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.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Catching Up

I can't really explain why I haven't been blogging, other than the fact that I've been delinquent on the Ms. JD columns and I've felt guilty about blogging here when I should be blogging there. I actually managed to get this month's column up. I don't know what the problem is, but likely it's a lot of not wanting to deal with the loss of job thing that still is a sore spot, and writing a column on small town legal practice when I'm back in the city presses on that sore spot.

I'm much better when I don't think about things and just keep working. And working, I am.

I'm in my second month of work at the Medical-Legal Partnership. It was slow at first, but definitely picking up now. I like it a lot. It's rewarding helping people with sick kids, because not too long ago I was the person with a sick kid, and I definitely could have used the help. Not because I'm not competent enough to deal with it, but because I had better things to do than argue with insurance companies, etc., like take care of my sick kid. I made that argument just this week with an insurance company who didn't want to talk to me; they couldn't understand why Mom couldn't just give them a call. Uh, because Mom's currently taking a nap in the PICU next to her sick kid, that's why. She's got better things to do.

I'm currently working on the nastiest housing case, where the slumlord's slumttorney has threatened the family with eviction, criminal prosecution of grandma whose rent check just bounced, and even made a backhanded threat of calling child services on them, all because they made a complaint of insect infestation in their shitty apartment. (Yeah, we have a cause of action for retaliation in our statute. Bring it, Bitch.) I'm mortified that a member of our bar would act that way. I've worked for/with/against some truly awful human beings who happened to be licensed attorneys, but never have I had someone sink so low. It's beyond unprofessional. It's bugs, for fuck sake; get someone to spray, or deny they exist, or acknowledge they exist and blame it on my clients. Whatever. But the retaliation is uncalled for and completely psycho. (Apparently the slumlord is kin to the slumttorney, so slumttorney's judgment is clearly impaired.)

My officemate finds it funny that I can fight against slumlords at the same time as representing homeowners' associations that are accused of discrimination and represent banks in foreclosure actions. I did foreclosure before I went to law school and now I'm taking work from foreclosure firms who need someone to fill in at local motion hours; it has never bothered me. I mean, sure, it sucks for people to lose their homes. No one feels good about that. The situations were often sad, like someone lost their job and can't find gainful employment (I know how that feels), or someone got sick and can't work at all. That doesn't mean the foreclosure doesn't still need to happen. I mean, you can't pay your bills, you can't keep your house. But I always found that the process still allowed people plenty of time to strike deals with the bank, find a way to catch up, or sell before auction. Also, the courts have been pretty lenient lately about giving people extra time to make good, considering the economy. But I always viewed it as still being able to help people, because if someone called me and gave their sob story, I always directed them to the resources that can help them and the folks at the bank that would work out a deal. The people who really tried to help themselves most often could.

Anyway, I'm all over the place right now. I'm working 20 hours a week for the MLP, doing some contract work for my friend, working one afternoon a week for my officemate, and of course, there's my own stuff. I'm taking court appointments in three surrounding counties as a GAL and parents' attorney. I was also supposed to have a criminal defense trial last week, but it resolved before trial, a very good result for my client, but a really big bummer for me and my friend who I brought on as second chair (since I just didn't have the time to fully prep for trial on my own). It's been crazy. Not much money, but crazy.

I can't figure out how to make money at this stuff. I guess it comes with building a reputation and having the experience to say, "Yeah, I want a $5,000 retainer and I charge $250 an hour." I'm more at the point where it's like, yeah, I'll take payment in chickens...

Even still, I just had to fire my first client. I feel bad for the guy, but at the same time, I can't help him because he won't help himself. And even though I was willing to continue putting off the payment of my attorney fees, I told him any costs he had to pay immediately. Which he hasn't done, and I'm out $50, and he will never pay me. That and he won't return my messages. So, no more free lawyer. It's annoying, because I worked really hard on his case, and if he'd gotten his shit together, he would have been in good shape.

The bottom line is I really don't like working for myself. I don't even want to run the company. I don't want the responsibility, and I don't want the hassle. I hate dealing with money, which I'm really bad at, and if I don't manage to fuck up my escrow account and get disbarred it will be a miracle. I've already overdrawn my operating account once, because I fail at math. (I guess I must be guilty of a crime, according to slumttorney. Stupid cow.) So, I don't know what the future will hold. I didn't go to law school wanting to practice on my own. I wanted to work for a multinational corporation. I wanted to have a steady paycheck, and a time clock to punch. I wanted to have one office, and not four. (Seriously, I have four offices. One at the clinic, one at my friend's firm, one where I meet with clients but my officemate's name is the one on the door, and one in my house where I do most of my actual work but don't meet with clients because I don't want crazy people to know where I live. Half the time I don't know where the hell I am.)

Some days I'm really satisfied in what I've accomplished. Other days I want to quit and work in a library where my only interaction with people will be to SHUSH them grumpily when they talk. Maybe I need to go pick some fruit with Stephen Colbert to get a better attitude about practicing law. Hell, as long as no one talks to me, I might actually like it.


E.H. said...

You are all over the place! No guilt on the blog front - you're working your tail off.

I found the business end of practice to be my least favorite, too. It sucks. I subscribed to as many law practice management lists and services as I could, because it helped me sort it all out. But that was just juggling solo clients and contract work. You've got a lot going on.

What software are you using to manage your cases? If you're using a Mac, I heartily plug Daylite. It's wonderful.

LEO said...

I've been totally MIA from the blog scene too, but I can't say that's unusual for me. And I certainly don't have as much going on as you do!
I know it's probably frustrating as hell to work so hard and still not be making as much money as you deserve, but you seem to be getting really great experience. You're learning a lot about the process by doing everything yourself. And you're certainly going out there and scraping work together for yourself! I guess I just wanted to say that I'm impressed and I'm sure lots of other people are too. Give yourself time to realize the successful career you're building!

LL said...

I'm amazed at all you're doing on the legal front. It's got to be so frustrating to be working so hard and not earning what you should be earning (and having to be all over the place to do it), but holy crap you know so much more about actually practicing law than I do. That's got to help you someday. (soon!) I hope you've been able to enjoy your Thanksgiving and I'm always just glad to read whenever you have time to write something.