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Hang In There!

Lately, we have been interviewing law students. This has caused me to have flashbacks to when I was in their position.

Such recollections give me some sympathy for these young applicants. It's not exactly a fun process - for them.

In my third year of law school, I was invited to a second interview at a firm located in a rural area about an hour out of Richmond. It was not small (for those days) with about 10 lawyers. It was of some local prominence.

I was ushered into the large office of the senior partner. His colleagues were ensconced in soft chairs around the room.

My seat was a hard chair in the middle of the room.

As we started, one of the partners sitting almost behind me intoned:

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

mi retrovai per una selva oscura,

che la diretta via era smarrita.

I instantly recognized this as the first verse of the first canto of Dante's Inferno (which a few years before I had read in the original).

On my resume, I had indicated that I could speak Italian, although I made no claim to being fluent.

My Italian skills did not fail me. The partner and I had a brief colloquy. In fact, I probably spoke better than he did. (Looking back, I suspect his language skills were rusty and he may have been reading the Dante verse.)

At that point in the process, I figured I had aced the interview. How could it be otherwise after that brilliant exchange?

Later, I met with just the senior partner. In what seemed like a faux English accent, he pointed out that most of the lawyers in the firm had gone to top law schools.

I attended the T.C. Williams School of Law.

The lawyers there had been on law review or Order of the Coif or held other such honors.

He shrugged and noted that I had no such distinctions

As he described it, their firm was the kind of practice where you might be in a rural general district court one day and the next day arguing in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawyer explained that he didn't think I would be "happy" at the firm. “Trying" to do what they would need me to do would likely be too much.

In other words, I wasn't smart enough.

No job offer, obviously.

Despite my clear mental limitations, almost 40 years later I can say I have done just fine as a lawyer.

For those students and newer lawyers looking for legal employment, it might seem like you are wandering and lost in a dark forest - like Dante's narrator caught in his “selva oscura.”

You're probably not nearly as lost as you fear.

Hang in there.


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