Disclaimer

This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions and Reflections

Yes, it's that time again. Time to make resolutions for the new year that I very likely won't keep. But hey, New Year, time for new beginnings and another try. So what do I want to accomplish in 2010?

Well, for starters, I need to get more sleep. I have a very bad habit of going to bed way too late, which leaves me not getting nearly enough sleep, and I feel run down in the morning when I wake up, I move to slow, and I'm consistently running late because inevitably something will happen. The kid's moving slow, or, in the alternative, she's moving too fast, and I have to chase her and tackle her to get pants on her and get her out the door. And of course, this is the time of year when windshields have to be scraped and cars warmed up. So, I think if I go to bed earlier, get more sleep, I can get up earlier and not feel rushed. I think 11 needs to be my new bedtime, aiming for 8 hours sleep.

Then, of course, there's the whole weight thing. Ugh. Husband said he was afraid I'd end up being 400 pounds living by myself, because all I'd eat was fast food. Well, not exactly true, I do eat a lot of soup and salads and such at home in an attempt to save money, but I admit, I haven't been making the best choices lately. I don't think I've really gained any weight since I've been out here (the weight gain came from studying for the bar). But I haven't lost any either, and I have an elliptical machine that, of course, I haven't been using regularly, and a continuing gym membership I haven't been using. So, I decided to start with just small goals instead of saying, oh, I'm going to lose 40 pounds this year, blah blah, yeah right. How about we start with 10 pounds and then reassess? I'd just like for my pants to fit again. So, the goals are 10 pounds off, and running a 5K in the spring. That's doable, that's a goal I can meet and then feel good about myself instead of feeling bad about myself. And then I'll make new goals. Baby steps.

I've done really well with not spending a lot of money lately. Of course, there was plenty of money spent over Christmas, but that's to be expected, and it wasn't out of control. But, the main difference has been that I'm spending "real" money instead of "future" money (i.e. credit cards, student loan disbursements). In fact, I've stopped using credit cards altogether. The interest rate on my travel reward credit card tripled, so I transferred the balance and am now paying 0% interest for the next year, giving me plenty of time to pay it off. I figure when we start planning our trip to Europe next year, I'll give them a call and give them the opportunity to win back my business by lowering my interest rate to a reasonable figure. Anyway, my goal for this year is to have half of my credit card balance paid off. (What can I say? I have a lot of credit card debt. I lived well during law school.) So, I'll continue the good work, with not eating out very often, and putting as much extra money as I can muster onto the credit cards. Then we can take a nice (modest) vacation to Europe once the debt is gone.

A very good thing we did this past year in both saving money (and reducing our massive carbon footprints) was make energy-saving improvements to our home. We added insulation to the attic, we put in new garage doors and new front and back doors, as well as new screen doors. We had an energy assessment a few months ago, which told us that replacing the windows would not be cost-effective, but the other improvements would be. I've already seen the difference in our gas bill. It is somewhere around 1/3 of what it was last year. This is also coupled with installing a thermostat that automatically turns down the temperature during the day, to go back up in the evenings when we're home. (Of course, Husband is often home during the day, but he likes it colder anyway.) The next big money-saver (and environment saver) will be getting the kid out of diapers. She is definitely ready for potty-training, and so are we.

And of course, there's work. I have goals for myself in the New Year. First, it'd be nice to actually earn my keep. I know baby attorneys don't really do that right away, but I am ambitious. I want to build a reputation for myself as a hard-working, brilliant attorney who returns all the phone calls, responds to all the letters and meets all deadlines in a timely manner. There's a long road ahead for that, better start paving it now. Also, I want to change the way we do some things. I think I'm comfortable enough to get that done, particularly about electronic document storage. It's inefficient, it drives me crazy, it should be uniform. It must be fixed! And I'm OCD enough to be the one to do it. Finally, I'm building up my confidence. Although I readily admit that I am still the grasshopper to the zen master, I am at least a moderately competent grasshopper that can go to a court and have a hearing and not grossly malpractice. So, that's something. In the New Year, I want to build up my confidence even more and take on even more difficult tasks. I've gotten in a few new clients of my own and I'm very excited about some of the cases I'm working on. We've got upcoming trials, and there's GAL training to do, and this summer will be my first state bar association conference. There are new people to connect with and new organizations to attend, and I'm very excited. Oh, and I will also be getting minions: We're going to get high school interns this Spring.

So, things are exciting, but I'm also a little apprehensive. Husband has to start looking for a job this semester, and where that will be, what position that will be, and how much it will pay will determine what our future holds. As I've told him, I'm not really that nervous or anxious about it, but it does make me antsy to be kept in limbo, because I'm a big planner, and when there's a key piece of information missing and I can't plan anymore, it makes me a little on-edge. And of course, there's that exam for the awesome federal agency that investigates stuff. Another reason to lose weight and get into shape, but again, not holding my breath. Very excited to be taking the exam though, even though I'm sure there are some ivy league educated, retired military personnel who speak seven languages who will also be taking the exam. But who knows. We're in a solid place financially, and we have the flexibility to make things work whatever we decide to do.

The only thing that makes me anxious and throws a big wrench into it all is the idea of having another child. Woe is me for marrying an individual without a uterus. I just don't want to go through it all again. The vomiting, the aches, the pains, the pokes and prods. The not drinking alcohol for 9 months! That was much worse than the actual birth. Granted, there was extra drama involved in my pregnancy, but still, I hated being pregnant. But I do want another child. I just don't want to be pregnant again. If I had the money, I would definitely outsource the next pregnancy. I've talked to Husband about adopting, but he doesn't see the benefits. He seems to think his genetic material is so impressive that it must continue to be passed down to many future generations, in as many different lines as possible. Riiiight. Anyway, decisions will have to be made this year. Ugh. More decisions.

