Sunday, September 14, 2008

On my Own?!

So as I struggle through this painful process, my well-meaning uncle suggested something to me: "Why not go out on your own?" "Sure, uncle, but the problem is, that I don't know this area of law well enough!" "Can't you learn from reading materials and attending bar association seminars?" "Yess...but...."

Hmm...well, the thought is planted. In truth, there is much about immigration law that can be learned. And I know how to litigate bond cases. I have done a few of those already with no training. If I can litigate with no training, then can't I at least take simpler cases on my own? Self-teach for 6 months and then go out and make money? No more dealing with stingy, rude employers!

So, really there are a few issues I really need to think deeply about before I make this huge decision.

1) Am I willing to make this kind of investment right now with little to no savings?
2) Can I learn the law sufficiently well to go off on my own with no one to fall back on?
3) Will I be able to handle the rough times that may come along with a solo practice?

Until I answer these questions in the affirmative, I cannot proceed to ask the more detailed questions that will invariably surface.

However, here is what I will do to prepare for this decision if it should need to be made. I will go out and learn on my own in addition to job search. I will make myself as competent as I possibly can and make contacts along the way.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Attempt at an Interview

So, I am writing this update shortly after my previous post. I think I will start writing more often. The problem with writing regularly is that sometimes the job prospects look so terrible that I don't want to remind myself of what I am going through by writing about it. However, I think I will go through that pain if it helps someone else out. In light of how little I knew about anything law-related prior to choosing law as a profession and in law school, I think the more prepared someone is, the more they read real people's real experiences, the better he or she will handle the tough times.

So I had emailed my resume to someone yesterday and received a call within 5 minutes requesting information. As I was outdoors, I said I would call back in 10 minutes once I came home. I did that and she was too busy at the time to talk, so we emailed back and forth and scheduled a meeting today evening. I showed up at the scheduled time and the firm door was locked. I rang the bell and someone came outside to inquire what I wanted. I explained that I had communicated with the attorney via email and she had asked me to come at this time for an interview. I was told to wait outside in the lobby. A minute later, the receptionist asked again whether I had an appointment because she didn't have me scheduled and the attorney was trying to meet a deadline. I said I understood and would be happy to return at a later time if she thought that would be best. She then went back inside to ask and came back and asked me to come in. I was greeted by stacks of files and papers everywhere. That is not a surprise to me because I have worked at small firms before and not all are too organized. The receptionist/secretary moved some files and made a place for me to sit on a chair. I could hear the conversation inside the office. The attorney scolded the secretary for not printing out the email I had sent. The secretary started printing it out. Then I heard the attorney discuss matters that were related to her project for a few minutes. I offered again to come back at a later date since I did not want to interfere with an important assignment. I was told "The attorney will try to meet you." I waited for about 45 minutes. I could hear some work related talk and then I heard something like "Well, she is not important right now. She can come back tomorrow or Monday." I waited some more....and then without bothering someone else again, I left the office.

I emailed the attorney a polite apology and informed her that I needed to leave and did not want to bother them during a busy time, but would be glad to re-schedule a meeting at a more comfortable time.

I am not sure what to make of the deal. On the one hand, of course attorneys are busy and things come up. On the other hand, if there was a deadline, why would I be asked to come at that time? If I came and if they were not able to meet me, shouldn't they be more gracious or apologetic than what I heard?

As a new attorney, it is very difficult it seems to keep my head up and expect basic civility and fairness at a place of work. Perhaps the only option would be to start my own practice. Had I known all this before law school, I don't know if I would have attended. . .

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

End? Every end is a new beginning!

So my previous entry was about my search coming to an end. In truth, I am back in the market. The reason? Well, I had accepted the previous position with a conversation that the law clerk position would transition into an attorney position. Well, what happened? The law clerk position DID transition into an attorney position; in fact, after only a week! BUT the pay remained the same... and I was told that the pay would increase at the end of August. So I slogged through cases without any training and fought and even won several immigration cases! I was showered with praise by a few of my clients, all the while still trying to manage on my own (stay afloat) with absolutely NO training and a law clerk's salary.

At the end of the month, the time came where my salary would catch up to my workload. Instead, I received the "well, we want to wait another month" talk because I had missed a couple of "office policies" like checking out a file before removing it and I had ended up coming in a little late on two occasions. Never mind the fact that I always stayed hours later, and I had an hour and half commute with buses and trains and could not perfectly time my entry every time. Well, I suppose I should take it more positively and more as a warning sign that I should *never* be late if I can help it, regardless of how hard I work on my cases, how I do in court, and how my clients feel about their representation, I should still pay attention to details and maintain the same professionalism as I would on a job interview.

So what would happen had I waited another month? Would my salary still remain at the law clerk level and would I receive the same "we want to wait yet another month" talk or would I finally get the rate which other attorneys with similar responsibilities were already making starting out? Worse yet, what if after 3 months of working as an attorney on a law clerk salary, I am told to leave? What if. . . .? There was no guarantee with this job especially with someone postponing what I believe is not a "raise" but salary that is already earned.

I don't know if I did the right thing in the end, but I decided to leave that firm and look for a full time attorney position. So I gave a week's notice and informed my boss that I could not stay at a law clerk's salary for longer especially since I was already doing attorney work. I left on good terms and wrapped up my case load as much as I could, and trained a new attorney who is starting on a law clerk's salary.

So today I had another interview. This interview was with an immigration firm similar to the firm I left (worse, but probably with better pay). I felt a funny feeling in my stomach about this firm. When I received the interview call, they wanted me to come in the next day at a specified time. I asked if any other days or time were available or if that was the only one and I was told that it was the only time available. I took it. I did not make that mean anything more than "they are busy." After the initial question or two and a quick glance through my resume, I was asked how many hours I worked at my previous firm. I answered honestly (9.5-10) as I always do. I was quickly told that this had a high turnover rate and expected attorneys to work a minimum of 12 hours. I only responded with an "okay." I was told that attorneys were expected to work on hundreds of cases at once and had a very high stress environment. Again I nodded that I understood. I was then questioned on my caseload at the previous firm and the type of work I did. At that point, I discussed my work and pointed out my writing sample, which was a brief I had written at the previous firm. The interviewer, who was not an attorney, scoffed and asked what basis I had to prepare this Waiver application (I-601), "children?" "No," I responded, "physical and mental health issues." I know through some work on this waiver that waiver applications prepared using children rarely succeed (legally, the only hardship that is considered for this waiver is on the petitioning spouse), but I did not mention it. He proceeded to poke a bit more into the waiver and scoffing immensely each time. Then he said only 5 such applications had ever been accepted. This is something I know to be false, but I did not mention it, and instead lightened the atmosphere by laughing and saying "I am glad I did not know that when I prepared that application."

To top it off, when I got home, I called the receptionist to ask if I could have the email addresses of the people who interviewed me so I can write a thank you note. I wanted to email a note so that it reaches them faster, and I wanted to convey that I was confident that I was going to be able to meet the firm's job requirements just in case they had suspicions based on my neutral response to their statement of the work requirements. As soon as the receptionist gave me the email addresses, she said "wait. hold on" and then asked me the purpose of the email, which I informed was to write a thank you. She said "because, they said it needs to be pre-approved in order for you to email them.

I don't know why, but I suspect that I may not get that job. If I do, I suppose I am curious to know how much it would pay. However, I am also a bit afraid to get that position because I may actually be tempted if it pays a lot. I am almost sure that it would be a miserable place to work.