Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Self-Impressed Public Defender Hiring Committee"

Through Arbitrary and Capricious here and here, the awful experience of interviewing for a public defender position when the interviewers have some kind of bizarre ego/power trip is recounted. "Come to the interview! We'll abuse you!"

I had an experience like this in the interview for the job I got in Minnesota. I had been a defender for about three years in Wisconsin and had to move to the Twin Cities. I knew I didn't want to do anything else other than public defense, thought I knew what I was doing, thought I knew how to interview well, and thought I could communicate that I would be a good guy to have around the office.

Halfway through the interview, the panel of three breaks into an awful hypothetical where I am the lawyer interviewing two clients at the same time - husband and wife, both accused of being involved in the same incident. Two male interviewers play the couple. The man is ranting, yelling, and screaming at his "wife." The "wife" is whimpering, crying, and inaudible. I can't get a word in edgewise.

The goal of this role-playing is to test action under pressure. Am I able to respond to stress? Can I handle difficult people? (As if three years of public defending wouldn't have already demonstrated that.)

I kept thinking during the role play exactly how little I would like to work with these freaks. On the drive home, I was extremely depressed, because I thought I had a shot at the job. Completely the opposite of how you might usually feel when you're thinking you might just get a job offer this time. When a member of the hiring committee called the next day to offer the job, I accepted, but wasn't excited.

The person who offered the job called back the next day to make sure I was alright because she sensed I wasn't all that keen on the job. I said I was sad to be leaving my job in Wisconsin, which was true. It was where I became a defender. I had a lot of great mentors there and I was established in that community. I had a lot of people in my office there that I would be happy to go out to lunch with or drinks after work.

Now I was going to be working with a bunch of sadists. (I wasn't sure that "sadists" was the right word, but I googled it and it came back "Sadism is the ability to derive pleasure as a direct result of others' suffering." Exactly.)

Almost six years later, I work in the same district and I interview prospective attorneys. I promise to never forget that experience. I think and hope that we try to sell people on our office, thank them for taking the time to meet with us, and make sure they know that we are honored to be interviewing a person of their qualifications. We use the exact same hypothetical and only rarely role-play it - when we do, there is no sadism involved.