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.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Q&A time

Yeah, I haven't been updating lately. I can't seem to find a good rhythm yet, and get things in order. So, still struggling to keep my head above water.

Just thought I'd take a moment and give a shout out to the new 1L's. I've gotten a few emails recently with questions, and although I've already answered them individually, I've been wanting to post some responses here as well (with the questions more generalized to protect the inquirers).


Q1: I'm just starting law school, and I wondered if you have any advice about balancing law school and family?

A: This isn't just for the folks who are married, or who have kids, but for all you incoming law students. Simply put, law school sucks. It's hard, it's really time-consuming, it's exhausting, and it is absolutely soul-sucking. So you need your family, your friends, your hobbies, an extreme amount of wine and chocolate, whatever makes you "you," to get you through the next three years and not become a complete overly-medicated wreck.

1L Fall is an experiment. You have to figure out (very quickly) what works and what doesn't. It helps to be organized and manage your time well. Although the myth persists that if you treat it like a full time job, you can do it all in 40 hours a week, it certainly helps if you try to keep it as much 8-5, M-F as possible. Then you can enjoy (many of) your evenings and weekends.

Until finals, and then all bets are off.

But law school is the time you need to figure out the work-life balance, because if you think law school sucks, just wait til you make it out to practice. You're headed out the door at 6pm ready for some quality time with the family, and your boss catches you and says, "Oh yeah, I totally forgot, this appellate brief is due tomorrow..." Well, fuck.

Q2: I'm in law school and thinking about having a baby. Is this a good idea?

A: The baby is a good idea, but law school probably wasn't. Law school sucks. (See Answer to Question No. 1, above.) However, it was my experience that the suckdom of law school was made a lot more tolerable by the awesome of getting to hang out with my kid when I got home.

Not saying it isn't hard, and my pregnancy in particular sucked big time (go back to the Fall 2007 posts if you'd like to read about all that), but if you're gonna pop out a kid, better to do it in law school than as a young associate, when it could possibly cost you your job. (Just because there's a law saying employers can't discriminate against pregnant women, doesn't mean they don't do it anyway, and lawyers are usually a bit smarter about it. Also, suing your employer for discrimination is likely career suicide for a female lawyer.) And worst case scenario, if you have a craptastic pregnancy like mine (or like a few of my fellow Moms in the Legal Profession bloggers), you can always just take a semester off.

And if you're gonna be up at 4am feeding a baby, you might as well read Con Law. For a lot of it, that's the only time that shit makes sense. I'm talking about you, Scalia. Well, actually, you never make sense.

Q3: I'm pregnant and due just before the bar exam. Which is worse? Having a baby or taking the bar exam?!

A: The bar exam, absolutely. Humans gestate for only 9 months or so. The bar exam is this horrific event that you start preparing for 3 years in advance, and then realize 3 months out (when you start bar review) that those 3 years were completely wasted, and you know absolutely nothing useful for the bar. (Oh, crap!)

Also, they give you an epidural when you birth a baby so you can't feel the pain. I guess you could get one for the bar exam too, but being numb from the abdomen down won't help you much; it's really the brain that hurts, and the bleeding ulcer. At the end of the birthing experience, you get a baby (and a sore vajayjay, or abdomen). At the end of the bar exam, you get... nothing. You get to wait 2 more months or so just to find out if you passed or if you have to do it all again. And if you passed, then, congratulations! You get to practice law! Only, you don't actually know how to practice law because no one ever taught you that. At least with the baby, all it does is eat, sleep and poop, giving you time to figure out what the hell to do with it for the next 18 years. Upon being licensed to practice law, you get to work yourself to death until your student loans are paid off, which is probably 25 years at least.

Q4: Do you regret not taking a semester off/spending more time with your child when she was first born?

A: Dear God, no. I think that's the only semester of law school I actually liked! Going to class was a really nice break from being home with the baby, and coming home to the baby was a really nice break from law school. Even so, I took a lighter load that semester because I knew it would be tough (I also had my comprehensive exams for my graduate degree). I had a lot of time at home with Cora with the reduced schedule. And it was all tough, but still really good. My grades didn't suffer (anymore than usual). Even though I was tired, I realized you really do learn to function on little sleep. Trust me, I find that hard to believe now, because if I get less than 9 hours sleep a night, I think I'm going to die from exhaustion.

But I'm also not someone who buys into the whole can't-be-away-from-the-baby-ever thing. There's a lot to be said for time away and time for yourself (something I am very much struggling with now that I'm staying home/working from home two days a week with a toddler). Just because you pop out a baby, doesn't mean you stop being a law student, a spouse, a friend, and whatever else you are. I've always been of the philosophy that you add a baby to your life, you don't restructure your life around the baby. But at the same time, consider that, after you're finished with law school, you'll likely be working your ass off at some slave-driving law firm. If you pop out any more babies, you might not get the time to just sit around and snuggle with a baby. You might not get a maternity leave at all (I'm going to be in that boat, considering I'm likely to still be self-employed my next go-around). So taking a semester off might be your only opportunity to enjoy new motherhood with no other distractions.

But, no, I don't regret it. It was a great time and very rewarding, both as a parent and as a student.


So, that's pretty much it for now. When I get the chance, I'll write about my current state of career-life imbalance, and how solo practice sucks. Hopefully I'll be starting my new part-time gig soon. In the meantime, I'm doing work for the solo in exchange for office space, and for a law school friend to help out her and her dad. And of course, my own case load.

Still feeling a little lost in my own career, wondering where I'll end up, and if I'll be happy continuing to do what I'm doing now. I don't think I will if I can't find a way to better manage my time and compartmentalize my life from my work.


LL said...

I love your answer to Question 4 - I get that one a lot, actually I should add it to my FAQ, and I feel the exact same way.

Michael said...

LOL - great post! And definitely a bunch of good advice :-)

The first semester is definitely an experiment but with the added pressure of *having* to make that killer discovery if you're going to survive the rest of law school.

Oh, and 'vajayjay' made me chuckle! ;-)

PT-LawMom said...

Great post! And totally agree with your answer on post-child return to life. Not sequestering yourself at home for 3 months (or longer) doesn't make you a bad mother. My motto was always "Happy Mama = Happy Family".