So, I guess that's it. I'm starting to do more things that interest me outside of work and family. Reading, music, hopefully some writing of my own. I'd like to get published and start building my academic resume a bit more. I'd like to make more friends here in Small Town. Spend more time with Husband than I got to in the fall, although I don't think that's likely to happen. It will be a rough couple months, particularly as we fight inclement weather during our commutes. But it's only four months, and he'll be done with school.

What a crazy year 2010 will be. Completely unpredictable.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In review

I finally made it back to work today, after coming down with the Death Plague initiated by my own child on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, it was not as bad as what Husband got, since I recognized the signs early enough to properly dope myself up with some phenergan to mitigate the projectile vomiting. Half a phenergan makes my tongue numb, and I sleep for 10 hours. (A whole phenergan, and I wake up a week later in a strange country.) I regained consciousness Monday afternoon, just before my in-laws got to town. I was supposed to be in Small Town, at work, but since I was unconscious for 24 hours, I was still in The City. Unfortunately, I was not well enough to partake in the eating of large amounts of sushi, (celebration for both Father-in-Law's and Cora's Godfather's birthdays). Sucks, but oh well.

I drove back to Small Town last night, since I had a probate hearing at 8:30 this morning. Arrived 10 minutes early, to stand outside the courthouse for 10 minutes in the cold. Apparently allowing people to stand in the heated vestibule is too much to ask prior to the opening of the courthouse. Oh well. Back at the office now, where it's warm, and about to attack the piles of work on my desk. I'll be working late tonight to get caught up, and then I'll be on my way back to The City tomorrow afternoon in time to celebrate Husband's and my "dating anniversary."

Eight years ago, a friend called me up and wanted to come over and see my new house (I'd just moved into a new house with a roommate over Christmas). While she's over, she "randomly" gets a phone call inviting her to a party, to which she quickly replied that she was at my house, and could she bring me along? Once at the party, she and her husband rather quickly departed, leaving me with no ride home, unless I hitched a ride with someone they were very obviously trying to set me up with (and had been since their wedding, as we had been best man and maid of honor for the occasion). I'd had a few drinks at that point, so I was like, whatever, sure, I'll let that dude I barely know give me a ride home. Well, I continue shooting tequila (always bad), and end up snogging said dude on the couch at some other people's house I had just met. Classy. Once we sobered up, which was about 7 a.m., dude gave me a ride home. In his hoopdy. I think it was a 1978 LeBaron, that had belonged to his great-grandmother. (That thing was like a tank, except it didn't have air conditioning and was unlikely to start on the first few tries in winter. Oh, and I think it got 8 miles to the gallon.) I was like, uh, I thought they said this dude had a job?

Anyway, he promised to call and take me to dinner. I was like, yeah, whatever, we just got trashed and made out on your friends' couch, sure you'll call. But he actually did. And after sleeping off a hangover, I woke up that evening and he picked me up (ugh, in the hoopdy), and took me to dinner at an Italian restaurant. A week later he referred to me as his girlfriend, and I was all like, whaaa? I didn't realize we were dating exclusively. Shit. Not that I had anyone else in mind to date, but oh well. My swingin' bachelorette days came to a screeching halt.

So, the moral of the story kids, is don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol. You'll end up with a boyfriend who wants to become your husband. And then you get knocked up, like, six years later. (Oddly enough, something similar happened to my roommate. I took her to a party at my friend's house, and they ended up snogging on his couch. Except she got pregnant like four months later. Now they're married with three kids. Beware random hookups.)

Anyway, regardless, we're totally hawt. (This is an old pic from law school prom, before my hair took a turn for the goth last year.)

MILP #130

Roundsup there. Next week, back here!

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Holiday Post

It's Christmas evening. The Husband is at work, the Bunny is in bed, the Dog is passed out on the couch, and I'm hanging out in the bedroom blogging, then watching some Christmas-related geekery. (I'd tell you what that geekery is, but it would kick my geekery up to unbelievable levels.) It certainly seems like the whole world is insane, and I need a break. The Pope got tackled, some guy tries to blow up his pants on a plane (something tells me al Qaeda isn't going to claim that dumbass), and my mom went to Walgreen's tonight and saw some lady get mugged. Merry fucking Christmas!

The insanity started last weekend with Fail Blizzard 2009. We actually avoided all the insane weather here in The City, the temperature never got cold enough for us to get any real snow. Small Town got hit with some of it, but I wasn't there, so oh well. Only my food spoiled because of the power outage. There were mass power-outages throughout the tri-state area, and horrific traffic issues. Husband's cousin got stuck on the WV turnpike for eight hours, along with her husband and their toddler, but were lucky since some people were stuck for twenty hours. I offered to launch a rescue mission, but they finally got off the turnpike at 10:30 and finally found a hotel by 1:30 (because of all the power outages, all the hotels were full). They were driving from North Carolina to Illinois. It took them three days because of the weather, when it's normally a 14 hour drive. They stopped in The City on the way and had breakfast with us before making the last five hours of their trip. The little cousins (what are they, second cousins, I guess?) had a great time together. Cora's a little bit older than Cousin S, but they were great together. Then both of the girls got sick, and then infected their families with entirely different strains of the death plague, but that's another story.

