Thursday, October 29, 2009

How NOT To Do Lawschool

Lesson of the day: check your syllabus. And don't be a failure.

So, all weekend I was amazed at how little homework I had. This should have been my first indication that I was completely missing something.

I was sitting in my third class on Monday afternoon when I suddenly had this really really bad feeling. Like the feeling you get when you suddenly realize you locked your keys in the car or that you forgot to pay your credit card bill on time, or when you dump bleach into a load of colored laundry.

So I checked the assignment listed in the syllabus for my next class. Right there in big bold letters it said "Motion for Summary Judgment Due at 5pm on October 26th." Wait. When is the 26th? SHIT? IT'S TODAY?!?!? AS IN, DUE IN TWO HOURS? MAJOR FAIL.

My heart started to pound in my chest. My palms got sweaty. I was facing a nervous breakdown. I had no idea what I was going to do. Although I am past caring about doing well in class, I still feel totally horrible looking like a slacker in front of my professors. Even though I am only hurting myself in failing to complete assignments, I somehow always feel like I am letting my professors down. Lame isn't it?

I didn't happen to hear what my Trusts & Estates professor said for the rest of the class period. I was too busy having a nervous breakdown about my Motion for Summary Judgment- or lack thereof. By the end of class period, I figured out what I would say to explain the situation to my professor and rehearsed it in my head several times. When I walked into my next class, I approached the professor and explained it to him. I was prepared for the worst.

He simply laughed and said "Can you have it to me by our next class?"

I was shocked first, then reliefed. Then reality set in.

That, people, is how I ended up writing a Motion for Summary Judgment, from start to finish, in just TWO DAYS. Do real attorneys even ever have to do that? For two days my head was a walking storage tank of case law and material facts. I couldn't turn it off. I even woke up in the middle of the night thinking about my arguments. In order to complete the assignment in time, I had to skip all my classes, ban myself from the internet and give my child sharp pointy objects to keep him distracted.

Don't be like me. Read the syllabus.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Playing Attorney And Staying Humble

Back in September I received my first speeding ticket. It was stupid. I don't think the cop even used a speed measuring device, I think he just guessed my speed and waved me over. I think this because he was in the process of giving another ticket when he waved me over. AND the second officer near him was ALSO busy giving a ticket. There were no other officers around to clock me.

Am I guilty? Hell yeah.

Am I gonna contest? Hell yeah.

If I didn't contest it, I would be taking all of our constitutional rights for granted! If I merely paid the ticket, it would be like taking a big smelly poo on the pillars of justice of this great country. The county has to prove it's case against ALL defendants! I may be guilty but I'm protecting the procedural rights of all those innocent defendants that will come after me- preponderance of the evidence, y'all!

That, and I can't afford to pay the $113 fine...

So yesterday, Jacob accompanied me to the county courthouse while I filed my discovery requests. He ran in circles by my feet and ran up to creepy looking DUI defendants, dead beat dads who missed their child support payments and ex boyfriends who violated their restraining orders. Maybe now is a good time to teach him not to talk to strangers (except for Halloween when it is perfectle OK to accept candy from total strangers dressed as Count Dracula or a serial killer).

I walked into the District Court office and submitted my beautiful, typed request for the court to subpoena witnesses for my contested hearing. It felt nothing short of magical. The clerk took my request and stamped it "Filed" (so official!). It was all over so quickly but I walked away feeling empowered. I JUST SUBMITTED A REQUEST FOR SUBPOENA! I did it all on my own! I know my way around this here courthouse!

I was walking on air. Anything I touched then would have turned to gold. "Heck," I thought, "this is fun! I should get more speeding tickets."

I grabbed Jacob and walked outside. And with the glow of accomplishment still fresh on my face, I happened to walk under a tree, the wrong tree. That's when some cheeky little bird splattered my hair with fresh bird shit.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Husbands: Don't Argue With Your Lawyer Wives.

Today, my husband and I ACTUALLY had this discussion.

