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“Thank you, Ms. Clark. We’ll be in touch,” said the older of the two senior deputy district attorneys. So ended my final round of interviews for the District Attorney’s Office. I let the heavy metal door click into place behind me and turned to walk down the fluorescent lit hallway. My heels tapped out a sharp staccato against the tiled floor that looked almost as old as the bilious green walls, now dingy after years of accumulated smoke, dirt and God knew what else. It was a far cry from the thickly carpeted suite of the law firm I’d just come from, but I wanted desperately to call it home. The gritty, no-frills atmosphere suited me to a “T,” as did the prospect of doing daily battle in a courtroom. Unfortunately, after the veritable slugfest of an interview I’d just completed, I was sure that my prospects were, at best, dim. “I blew it, boy oh boy, did I ever blow it,” I thought dejectedly. But I had to admit that it’d been fun. Duking it out with a senior deputy, (we’d practically been yelling at each other by the end of the hour) had been exhilarating. I smiled ruefully at the memory, shaking my head in a mixture of remorse and cynical self-recognition. I never did know when to back down, did I? How did it escalate to that point? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Damn it, I’d really wanted that job. I sighed with disappointment but vowed not to let myself sink into a funk. “It’s water under the bridge, spilled milk and all that jazz, Clark, let it go,” I told myself. Besides, who knew? Maybe they were looking for someone with a little spunk. Or a lot of spunk. Probably not that much spunk. Damn. As I left the building after that disastrous interview, I was sure I’d never hear from them again. If you’ve been regaled with tales of interviews that took place over three-martini lunches at high-class restaurants or catered gourmet lunches served in lushly appointed conference rooms, I can promise you that those stories definitely did not concern an interview in any DA’s office. In Los Angeles County, the hiring process is something like running a gauntlet. If you can make it through all the obstacles and hazards, you just might get the job. It is a test of one’s tenacity. To get the ball rolling, all you have to do is get down to the main office downtown and fill out one of those typical government forms that want: a) your second cousin’s aunt’s maiden name, b) a list of every school you ever attended since the age of six and c) every job you ever held since you were 12 years old. All squeezed into boxes so small it would be a challenge to fit in your ring size, let alone your last position in a multi-surnamed law firm. Then you wait for the personnel department to call you in for an interview (which they won’t for maybe as long as a year, if there’s a hiring freeze on). By the time they do call, you’ll probably have chucked your plans for a career as a prosecutor in favor of training to be a bush pilot in the Australian Outback. However, if you’ve managed to remain stalwart in your desire to get the bad guy (or just couldn’t find gainful employment to keep you above the poverty line) the next step is the deceptively easy screening phase. I say “deceptive” because no one tells you it’s just a screening phase. They tell you it’s your first “interview.” Naturally, one thinks of the big enchilada, the do-or-die, show ‘em what you got phase, right? So naturally, I fully expected to be grilled extensively about my past experience on the other side of counsel table (I’d been clerking and then lawyering in criminal defense for the past four years). I was prepared for the worst (“Why should we hire a sleazy defense scum-bag-ette?”). My fears were immediately allayed by the genial pair of deputies who acted impressed by my resume and murmured appreciatively about my previous experience in criminal law. They assured me I would be called back shortly for my next interview. “Piece of cake,” I thought as I stepped — no, strutted — out of their office. “But wait a minute, what did they mean ‘next interview?’ What’s left?” I stuck my head back in the door and asked what the next interview would be about. “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll just be asked a few legal hypotheticals, no big deal,” they said. Thus was I lulled into a false sense of security. About two weeks later I got the call telling me to report back for my next interview. When I showed up for my date with destiny I was the picture of cool. After that first softball interview I’d seen what a pair of pussycats those big, bad deputies were. I figured I’d sail right into a promising future as a deputy district attorney. Who knew? Maybe they’d be so impressed they’d hire me right on the spot. No problemo. “Ms. Clark? Please step into that room; it’s the first door on your right,” said the secretary in charge of corralling the applicants. I opened the pale gray metal door to find a room about the size of a Port-A-Potty. And it was just about as luxuriously appointed, too: a metal table fronted two veteran deputy district attorneys seated side-by-side, opposite a metal chair whose seat cushion had seen better days back in the Gold Rush. The two senior deputies, looking none too pleased to see me, gestured toward that “chair” and asked me to have a seat. As I sank into the metal chair it began to dawn on me that this wasn’t going to be such a piece of cake after all. I felt my heart start to pound faster and forced myself to take a deep breath as I tried to clear my head. The roar of the blood rushing through my ears was so loud, I nearly missed the fact that one of the deputies was talking to me. Oh great, terrific, I get to start the most important interview of my life by saying, “Huh, what?” I leaned forward and focused all my attention in a furious effort to avert that disaster. The smaller, darker one (I was told that they always give their names but I don’t remember hearing them and I’m convinced they never gave me any — deniability is everything) had started right out with a robbery hypothetical: “A woman is robbed at gunpoint in a dark alley …” What followed were a series of questions posed first by the small dark one, then another series by the blondish one. After each question one of the deputies would add a few more facts, and then another series of legal questions would follow. I was doing okay, or at least I thought, until the blondish one started getting louder and pushier. Never one to back down from a fight, I got louder and pushier, too. The exchange culminated with him adding another fact to the hypothetical and saying, “But your last answer didn’t take that into account, did it?” “I don’t see how it could; that fact wasn’t in the hypothetical when you asked the question. If you add that fact, then of course my answer would change,” I said. No sooner had the words left my mouth than I thought, “Oh man, you’ve done it now.” It doesn’t read too badly, does it? It sure didn’t sound the way it reads. If the interview lasted more than a minute after that I’m sure I don’t remember it. The deputies cordially thanked me for my time and I cordially got my butt off the chair and slipped out the door, grateful not to find a cop standing outside waiting to strip me of my Bar card. At first I felt pretty good. I had stood my ground and I was still a member of the Bar. Life was good. That lasted for about one minute. “Hey, Marcia, phone call. It’s the DA’s Office.” What do you know? Spunk worked.

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