The past few weeks at work have been crazy. Crazy clients, deadlines, hearings, etc. I have had some successes, some failures, and some learning opportunities. One of those learning opportunities is about to be in the form of a criminal defense case involving child abuse (of a sexual nature). It already makes my skin crawl, and not just because of the allegations, but more because of the proceedings. The case worker from child services said something in court I found appalling. The judge denied the domestic violence order, because they presented no evidence of abuse. The mother came to court to say "kid told me he did this," rather than bringing the child in, or any other evidence in. (Hearsay. Not admissible.) However, the judge didn't want to leave it at that because of the seriousness of the allegation. So, he brought in the case worker from child services, who got the case over a week ago, and asked her if the allegation has been substantiated. Her answer: "Not yet, but it will be." Um, what? Either the allegations have been substantiated, or they haven't. Either you've interviewed the child, or you haven't. Either you have evidence, or you don't. How exactly are you going to look into your crystal ball and find out that in the future, those allegations will be substantiated? Ugh, don't like that at all. I have a feeling I'm about to have a front row seat for a train wreck. I'm not sure how I feel about it all in general. I carry around some baggage when it comes to this stuff, and I may not be able to maintain a healthy detachment.

So, that's what I've been thinking on all weekend. Fun times. But I drove home after that hearing Wednesday morning and had lunch with the Husband, spent some time with the Bunny and then later that evening had fondue and wine with girlfriends. Most therapeutic. Unfortunately, that night, the Husband apparently caught the stomach death plague the Bunny had earlier in the week, and proceeded to vomit for 12 hours or so. He was feeling better, then started feeling worse again, and missed Christmas dinner. He had to work tonight, so he's at work, still having nausea. I told him to go throw up on someone with the authority to send him home, but he won't do it. He works three nights in a row too, because again, he got fucked on the holiday schedule. I'm just hoping I don't end up with that nonsense, because I have a busy week ahead at the office, and I also have to be in court. So, I've been sleeping a lot, trying to stay rested and well-hydrated and spraying everything with Lysol. Oh, and the dog has fleas (how the hell she gets fleas in the middle of winter is beyond me), we're out of Frontline (it's winter), and the vet was closed. So, Fleabag gets de-flea'd on Monday and everything gets sprayed with toxic bug poison while Cora's in daycare. (At least we have hardwood.)

Even so, we had a nice Christmas. Husband and I watched a few Inspector Lewis episodes we had DVR'd (we're suckers for British shows, and that one is fabulous), and had tea and a fire. This morning, we had pancakes and opened presents. I got a new dresser, and Husband got two bottles of Scotch. (We picked out our own presents this year.) Cora got lots of stuff, her favorite being a fake laptop that does alphabet and numbers and such. She also got lots of books, a few more Elmo DVD's, Elmo stuff, Abby Cadabby stuff, a magic tea party set, a fake sushi set, a bucket full of plastic jungle animals, and a giant stuffed animal -- Doug the dog from "Up" ("It's funny, because the squirrel is dead.") My mom, Cora and I had dinner at our friends' house, which was delicious. The girls' opened their Christmas presents to each other, had dinner, cookies, and watched "Polar Express."

I'm looking forward to next week being over though. Hopefully we'll all be healthy and get to spend some quality time together as a family. And as a couple. We want to go see Sherlock Holmes. It looks awesome, even if it bears no resemblance to the actual character or storyline. And as soon as some kindhearted Brit uploads the Doctor Who Christmas special, my holiday will be complete. (We don't have BBC America, our cable sucks.) Then there's New Year's... I have a lot of resolutions for 2010, it's going to be a busy year!

A few Christmas highlights:


Kissin' cousins


Enjoying her new Elmo book


Bernie enjoying her Christmas stocking stuffer -- a wiener dog squeak toy


Cora shares "Mama" with her friend J for a screening of Polar Express

Monday, December 21, 2009

MILP #129

You want the awesome? You'll find it over at Butterflyfish.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dissolution and organization

I've been doing some after-hours legal work lately, as personal favors. Two involve divorces, one involves matters of power-of-attorney and a will (which then reminded me that I need to draft wills for us... I have a holographic one, but we've changed our minds about a few things), another two wills, a landlord-tenant issue, and business organizations. I don't mind doing it, it's nice when what I learned in law school is actually useful.

The divorces though... ick. One friend isn't going to file, against my advice. Her husband's abandoned them, and he's not paying anything. But she doesn't want to go through the expense of divorce, so what can you do. I was able to finish settlement negotiations for another friend, who'd been dumped by her last attorney for being too difficult. Getting involved in friends' divorces is bad news, but our grandmothers were best friends, and my Nonna would be rattling chains in my closet if I didn't help her out. Anyway, they were close to settlement except for one condition that her husband refused to agree to, and he thought he could force her to sign without that condition because she didn't have a lawyer anymore. He was a bit surprised when she ended up with free legal counsel; suddenly, he's paying an hourly attorney's rate, and she's not, and going before a judge didn't seem so appealing anymore. So, I negotiated with his attorney to get that condition in there, and got one other thing she wanted. Still not a great deal, but it's the best one she could make, and probably the best one she could get since I don't think she would have done any better before the judge. Her last two attorneys shared that opinion. Regardless, she didn't want to go through the motions (or expense) of retaining another attorney to fight it out in court. Probably a good idea.

But, it was nice to be able to help. Also nice to work with a former classmate, who's with a firm in The City. I do miss the hustle and bustle of practice in The City. It's a lot different there, particularly considering local family court rules. Although the rules in The City are absurdly complicated, they have a better system in place because they have family court judges, they have mandatory co-parenting classes and classes for kids going through divorce, and if there's even an accusation of substance abuse, there is random drug testing. Out here there's none of the classes, and the court has to specifically order drug testing, and it has to be paid by the parties, which is super expensive because it has to be hair follicle testing rather than urine testing, because people here are experts at faking the urine tests. Also, instead of family law judges, we have domestic relations commissioners who hold hearings, and then the circuit court judges will sign off on whatever they decide. Overall though, I enjoy the legal community better here than in The City. Even if you blink and you miss motion hour. Even if I can count on one hand the number of attorneys under 40. (Two hands for 50.)