Me: "Can I have a pony."
Husband: "You can have an imaginary pony!"
Me: "That's stupid! I want a REAL pony."
Husband: "Yeah but can a REAL pony do backflips?"
Me "Uh...."
Husband: "I have an imaginary pony and HE can do backflips."
Me: "My real pony could do imaginary backflips."
Husband: "My imaginary pony can do REAL backfips!"
Me: "NO WAY. An imaginary pony can only do imaginary backflips. And ANY real pony could do an imaginary backflip."
Husband: "That's ridiculous. Imaginary ponies can do REAL backflips."
Me: "That's like saying an invisible man can do a visible cartwheel."
Husband: "Just because the pony is imaginary doesn't mean his backflips are imaginary. He can still do both imaginary and real backflips."
Me: "Ok, have your pony do a "real" backflip and I will tell you if it was real or not....Don't make me call an expert witness."

Thankfully our check came at this point in the conversation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jerry Springer: Baby Einstein Has Met Its Match

I walked past a TV today featuring the Jerry Springer show. This show always reminds me of my son. Not because he is the product of some crazy love triangle or the subject of a paternity test. The real reason may be quite worse than that.

The real reason that Jerry Springer reminds me of my son is the lovely fact that my son WATCHES the Springer show. At least twice a week. My mother in law usually lets her TV play in the background while she is watching my son. Apparently, she allows my son to watch the show because he gets really excited when the audience chants "Jerry, Jerry!" He and his cousin even clap along and do a special little Jerry Springer dance.

So, as I passed by and glanced at the domestic strife playing out on the screen today (theme of the day: "I had a threesome with your sister!"), I wondered to myself, "Is Jacob out there somewhere watching this very same show?" It made me miss him a little bit more but it was oddly comforting to think we had this little connection through Jerry Springer to bring us together, if even for a moment.

I have to admit that the Springer show has encouraged a lot more reaction and interaction from Jacob than any Baby Einstein video we've watched. When Jacob starts to chant "Jerry, Jerry" in public, however, we might have a problem.

Ahhhh, educational TV programming....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hold The JD! I Need To Re-Do Lawschool!

My experience leading me into the legal profession can basically only be described by one word: stumble. I stumbled my way into law school after graduating with a useless political science degree and no future direction or particular career goal. One of my friends wanted to go to lawschool and I just thought, what the heck, I'll try it.

I signed up for the LSAT at the last minute, around my undergrad graduation, while other members of my graduating class had taken their LSAT at least six months before me. When I received my decent LSAT score, I applied to law school because, what the heck else was I going to do?

In law school, I stumbled my way through courses. I didn't know what a tort was until well into my first week of torts class. I didn't even know exactly what lawyers DID. But I wanted to do something intellectually challenging and mildly prestigious. I still didn't want to be a lawyer. I didn't even have an interest in any particular area of law. I enjoyed studyig law but I lacked a driving passion to be part of a certain area of practice.

After my first year, I stumbled into a legal internship while working for a public agency-- the local lawyer handling real estate issues for the agency recruited me. I discovered that while I was a mediocre law student, I had a knack for practice. I received constant praises and acknowledgment for my work even though I didn't think I did anything outstanding (and was often confused by the legal work I was doing). Anyway, once I started to pretend to practice law, I was sold on the idea that I could, in fact, be a lawyer.

Then I stumbled into a summer associate position at a small litigation firm in Seattle. I enjoyed the work I did at the firm, which was mainly in the area of construction defect and insurance defense. They gave me an offer at the end of the summer and I took it. So, I guess you could say I also kinda blundered my way into a job. I feel like it was pure luck that I randomly picked a profession that I ended up loving and that I was offered a job in a field I ended up enjoying. Clearly, my experience has not involved chasing after purposeful goals or desires. I didn't see anything I really, passionately wanted and then set myself out to achieve it. I kind of went with the flow and miraculously made it out alive, well and satisfied.

Go figure that in my last two months of law school I would finally find it. My legal field of passion! I picked up an article about LLM programs in the United States. I was comparing the legal focuses of all the different programs. Some emphasized insurance law, some corporate, etc. My eyes glanced at an Agricultural Law LLM program in Arkansas. I started reading about Ag Law. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. Ag Law is a web of rules and regulations that protect agricultural businesses, farmers and our food from the time it is planted or grown to the time it reaches our tables.

I found myself drawn to this area of law, one in which I had absolutely no interest in before. And now, the more I learn the more I am sure that I absolutely have to be involved in it somehow. I can totally see myself practicing in this area! But the bad news is that I'm already graduating. I can't look for externships or take relevant classes. I can't build this passion as a student through student organizations and events. I'm all set to start practice in another area of law. And I know NOTHING about job opportunities or the job market in Ag Law.

