am much more adept at faking nonchalance and confidence.

which is why in high school, i shocked everyone (including myself) when i actually chose to audition for the school’s very exclusive and very popular show choir. even more jaw-dropping, i made it into the choir and even wracked up a solo which i performed over a dozen times.

now, at age 25, looking for a position somewhere as an attorney, i’m surprising myself again. i so very badly want to be a prosecutor. why, as someone so awkward and insecure, someone who has rampant insomnia because of her neuroses, would i want to be an attorney who must be in court five days a week? on record, doing trials, before a judge and jury scrutinizing my every action and word?

it’s a mystery. you would think i would be happier hiding in an office where i could limit the number of energy-sapping social interactions. just write some contracts, do some legal research and call it a day. during an internship, i did a few trials for petty crimes. it’s nerve-wracking. it can go very well, or very, very badly. and murphy’s law says that the courtroom will be packed on your bad days and empty on your good.

i do know that in a public situation, when you do something right, it’s the best feeling in the world. maybe that’s it, maybe i’m a gambler. i want those intense highs, and for it, i’ll risk some major humiliation. but why am i this way? why, for example, do i keep planning parties at my place when the stress of wondering who will come or if they’ll have fun is so exhausting? why strive for jobs for which i have no natural ability, social events which could go terribly wrong, and guys i feel are completely out of my league? for someone so scared of life, you would think i would stay in my comfort zone.

instead, i want to be a prosecutor. and guess what? the dream is coming true: starting in march, i will be a prosecutor for one of the top ten largest counties in the united states. i read that and i shiver.

i don’t think i could have chosen a job with a more mentally grueling and anxiety-causing interview process. it spanned from September 11th, 2010 to January 13th, 2011: **DISCLAIMER** i’m sure you will all find the rest of this boring, but i want to document my journey for posterity’s sake.

  • interview #1, aka “the dead baby in the cooler” test–my mother always says, don’t try to look attractive for an interview, look competent. and so there i was, suited up, hair pulled into a chignon, a single strand of pearls. heart-pounding. you know when you can actually hear the blood pumping in your ears? just like that. i prepared by googling my interviewer and creating a document with every possible interview question i’d ever been asked, and solid answers i could give. i walk into the interview, prepared to earnestly explain to this woman why i’m the right person for this job. what do i get? a hypothetical wherein (do you like that nice legal insert?) a man goes about kidnapping babies, putting them into his cooler, going out onto a lake, and throwing the babies into the water. the cooler is a very standard plastic blue cooler. so, one afternoon, another baby is taken and in the wee hours of the night, an officer sees a man about to get onto a boat holding a blue cooler. can the officer search the cooler? talk about an “oh shit” moment. it felt difficult to breathe and even more difficult to think of a coherent thought. why didn’t i think to study criminal procedure? the interview went from bad to worse as i talked myself into a corner. i left the interview, my confidence crushed. i immediately went home and wrote a sincere and, if i do say so myself, eloquent email to this woman begging her to call my supervisor and get a real understanding of my abilities and passion for the job.
  • it worked. callback interview #1, aka “dead baby revisited”–this time i’m really prepared. one week of going over all my old criminal procedure notes from law school and bar exam studying. i am determined to make a better impression. what do i get hit with this time? first, he wanted to know why i felt the need to write the email to my first interviewer (um, duh, because i sucked and i really, really wanted a second chance). two, he was back on that darned dead baby hypo. well, obviously i’d thought about it some and i had a few different ideas of how to get that officer’s itchy little hands into that cooler. i spun off a few of my theories, thinking i was so smart. did the man seem impressed? nope. complete dead pan. instead, he mentioned how they had over 400 applicants for just ten positions, and that i should really have a back up plan. he sympathized with recent law graduates with the economy being as it is, and said it would almost be better to still be in school. ok, that’s all folks, my rejection letter is as good as in the mail.
  • ok, maybe not. callback interview #2, aka “the three levels of  hell and meeting the queen”–i imagine the only reason i received a second callback is because the previous attorneys i had worked with wrote me some very good reviews. bless them a hundred times over. new suit, new pearls, new pumps (annoyingly, the right shoe squeaked with each step). interview is at 3 pm. i’m fifteen minutes early. i wait. and wait. and wait some more. it’s almost 4 pm when someone comes and gets me from the lobby. we go to the 4th floor where i’m ushered into another waiting area. another half hour passes while i desperately scan the copy of “Super Lawyers” on the table next to me. at 4:33, a secretary invites me into an imposing conference room with ten seats and no people. i set my purse far enough away from my feet that i won’t trip getting up. i try to pose so that i look professional but can still get up quickly to shake the queen’s hand. i put my hands palms up on my lap so they won’t collect sweat. the minutes tick by. i’m starting to feel nauseous and my palms are sweating anyway. 28 grueling minutes later, she walks in. i remember wondering if she purposely makes her interviewees go through two hours and three levels of waiting hell just to ratchet up their anxiety level by the time she walks into the room. as the head of the entire prosecutor’s office, this is a woman who is on tv with precious little time to waste. and here she is, shaking my hand.  strangely, at the most intense and important of the three interviews, i did my best. i spoke well and made her laugh a few times. we ended up getting off onto a few tangents until she would suddenly check her watch and say, goodness we’re off track but that was so interesting! one of her final questions was also to ask me why i felt the need to write that email to the first interviewer. it surprised me. don’t people do things like that when they are truly passionate about a position? i told her i’m not afraid to put myself out there for something i want. she complimented me and said that i was very intuitive and eloquent. i practically skipped out of there. my “intuitive” self felt like i’d aced the interview. just three days later, i get a call from the hiring coordinator stating that they are offering me a position for the march class. i called my mother right after i got off the phone and screamed something unintelligible into the phone. i even called my dad, who isn’t exactly my best buddy. it was an amazing day, and i’m still floating on that high.

