Interview Accommodations

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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.

On-Campus Interviews

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 HardAss – 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!

Call-backs

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. 

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Discrimination and the Deaf Law Student

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I was looking over my blog posts and I realized that I may come off as sanguine about discrimination. I realized that my constant assertions that discrimination is from ignorance may make discrimination seem more benign. Not true. In fact, subconscious and implicit discrimination is the most insidious form there is. 

Don’t get me wrong – I experience discrimination in varying modes every single day. The clerk who looks at me funny because I didn’t hear something he or she said is discriminatory. The professor who never calls on me because he or she “doesn’t want to deal with it” is discriminatory. The law student who doubts that I can ever succeed at a job as tough as a lawyer is discriminatory. An employer who doubts that I can do the job just because I am Deaf is discriminatory.

So, you may wonder why I seem to deny the existence of audism – I don’t. I merely hate the word because it is so widely misunderstood by the hearing culture. As I mentioned in a previous post, audism is an implicit comparison to racism and that gets us nowhere wit the hearing community. For whatever reason, they feel that discrimination based on ability to hear is more justified than merely skin color because it is based on ability. The American idea of equality has so much to do with ability and meritocracy, and somehow, that twisted into the idea that anyone who needs assistance or accommodations are not truly equal. That idea is truly deluded because, as people frequently point out, if there were captions everywhere and everyone knew sign or some kind of visual communication method, D/deaf and HOH people would not be ‘disabled.’ Moreover, ability should refer to the ability to think, infer and, with others, get the job done. Individualism is so overrated in our society – why is it so bad to help each other overcome our personal limitations (we all have them, regardless of hearing)?

As twisted the idea of equality and meritocracy is in our society, the question is – how do we defeat that persistent idea that if we give a helping hand to someone, it’s unfair and oppressive. We haven’t been able to eradicate racism, sexism and other -isms in our society, so how do we confront audism (i am only using this word so people know what I mean)?

I don’t pretend to know the answer, and I’m not entirely sure my approach is the most effective one, but it fits my personality the best. Since discrimination based on ‘presumed inability’ is based on exactly that – the idea that we can’t. Hopefully, as more d/Deaf/HOH people show that they can, the they-can’t-do-that naysayers will be silenced by yes-they-can sayers as more people realize assistance is not a bad thing. 

Of course, like everything, this is easier said than done. In reality, due to the structure of the workplace, educational system, heck, the world, d/Deaf/HOH will need more “help” – i.e. assistance to overcome the structural barriers – but society needs to stop seeing this as a bad thing. When has help and assistance, when necessary, been bad? People without hearing impairments get help all the time, but it is just invisible (using sound to communicate helps them). Until we get rid of this macho-super-individual-I-never-need-help idea, I fear that discrimination “because of” disability will persist.

Big Bad Private Practice Wolf

As you probably know from my previous post – I have a summer associateship at a law firm this summer. I would like to share some of my musings about the whole interview process. Disregard as you may, but I think it was an interesting experience.

Frankly, I was a bit nervous entering the search for a private-sector job. I worked at non-profits and government jobs throughout my life, so I approached the big bad wolf of private enterprise very cautiously.  I had a preconceived notion that businesses were all about the bottom line, and being a Deaf woman, I thought I would not fit into the bottom line. However, I found out that it wasn’t that bad.

At my school, we have something called On-Campus Recruitment – literally hundreds of employers, mostly large law firms, come and interview with up to 50 students. This resulted in about 30 interviews for me (I wanted to play it safe – especially because I had no idea how employers would react to my Deafness and, of course, the economy, although the economy was not as bad back then as it is today). It was an exhausting affair – but not as bad as I expected.

Ultimately, I ended up with nine callbacks, which is when the employer invites you back to their offices for more interviews. This was actually more than most of my fellow students. I have a theory about why I was relatively successful in the private sector interviews over some of my other peers, despite some alleged disadvantages.

  • Preparation – despite the fact I can speak fairly well, I am not so great at spontaneous speaking. I need to think things through, figure out pronunciation and how I approach the topic before I speak. As I mentioned before, speaking is more of a cognitive task for me – it’s work for me. But my preparation (figuring out exactly how to explain my interest in the law firm, why I went to law school, etc.) resulted in me being better spoken than some of my peers who may have relied on their spontaneous speaking ability too much.
  • Directness  – I did not hide the fact that I was Deaf. Quite the opposite – I even brought a sign language interpreter to my interviews. I was open about the fact that I was looking for a firm that would support my needs. In my mind, if I was an employer, I would much rather know up-front about what an employee needs in order to function properly.
  • Confidence – This point is related to my previous point – since I did not feel like I was “faking” by either (1) not bringing a sign language interpreter with me to make sure I understood everything that is said; or (2) hiding my Deafness, I felt more confident walking into the interviews. A lot of people, regardless of deafness, try to hide their true self during interviews and it usually doesn’t work. I think that principle rings especially true for d/Deaf persons – both sides are cheated if the d/Deaf person fakes it, the employee and the employer. The employer doesn’t know how to deal with the d/Deaf employee because the said employee did not fully disclose everything. The Employee is stuck with mediocre (if any) accommodations and potentially unwelcoming atmosphere.

One other point – I was surprised how more willing larger law firms were in hiring me. I interviewed with some mid-sized firms and even though my qualifications were great for them and the interview went well, there were no callbacks. I compared notes with other d/Deaf law students and they also experienced this phenomenon. Of course, this is completely anecdotal, but humor me here. My theory about this trend is that large law firms have plenty of resources, so they are not as fazed about the idea of paying for accommodations. Mid-sized employers, however, are a different story. They seemed more concerned about the bottom line (despite the fact that they do well for themselves).

