I've had a few inquiries wondering what the hell it is exactly I've been doing with myself.
Well, first, I work "20 hours" a week for the medical-legal partnership. I think at this point I'm owed a bit of comp time, but oh well. We'll consider the rest "volunteering." I spend two days at the clinic to be there for referrals and whatnot, and the rest of the time I'm available by email. I got three referrals by email this week during my "days off," that I've followed up on. One domestic, one housing and one SSI appeal. Our other part-time attorney was just admitted to the hospital while on vacation, and I think she'll be out for awhile. Busy busy. I've been to court a few times for them, and mediated twice. I have my first SSI disability appeal hearing next week, for a case I just got today. Nothing like having no time to prepare, awesome.
I also have been doing 2 1/2 days of contract work a week for my friend/her dad. That's going to court on occasion, but mostly preparing documents and doing research. They have a lot more interesting cases than I do, some of the stuff is actually really cool, and could make for TV drama. And of course sometimes I do silly stuff, like haul my fat ass onto a ladder to pull some property records from the county vault.
Mortgage Books 505 and 506, I hate you
I also occasionally pinch hit for a firm an hour away that does foreclosure all around the state, and hires local counsel to attend motion hours and master commissioners' sales. I don't have a problem taking people's houses away. Sucks you've fallen on hard times, but that's life. You lose your job, you can't pay your house, you have to get rid of the house. Nothing's free. My officemate can't understand how I can do that and be dedicated to poverty law at the same time. I don't see how there's a moral conflict.
My officemate and I have a few cases together, and I spend Friday afternoons at her office. There's a pro bono case that we're working, child support/custody. And there's a case where we're going to sue a local jail for letting our client get beat up by some rednecks, and then refusing him medical treatment for his head injury. I also did some paralegal work on a few federal criminal cases for my officemate and she's billing my time for it, so I'll get a little bit of money for that. We also have a weekly lunch date, which is fun. That's definitely something I missed being out east -- no lunch buddy. Lunch is my favorite time of day!
Anyway, I signed up on all the local warning order attorney lists, but have only gotten one appointment. Sucks. Those are quick, easy money, which is why everyone is on the lists. I try to find quick, easy jobs, but alas, I never seem to find them.
I have two low-value personal injury (rear-end whiplash) cases that will hopefully settle out without filing suit. I won't be taking any more of those, I don't personally care for auto accident Plaintiffs, and I don't have much money to front costs. I'm also too defense-oriented and I also think chiropractors are far worse than personal injury attorneys when it comes to ambulance chasing.
I'm representing a defendant in a civil suit for fraudulant inducement for investment in a corporation. It's in the jurisdiction I used to practice in. I tried to convince the guy to hire local counsel, but he was convinced (and he may be right) that he couldn't find local counsel that wouldn't be conflicted out. And for what I'm charging him, even when I have to make appearances in that jurisdiction, charging him for travel time is still cheaper for him than going with my old boss, who charges twice as much. (I've also been underbilling him for stuff to make his retainer last longer.)
I have one private child-custody and criminal defense client. The criminal matter resolved prior to trial, fortunately for my client because the matter is being dismissed (but unfortunately for me, totally bummed at not getting to first chair a trial I'd worked so hard at prepping). We've still got the custody issue to handle.
I withdrew from one client's domestic relations case because I foolishly took the sad sack's case (as a favor to a friend) without a retainer on the promise I would be paid within two months. When it was apparent he couldn't pay me, I just told the client to pay me when/what he could, but told him any costs I expended needed to be paid immediately, because I can't afford to pay to represent him. He was a hot mess, probably still is, and never paid the costs I fronted to represent him (like $50), not to mention the $1000 in attorney fees he racked up, and my cost of traveling to a surrounding county several times on his behalf. Lesson learned.
I have a homeowner's association as a client that far exceeds the drama level of most of my family law clients. Seriously, it is some crazy drama. I mediated, and later settled, a fair housing discrimination claim against them, and next I'm suing their former manager because they fired her, in part for refusing to disclose the financial records to the board, and she still refuses to return any of the financial records. (Gee, wonder why that could be.) I'll also be periodically foreclosing on people's condos when they fail to pay their HOA dues long enough. Again, refer back to not caring to take away people's houses.
Then, of course, I've got all of my lovely court appointments in dependency, neglect, abuse court a/k/a DNA court. Oddly named, I know. Actual DNA (as in, who's the baby daddy?) is known as paternity court here. I serve as both GAL and also take appointments as parents' attorney, which pays a max of $500 per case, making it quasi-pro bono by the time the case is done, which could be a year or so. I do have some interesting cases and it's been very good experience. I can only get appointments in two surrounding counties that have the same judge, because she keeps an open list. Unlike my own county, which I'm not sure who you have to bribe to get on the list, because it is closed and wait-listed. So, I've got about a half-dozen cases from those two counties. The judge is currently serving out a rather lengthy suspension, as there was apparently drama, but I like her well enough. She's nice to me, and hasn't tried to rip my head off and eat me for lunch. Can't say that about every judge I've been before, ugh.
I'd say when it's all said and done, I end up with a little over $2000 a month in my personal checking account ($1400 less than I took home as an associate at my previous job, and had the benefit of free health insurance... of course I get to live in my own house full time now, so it's a trade-off I guess). That's withholding for taxes, and of course, paying all the fun expenses that come with practicing law, from office supplies, to postage, to parking, etc. So, basically, I'm making a little bit less money than I did as a legal assistant, and I racked up about $80K more in student loans for the trouble, while working longer hours and having a lot more stress. Awesome.
I would really like to figure out how to develop a practice that doesn't require spending all my time in court (and by spending, I mean wasting). Like, non-contested divorce, estate planning, stuff like that.
Oh, but I've got some pro bono matters too. A pro bono divorce that I'm still waiting on the client to attend her parenting class since like September. Then a pro bono criminal matter where I'm trying to get my client out of jail since his probation was revoked and the judge has yet to rule on my motion and it's been nearly two weeks. And I do random stuff for friends and family. For instance, today I went to court and got Husband's traffic ticket dismissed. Okay, so that was actually a situation of my creation, so I guess it's fair I take care of it. He was driving my car (his was in the shop) and I had a headlight out. So while he was leaving McDonald's at midnight Thursday night to satisfy my preggo craving of a strawberry-banana smoothie, he got pulled over, because our city's finest really has nothing better to do these days. And of course he couldn't find my proof of insurance. So I got the headlight fixed and brought the insurance card to the courthouse and got the ticket dismissed. Didn't really take a law degree for that one, but oh well.
However, as a warning to all peace officers out there who are thinking of pulling over a man who is bringing the object of a midnight craving to his pregnant wife... I think this accurately describes the potential fail of delaying said midnight craving:
"Where's my fuckin' smoothie, bitches?!"
In the future, I suggest you flip on that siren and give the man an escort home at dangerously high speeds.