Date: 9 October
Location: the glamorous No. 48 tram.
Sweaty palms. Burning ears. Sweaty palms. Burning ears. Sweaty palms. Burning ears.
This is literally the only thought my mind is capable producing.
My frenzied mental pleas for sensible, lawyerly thoughts are met with this mantra only. My face is tight and warm like a marshmallow too close to the fire. My heartbeat is too loud and too fast. My hands are unpleasantly hot. Burning ears.
By the time Suit 1 swings into view on the video conference screen, I’m convinced that I’m going to be unable to even pronounce my name. Sweaty palms.
They’re widely known as ‘the most terrifying law firm in the world’. And they want to interview me. Via videoconference. Tonight. I originally had no intention of interviewing with any of London’s prestigious ‘magic circle’ (suspect not as much fun as it sounds) law firms. The thought of returning to long hours, heartbreaking deadlines and beige walls made me anxious. However, a combination of things has lead me to reconsider. First, if it got me to London, a base for Euro-travels galore, and paid me piles of gold (galleons?), it wouldn’t be all bad. Second, it’s only an interview, and undeniably good practise for all interviews ever, not to mention flattering that they even wanted to meet. Third, my recruiter is kinda a bully.
It’s almost 8pm.
Staring up at the skyscraper on William Street that houses the video conferencing centre I’m shivering slightly, despite the warm springtime air. The glass doors to the building are, of course, locked. Panic. Was I supposed to have organised an after hours pass? Called someone? I fumble with my phone and dig out an email, call the number at the bottom and a fast-talking British girl reluctantly agrees to come collect me.
A minute late she sashays out, snaps gum in my direction and shoos me into the building. “It’s madness up there tonight, love! The company is hosting a cocktail party in reception so I’m afraid you might be a bit distracted.”
I’m trying to work out if this is for real on our way up to level 40, as she adds, “So, I suppose they told you that you’ll be on the laptop?”
My heart flipflops with jittery dread. Am I going to be expected to type up a shareholds agreement from scatrch? Produce a thesis on warranty insurance in the Australian market? “So the vidcon screen will be a bit small, you know?” Oh, right.
“Fine,” I mutter.
My fear ebbs as the lift doors open into a bustling cocktail party. Perhaps the subtle scent of alcohol has a soothing effect on a subliminal level? We wind our way through clinking champagne glasses and men in wrinkled suit and she shows me into a little meeting room with a laptop. Sweaty palms.
“It’s up as loud as it goes. I’m sure you’ll be able to hear most of it.”
I halt dead. Most of it. Most of it?! What does she think this is? A gossip with overseas girlfriends about the upcoming season of Beauty And The Geek? She flounces out.
The minutes tick by. I sit and rearrange my hair. Sweaty palms. Reapply gloss. Burning ears.
Which brings us to the moment that Suit 1 sits down and smiles at me. The following goes through my racing mind: Wow. He’s Asian. That is so weird. Ok, Alex, that’s really racist of you: there are Brits of Asian descent. Wait. No. This is actually really weird. I just googled these partners and they were not, as of ten minutes ago, of Asian descent. What the actual far–
The door bursts open and chewing gum girl is back. “God, sorry, love Wrong rooms. This girl is on the laptop. You’re with me.”
I exchange a horrified look with a little Asian girl in a suit and allow myself to be dragged down the hall and thrust into a much bigger room featuring a long conference table and a huge screen.
Onscreen, a new Suit is waiting for me. I feel like Simba, on the cliff edge, facing down Scar.
“Alexandra.” His voice, smooth as silk and clipped gracefully at the edges. “I’m Tim, and I’m a partner at Slaughters.”