I feel stuck. I have to figure out how to get to the land of Agricultural Law while riding a speeding train that's quickly heading to the Graduation Town and Insurance Law City. Any advice out there? Anyone have any knowledge pertaining to careers in ag law? The long awaited discovery of my deepest, darkest law passion- has it come to late?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coming Soon To A Neighborhood Near You

I wanted to start by saying something like, "This could only happen in my city." But then I realized that would totally be an underestimation of the craziness and stupidity of mankind. So, I'll just say, "This probably happens more often in your city than you would think..."

I was driving to my mother-in-law's house to pick up my son. It was 5:30 pm, the very peak of rush hour traffic and the busy highway I was driving down had become a sea of idling vehicles waiting their turn to to leave the city limits. Traffic was at a standstill. This particular highway is rather scenic. And it was about to become a little more so. To the left of the highway, a number of humongous navy ships are anchored along the shore. To the right, there is a grassy median and a paved sidewalk. Beyond the sidewalk are private residences with nice green (mostly) lawns.

Approaching an intersection, I noticed a man standing on the sidewalk. From afar I could tell he was watering the lawn in front of him. As I inched closer, I noticed this man had a case of Miller Lite at his feet. Hmm, odd? Then I saw that he was also holding a can of beer in his hand- it was probably opened. Drinking on a public sidewalk is so illegal. Oh well, I've seen crazier things. Wait? If he is watering the lawn where is the hose? I look closer but I don't see a hose anywhere. However, there is clearly a stream of liquid shooting two feet in front of him, landing squarly into the grass.

That's when it all became clear.

This guy is RELIEVING himself on someone's lawn. While drinking a beer. In complete daylight. In the middle of rush hour traffic. And I don't think that's his lawn. Cars started slowing down to gawk at him but he didn't seem to be bothered in the least. He finished his business. Gave his appendage a little shake, picked up his case of beer and continued down the sidewalk.

What's the point of a camera phone if you never remember to use it? DARN!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Hamburger Diet

After Jacob was born and I returned to school, I managed to get back to near my pre-baby weight. And I did this by eating hamburgers every day. Not special silly tofu burgers or sandwiches pretending to be burgers but nastily delicious fast food burgers! This just seems wrong doesn't it? Don't you all hate me right now?

If you love fast food burgers but are watching your weight (hopefully watching it decrease not increase), then let me introduce you to the HAMBURGER DIET! It goes something like this:

My favorite hamburger at Dairy Queen is the 1/4 pounder Classic with Cheese. Normally, this burger is packed with 560 calories. Let's not even go into grams of fat shall we? BUT, if you order this burger without cheese (90 calories) and then remove the bun (190 calories), then you can eat the patty with ketchup, tomatoes and pickles like a pizza slice or even fold the patty in half like a taco. A third option is to wrap the patty in lettuce leaves- which is my personal fav. This bunless, cheeseless "burger" is only 270 calories!

I ate this for dinner multiple times a week on my way home from class. It always hit the spot. I was still splurging on greasy fast food and I was still getting 18 grams of protein. I didn't feel like I was dieting at all. And a dinner that is under 300 calories is a great way to trim down. If you are lucky like me, you can order yoru husband a full burger meal and then steal a handful of fries to wash the burger down only weakness in life = fries...yummmmmm.

DELICIOUS HAMBURGER DIET!! You will never hate dieting again! (unless maybe you are a vegetarian?)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Put Your Lawyer Voice On

The hardest skill I had to learn when I started my first legal internship was not necessarily the law firm filing system or what an Interrogatory was or even how to work the crazy toilet handles in the bathroom (push up for "solids" and down for "liquids"- weird huh?!). No, the hardest skill I had to learn was how to talk. More specifically, how to sounds like a lawyer. I don't mean learning the legal jargon or how to sound like an intellectual asswipe. I mean, I had to train myself to talk in a "lawyer" voice.

My voice used to do this totally involuntary thing when speaking to elders, bosses, teachers, strangers or any time I was socially intimidated or shy. My voice would transform into a high, soft and "sweet" chorus of a sound. Like I said, it was basically invountary, kind of like a nervous eyetwich or something. Anyway, I was ok with this for many years. It worked great when I worked retail or did childcare.

