by Henry Simpson
At the beginning of May, the end of the
semester was near, and I had not yet lined up a summer law internship. I asked
some of my professors and law school office contacts to suggest some law firms
I might approach. I got several leads, started cold-calling them, and seldom
got past the receptionist. Every law student was seeking the same thing I was,
and the competition was brutal. A guy like me, with no friend or relative who
could influence hiring, stood little chance of scoring such a prize.
After weeks of futile effort, I scored my
first interview at a large, general practice law firm in an old office building
in downtown Los Angeles. By now, I’d been rejected by all the major firms,
middling ones, those that had been recommended to me, and was working through
those I’d looked up in the yellow pages. What this one had going for it was
that, as a general practice firm, it promised to do some criminal law.
I told the receptionist I was seeking a summer
law internship. To my amazement, she called someone on the intercom, and a
moment later a balding, thirtyish man in a threadbare suit but no tie came out,
looked me over, and wordlessly summoned me to follow him back to his office. It
was a cramped space, metal desk piled high with papers and single window view
of another building. “Sit,” he said, dropping into his swivel chair. “Hand me
I handed him my folder.
He opened the folder, peered over his glasses
down, shuffled the papers, nodded, sniffed, shuffled the papers some more, read
on. He looked up, straightened his glasses. “You did well in college, good grades in law school. These letters of
recommendation are nice. Did you write them yourself?”
familiar, like boilerplate. I think the professors keep recycling them. Do you
have any actual legal experience?”
“None. That’s why
I’m here. I’m looking for a summer internship.”
He nodded. “Yeah, you’ll need it. You work at this club, Bunga
“Yes, sir. I work
weekends as night manager.”
you know who
Silvio Berlusconi is?”
magnate. Why . . .”
“What do you
“Do you have a
He nodded. “You look familiar. Were you
“A drunk complained
I beat him up, filed a complaint. Judge Peel dismissed the complaint.”
“Yes, sir. I can
explain what happened if you’re interested.”
“I’m sure you can.
Sorry, Mr. Costa. I know about Bunga West. It’s owned and operated by
professional criminals. With your background, and the fact you work there, you
have no chance in this law office or any others I can think of off the top of
my head. You might have better luck in one with lower hiring standards.” He closed the
folder and pushed it across his desk like something repellant.
I sat in my car for a while, thinking. I was
not angry, not even upset. For weeks I’d been trying to get my foot through the
door and failed. When I finally did, the answer that came back was “No!” No was
better than an evasion or maybe. It was at least a definite answer. Ironically,
it came from a man who never shook my hand or even introduced himself. I did
not actually know his name. At least he had been honest with me. I was grateful
to him for that.
Another week of door knocking? I laughed. What
reason had I to believe I’d have any better luck now?
My one remaining option was Moe Klein, the
Carbone Family mouthpiece who had defended me on that Assault and Battery
punched in Moe’s
answered after one ring. “Are you in jail?” He snickered.
“No, Moe. I’m not
in trouble, nothing like that.”
“What’s up?” He sounded
serious, almost distressed.
“Well . . . uh . .
. I just, uh . . . I just finished my first year of law school and I’m looking
for a summer internship with a law firm. I thought yours might be a
After a long silence, “Is that so . . .
you do in school?”
“Top of my class.”
“You like the law?”
“Yes, so far I do.” I hesitated. “I like it very much.”
“Listen, Joey.” As if breaking
bad news, “Fact is, we seldom offer internships.
We’re a small firm and in the past
the interns we’ve had, well, it just didn’t work out for them or us. Basically,
it’s more trouble for us than it’s worth.” A painfully awkward silence followed.
“Oh . . . Is that a
no? If so, I’ll understand, no hard feelings.” Holding my tongue with
“Let me think about
it some, and I’ll talk to the partners, see what they say. Okay, kid?”
“Sure. I’d appreciate that. You have
number. Call me back anytime. I mean, anytime.”
One day passed, no call from Moe.
Two days passed, no call from Moe.
Three days passed, no call from Moe. It was
now Wednesday, and I was getting antsy, wondering if he would ever call. How
long would it take for him to meet with his two partners, have a short meeting,
and decide the fate of Joe Costa? I was tempted it to call him but decided to
hold off for two more days. Five working days was a reasonable amount of time I
had learned somewhere, probably in one of those otherwise useless business
classes I took as an undergraduate.
As it happened, Moe called me on the fourth
day, a Thursday, told me to bring my resume, curriculum vita, work samples, and
anything else that I thought would impress him and his partners on Friday
morning at 9 a.m.
Moe’s office was on the third floor of a
modern office building in downtown Los Angeles. I took the elevator and got off
in a reception area with a matronly woman sitting behind a desk. I signed the
guest register and walked down a hallway to the open door of Moe’s office. So
intent that he did not notice me, Moe was standing, holding a golf club poised
to hit a ball across the thick carpet to a putting cup on the other side of his
office. I waited, admiring his spacious office, large desk, genuine oil
paintings, and view of treetops and office buildings. Moe hit the ball, which,
having a mind of its own, meandered in an arc underneath his desk like an
errant mouse. I laughed softly.