Anyway, it's been a busy couple weeks and will continue to be busy through the end of the year. Settlements and custody disputes, oh my! I have several appointments over the next couple weeks, including a hearing with a client I'm not actually convinced is lucid. It's rather problematic. I also have a disclosure deadline coming up in a ridiculous custody case, with the final hearing after the new year. It's like the crazy is coming out of the woodwork. Happy holidays! Nothing like plenty of nuts to go with your nutcracker.

Lawyers of the Year 2009

Angela Ford was selected, along with three other female attorneys (well, one of which is Justice Sotomayor, of course), as Lawyers of the Year for 2009 by Lawyers USA. There were no women selected last year, so 2009 was obviously full of bad-ass chicks. Pretty awesome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And hilarity ensues

Dear Mediocre Law School:

I wish to thank you for your phone call yesterday evening, at 7:30 p.m., interrupting my valuable time with my child. It is the week before Christmas, and this was her final evening in Small Town for the year, since I'm working half weeks the next two weeks, out here two hours away from home. So, obviously, I was ecstatic to receive your call. I immediately started laughing when the caller identified herself as being with the law school. Rather than waiting for the usual spiel, I cut to the chase: You're calling to ask for money, aren't you?

The caller was polite and apologetic. She said any amount would help. Again, I started laughing. No, no, no... I've paid my three year's tuition, I said. No, no, no, no, no, no. However, I should have been more clear, rather than simply jovial in my refusal: It isn't that I can't afford to give any money, even though (as you well know) our loans came into repayment last month. Rather, it's that I won't give you money. Not now, nor will I ever, give another penny to the law school. If I win the lottery tomorrow, and suddenly find myself absurdly rich, the law school will still not get a penny more of my money.

I don't think I need to do a break-down of why that is. I mean, I'm sure you've heard it all before. But, just because I purchased my law diploma from you, does not mean that I owe you any sort of continuing financial support.

In the alternative, I am happy to support any of the quality student-run organizations that actually work for the current students. You remember them, right? The ones currently paying tuition and getting nothing in return?

So, in conclusion, don't call me again. Ever. You won't get money, you will simply be laughed at. I'll soon be making another donation to my graduate program, I'll be sure to send you a copy of the check.

Suck it.

Very truly yours,

Proto Attorney, Class of 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday crazy

The holidays are getting a little crazy. Busy at the office, everyone wants settlement money and child custody and their heat fixed, etc etc. I worked late nights last week, getting stuff done, making up for being gone a day and a half the week before. But the holidays are almost here.

We're having some friends over on Friday for some excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages holiday cheer. Then I need to get our Christmas cards sent out once they arrive this week. I'm totally cheating, because I'm printing labels and the Christmas cards are those dopey template ones where you just get a family picture printed on them, so I don't even have to sign our names, I just stuff them in the envelopes and go. So much easier, and so much cheaper than regular Christmas cards too. I can't believe I haven't done this every year. Even when I was single and it was just me and the bunnies. Oh well, now I know better and will do this every year.

Of course, this means actually having a family photo taken, which means forcing the husband to shave and put on clothes that aren't wrinkled. I needed to do that anyway, because that was the Christmas gift request from Mother in Law. So, we combined the family photo session with Cora's 2 year pics. My friend Laurie was nice enough to squeeze us into her very busy end-of-semester schedule to take the photos. Here's a preview.

Laurie got to witness one of Cora's very dramatic meltdowns. Husband made the fatal mistake of taking away her bucket of foam letters that she loves, because we were going to take the family photo. This resulted in Cora stomping off to her room, slamming the door and sobbing into her folded arms while leaned over onto her mattress. Very dramatic. So, we did what any responsible parent of a toddler in the middle of a tantrum would do: bribe her with a cookie. The cookie chilled her enough that we got a few more pictures, then Cora proceded to feed her new talking Cookie Monster doll the remainder of her cookie. Makes sense, the thing does ask for cookies, afterall. Cookie! Om nom nom nom nom! Fortunately, we have a canine vacuum cleaner for situations like that.

I suppose I should put up a tree of some sort, but we kinda didn't want to fool with it this year. Cora really likes trees, but can't keep her grubby little fingers off of the ornaments. I figure we'll put up a tree next year when she's less prone to destroying it.

Anyway, that's all going on. Work work work. Going to see The Princess and the Frog this week sometime with my upstairs neighbor (or by myself, in the alternative, which makes me a sad person, really). Then looking forward to some time with the family, and our friends. Next Wednesday evening, I'm having my first girls' night out in months... fondue and vino!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

MILP Roundup #128

The Weekly MILP (Moms In the Legal Profession) Roundup is hosted on a rotating basis between PT-LawMom, Butterflyfish, and Attorney Work Product blogs. We originally rounded up just the moms in law school, but then discovered that those women eventually graduate. Who knew? So now all the moms in the legal field (heh) are represented. We aim for Sunday posts. Next week, you'll find it over at ButterflyFish.

It's that time of year again: the holiday rush! No matter what you're celebrating (or if you get to celebrate at all, because you're a law student, and you have no reason to celebrate because your life sucks, but don't worry, it's almost over!), it's a crazy time of year!