But when I started my first legal internship, I knew, without a doubt that the "sweet" voice had to go. And not only because I had to listen to that voice over my own voicemail one day- it was horrific. It became clear to me that no Partner or client would liked to hear about a quantum assessment of damages from a sweet and unassuming voice. Partners, clients and other lawyers want to hear case analysis from an authoritative and confident voice. Similarly, it became clear to me that no one would take me seriously or treat me as an equal if I continued to use my timid voice. Somehow, I needed to be bolder and more firm.

I hate to say it like this, but when it comes to lawyer voices, the more stereotypically male you sound (as in deeper, stronger voice), the more credibility and authority your arguments and statements will possess. In a (still predominantly) man's career- you have to be as assertive and confident sounding as your peers do. Don't get the wrong picture of me, I don't walk around the lawschool or the office spouting words from the depths of a deep baritone voice. But I did have to train my voice not to automatically become an octave or two higher when conversing at work and at school. I had to train myself to just talk in my normal voice- if not a touch deeper.

Voice may seem like a small, petty thing but I think it is as important as how you dress in the workplace. I think most people are likely to have their first encounter with you over the phone or from a voicemail message. You want to leave the impression that you are confident rather than a timid pushover. I think this is especially important for a woman working in a man's field.

For the most part, experience with, knowledge in and comfort with the legal field and legal work is what helped me sound confident in my voice and in my tone. I still catch myself once in a while resorting to my old "sweet and timid" ways and it is still a struggle for me to keep confident and sound confident (especially meeting new people and being in new situations) but I'm slowly getting there. My opinion is, if you try to make yourself sound like a confident and authoritative person who is comfortable in her own skin in the first place, it is easier to feel that way.

When all else fails, for a confidence booster, start singing "Eye of the Tiger" to yourself while imagining everyone else in a sheer girly panties.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One More Step Toward Adulthood

I have taken many steps on the path to adulthood:

- I make myself eat veggies even when I don't WANT to

- I've learned how to tolerate and even like coffee (although not without tons of milk and sugar)

- I've walked in the ceremony for my law school graduation

- I worry about things like health insurance and what to cook for dinner

- I've gained some (although limited) experience with foreign concepts like: "tax deductible," "downpayment," and "toilet bowl brushes"

- The appropriate response upon hearing a friend or relative is pregnant is more often "congrats" than "oh sh*t!"

- I watch my husband pay my car insurance- I was going to tell you all that I pay my car insurance but that would totally be a lie.

BUT BY FAR, today's experience has made me feel the most grown up out of any other adult step I have taken. Today, for the first time in my life, I paid a babysitter. Think about that for a moment...For a good decade and a half of my life I have BEEN the babysitter. Now here I am, interviewing awkward teens thinking "how are YOU good enough for MY baby?"

Rather than spending late nights waiting for some other children's parent to come home with a big fat check for me, I'm the one dolling out the big bucks (dang, childcare is expensive). Seriously people- how did this happen? I'm too young to be the "parent!" Where did my childhood go?! Then, after I PAID the babysitter, I *gasp* DROVE the babysitter home. The first time I actually said the phrase, "I have to drive the babysitter home" I almost choked on my own breath.

I used to think parents were crazy when they would be out on a rare date and keep calling home to check in on their kids. I used to wonder if parents really meant "help yourself to anything in the fridge" when they said it. I used to wonder why they would often come home later than they told me they would come home. And now I totally understand it all.

But you know what? I kind of miss being the babysitter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Warning: Rabid Law Student

I think there are some days when we ALL could use this shirt. You know, a nice friendly public warning not to mess with you. Or to do so at your own risk.

Monday, October 5, 2009

And Slacker Of The Week Goes To...

When it comes to being prepared for class, I am far from the ideal law student. But that is because I have learned many integral law school secrets- like how to skim cases, predict when you will be on-call, how to use study aids, and how to steal outlines from the internet. Only rarely do I just "show up" without even glancing at the reading assignment and pray that I don't get called on. The way luck works in law school, this is the equivalent of raising your hand and begging to be in the "hot seat."

