I thought that I would share my accommodations experience during my interviews last fall. It was quite interesting to see how private law firms dealt with it, which gave me a great picture of what it would be like to work there.
It is important to note that what works for me, may not work for everyone (somehow, a lot of people have trouble with that idea). Since I do get fatigued easily when I am reading lips and listening hard, I chose to have an sign language interpreter with me for all of my interviews. I felt that, in order to be a professional; I had to make sure I understood everything. It was also a good way for me to let the interviewer know that I was deaf, without turning it into a surprise. So, that in mind, my advice here is quite biased towards people who use sign language, but hopefully there are some tidbits in here for everyone.
Since there were two stages of the interview process, I will handle them separately.
Since all of the preliminary interviews were on-campus (they are called screening interviews), I was able to obtain a sign language interpreter through my school. I did a few things that were hel
- Consistency – I liked to use the same interpreter for the majority of the interviews. I always like to build a relationship with an interpreter so I don’t need to tell him/her about my preferences all the time.
- Age/Gender – I must admit, I’m picky. I strongly prefer young-ish female interpreters. I don’t like older interpreters because they give off a mommy-vibe. (I’ve been asked more than once if an older interpreter was my mother – aw-kward.)
- Introductions – I always, always introduced my interpreters and how to “use” them at the beginning of the interviews. Many people have no clue of what to do. It stinks, but I felt like it was my responsibility to tell them what to do.
- Be a Hard–Ass – in terms of interpreters, I made it very clear to the agency that the interpreter had to (1) dress in a suit, preferably a dark suit; and (2) be 10 minutes early. I absolutely hate it when interpreters dress sloppily or arrive late, it reflects badly upon me. This is employment we are talking about, no fooling around here!
Callbacks were 2-3 hour-long interview at the law firm’s office. Usually you meet with several people from that law firm, partners, counsel, senior associates and junior associates. After I got invited back, I called or emailed the recruiting coordinator to set up an interview. When I talked to the recruiting coordinator, I also set up sign language interpreters through her or him.
- Come Prepared – I don’t mean come prepared for the interview (although you should do that too!), but be prepared to refer the law firm to an interpreter agency. They have no clue what they are doing, so I think it’s fair to help them out. Since I am not orginially from the area that I interviewed at, I asked around about the best interpreting agency, and it worked out well for me. However, I have talked to other Deaf law students and some of them actually reserved the interpreters themselves. I didn’t do this, mostly because I didn’t have a strong preference or experience with the interpreters in the area. So, do what works for you.
- Rinse and Repeat – I tried to approach call-backs in the same way that I approached my screening interviews – explaining the role of the interpreters, blah blah.
- Transparency – I really tried to be transparent about what I wanted as a summer associate, accommodations-wise. Some may think this conversation may put off some employers, which is probably true. My take is that the employer should know what s/he is getting into. I would much rather work somewhere that knows what I want and is willing to meet my needs.
Surprisingly, only one law firm tried to sneak out of paying for interpreter (I expected more would do that). In that situation, I mentioned the ADA, and poof, all of the protests dissolved. I guess its one good thing about looking for a job at larger law firms, they know their ADA obligations.