Law in Contemporary Society


(Disclaimer: All characters described are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons or situations is purely coincidental.) -- By FranciscoGuzman - 19 Feb 2010

“So, you are interested in arbitration,” asked me Mr. Coffee. He was an old man and almost retired. However, when he was younger he was one of the most famous academics in the field and also a well-regarded practitioner.

“Yes, I believe that it is a growing area of practice and it would be an opportunity for me to learn it here and practice it in my country.” I said candidly.

“You are wrong!” he answered in a deep voice. “There is no real money in arbitration. You should specialize in corporate law or in IP, no one is actually interested in arbitration. People say they do and that it is important, but at the end is just a big show. All these conferences and fancy speaker that go everywhere full their mouths with great words about the subject but everything is a big lie. Look at me, I have been involved in the field for more than 40 years and the main lesson that I learnt is that if I had a dispute I would do better in federal courts.”

I was shocked by his statements. This was the first time that we met and I came to his office because he was “the one” that could help me to find a job. He knew everybody and had an enormous influence among practitioners. I had also heard of many students who found a job just because Mr. Coffee had made a phone call recommending them. But I had to show him first that I was “good enough” to be worthy of his recommendation.

I had worked the whole year specializing in arbitration. Since the first day of class, when we were supposed to have “counseling” of how to succeed in this market we heard the same formula: “You have to do great, to show excellent grades in your Fall Term transcript and try to get a recommendation from a professor. If you have bad grades you are done. Grades are all that matters to employers. The good thing about it is that if you work hard and commit to it you will make it.” Confirming this, I heard several practitioners in the panels from career services saying that “Don’t be afraid of the market, if you are good enough the employers will take you. A big law firm cannot afford to loose a good candidate.”

I got the grades after a whole first semester making sacrifices that I had promised myself not to do here. At the same time, the partners that I had contacted highlighted in every email that I should send them my transcript as soon as I get it. Therefore, I approached the job fair pretty confident. This was my chance to get a job in arbitration, to become an expert in the field and then bring my acquired knowledge to my country. I had the opportunity to make something different, instead of the traditional corporate-practice-in-a-big-law-firm; I may even found my own “boutique” practice (I hate the word “boutique”, but now it didn’t sound so bad).

After the third interview I started to worry. I heard mainly excuses regarding that, although I was a “great candidate,” they probably wouldn’t hire almost anyone because the economy was bad (and this wasn’t even the call back stage, when you are supposed to hear the bad news in case you are not chosen). I heard basically the same speech during the whole second semester. As things looked bad, I approached Mr. Coffee. When he asked me for my grades I also explained him what I had done before coming to the US. He stopped me immediately and said “No one cares about what you did outside of here.” He put his feet on his desk, laid back with his arms behind his head and continued “you are a foreign and have an accent, whatever you did before is useless. You have to show that you can compete here.” “But I have stellar grades” I said. “Yes, but you are still a foreign. Look, this is America and things work this way. Every time that a law firm has to choose a partner if the decision is between several foreign people and one American, they always choose the American. It is how it is. Some foreign people make it of course. Look at me I made it. But I had to fight every day showing that I was better than the rest. Today no one gives a damn neither for arbitration nor for foreign people, everything is a big lie.”

I had heard once an old woman who was a successful practitioner in criminal law to say that all what she did during her professional life was useless. That it was impossible to change the system and to actually make a difference by helping people who didn’t have anyone to help them. She died one year after she said this. I was wondering whether at the end of their life people regretted their efforts and the constant fight to succeed in their tasks.

After two hours in Mr. Coffee’s office, in which he explained me in several ways why I was making all the wrong choices, he told me “But I will try to help you. Leave me your CV and don’t forget to send me your transcript from the Spring Term as soon as you get it. If you graduate with honors your chances to get a job will be much higher. But again, the money is not in arbitration, so think twice before you continue pursuing this crazy adventure.”


Webs Webs

r11 - 13 Jan 2012 - 23:14:13 - IanSullivan
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