At the end of my freshman year of college at Mizzou I headed back home for the summer to work as an intern, or more accurately, a legal clerk, or more accurately still, an office bitch, at a small but prestigious law firm in downtown Clayton, an affluent and uniquely metropolitan suburb of St. Louis. I was not a pre-law student, and had, at best, a vague interest in being a lawyer at the young and supremely stupid age of 19. At this point in my life I was essentially a walking pile of mistakes. Aside from having almost no desire to be a lawyer, my grades at that point would probably have gotten me wait-listed for ITT Tech’s criminal justice program, let alone any real law school. Man was I doing life right back then.
Not only did I have little interest in the law, I didn’t actually apply for the job. Hell, I didn’t even ask for it. So how did I land this awesome internship at a firm full of highly respected attorneys? My parents got me the job, of course. My mom was a judge back in those days, and knew a couple of the partners well. TFM.
I can’t imagine how I could have done less to earn that job, I had quite literally done nothing to earn it. I would have had to actually do something counterproductive, like flip double birds at my potential boss and then run outside and meat spin a secretary during the interview, or maybe need to have my boss represent me for a crime I committed after receiving the job but prior to starting it. Oh, wait, the latter actually happened.
During the spring that same year I was back home partying with some friends from high school. We ended up getting MIPs one night, after which we spent the entire evening in jail. I didn’t get bailed out by my dad until 6:00am the next morning because apparently the crack addicts I was bunking with that night could provide valuable lessons my father felt I needed to learn. I’ve actually written about that experience before. While the crime was your cut and dried MIP, the night in jail was anything but normal.
There are three things I mentioned earlier that you should keep in mind. The first is that the police, as a reward for my shithead attitude, bunked me up with a loud, severely fucked up, angry hobo. The second is that there was a little strangulation action that night. Finally the third is that when people are in a holding cell, they just want to get out of there. Apparently my hobo roomie REALLY wanted to get out of there. I woke up around 5:00am, still waiting to be bailed out, to a muffled gurgling sound and ten cops outside my cell screaming “OPEN IT! FUCKING OPEN IT!” at some nervous guy fumbling with keys. There on the other side of the cell was my vagrant bunkmate, hanging himself with his t-shirt. The police, with their nightsticks drawn, opened the cell and ripped the bum from his American Apparel noose before proceeding to beat the will to live back into him. As for me, I was tired, so I just rolled over, mumbled “fuck this place” to myself, and went back to sleep. I was bailed out an hour later.
My new boss was representing me for an MIP before I ever worked a minute for him. I was off to a promising start. The judge made sure to mention to my boss that I was not the most respectful prisoner they had ever encountered. To be fair, I may or may not have been near blackout and mouthing off like, well, like me when I’m blackout. I’m a dick.
How do I know the judge mentioned my disrespectful demeanor to my boss? “The judge said you were a real asshole,” is what my boss told me the first day of work. Thankfully, I got off with no fine and had the charge reduced to littering. That’s the perk of having best DUI lawyer in the state, and easily one of the best in the country (that’s not an exaggeration) working your meager MIP case. Sadly that was only the first time he would be representing me in court that summer.
Not only should I have probably lost my job before I even started work, but I was wildly unqualified for the position. The other intern was an actual law student. Me? I was a dipshit undergrad barely out of his freshman year. The other intern spent his nights studying the law. I spent my nights breaking the law, which usually involved trying to figure out which black grocery store cashiers were the worst at telling white people apart and would thus accept my crappy fake ID so that I could go to a friend’s house and kill a 12-pack of Natty.
My first conversation with the other intern went from introductory to awkward in about seven seconds, as he soon realized my presence at this internship probably warranted him dismissing any previous pride he had felt in earning the position.
Him: So are you in law school?
Me: No, I’m an undergrad.
Him: Oh…are you pre-law?
Me: Nah, I don’t want to be a lawyer.
Him: Why did you apply for this job then?
Me: I didn’t, my parents got it for me. They just kinda told me this is what I’d be doing this summer.
Him: A lot of my friends in law school applied for the other position here and didn’t get it.
Me: Huh, crazy.
All of his law school friends were denied an internship at this firm because this shaggy haired, 19-year-old idiot was hired instead.
I was so unqualified for the job that my first week there was spent painting the walls of the waiting room because that was literally all they had for me to do. Eventually I was promoted to endlessly filing away client paperwork. When one of the secretaries was out of the office for whatever reason, I was tasked with answering phones.
It was pretty clear by his hiring me that my boss didn’t give many fucks, at least aside from winning basically every case he took on. “Your kid wants a job? Sure fuck it why not! Tell him to bring his ass down to my office.” After meeting him I’m convinced that was more or less how I got the internship.
I wish I could post a picture of my boss on here, because the man is perhaps the most frat lawyer in the country. He rocks a power slick back that would make Patrick Bateman quiver with an envious, homicidal rage. In fact, he’s the type of high-powered attorney that would probably represent Patrick Bateman. I know he’d be the first person I would call if I got caught knifing an escort in St. Louis. My boss had at least three humongous, always stocked humidors in his office. He married an ex-sideline reporter, and wears suits that cost more than your entire closet. The guy makes a killing off DUIs, but does other criminal defense as well. I wish could relay the full story of the time he had to represent a mob guy who got caught with A LOT of drugs in St. Louis. Unfortunately that’s probably as much as I can reveal. Suffice it to say that the story is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. The irony of it is that my boss actually looks like, and gets paid like, a mob lawyer. If I Photoshopped him into a picture of Al Capone in court you probably wouldn’t notice.
