Happy 4th of July!
Ever since I was little, I’ve had a goal in mind. I knew I wanted to do to college then grad school and have this amazing job doing something I love. Once I hit high school, I made sure to stay out of trouble, get good grades, and find ways to pad my college admissions essays in furtherance of that goal. In college, I took relevant classes, made sure I was close with professors for recommendations, and worked hard in my classes. Then, I hit law school, somehow survived, and passed the bar. Mission accomplished.
I’m sitting at a place in my life where I’ve accomplished my biggest life goal. I am a licensed attorney with a full time (albeit non-practing) job. I get to take pro bono cases and help those who need it. I have a steady job with a good income that can support my family. So really, what is supposed to happen now?
Now, I’m tasked with finding this new goal. Some goal I can pour my heart and soul into in hopes that one day I will be successful. While the obvious choice may be starting a family or saving money, I find those goals are too reliant on other people. It’s hardly fair to put the burden of my success and happiness on a future child; or require my husband to put aside his wants and desires in search of my goals. Instead, I need to find a goal that only I can achieve, without relying on others for my happiness.
See, some wanderers are lost.
The decision to stop practing, if that even what you call what I was doing, was not an easy one. It took a long time hemming and hawing over the right decision for me and it came down to two factors:
- Was I wasting all the work I had put in to not practice?
- What would everyone think?
I had spent the last three years in law school, toiling away for essentially a piece of paper and a big test. I had spent months preparing for the bar, waiting for results, and job searching. There were countless hours worrying over school and money, trying to keep my relationship together, and just trying to be human. If I decided not to practice, would I regret it? Would all that be wasted? And most importantly, would I be making a difference in the world?
Ultimately, I decided that practicing was exhausting. I went into law school wanting to make a difference and instead felt like the bulk of my time was spent plugging and chugging on motions or answer phone calls from strung out clients. I didn’t feel like I was making an impact in anyone’s life and I certainly wasn’t changing the world. The three years I spent in law school taught me a lot, and not just the actual law. It taught me to think critically, be skeptical, and always look for the hidden facts. It taught me I can be resilient, work well under pressure, and multitask like a champ. But, it was up to me to use those skills to do something important.
By not practicing, I am able to do just that. I still work with lawyers, I still have to keep up on legal news, and I still get to spend my free time researching things I’m passionate about. I get to talk to lawyers all over the world about things that made my law school and practice experience easier and can help them help their clients. But, because I’m not mentally and emotionally exhausted by practicing, I can take the skills I have to be a CASA/GAL, to help homeless individuals with their leases, and to take pro bono cases when I have the time. I’m able to be around for my future kids childhoods and go to PTA meetings. I can be actively involved in my community and create change there.
In the end, I’m happy with my decision. I think I got the best of both worlds, a stable job I love and the ability to effect change in my community. And as for what other people think, it just doesn’t matter.
I decided after accepting my full time job to take a step back from writing. Because I’m not actually practicing anymore, it seemed misguided for me to write a legal blog when in fact, my legal practice skills are slim to none. I took some time to thing about why I was writing, what I could write about, and if anyone would actually read it (which I’m still not convinced anyone actually does). I realized that I wasn’t writing for other people, but rather writing for myself; a place to document my thoughts on current events, managing my life, and the things that are most important to me. I hope that going forward I can continue some of my weekly posts, like Friday’s Legal News, as well as provide a more comprehensive look at working the legal industry and balancing all the chaos that comes in life. If you have any suggestions for posts or things you want to know about me, let me know! i’d love to hear what you like, what you don’t like, and how I can make Gavel Unraveled even better!
I’m very excited to announce that I’ve accepted a full time job! I will now be a telelphonic solutions consultant for Lexis Nexis here in Dayton. I’m SO excited to start my new job and can’t wait to see what I can learn.
That being said, I have another (almost) 2 weeks before I officially start my job. That means, I have a built in 2 week vacation where I don’t have to worry about anything! No bar prep, no classes, no job searching, nothing! It’s the most liberating feeling. I’m looking forward to getting things done around the house, relaxing, and visiting family.
Finding balance in life is not an attorney’s strong suit. We spend 3 years putting off our life to go through law school, 8 weeks doing the same for bar prep, and once we’re in a career it’s likely any semblance of balance goes out the window for life. When I was in law school, I had a counselor make a point that really helped me re-focus my life after graduation. For three years, we live in survival mode. Everything that isn’t law school or basic survival needs goes out the window. Once we’re out in the real world, slowly we can regain control and find actually hobbies and passions.
Now, I’m out in the real world. Finding balance is not as easy as I would hope it could be. This coming February, I’m a year out from the bar exam and just starting to find who I am as a person. I’ve found I love cooking and can’t just sit and relax. I love running and being involved in the local community. I’ve grown in my ability to make small talk and help other people solve their problems. I’m more compassionate and patient.
Being out of the law school trenches changes who you are. You become a human again. At the time, three years seemed like such a long time but now that it’s over, it’s become a little blip in the map. I truly feel for those in the middle of it, but stay the course and make it through!
The legal world is full of rejection. From not getting your dream job to losing a case, there seems to be a never-ending string of negativity. Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life and learning to deal with it is important to managing yourself in a professional environment.
There’s plenty of advice out there for dealing with professional rejection. From taking time to yourself to asking the rejector for constructive criticism, finding what works best for you can immensely help your mental health and allow you to move forward. Lately, I’ve dealt with a lot of rejection while job searching. I’m a great candidate, but there’s always someone more experienced, a better fit, etc. It’s been rough and I’ve grown tremendously since starting my job search back in May.
