My wife and I drove down from Scranton to Philadelphia to find an apartment. We found a place in a yellow brick, art deco, high rise across from the famous art museum where Sylvester Stallone ran up the steps in the movie Rocky. The weekend before my wife started her job we rented a Uhaul, packed up our stuff and drove it down. Hughey, our dog, was young at the time. I remember the day we moved in and were in the process of unpacking, my wife and I went out to dinner. When we returned to our new apartment we found Hughey nested in the clothes in our open suitcase.
My wife left for work Monday morning. I spent my days sending out resumes, listening to Howard Stern in the morning, walking Hughey and playing Civilization on my computer. I started to get worried that I was not bringing in any income. Our bills continued to rise and I began to sink into depression because I felt I had no options. But then suddenly I received a call from a law firm called Dechert. I had never heard of this firm. I did not even remember sending a resume to them. My wife (being in the recruiting business) recognized them as one of the most prestigious firms in Philadelphia.
I interviewed first with a partner on the 54th floor of the Bell Atlantic Tower. This partner ran the document archive the firm maintained as part of the legal defense for a prominent tobacco company. At the time I interviewed (the year 2000) the tobacco litigation had been going on for some time and was in the final stages before it wound down.
The partner who interviewed me was a Harvard graduate. Most of the attorneys who worked at Dechert graduated from Ivy League or equivalent law schools. They were all very proud of their pedigree. I felt insufficient having graduated from a third tier law school in Louisiana. This partner, however, seemed interested in me precisely because I had gone to law school in Louisiana. It was like he thought I was an exotic species. During the interview he told me that the position was not a regular associate position but rather a Staff Attorney position where I would perform work that was below the Associates and that I would never be eligible for a promotion. What I did not totally understand was that I would also not receive the experience I would need to fully become an attorney. But at this time I was more interested in earning money than gaining work experience.
At the same time I interviewed with Dechert I also interviewed with another smaller firm. This firm was on a lower level than Dechert and seemed ashamed of itself in relation to Dechert and impressed that Dechert was interested in me. It was clear that this firm would have given me trial experience and put me on the partnership track (something that I would not be offered at Dechert). On the other hand I would have been paid half as much as what Dechert offered me. At the time, both my wife and I had student loans we were paying off and the money Dechert offered me was too much to pass up. I remember talking to my friend Tim who lived in Washington, DC at the time. I told him I could take the difficult job with the firm nobody heard of that paid less or the easy job with the prestigious firm that paid more. At the time it seemed like a no-brainer. I would later learn that I had made a mistake.
I remember my father congratulated me and told me he was proud of me for getting a job with such a prestigious firm. I should have known that was an indicator that I had made a wrong decision.