Since I wasn’t qualified to do almost all of the normal legal clerk tasks a competent intern at the firm was assigned, I was eventually banished to the basement storage room to catalog old case files for the head of the firm so they could be shipped to a larger, off site storage facility. The main partner did a lot of different stuff, but what he was most noted for was being one of the best federal death penalty defense lawyers in the Midwest. He represented a lot of fucked up people, mostly murderers. What that meant is that the files I was sifting through were INSANE.
I remember, or maybe a better way of putting it would be “am still haunted by,” one particular folder full of pictures from a case box. As I flipped through the folder I mentally noted each picture.
“Picture of a fence, picture of the fence up close, picture of a door, picture of the door open, picture of a wall, picture of dead black chick with a kitchen knife in her neck, picture of another wall, WAIT WHAT?!?” I quickly thumbed back. “Yup, that is a murder.”
I read more of the case file, having become morbidly intrigued. Apparently this particular client was arrested because he lured a 9-year-old girl into his house while high on PCP and killed her after his PCP trip went about as poorly as you would expect an average PCP trip to go for someone who was a homicidal maniac. Thankfully the picture I saw was of the 19-year-old woman he had murdered a year prior, not of the little girl. The guy was also suspected of murdering another child in Indiana, and was convicted in the ’70s for sexually assaulting a third child. He was what we in the legal community* call pure evil. The whole thing was like a real life Law and Order: SVU episode. You know, if there were less unnecessary Detective Stabler family story lines and more dead chicks with kitchen knives in their necks.
*Ed. Note: I was still TECHNICALLY a legal clerk.
I later asked the head of the firm whatever happened to that client. With a chuckle and a nod he said, “Oh they killed him.” That’s probably for the best.
After I finished cataloging that case, I wasn’t all that keen to throw anymore nightmare fuel onto what was now a raging terror fire. Who knew what sort of horrors those other boxes held. Maybe a gang of arsonists that wore lingerie and clown makeup while they burned down orphanages? Thankfully, I’ll never know. Also, has that been an SVU episode yet? I feel like they’re running out of material. Regardless, one case was enough. I can still recall that picture in my head, clearly. You don’t forget that shit.
Unfortunately I still had to spend most of my days in the basement storage room. Since I had no further interest in casually perusing the deeds of Missouri’s evilest citizens, I spent most of my time taking naps. I napped in the basement at least once a day for the better part of four weeks. Don’t act so surprised, did you forget the title of this column already?
To be fair though, I wasn’t napping because I was lazy. I was napping because I was hungover as fuck. That’s totally better, right? No? Yeah, I know. I was constantly hungover because I spent every night out drinking. That summer my friends and I had developed a routine. We would go to my friend Hannah’s house, hang out on her back porch, and drink until about 2:00am. This happened every single night for about two months. To this day I still have not topped the consecutive days drinking streak from that summer. Every morning I would show up to work, increasingly late, exhausted and too mentally debilitated from a splitting headache to be a functional human being. After saying hellos and praying to God that there weren’t many files to put away, I would drag my worthless ass to the basement and pass out until lunch. Then after lunch I’d be all tired from eating lunch, so there was a good chance I fell asleep again. There were coma patients who existed more productively in the world than I did at that point. Maybe at least they were inspiring someone? If anyone had seen what I was doing they probably would have given up hope, indiscriminately, about whatever it was they were hoping for. That, I believe, is how worthless I truly was.
As the summer wore on my drinking increased. One weeknight in particular saw my buddy Thomas and I get especially obliterated while drinking on our friend’s porch. Few things scream problem drinkers like two guys aggressively blacking out on someone’s back porch on a Wednesday night, just because. At the intersection behind our friend’s house the city of Clayton had erected a very expensive piece of public art that the heads of the city happened to take great pride in aquiring. It’s still there, and it’s hideous. It looks like this:
Because we were drunk, and because we were (are?) complete morons, we decided to show the city of Clayton, of which neither of us were residents by the way, exactly what we thought of their fancy new ugly statue. I grabbed a bottle of barbeque sauce from our friend’s fridge. Thomas armed himself with jar of mayo. Why? We’re morons, did I not cover that? We ran out to the street hurled the bottle and jar at the statue, respectively. Both shots were direct hits.
What we hadn’t counted on was that the statue was hollow metal, not solid stone. Instead of the dull sound of glass breaking, the thing to rang out like a giant fucking gong. We woke up the entire neighborhood. Needless to say it didn’t take long for the police to arrive and find two drunk, underage kids who had just damaged the abhorrently expensive piece of art their city recently purchased, and loved. When you’re standing around cuffed and the police say things to you like “The mayor is going to be fucking pissed,” you know you’re screwed. Well, unless you work for one of the best lawyers in the city.
I came in the next morning, especially hungover, and told my boss what had happened.
He asked in utter disbelief, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Then he laughed. “You’re absolutely retarded.”
I couldn’t disagree. He was my boss, and he was also right.
Once again, I got off with basically a slap on the wrist, a year of probation, despite causing what he assured me was enough damage for them to prosecute “my dick off.” He was great with the legal jargon.
The rest of the summer at the law firm sailed smoothly by. I filed and napped, napped and filed. Finally fall rolled back around and I went back to school with a pretty great internship under my belt. Well, great on paper. It looked spectacular on my résumé, but in reality I had learned next to nothing, except a solid reaffirmation that my boss was one of the best lawyers in the city.
Somehow, despite my breathtaking incompetence, I left that office adored by everyone who worked there. My boss and I are still friendly, and he has gladly represented me a few times since. The last time I was in the office the rest of the staff still held over from my pathetic internship tenure were happy to see me as well. It almost makes me think I wasn’t the worst intern ever, but then I take roughly two seconds to remember, and know that I was, in fact, the worst intern ever.