Returning to the scene of the crime


On Monday I was in Washington, D.C., to participate in a panel discussion on employment law at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), the primary organization for legal academicians. The panel went very well; it was a genuinely engaging and interactive discussion with fellow presenters and colleagues who attended. My paper was on workplace bullying and the law, a topic I have studied and written about intensively for some 15 years. (For more on that, see this entry posted to my professional blog, Minding the Workplace.)

The conference was held at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, adjoining the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. It’s a huge hotel, with multiple towers of rooms. Even with the guidance of the hotel’s helpful employees, you can easily feel lost and bewildered attempting to navigate it, especially if you’re at a professional event and have to get from one location to another in a matter of minutes.

And herein lies the nostalgic connection: Way back in the fall of 1993, I spent two nerve-wracking days at the same hotel, taking part in initial screening interviews for law teaching positions at the annual “meat market” hiring fair hosted by the AALS. I was in my third year of teaching as a junior instructor at NYU Law School (my legal alma mater), and now I was going on the market for a tenure-track appointment.

Here’s how it works: A successful screening interview may lead to an invitation for an extended, follow-up “callback” at a school’s campus, consisting of more interviews and a formal presentation. The process is a grueling one that can span several months, with no guarantee of success. I was fortunate that it worked out for me, including the offer I accepted from my current employer.

Thus, going to the Marriott Wardman Park was a bit of a trip down memory lane, a return to the scene of the crime. For so many who have experienced the AALS hiring fair at this hotel, the sprawling layout of the place contributed to the already Code Red anxiety levels we felt in our guts. This was especially the case if you happened to have interviews scheduled closely together on opposite ends of the hotel!

In that weird way that may be inherent with middle aged memories, in some ways it seems like yesterday, in other ways it feels like an epoch ago.

Some two decades later, I can breathe a small sigh of relief and be enormously thankful that I jumped through that big hoop in 1993. Participating in a panel discussion at that same hotel, this time purely for the purposes of sharing my work and learning from others, was a blessed thing indeed.

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