2011, you are shaping up to be my best year yet.

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4 comments

  1. So, I have to know about the cooler. To the layperson [me], that seems like probable cause.

    The dickhead in me, however, doesn’t care and just wants to ask them if they know that the man’s cooler is blue, how the hell can they not know a little more about him? I hate hypotheticals. They’re so annoying. And hypothetical.

    I’m assuming I’ll be seeing you on your own Law and Order sometime in the near future.


    • by the way, huge SVU and criminal minds fan haha : )


  2. well, there is no right answer to the hypothetical, it’s a matter of how well you can substantiate whatever argument you choose. i would love to know what other interviewees said. they never tell you what a good answer would be or if you’re on the right track.

    i believe there are a few steps to this hypo. just based on the the time of day, the presence of the boat going out to the lake, and the cooler, i did not believe there was sufficient reason for probable cause. however, there is something called a “terry stop” where you can detain an individual for a brief period if you have “reasonable suspicion” that that person is involved in criminal activity. obviously, the bar is lower for reasonable suspicion than probable cause. during the terry stop, the officer can ask basic questions like, what is your business right now, what’s your name, etc. based on the individual’s answers, the officer may have enough to turn reasonable suspicion into probable cause, whereupon he could search the cooler. also, if during the terry stop, the officer has reasonable suspicion that the individual could be armed and dangerous, they may do a “pat-down” of the person. if that revealed anything, then the officer could arrest and then do a search incident to arrest. so i said all that, and my interviewer added to the hypo by saying the guy explained he was going fishing and that he liked to beat out the morning boat traffic, and the cooler contained his lunch. guy didn’t act nervous or do anything else suspicious. that’s where i got stuck on the first interview, how to get into the cooler when all you have is reasonable suspicion.

    so on the second interview, i tried to get creative. i said that the reasonable period of time the officer could detain this person as part of the terry stop could be longer given the totality of the circumstances and immediate threat to life. i’m sure there has to be some case law on that. officer could then try to verify the identity of the individual and see if there was any cross referencing to suspects in the baby murders or something like that. also, there are certain things for which people do not have a right to privacy–handwriting, fingerprints, location of your car on public roads, paint on your car, sound of your voice, garbage, smell of your car or luggage, and probably other things i can’t remember. this is where i got really desperate/creative: since there is no right to privacy as to the SMELL of the cooler, perhaps it would be possible to get a police dog to do a smell check. i mean they use dogs to locate people, right? maybe that’s very far fetched, i’m not sure. for sure, i haven’t mentioned it to any of my law friends in case that’s absolutely ridiculous. interviewer dude didn’t say much.

    finally, if none of that got the officer probable cause, i said that as much as it seems absolutely ridiculous, there would be nothing else, legally, that we could do. he would have to let the guy go. if the officer looked into the cooler anyway, then we would be trampling on the guy’s 4th amendment rights. unfortunately, i said that yes it was terrible that a baby would potentially die, but that the larger picture is that if we allowed the officer to violate constitutional rights this time, then it would be a slippery slope for officers everywhere.

    so that was my answer. to this day, i don’t know if it was a decent answer or not. yes, i have the job, but again i think a lot of that was based on my performance reviews from previous supervisors and attorneys with whom i’d worked.

    gosh that was long.


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