The Two Towers
Dan S. has already given good advice on what to say at the AALS. (A partial dissent by Paul Horwitz posits that brilliance is overrated). The web already contains a plethora of good advice, from sources like Brian Leiter (here) and Gordon Smith (here). My goal in this post is more limited. I hope to strike the right amount of terror into candidates’ hearts as they contemplate the destructive force weilded by The Two Towers.
Since time immemorial, the meat market has been held in Middle Earth, a location dominated by two towers: The Wardman Tower, which is inhabited by Saruman the White, and the Park Tower, which is inhabited by the Dark Lord Sauron. The approximate walking time from the base of one tower to the base of another tower is four to six minutes. The approximate mad-dash time from one to the other is about three minutes. Rumors persist of particularly desprate and speedy candidates who have clocked in at under two minutes, but attempting such velocity is not recommended.
Given the geography, if you are a meat market candidate, you should bear in mind a few quick navigation tips regarding the two towers:
1. At some point, you will learn the locations of your interviews. The most important digit of a room number is the second. The second number of a suite tells you what tower the room is in:
Room 8320 = Floor 8, Wardman Tower, Suite 20
Room 8020 = Floor 8, Park Tower, Suite 20.
The approximate transit time between 8320 and 7320 is one minute. The approximate transit time between 8320 and 8020 is eight to ten minutes.
2. The elevators are not fast. In fact, they are preternaturally slow. I cannot stress this point enough. You cannot depend on elevator speed.
It can take up to a full five minutes for an elevator to go up to, or down from, the eighth floor of any tower. This is because there is a limited number of elevators — three in one tower and six in the other, as I recall — and they will stop on every floor. Thus, if a candidate arrives at the elevator bank at the wrong time, she will have to wait as elevators stop every floor on the way down, then on the way back up to her, and finally back down again.
Why do the elevators stop on every floor? Because there are so many interview suites on every floor, and because each suite is both entering and exiting candidates. Thus, it is all but guaranteed that there will be someone wanting to go up (and down) at floor 3, floor 4, floor 5, floor 6, and so on. With someone pushing the button at every floor, they’ll stop at every floor — in effect, the elevators become Sabbath elevators. And because they stop at every floor, you have zero chance of a quick ride down from the eighth floor.
3. This means that you should never schedule a back-to-back between towers if you can help it. (That is, don’t schedule a 3:00 in the Park Tower and a 3:30 in the Wardman). And in particular, avoid scheduling high floors of competing towers in back to back slots. Avoid the 8348 to 8032 dash like the plague — you just won’t make it in five minutes.
That said, sometimes you’ll have no choice. You may have set up these interviews before finding out the room number. Or you may have no other options for that particular slot — the University of Poughkeepsie calls late in the game, and the only mutually open slot is Friday at 3:30, which is back-to-back with a competing tower.
If this happens, you’ll need to make decisions. First, you decide how much you value each school, comparatively. Second, you’ll have to make a spot judgment during the earlier interview. If the first interview is going well, and you like the earlier school better, then you stick out that interview and show up slightly late to the second. If the first interview is going poorly, and you didn’t like that school much anyway, then you excuse yourself a few minutes early.
And if your first interview is going well, but you also like the second school quite a bit?
Each hobbit answers that question differently.