This is not to imply that I did not make mistakes during my interviews. To be honest, I was a nervous wreck during my first few interviews – stuttering, sweating and the whole works – a miserable failure. However, with 30 interviews, I was able to work out the kinks. By the end of the on-campus interviewing cycle, I was a pro. In fact, the firm that I will work for this summer was my final interview.

Stayed tuned… 

I am back!

So, I am back! I apologize for the long absence – you know what they say about law school, in the first year, they scare you to death, second year they work you to death and the third year, they bore you to death. Well, I am a 2L now, so guess which phase I am in…

Quick update: I got a job this summer already! I’ll post more about my experiences soon. I am also involved on a journal and a clinic, which explains my lack of blogging time. I will try to be better, but who knows. 

Fortunately, now I have no shortage of blogging topics!

Epidemic of Anti-Intellectualism?

I’m a bit nervous treading into these waters, because what I am going to say is a bit controversial. However, it needs to be said and hopefully there will be some people listening out there. Like everything I say, feel free to take a grain of salt with my words. J

Some of you may wonder why I do not fully immerse myself in the Deaf culture. I grew up in it and my Deaf friends have given me the wonderful gift of perspective. In the Deaf culture, I can meet people from all backgrounds – deafness truly cuts across traditional dividers such as religion, race and socioeconomic classes.

Deaf culture can be wonderful; yet, I choose to only partake in the “Deafhood” occasionally. The reason for this seeming ambiguity is that I just cannot tolerate the rampant anti-intellectualism. You may ask, what is this anti-intellectualism she speaks of? The anti-intellectualism that I’ve seen is the rejection of academic achievement as “hearing-minded” (all of you signers will know what I mean) and the lack of motivation to attain good writing skills. In the Deaf culture, hearing-minded is anything but a compliment. The phrase, “hearing-minded” doesn’t just mean that one wants to be hearing, but also that one has adopted an superior stance, a “snootiness” prevalent in hearing people.

Hopefully my personal anecdote will illustrate the backwardness of the anti-intellectual trend. I remember when I was in my early years of high school, Even though I wasn’t the most diligent student, but I did well and I took honors classes. Whenever my Deaf friends saw me do my homework or reading, they would immediately start mocking me, calling me “hearing-minded.” Luckily, I’m not the sort to give into peer pressure, but if I was, my academic achievements could have crumbled – just to fit in.

Of course, this is not universal. However, I’ve met enough people with similar attitudes for me to see that this anti-intellectualism is pervasive. This trend is deeply troubling. First, it alienates our best and brightest to a point where they might submit to peer pressure and dumb themselves down. Deaf people need more representatives that succeed in the hearing world, not less.  Second, even if our brightest children resist the anti-intellectual culture, it only breeds animosity towards Deaf culture, which is exacerbated by the fact that they are our sterling ambassadors to the “smarty-pants” elite.

I do understand that not everyone is able to achieve academic success. However, this is not a license to belittle your more-successful peers. I’m of the mind that everyone has their own contribution to the world, and everyone must respect each other’s place in the world. Every life choice has its own inherent value.

Now, can we hold hands and let’s all get along? (Ha, I wish it could be that easy!)

What About Gender?

Ay, sorry for my blogging neglect – things have been pretty busy for me in the non-virtual world 

It’s odd – it is only now that I think about my gender in relation with my deafness. Law is a relatively male-dominated field. I would say that my law school is approximately 60% male and 40% women, and all of you know that this is not exactly representative of our population. In fact, in the office that I am working in right now, is very male-dominated.

As a woman, I have to wonder, how does my gender affect how my professional peers perceive my deafness? Sometimes I think my gender makes my deafness even more of a liability because it’s a double-whammy of perceived weakness. Deaf and a female – ay!

Then again I haven’t been the perfect symbol of feminism. Ever since I was a child, I always identified more with boys and men, rejecting traditionally feminine roles. I have a little theory about that – a large majority of deaf children in my area were male, so most of my friends growing up were males. I took to their rough-housing and expletive-laced speech like fish to water. During primary school, I was the girl who played basketball, rejected makeup and the “girly” gossip. Sometimes I think my implicit rejection of traditional feminine patterns (hey, calculus was my favorite class in high school!) has a lot to do with my current course in life. Law, with its  poor work-life balance commonplace in large law firms, doesn’t always provide a welcome place for women.

In the end, my tomboyish nature has benefited me in the legal world. I can get along just fine with my male colleagues, joking and drinking the day away with them. To be honest, I think I would have suffered more in a more female-dominated workplace. I remember most of discriminatory acts (not all, of course) directed towards me originated from females. Female teachers would be the ones who complained about having me in their classes. My female classmates would be the ones who made snarky remarks.

In the end, maybe being deaf and in a male-dominated industry isn’t such a bad thing if you can swim with the sharks. Admittedly, this is a very limited viewpoint, and might have more to do with my personality than my gender. I would love to hear other opinions on this issue. 

Goodbye to DeafRead

It pains me to say this, but I am leaving DeafRead. I orginially joined Deafread hoping that I could present an unique point of view and encourage aspiring d/Deaf law students. However, these hopes become moot when DeafRead espouses a discriminatory and Deaf-centric policy by banning a certain blog.

I have posted about our need to UNITE in order to succeed (professionally, at least) and I cannot participate in an aggregator that thwarts this sentiment.

So, if you like this blog, please do bookmark me and say hi sometimes. I welcome everyone of all stripes, deaf, Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and many more. Hopefully there is enough supporters out there to make writing this blog worthwhile