When I have to deal with rejection, I always think of the scene in John Tucker Must Die where Kate talks about her mom’s coping mechanisms for when guys leave her: “A quick therapy session…or two…or three. Then, we pack up and leave again”. (Of course, here a therapy session is monster bites of chocolate frosting.) To be honest, it’s not the worst way to deal with rejection. When your first rejected, the initial sting is harsh. It’s one of the most awful feelings in the world knowing that you weren’t, well, fill in the blank. But, once the initial sting wears off, it becomes a little easier to deal with the fallout.
So, how exactly do you process and deal with the constant rejection and negativity? I wish there was a one-size-fits-all approach but of course there never it. In the legal world, that’s just another “it depends”. For me, I like to take a set amount of time to just be upset. Whether it’s five minutes or an hour, I need time to be upset that I didn’t get whatever I so desperately wanted. But, my rule is when that time period is up, I move on. When I didn’t get the job I really wanted this week, I took ten minutes. After the ten minutes, I started job searching again for the day. I looked for other skills to improve my marketability. I made a plan to ask my current boss for more work or time to shadow time to learn more. By not harping on my bad feelings, I could think clearly and work toward the goal that slipped away from me this time.
In reality, my set “grieving time” doesn’t always work. I’ve slipped back into the sadness and self-doubt. I’ve felt like a failure and wanted to give up being an lawyer. So, I surround myself with people who truly believe in me. I focus on my best friends who believe I can do absolutely anything I put my mind to. I focus on my family who has watched me go from an awkward kid to a fast-tracked college kid to a licensed attorney. I focus on Patrick, who sees me working toward my goal every day. By listening to those around me instead of the voice in my head, I’m motivated to continue working. Even when I don’t believe it, I want to be the person they all think I am.
Rejection is hard. It’s one of those things I don’t think anyone ever fully gets used to and in law, there’s a whole lot of rejection. Learning proper coping mechanisms and how to move on can work wonders for your professional life. How do you deal with rejection?
I’m a notoriously bad sleeper. From the time I was a toddler, I would lay awake for hours or wake up early for no reason. As a kid it was fine; I could sleep in on the weekends. In college, it was great; late nights, napping between classes, sleeping until noon. In law school, well, you basically have a caffeine IV. Now though, it’s different. Instead of sleeping in on the weekends, I have early morning walks with the dogs. Instead of naps between classes, I have marathon client meetings and memos to write.
I made a decision a few weeks back that I would try to get my life back on track. Since I started law school in fall 2013, I’ve been in survival mode-doing everything I can to keep myself afloat while doing what needed to get done. Now that I’ve graduated, passed the bar, and am (hopefully!) going to be gainfully employed soon, I decided to take a good look at how I live my life and work to become a better me.
For me, becoming a better person starts with being well rested and sticking to a sleep schedule. Aside from the situational problems with lack of sleep, not getting enough sleep has serious effects on physical and mental well being. Sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure, depression, and stroke. As a new attorney, learning the ins and outs of real practice and the law is a lot to take on. During sleep the brain commits new information to memory so without it, all my days work goes out the window. The scariest part: lawyers are the second most sleep deprived professionals!
Here’s my new sleep plan: no phones or computers after 9:30, bed by 11:00, and a morning walk with the dogs. Hopefully these easy changes can help me get on a better path to sleeping well and working toward becoming a competent, successful attorney.
Lately, things have been a little crazy and a blogging break was absolutely necessary to keep my head above water. I started a part-time job doing civil litigation work for a local law firm. Although civil litigation wasn’t what I originally wanted to do, I LOVE it! I have learned so much in the past few weeks and for the first time, I genuinely enjoy what I’m doing. Now that I’ve adjusted to working and actually doing somewhat decent at it, I’m excited to get back to blogging about life as a new attorney.
What would you like to read posts about?
There’s a common saying that law school does not prepare you for being an attorney. I always assumed it was half right, but if you spend three years in school it better prepare you for something! Recently, I started a part time job doing civil litigation for a local attorney. I absolutely love when I’m doing and never thought I would enjoy civil litigation this much. But, that statement has proven true in entirety.
Now that I’m actually practicing, I realize how little technical knowledge I was given in law school. Sure, I can tell you what you’re rights are under Miranda and what voids a contract. But, I can’t tell you if I should admit or deny this allegation or what to file in discovery. Unfortunately, there is a large gap in legal education that misses these critical points to being an attorney. Instead, law schools rely on higher up attorneys to teach students what they are doing and in turn, these higher up attorneys dislike taking on “baby” attorneys.
At school when I ran into a law or law practice question I could go to a professor. When I couldn’t find an answer I needed for an appellate brief for class, I had someone to bail me out. Once you’re out on your own, it’s not necessarily the same. I find myself facing problems I have no clue how to tackle and thinking “I should just go ask an attorney” before realizing that I AM the attorney! Now, I know I can always ask my boss for guidance, and I frequently do. However, the pressure to be great at your job, not make mistakes, and not be too needy is overwhelming. As a new attorney, you want to impress your boss and hopefully move up the ranks and being the attorney that constantly needs hand-holding is not the way to go about that.
So, I think it’s time for attorneys and law schools to have a talk. It’s time for law schools to have a “technical knowledge” class that follows fictional cases beginning to end. It’s time for attorneys to work together and mentor each other without it being a huge career negative. And, most importantly, it’s time for law students and young attorneys to seek out opportunities to learn and mentors to show them the ropes so the legal profession continues to grow.