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
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.”
“Do you know who
Silvio Berlusconi is?”
Italian media magnate. Why . . .”
“What do you manage?”
“Do you have
a criminal record?”
“A few misdemeanors.”
He nodded. “You look familiar. Were you
in court recently?”
“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
“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
I punched in Moe’s
“Hey, Joey,” he
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 possibility.”
After a long silence,
“Is that so . . . how’d 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 imaginary tongs.
“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
my phone 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
turned to face me. “How
d’ya like that? I hate this game. Never could get the hang of it. Do you golf?”
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
“Military. He’s still on active duty.”
“No, they’re still
“Lucky you. Maybe that’s why you’re like
“Normal, no separation
trauma from childhood. Normal is abnormal these days.”
“I’ve always felt
“Are you mocking me?”
“No harm intended.”
“What kind of law do you think I practice?”
law, unless the sign downstairs is wrong.”
“And your great
ambition is to be, what, a criminal defense lawyer?”
“Yes, most definitely.”
“You heard that on TV or
in a movie.”
“Probably did, but I believe it.”
rapists? Wife beaters? Sadists? Loan sharks? Pedophiles?”
“Do you have a criminal mind?”
“Yes, I do, think
like a criminal, I mean. I believe that would be an asset in the defense business.”
like contention, arguments . . . winning?”
“I’m a bouncer.
That’s what bouncers do.”
“Do you have any legal
“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.”
“That’s good. 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 purpose.”
“Do you believe
brother Al told me you have a smart mouth?”
got me there. From now on I’ll trust everything you say.”
Moe 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 harm.
“He’s doing well.”
He held up my file.
“May I keep this?”
“Sure, I made that copy
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. What’s up?”
“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 (Newgame, 2017).