Here's what the Law Moms are up to this season:

Shelley is reading books to avoid concerted cultivation of her adorable 2 1/2 year old Peach.

Magic Cookie has a 2 3/4 year old!

-R- has Christmas card absence, but it's on the list.

LL gets Christmas card happiness... and awesome pirate action.

Googiebaba on gifted children: Screw law school, it's kindergarten that's tough to get into these days!

Butterflyfish is the Ice Princess.

Doors are opening for Gillian.

PT-Lawmom lives the life of the overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated paralegal.

LC is getting through a difficult holiday season with her family.

Dakota is looking forward to sunny days and bright skies.

Tranny Head has been off birthing an incredibly large baby. She returns, introducing The Hoss. Congrats!!

And our law students currently in Finals Hell:

Cee has her knickers in a twist.

Jenny is waving the white flag.

Newlawmom is in law school purgatory, maybe even hell, but either way, it'll be over soon!

Finally, for all you law students out there, currently in Finals Hell, a serenade:



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If you’d like to have your blog added to the MILP blogroll for weekly review or would like us to consider a specific post, drop the hostess(es) an email or leave a comment at our sites. Expecting Moms in law school are welcome! Hat tip as always to the “original” Roundup — Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground and Thanks, But No Thanks.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Q and A with the Small Town Baby Lawyer from a Mediocre Law School

I get a fair amount of questions from folks out there who are either considering law school, or already in law school and trying to figure out what to do with themselves. Some of these questions come from strangers who've found this blog, some come from students at my alma mater, referred by friends in advising and admissions for undergrads and graduate students. Some even come from my friends. So, here's my take on it.

Question 1: Should I go to law school?

I will answer your question with a question: Do you want to be a lawyer? If not, then why the hell do you want to go to law school? Are you insane? Do you like paying a lot of money for endless suffering? Freak.

If you don't have a good idea what you want to be when you grow up, then you are taking a huge gamble going to law school. That doesn't mean you won't change your career goals when you get in. You might fall in love with the Federal Tax Code and decide you want to work for the IRS, instead of being that awesome criminal defense attorney you've dreamed of being since you saw Johnny Cochran in action with the Chewbacca defense when you were just an impressionable child. People change, dreams change. But if you're going to law school because you just graduated with a bachelor of arts in English literature, you have zero job prospects and a ton of student loan debt from a private undergraduate institution, well... you obviously make bad choices. Do you really want to make more bad choices? Wait tables, get hardship deferments for your loans, and figure out some idea what you want to do with yourself before making any other major life decisions that will put you into further debt with no chance of escape.

I would suggest, if you don't have a relative or family friend who's a lawyer and you're already intimately knowledgeable about the realities of the practice of law, work for a law firm first. Take a position as a secretary, file clerk, or just as an unpaid intern, shadowing someone for a few months. This is not a career path you want to take without finding out what it's really about. The legal profession is not always fun, exciting or rewarding like it is on TV, it can be very boring, very tedious, extremely frustrating and it does not pay very well. You will probably not be able to afford a Rolex watch or Christian Louboutin shoes any time in the next decade, and maybe not ever. Your boss is likely to be a pissy old white guy who expects you to work yourself to death for no compensation and no respect, blaming you for all of his screwups, while he takes all the money and all the credit for your work. Statistically speaking, you will need a significant dose of anti-anxiety medication during law school, with a higher dose during bar review, and even more during actual practice.

So, be realistic. Don't listen to the bullshit spewed by the law schools that desperately want your money and your rockin' LSAT score. The legal job market is flooded with a gazillion attorneys, and if job placement and job security are what's important to you, go to nursing school instead. You have to love practicing law to do this every day until those student loans are paid off 25 years from now. I remind myself of this every day. Particularly on days like today when I realized that I somehow "missed" that $10,000 of my student loans are still in deferment until spring, and once they come into repayment, I'll be paying an extra $100 a month. I obviously fail at life.

Question 2: I desperately want to be a lawyer. Where should I go to law school?

One of my top choices for law school was Temple. I believe tuition at the time was somewhere around $40,000 per year. That's insane. I'm sure it's a great school, and I would have had a much better experience there, but at the end of the three years, I would have finished law school with over $200,000 in student loan debt, and nothing more to show for it than I have now.

If your grades and your LSAT score aren't good enough to get you into Harvard, Yale, Chicago, etc., don't go to some Fourth Tier school that costs $50K per year. Unless that school is Regent and Sarah Palin gets elected in 2012, thus landing you a sweet gig with the federal government for which you are horrifically unqualified, based solely on ideology. (But then the world's going to end anyway, so who really cares.) Or you have a massive trust fund and you're just going to law school for shits and giggles and don't intend to practice law (again, refer back to #1).

Make your law school choice based on cost and value, not what looks good in the brochure and which city has the best beaches (although I honestly can't fault you for that one). You can pay $15K per year and get a job making $40K per year, or you can pay $50K per year and get a job making $40K per year. Which do you prefer?

If you are offered a sizeable scholarship to an otherwise unaffordable school, also consider that, even if you've been a straight A student all your life, you could lose that scholarship. Law school is not undergrad. It's not graduate school. It's not even medical school. You don't get the grade you should earn by knowing all of the black letter law and properly applying it to a fact pattern and coming up with the same conclusion as the courts have. Rather, you are competing against your fellow students. There is a difference between an excellent exam response, and a particular spark of brilliance in an excellent exam response. Depending on the curve, one is a B and one is an A. If you need a B+ average to keep your scholarship, and the school curves at a B-, think real hard before you take that gamble.