Moe turned to face me. “How d’ya like that? I hate this game. Never
could get the hang of it. Do you golf?”
“I don’t even watch
it on TV.”
He waved me in, pointed at a chair, retired
his club against a filing cabinet, and sat behind his desk. “What’ve you got to impress me?”
I handed him my folder.
He opened, read fast, nodding, paused as
something caught his interest, read on, digesting my entire file in a minute.
Lawyers read fast. He looked up. “You managed a rock band?”
“For two years, but
it seemed much longer.”
“What’s your father
still on active duty.”
“No, they’re still
“Lucky you. Maybe
that’s why you’re like that.”
separation trauma from childhood. Normal is abnormal these days.”
“I’ve always felt
“Are you mocking
“What kind of law do you think I practice?”
unless the sign downstairs is wrong.”
“And your great
ambition is to be, what, a criminal defense lawyer?”
“You heard that on
TV or in a movie.”
“Probably did, but
I believe it.”
“How about rapists?
Wife beaters? Sadists? Loan sharks? Pedophiles?”
“Do you have a
“Yes, I do, think
like a criminal, I mean. I believe that would be an asset in the defense
“You must like
contention, arguments . . . winning?”
“I’m a bouncer.
That’s what bouncers do.”
“Do you have any
“I’ve been a
defendant, played prosecutor and defense in law school role-plays, negotiated
contracts, resolved disputes, and taken the law into my own hands.”
Creative to say the least. I’m willing to give you a chance. Brother Al, for
whatever it’s worth, says you don’t get rattled handling difficult situations
with drunks, violent types, or nut cases.”
“Did he actually
tell you that?”
Moe smirked. “Do you think I’d lie about my own brother?”
“If it served your
brother Al told me you have a smart mouth?”
there. From now on I’ll trust everything you say.”
laughed. “In my business,
working with people is more important than knowing law books. Leading that
security crew is a good test of what you’re made of. How’s Dino like his new
job?” Dino, the son of one of the club owners, was a fuckup I promoted
to a job with an impressive title and no duties that might permit him to do any
“He’s doing well.”
He held up my file. “May I keep this?”
“Sure, I made that
copy for you.”
He stood. “I’ll talk to the partners and get back to you one way
or the other
early next week.”
Moe phoned on Monday. “How’re you doing this morning?”
“I’m doing fine.
“Sorry to tell you
this. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. I talked to the partners, we had
a big meeting in fact, and I showed them your file. I told them I wanted to
hire you. They argued we don’t usually hire interns, wouldn’t know how to use
them, and they outvoted me, so it’s a no go. I’m real sorry, kid.”
“Shit, Moe. You
gave me that excuse last week and now you’re acting like you’ve had a
revolution in thought over there at Kern, Brough, and Klein. Don’t lie to me.”
After a long silence, “I know, and I’m truly sorry. I never should’ve
raised your hopes as I did. That was my error.”
“Tell me the truth.
If you don’t, I’ll never trust you again.”
“Okay, here’s what
it boils down to. I work for John Carbone. So do you. You’ve been doing odd
jobs for Mario. You can’t work for me and for John and for Mario at the same
time. Too many jobs. If I offer you an internship, Mario’ll be unhappy. If he’s
unhappy, John will be unhappy. If John’s unhappy, he’ll shit on me, beside
which he’ll figure out you’re not gonna work for him forever and he’ll be
pissed off at you. Trust me, Joey, I’m doing you a favor.”
“Thank you for
being honest.” End of call. Convoluted
logic, but he was right.
I went grocery shopping to take my mind off my
miseries. Finished, I carried the groceries out to my car, got in, and sat back
in my seat. I felt terrible. The entire legal establishment had rejected me.
Even Moe Klein had failed me.
I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and
heard the Porsche roar. I loved that sound and loved the car. The Porsche was
the one good thing I had to show for my disastrous foray into show business.
I’d bought it at the high point of that crazy time, and it was still with me. I
would never let it go. I absolutely adored it. After that time, I had another
low point, but recovered. And since last September I’d been making headway,
getting better. Strangely, the car gave me hope now. I backed out of the
parking space, and drove.
Approaching Santa Monica, I was feeling
better. I understood now that it was not in my nature to be defeated. It
sometimes happened, these little setbacks, but as long as I was alive and
striving, life would get better. I knew this now with certainty.
Ah, blue skies, perfect beaches, fine surf,
beautiful girls—what more could I ask for? So, I’d lost the opportunity to work
gratis all summer in an office.
But what had I gained?
I parked in my slot, carried my groceries into
the apartment, put them away, downed a cold beer, changed into faded surf
shorts, went outside, grabbed one of Walt’s longboards, and walked to the
Henry Simpson is the
author of several novels, two short story collections, many book reviews, and
occasional pieces in literary journals. His most recent novel is Golden Girl