My point is, I don't judge slackers for being slackers because those are my people. But I DO judge slackers for their failure in delivery. Oh boy and today I was in some kind of mood or something. Herein follows my harsh judgment of those slackers who failed to meet my low standards:

Today in my insurance law class- at least 5 people in a row had to "pass" when the professor called on them. This is ridiculous. My insurance law class meets once a week. And for homework, the prof usually assigns 5-6 cases that are about 10 pages each. For those of you who are expert case skimmers- you can read almost any case for a below-proficient level of knowledge in just 5 minutes:
1. Skim the facts (1 minute).
2. Find out what the issue is (hint: the court usually says "the point at issue here is..." or less subtely the court will preface the issue with the word "whether...") (45 seconds).
3. Skim the relevant court's analysis - if this case is for insurance law, you can go straight to the discussion about duty to defend and it's a safe bet you can skip any discussion about things like evidentiary rules or constitutional law. (2.5 minutes).
4. Find the paragraph with the court's holding - you don't even have to read this because if you get called on you can easily go straight to it and recite it in class. (30 seconds)

VOILA! You read an entire case in under 5 minutes. Congrats on being less than proficient!
HINT: If you get called on you can chalk up your lack of knowlegde to "faulty memory" since, duh, you read this case six days ago when it was first assigned- right!? Of course!

But, if you can't even brief via the Slacker Briefing Method as outlined above, you have to be able to "pass" with equal parts style, wit and humility.

One student in class failed miserably according to my book. This one girl in the front row, after she was called on, actually had the balls to say, "I have to pass on this case, but if you could come back to me when you get to So and So case, I would totally appreciate it." HULLO! You can't CHOOSE which case you get called on for- that's so cheating! First off, that defeats the big slacker gamble. If you could chose when you get called on, where is the risk? Where is the pay off of being a slacker? Way to ruin it for all of us!

Also, slackers should OWN their slackerness. Don't live in the delusion that you are a could-be Law Review student. A slacker by any other delusion is still a slacker!

Finally, that "pass" was SO cheesy! Cheesy. Cheesy. Cheesy. On the instances in which you have to pass, you end up feeling bad, and horrible and stupid. This is how you are supposed to feel. This is what law school is about- feeling dumb and inferior in a controlled environment where the professor is the inflictor of shame and there are not enough sharp objects to cause serious bodily harm. You can't try to overrule these feelings by volunteering for a different case. You can't try to justify your failure by showing the professor you actually aren't the useless piece of crap that you feel. This is just wrong. (Am I bitter or what?). And "I would totally appreciate it"? That phrase, when spoken to a professor, triggers my gag reflex.

However, one student in class today shows us how it is done. This student was able to "pass" with both dignity and style without trying to be a major brown noser. He is the major Model Passer. People, THIS is how you should "pass." Turn it into something funny- most preferably, you should be the butt of the joke, but if not, it is acceptable to make an objective funny.

Prof: "Mr. Smith, can you please tell us what the court ruled in this case."
Mr. Smith: "Um....hmmm....well... Can I poll the audience?"
Prof: [laughs out loud] "So you're electing to use a life line?"

Yes. Mr. Smith gets a 10 out of 10 in my play book for his style in evading giving an answer without resorting to saying "pass" or cheesy brown nose tactics. I award him Slacker of the Week.

May we all aspire to be the Slacker that Mr. Smith is.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Family Mug Shot

When I was little, I loved to gaze up at our family photos on the wall. I loved one in particular with me and my mom in complimentary outfits (NOT MATCHING) where I am folding my arms in protest, although the photographer managed to sneak a smile out of me. I would love to see how young my mom was and how little I used to be. I would reach back into the farthest part of my mind and try to pull out memories of that day. The older I got, the harder this task became.

As I would shift my gaze across the wall, I'd see our family grow in numbers and in age. These snapshots of our family throughout the years still mean so much to me. They used to just remind me of happy memories and serve as evidence of how young we all once were. But now those pictures also remind me how fast everything goes by. Even so, when I got married, I couldn't wait to have my own family portraits. And the experience was just as I remember- the only difference is the reversal of my role.

The morning of, I tweaked our outfits- trying to make sure we wouldn't clash. We rushed to get clean and purdy and just spent time together getting ready under the bright lights of our bathroom. We sauntered into JCPenneys, smiled for the camera and then went out to eat in our nice clothes. The day was nothing extraordinary, in fact, it was a little hectic and crazy, but it was time spent together and it was wonderful. It felt great making our own family memories and traditions, just like the ones I remember from MY childhood. Isn't that the best part about having kids- reliving childhood from the other side of the fence?

The pictures didn't turn out too shabby either.