Sunday, June 17, 2007

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

I go before a judge!

As part of the State of Indiana's rigorous bar application and examination process, each applicant is required to undergo a Character & Fitness Interview. This interview, conducted by a member of the bar, is designed to evaluate your history of misconduct (including speeding tickets, public intoxication, and sundry felony convictions) as well as your knowledge of the Rules of Professional Responsibility. It's an important hurdle, which some interviewers take far more seriously than others. Some applicants, for example, have been questioned at length about the Indiana Constitution; others were given lengthy scenarios and asked to spot the ethical violations; still others were made to cry.

I am understandably nervous at the outset.

Then I learn that my interviewer is going to be a judge. I ask around and am advised to "know your shit." Ack. I don't even know what shit I'm supposed to know, which makes me feel even more unsettled.

A further complication is that I dutifully packed all extraneous items of clothing and sent them on their merry way to Minneapolis. Including all of my suits. And dress shirts. The Judge's secretary, Pam, one of the nicest people I have ever encountered, assures me that this won't be a problem. "Just explain to him what happened," she tells me.

The day before the interview, because my stylist couldn't get me in and I have no impulse-control, I decide to dye my hair. Now the color itself comes out beautifully, just how I want it. However, and you knew there was a however, I fail to notice a giant splotch of dye on the side of my face. Twenty-five minutes later, it has had a good soak into my skin and will not come off. I try to coax it off with a washcloth and soap. I scrub it furiously with my exfoliating gloves. I even rub some nail polish remover on it because, well, it has a chemical smell and I'm optimistic. At the end of it all, I'm left with a slightly less black dye spot surrounded by raw, red skin. Brilliant.

So the day of my interview, I don my outfit, hoping the Judge has a "casual Fridays" policy, and apply copious amounts of concealer to the side of my face. Now it just looked like a nasty bruise, which is only better because it may get me the sympathy vote.

I hurry to the courthouse and have to park my car approximately 26 blocks away, for security purposes. I decide to travel light and take only the key to my car with me. A lengthy walk and two propositions by homeless men later, I arrive at the metal detectors inside the main entrance.

"May I see your I.D.?" asks the conscientious security guard.

My shoulders sag. "It's in the car . . . ." I trail off and turn to walk out the door.

"Well, what are you here for?" the guard asks.

Eager at this glimmer of hope, I launch into a rapid and too-detailed explanation. "I have this interview with a judge. See, I'm taking the bar and we have to have a Character & Fitness Interview, and the Judge is conducting mine, and I had to park so far away, but I thought I shouldn't bring my purse, so all I have is my car key."

He looks confused. "I'll let you go this once," he tells me. "The Judge is good people."

I don't understand how that reflects on me, but I'm grateful nonetheless.

In real life, Pam is even nicer, if that's possible. She ushers me into the Judge's chambers, and the interview begins.

The Judge looks up from my application. "What, you don't have a suit?"

My stomach plummets.

"I talked to Pam," he explains with a slight grin. "It's not a problem."

I smile uneasily, thinking that now isn't the best time to joke with a petrified candidate such as myself.

But surprisingly, the interview goes well. He asks me a few questions about my background, and we discuss life in the Netherlands. He won't quiz me on the rules, he tells me. He doesn't seem to notice the splotch. He imparts a few words of wisdom about the profession and tells me that with a record as clean as mine, he's sure I have "some sort" of a moral compass.

"You only had a speeding ticket a while ago; there's no drug use . . . ." he notes to himself.

I'm feeling good at this point, so I interject jovially, "I know, even though I lived in the Netherlands."

Now it was his turn to smile uneasily. "There wasn't any drug use, right?" he asks.

"No, no," I assure him, looking down and to the left. I quickly look up again, fearful that eye movement down and to the left indicates an untruthful. I wish I'd watched more episodes of CSI: Miami. "A lot of people assume that because of where I lived, I must have tried at least something, but I really didn't." Looks like I was deciding to keep digging. "Since I couldn't drive while I lived there, my parents had to take me around everywhere, so . . . ." Apparently, there but for parental supervision go I.

The conversation moves on and soon the interview is over. Pam wishes me luck in Minneapolis, and I walk down to the main lobby. The security guard stops me.

"So what was this interview all about?" he asks.

I explain again, this time far more coherently.

"Now I've been wondering this ever since you came in here: is there a limit to how many times you can fail the bar?"


Kimber said...

and isn't is reassuring to know that Indiana recently lifted the restriction on the number of times you can retake the bar? It used to be five ... now it's unlimited.

Because that sixth time is really going to be the charm.

-- K

S said...

Hey, I'm not joking about that until I pass...