Again, if your diploma is not from a top school, don't pay outrageous prices for it. Go to a cheaper school. Otherwise, you end up having to sell your diploma on eBay and start a pr0n site to pay off your loans. Skip the law degree and just start the pr0n site. If you have any legal questions, hire a lawyer. There are plenty of lawyers out there who could use the work.

Question 3: Will I get a job after law school?

Yes. Will it be in law? Maybe not. Oh the laugh riot of going to school to be barristers, and becoming barristas instead. (Starbucks does offer excellent benefits, however; I'm not dissing them.)

Law school employment statistics are full of shit. That shit stinks when you walk in the door, it continues to stink for the next three years, and the smell doesn't wash out of your clothes when you leave. Again, unless you go to a top school, you will almost certainly not get a job through on campus interviews (OCI), you will almost certainly not have a job lined up when you graduate. You are likely to not have a job until after you pass the bar and are now a "sure thing." Plan accordingly.

This doesn't mean you won't find a job. It just means you probably won't find your dream job and make dolla dolla billz. Or if you do, it'll be in a small town two hours from where your family lives. If being employed is important to you, and you're determined to achieve that goal, you'll find a way to swing it. Just be diligent. If you aren't at the top of the class after your first semester, network your heart out, don't waste time trying to get your grades up when you're like 85th in a class of 100 or something. You won't get them up high enough to matter, and you'll have spent all your time studying and not enough time out there pounding the pavement. If you are top of your class after first semester, you're golden, so now the pressure's on to keep up those awesome grades for one more year until you get an offer. Some people can even get an offer after one year. Of course, in this economy, be wary of a job offer two years in the future.

Just don't think that the law school will help you find a job. Maybe some do. Mine won't. Mine publishes in the state bar association magazine the false statistics that our graduates are 100% employed within 9 months of graduation, so the message is, hey, our grads don't need jobs, go recruit at other schools. Awesome.

Question 4: Will I like being a lawyer?

I dunno, I personally really like being a lawyer. But I might not say that if I worked somewhere shitty, where I was treated like dirt, worked 80 hours a week and made no money. Even the sacrifice of being away from my kid two nights a week doesn't make me dislike being a lawyer. I guess I could sit here in regret and say, shit, I should have been a nurse, I would've had a job anywhere... but then as a new nurse, I would have likely worked nights and weekends and been away from my family.

Again, it's a tough economy, but there are jobs out there that allow you to be a lawyer and a human being with a life outside of the office. Sometimes it takes a few failed attempts to get there, but you eventually can. And if all else fails, hell, hang your own shingle and work for yourself. Move to an under-served area. There are options if you're willing to try them out, and see if you like it. If you get a job, and you hate it, evaluate what you hate about it. If you find you really hate the practice of law, well, try something else. There's always insurance adjusting.

Question 5: Are lawyers bad people?

Yes.

Oh, okay, most probably aren't, just some are. I don't think I'm a bad person. My husband's grandfather accosted me on the subject of tort reform this past weekend. Essentially I'm the reason insurance rates are sky-rocketing. That's a whole other subject for discussion. But, as weird as it sounds, I'm not really in it for the money. Yes, I like money, and I would like to own lots of it, rather than owing lots of it. I just don't really care about it that much. I want enough to pay my bills and live comfortably. Buy the occasional pair of pretty shoes. But if I was really interested in making a ton of money, again, I wouldn't have gone into law. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would keep practicing law, and when I felt competent enough to practice without a baby-sitter, I would open my own nonprofit legal clinic. I really went into this profession wanting to help people. Working at a for-profit firm doesn't change that. I really like helping my clients, even if ultimately they won't help themselves.

That said, plenty of attorneys are assholes. If you choose to become an attorney, don't be an asshole. Attorneys are supposed to be advocates for their clients, which is difficult to do when you're an asshole and nobody wants to deal with you. It's counter-productive. I treat other people, particularly my office staff with respect and good manners. I don't take shit from people, but I still treat them with respect even when I'm digging in my heels and being firm. They don't teach that in law school, which is unfortunate.

So, there ya go. To recap, my advice is:

If you really want to be a lawyer, make an educated and informed decision, then follow your (flexible) dreams to attend either a distinguished or affordable institution of higher learning, where you will graduate with minimal debt and be diligent enough to find the job/career you enjoy. And don't be an asshole.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MILP Roundup #127

PT-Lawmom has it. Go show her some love, she's having a tough go of it.

The Awesomeness of the Roundup will be here next week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Action-packed insanity

A very action-packed weekend has come to an end, and I'm back in Small Town and back to lawyerin'.

I made the very long drive from Small Town to the western 'burbs of Chicago on Thursday. Annoyingly, my depositions were canceled, but it was a good thing, because I was able to leave at 12:30. I made it to my destination about 8:30. My trip included going through some rural areas that I would rather never see again. I saw many rebel flags in what was a Union state during the Civil War, reminding me that some people are just painfully stupid. I also saw a deer urine farm. That end of the trip was really slow going because there's no interstate through it, I had to drive for two and a half hours of country highway through teeny tiny towns, stopping at the one traffic light. Yuck. It may have been quicker, but next time I'll just take the interstate back through The City in order to make the rest of the trip to Chicago. Less fail that way.

By the time I got up there on Thursday, the whole family had convened for the funeral events. The wake and funeral service was Friday morning. Cora did not make it through even half of the service. Fortunately, since I had to take her out, the church had a nursery and there were speakers there too so I could listen in. It was a very nice service, but again, I just really hate funerals. When I die, I don't want a bunch of people going to church and crying about me being dead, and wasting a ton of money on flowers and cards that express regret. I just want people to get really drunk and raise their glasses and say, You know what? She had a helluva good time while she was here, and so should we. And they don't all have to come together to do it, just drink and toast where you are. Celebrate the life I got to live, not the life I won't have in the future. And that's what we did after the funeral. We went to a local pub and toasted cherished memories with excellent beers and ate good food. Poor Cora was a trooper; it was well passed her nap time, by almost four hours, by the time we got back in. Actually, we were all ready for naps!

