Advice, Changes

Lessons I didn’t know I needed

I guess you could say I’m a fully fledged adult now. I have my own insurance, own a home, and last week I used an HSA to pay for glasses. But, just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I have all the answers (contrary to what teenage me thought). The older I get, the more I find myself realizing there are so many things I don’t know and being an adult actually requires at least a basic understanding of various industries.It’s a near daily occurrence that I call a parent asking for some sort of life lesson. Here are the last few things I’ve had to learn on the road to being an adult:

-How insurance, and co-insurance, work: I always knew the basic premise of insurance; you pay a set amount each month and when you have a procedure or visit the company covers all or part of it. I even knew the economics behind it and what things were likely to be covered versus not covered. What I never realized was that I had no idea how to figure out a deductible, or look up what was covered, or how to use co-insurance. It took an Insurance 101 lesson from the master (my mom) to figure out exactly what I needed to know.
-Investments: Growing up, my family didn’t have a ton of money. We weren’t poor but there certainly wasn’t enough for investments. So, I never had an opportunity to learn. When I started my 401k, I knew it would be invested in some way but there were so many words I didn’t know! Vanguard, BlackRock, IRA; who knows what those mean! Luckily, the auto-investment options are still decent options so I have some time to really dig into investments and learn some new things.
-Buying a car/Titling a car: About a week after starting work, my trusty Malibu died. It was a good car; it got me through college, multiple 4-6 hour trips home, and plenty of travel from Muncie to Dayton. But, it was time for a new one. So, off we went to loan applications and negotiating and eventually signing paperwork. We already have a house but the real estate agent did most of the work on that one. Within the span of 24 hours we got a lesson on when to cut your losses, negotiation, and eventual purchase. Of course, when you buy a car, you also have to title and register it. So that’s a whole other animal to tackle when we get paperwork in a week or so.

Teenage me thought that I would never need to rely on my parents once I went to college. I’d have money, I’m smart, I could figure it out. But, yet another life lesson learned, parents know all (or at least know how to find it all). So I’m curious, what life lessons did you struggle with?

Journey, Law practice, My Life

The non-practicing attorney

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:

  1. Was I wasting all the work I had put in to not practice?
  2. 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.

My Life

Redesign

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!

Fun

Lessons from TV attorneys

I’ve always been intrigued with how the law is portrayed in the media, specifically in television shows and movies. I’m even more intrigued with how female attorneys are portrayed and how their personal lives intersect with their professional life. It seems the media likes to show female attorneys as cold, closed off, mean women with little time for anything other than their job. But, each fictional attorney takes on these challenges in a different way and thrives. I got to thinking of the fictional lawyers I frequently come across in my life and what I can learn from them. Is their fictional life applicable to mine and how can I take what they go through and use it to become a better person?:

-Julia Graham (Parenthood)-Julia Graham, played by Erika Christensen, is exactly the type of attorney I would want to be. She starts as a brilliant attorney working her way up the partner track, but knows to step back when her family needs her. When she becomes a stay at home mom, she struggles with filling empty time and stepping out of her “career shoes”. I think as attorneys we’re all very hard on ourselves and don’t know when to pull back and focus on what’s really important. There’s the idea that attorneys should focus on work first, family second and anything short of that is failing to do your best. It’s refreshing to see a primetime example of how we can all work to balance our life just a little better.

-Alexandra Cabot (Law & Order: SVU)-Alex Cabot embodies a strong prosecutor fighting for justice but what really sets her aside from the other L&O:SVU ADAs is her resilience and ability to focus on the victims. Stephanie Marsh perfectly portrays the ideal prosecutor, focusing not only on what’s right but realizing her limitations as an attorney. More frequently than not, she reminds the detectives of her need for evidence, proper interrogation, and other issues that may derail a conviction. Even after being placed in witness protection, she comes back strong and continues to fight for the victims, eventually going on to join the prosecutor’s office for the International Criminal Court. Alex Cabot shows us that passion for law goes a long way. Despite all the problems that stood in her way, she kept coming back pursuing the thing she loved most.

-Miranda Hobbes (Sex and the City)-Miranda Hobbes shows us that power is sexy and letting things stand in your way is so last season (yes, that was meant to be a fashion joke). Cynthia Nixon‘s character is another high powered attorney working toward lofty goals. Never intimidated by the men in her office, she surrounder herself with friends who support her and help her become a better her. She faces some unique challenges in her personal and professional life wondering how to be a mother and an attorney, feeling insecure about adult braces, and not being taken as seriously as she should. But, through all that, she continues to kill it in the office and her personal life. With good friends and some ambition, we can take on everything.

-Elle Woods (Legally Blonde)-Who can forget Elle Woods? The Beverly Hills barbie doll turned lawyer and animal rights activist. Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, doesn’t exactly jump to the top of the list of “Attorneys I can learn from”, but, there’s a lot that can be said about her journey from sorority girl to passionate advocate. Throughout her journey, Elle focuses not only on what she is saying but how she presents herself as a whole. She shows that personal style can still be used in the legal field (albeit not quite as bright as her clothing) and that a person’s capabilities cannot be judged by their outfit or how pretty they are. It’s a good lesson in taking a step back and hold back snap judgments for both clients and other attorneys. Plus, if that doesn’t work, it’s a good lesson in the “bend and snap“.

-Jessica Walters (She-Hulk)-Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, is the kick ass attorney we all need to see. Although clearly her storyline doesn’t focus on her career as an attorney, she has a pretty bad ass story. As Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk’s, cousin she recieved a blood transfusion from him and inherited a milder form of his superpower.  While keeping the world safe, she acts as a lawyer for many superheros and works in the SuperHuman Law division of a New York law firm. Of course, superhero stories aren’t reality but there’s something to be said for Jessica Walters. Even as an attorney, she still finds time to help make the world a better place, even if it’s in a way we could never hope to. She has the internal struggle of right v. wrong, good v. evil, and how her actions impact the world around her. It goes to show that even superhero attorneys are willing to do what it takes to fight the bad, even when it’s themselves.

So, fictional attorneys can teach us a wide array of skills and nearly every woman can find a role model within these characters. While I won’t be wearing bright pink to court or taking on out-of-this-world supervillians, I can take these lessons and work to become a better lawyer and a better person.

 

Job search, Journey

My first vacation!

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.

Journey, My Life, School

A year out

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!