Since all of Husband's immediate family would be there, and our nieces and nephew would enjoy it greatly, Cora had a little birthday party on Saturday, courtesy of her aunt. In attendance were her four cousins, her (actual) two aunts and their husbands, her grandparents and great-grandparents, and Husband's youngest aunt (who's not much older than us), her husband and her three kids. It was quite the house-full. I feel bad for my sister-in-law and her husband, because they always have to host the rest of the family since they have a large enough house and live in the Chicago area where most of the extended family live. But it was a lovely time, and Cora certainly enjoyed her birthday cupcake.



The other thing Cora really enjoyed was the Elmo Live doll she got from her aunt. It is quite possibly possessed by the devil and will probably murder me in my sleep. "Elmo loves you! Psst... kill your parents." It's creepy enough when the kid wakes up in the middle of the night and stands beside my bed staring at me until I wake up. It's going to be really creepy when Elmo's there too.



Murder. Mayhem. Muppets.

We drove back to The City on Sunday, and Cora was so completely tuckered out that she slept almost the entire way back. Husband and I were pretty tuckered too. We went to bed at 9:30, which is pretty much unheard of. However, it was very nice that my mother cleaned our house while we were gone. She was dog-sitting, and I guess she couldn't stand the disgusting that is our house (not my fault, I'm only there three days a week, and I clean when I'm home). She cleaned our bedroom, which meant she also picked up various, erm, adult items, that weren't safely locked in our "fun box." Awk-ward. Oh well. I figure she knows by now that I have sex. At least once, two years ago.

And speaking of spawn, this morning, I spent some quality time with the birthday girl and went into work a little late. Cora is spending the next two days with my mom, since she hasn't gotten to spend any time with her lately. And since I have a ton of work to catch up on for being out for two days, and Husband has a big exam coming up, we decided that was easiest for everyone. I'll probably be working really late every night this week anyway, as it's the rush to get hearings heard before the holidays.

Today, I had my first appearance in criminal court for a status conference. Again, I am so glad I did the prosecutorial externship, because otherwise I would have had no clue what was going on. First, I was a little taken aback that even though it wasn't criminal motion hour, it was basically criminal motion hour. At least what was criminal motion hour back in The City. Status conferences, guilty pleas, etc. The docket lasted two hours and ran simultaneously with the other division, which meant the criminal lawyers were jumping between the two courtrooms, much like The City. So, once I realized that's what it was, I knew exactly what to do with only minimal awkward stammering. Also, since I'm the newby and I also needed to talk to my client, I sat in the gallery with the defendants instead of up front with the lawyers, so I had to jump up after the last attorney was done before they started doing docket roll call for the stragglers without lawyers present. Not a big deal, but ugh, the gallery smells so bad. Not my client. My client was wearing appropriate court attire and has recently bathed. The rest of the folks in there though? I'm pretty sure I've seen a few of them here. And they have not bathed. Maybe ever. Now, this is not limited to Small Town criminal defendants, this is found in The City too, and especially in family court. But, seriously, if you're going to court for any reason, I don't care if it's just a parking violation, for the love of God, at least wear your "dress jeans." Do not wear tight spandex pants that say "Bootylicious" across the ass (if your ass can fit the entire word "Bootylicious," it's just "booty," there's nothing "licious" about it). Do not wear shirts where your boobies hang out (either front boobies or back boobies). Camo is never acceptable unless you're reporting for duty. I don't understand why you would ever leave the house in that attire, let alone come to court wearing it. I know they have slacks and a button up shirt for just a couple dollars at the local thrift store. Throw out your size XXXL tube top and pick out something more appropriate. And bathe. By all means, bathe. With soap. Deodorant's nice too.

So, that's life right now. Trying to get through the next two weeks so we can just enjoy the holidays. Oh the insanity!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Small Firm Life

Life in a small firm is much different from life in a mid-size or larger firm. Sometimes it's a really good thing. Like, a lack of bureaucracy. There's no time clock, no giant official handbook to memorize, no chain of command, and an overall lack of office politics, since it's, you know, just me and the boss. When I was a legal assistant at the last firm, it was full of bureaucracy. Our office manager was formerly the office manager of a very large firm, and implemented a lot of those type of policies into the firm. For instance, if we had to be out for any reason, there were official requests to be made, and coverage for our work group to be arranged. No attorney could go without a "go-to person" at any point for secretarial support. Because God help you if an attorney had to type something himself, particularly a partner. Shit, if it was a partner, it was a miracle if the attorney knew that magic box was actually called a computer. Then they did crazy shit like spend a ton of money on this software package to infiltrate Word with macros to create templates for all of our documents, because they were suddenly on this kick that all documents had to be completely uniform in style, personal preference be damned. Like a shit ton of money. It included an entire week of training for everyone, including associates, who were pissed as hell about that since they were slaves to the billable hour, the more senior associates blew it off completely and refused to use the software, and to top it all off, the firm had a very expensive contract involving tech support since the effing software never actually worked right. (By the time I returned as a summer associate, the software was gone.)

Anyway, but there are downsides to small firm life too. For instance, the lack of structure and organization. Not that my firm is horrifically disorganized, and I've certainly worked for larger firms that were much less organized, but I'm kinda OCD about electronic file organization, and obviously spoiled by past firms' organization of same. I'm used to being able to pull up any and all files created by our office for a particular case in a particular location on the server, organized by individual case. But they don't have any sort of system like that at my office. My paralegal was complaining today that she had to retype my discovery requests because she couldn't find the original file that the receptionist had created. That just baffles me. I also would be able to do more of my own typing, particularly when my paralegal is out, if I could just pull up an old pleading from a file, resave it and make changes. I made the suggestion that we start organizing documents that way on the server, but I kinda got the impression they didn't see the merit in it. Right now, they apparently organize them by document type. Like "Divorce Petition" and "Notice of Deposition." Only not all of the documents seem to make it into the appropriate folders. I dunno. I can't figure it out. It gives me a headache. The Boss stays as far away from the computer nonsense as possible, and I'm trying to update things and modernize things, such as using my laptop for presentations in mediation and trial, but it's hard to come in and change things when people are set in their ways. (I think) Paralegal likes me and is willing to adapt to some changes, but Receptionist nearly had a panic attack today when she was asked to go to lunch 15 minutes early because Paralegal had to leave, and there would be no one to answer phones or greet clients for 15 minutes. Strangeness. So yeah, I don't think sweeping changes will go over well. Even so, I have a few ideas for improvements on the way things are done, that I hope will prevent any more calendaring errors, and such. It's figuring out how to implement them without causing a commotion is the question.

Other downsides to Small Firm Life is that I don't really have coworkers. I think Paralegal and Receptionist see me as someone with some sort of authority over them and it's difficult to build an actual friendship with someone who sees you as their boss. Same with The Boss. I like him, I think he's pretty cool, but I don't think he'll go to lunch with me and chat about the awesomeness that there's going to be a fourth Torchwood series, as I would with my law school chums. So, there's no one to go to lunch with, gossip with, commiserate with. I dunno. It's a little lonely, aided by the fact that I have no real friends in the community, only a few acquaintances, and I haven't seen my friends in The City much at all when I'm home on the weekends and I miss them. At the same time, there's no one to compete with, no one undermining my work or trying to one-up me by sucking up to the boss and making me look bad. That's kinda nice. I've seen what goes on with women attorneys in larger firms, and there's a word for it: marginalization. Being the only associate means I don't get marginalized. I get to do the fun stuff. And of course all the boring stuff, but oh well. It's impossible to stop law from being tedious and boring no matter where you are, or what you practice. It is what it is.

Anyway, I think if we can add a little more structure to the computer filing system, I will be quite content. I enjoy the flexibility of being in a small firm and the more laid-back, casual atmosphere of it all. I'm enjoying the work: some of it very familiar (personal injury); some of it completely unfamiliar (domestic relations); and some of it I'm really excited about because I'm a tort nerd (dignitary and economic torts). It's a nice variety. I feel like things are clicking, and even when I'm in unfamiliar territory, it comes together. Except in family law, where I know absolutely nothing. But I'm learning! Excited that I'm supposed to be signed up on the public defender conflict list now, so I should be gettin' some criminals here soon. Sorry. Alleged criminals wrongfully accused of bogus crimes and having their civil rights violated. Exciting stuff!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Exhaustion to Come

I know, I've been neglecting the blog for awhile. I've been busy and sick, then sick again, then busy, then just all around exhausted. Oh, and I've been having these headaches that are so horrific I'm convinced some sort of alien is going to hatch out of my skull at any moment. (I've also been watching too many campy horror flicks.)

Thanksgiving weekend was good. Husband had to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, however, which is obnoxious for him to work three nights of the weekend instead of two, since he's supposed to have seniority. But that's exactly the kind of fuckery he's come to expect from his department (such as his pay reduction), so no surprise there. The in-laws stayed until Saturday, and watched Cora for a few hours on Friday night for me so I could have dinner with a friend. Cora had a great time with her "Papa" and her other "Mama." She also had a great time when Daddy gave Cora her Christmas present early without asking Mommy. (Mommy was super pissed.) But Cora absolutely loves it, I knew she would. It's a toy kitchen, with burners that make bubbling noise when you put the pots on them, and it even has an oven. She loves all the toy pots, plates, utensils and fake food. She literally played with it all weekend, to the point she didn't even want to go to the park because she'd have to leave her kitchen. She loves being in the real kitchen while Husband cooks, so I knew it'd be a big hit. A hit for Christmas morning, but whatever. As punishment, Husband has been assigned the task of getting her a new Christmas present from the toy store, which is certain to be a madhouse.


Thanksgiving Dinner was very good, and aside from us, the in-laws, and my mom, we had Cora's godfather there, and the girl he is temporarily living with that he has some sort of weird pseudo-relationship with, and even though he's gay, she keeps wanting him to impregnate her. Huh? It's all kinds of drama. I guess they're like Cole and Linda Porter. Only not de-lovely, just disastrous. So the drama.


That's pretty much it for the weekend update. For this week, I'm swamped at work, and I have depositions all morning on Thursday, that will probably last through the afternoon. Then I have to drive to the western suburbs of Chicago from Small Town, which is going to be like an 8 or 9 hour drive. Husband and Cora are flying out Wednesday, and I just need to be there by Friday morning for Husband's grandfather's funeral. Suck. I hate funerals, I really really hate funerals. But it's not like I can refuse to go, and his entire family will be there. We'll drive back to our City on Sunday, and Cora and I will get up early Monday to head back to Small Town. I'm just hoping I packed enough clean knickers. Sigh. My life truly revolves around making sure I have the appropriate clothing and toiletries at the appropriate places. Such is life when you live in two different locations.