Tags: Baron Baptiste, law firm layoffs, Shiva Rea, weei.com
I think the spring equinox got to me this weekend. Is the equinox supposed to make one feel more balanced and calm? I have felt more on edge for the past three days than I have in months. Perhaps it is the light, very sharp and yellow, yet still not giving much warmth. I worked from home on Friday, and I was embarassingly unproductive (which leaves me starting this week feeling nervous …) I know part of the problem was my mind racing over the whole fellowship/sabbatical offering.
I was really looking forward to Saturday — Margo and I signed up for a day-long yoga intensive at a hotel on the waterfront with Baron Baptiste. I’ve been doing yoga at his studios in Cambridge and Brookline since I moved to Boston in 2003, and just before I started law school I went to Hawaii for a 10-day teacher training with him. Say what you want about commercially “famous” yoga teachers (the common complaint is their supposed cult-like status) — they become popular for a reason, and usually they are phenomenal teachers. (I also used to study with Shiva Rea in L.A., back when she only taught a few classes a week at Yoga Works — now she travels the world teaching at conferences and has her own clothing line and videos.) I do think Baron is inspiring live — so much energy — and I was looking forward to getting some yoga mojo back, not to mention a day to myself and five or six hours of serious, sweaty yoga.
But the inevitable happened — after burning the candle at both ends to launch the new website (www.weei.com), Tim started getting a sore throat on Friday night. He barely got out of bed all weekend, and so my yoga intensive (for which I had already paid, of course) went out the window. Instead, I took the Little Bug to see her grandmother and uncle (Tim’s mom and brother) Saturday morning (a trip Tim was to make), and we did errands. This morning we got up early and met Lindsey and Whit for a chilly walk to Starbucks and a playground in Cambridge. Then a nap, then the market, then Sesame while I cooked dinner — and now my weekend is over. I’m not sure I feel either rested or organized for the week ahead. I feel unsettled about my job security (but who doesn’t…). I am enervated and am craving a bit of stability.
Tags: law firm layoffs, sabbatical, stay at home mom
If you are reading this and you are a relatively young associate, you read Above the Law and so know what went down at my firm yesterday. If you’re not a lawyer (and thus not addicted to the train wreck that is abovethelaw.com — Must. Stop. Looking. At. Carnage), I’ll try to summarize as briefly as possible:
Many, many law firms — large and small, prestigious and niche — are laying off associates. Most law firms will not lay off first-year associates. The reasons for this are both selfish and somewhat humane. If you lay off first-years during a downturn, what third-year law student is going to take a chance on you? Especially the most coveted law students who tend to have more choices when it comes to recruiting (or, at least, used to). (The economics behind it are something like this: the more “prestigious” a firm, the more it can charge. How do you get to be “prestigious”? You boast that you can hire the top students from the top law schools. Thus, these students are heavily recruited and [used to] spend their 2L summers being wined and dined.) The humane reason, I’d like to think, is that if you get laid off as a first-year associate, you’ll have an incredibly difficult time finding another position (although I’m sure this is also tied up with reason #1).
What law firms can do in lieu of retracting offers or laying off current associates is push back the start date for incoming associate classes. Instead of staring in September, new associates would start the following January, thus saving the firm six months of six-figure salaries (x 180 new associates). My firm has chosen to do this, leading me to believe that its financial future is not as stable as they assured us a few months ago (shocker). My firm also has taken an innovative step, now being adopted by a few other top firms (see today’s WSJ, which of course I can’t link for you because they charge for online content!) of offering one-year public-interest law “internships” to all associates. You can take a year’s leave of absence from the firm to practice law at an approved public-interest focused organization — e.g., an attorney general’s office, the local district attorney’s office, a legal services organization, a nonprofit. You’d forgo your six-figure salary, but the firm will pay you a respectable $60,000 (more than you’d make working there normally). Plus, you retain your health benefits (huge).
This would be an attractive option for me if I did not have day care costs. I’d love to work for a DA’s office or Greater Boston Legal Services, but the reality is, after child care, I’d clear very little (if any, after taxes) of that $60,000. In fact, I’d probably lose money.
The other option offered by my firm is a year-long “sabbatical.” You won’t get firm “credit” for that year, since you wouldn’t be practicing law, which means that if you took a year off obviously you’d come back as a first-year associate (or second-year or whatever year you are). You would be paid a stipend of 20% of your salary, and you’d also retain your health benefits. And this is where the sirens began to sing for me (“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each…”)
What if I stayed at home with the Little Bug for a year? We’d have to give up our full-time child care, of course. But the stipend would be enough for some hours of babysitting each week. What if I became one of those “yoga-pants-at-9 a.m.” mothers (so described by Judith Warner in her column today, here — although I actually feel like she got that phrase from me!?)? What if I took Little Buggy to Tiny Toes dance class with all the other toddlers? Made dinner every night? Would I write? Could I write? A novel even?
My days would be spent like this!
My firm is dangling a seductive proposition — “Here: try out being home with your child for a year. Just try it. You may like it!” And if I don’t — supposedly I have a job to come back to.
Rationally, logically, even emotionally this is not going to happen. First of all, I have a job, with a paycheck, in this unstable economy. Moreover, I’m too old to have my career advancement slowed any more than it already is, and I don’t want to come back in a year, still being a first-year associate, only to compete with all the “new” first-year associates. I’m not sure I’m going to be a BigLaw employee forever, but if I leave now, I may be shutting that door earlier than I had planned.
And, finally, I actually do like being a lawyer. It took me a loooong time to get here. Were I a third- or fourth-year associate who had lived the law-firm life for awhile, I might see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try something new and different. But I’ve already written for a living, lived in a ski-town, traveled around the world, lived on the West Coast near the beach, become a yoga instructor. And, even after all of that — even after doing all of those things that I’m sure sound quite exciting to a mid-level associate who has been stuck in a high-rise 60+ hours a week for the past five years — I wanted to become a lawyer.
The only thing I haven’t done is be at home with my child on a regular basis, being her primary caregiver, and that’s why the siren call is so strong right now. What if… what if…
… I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
(Am not trying to be dramatic, but just remembering how much I have always loved this poem…)
Tags: Facebook, iPhone, Kindle, MacBook, Twitter
This weekend I bought a MacBook. It’s awesome. How can one laptop (Mac) be a hundred times better designed and more functional than another (Dell)? I also got an external hard drive and a free wireless printer as a promo. (My firm will reimburse me for a good portion of the total.) In short, I stimulated the economy. I am very patriotic.
Now I’m on a roll. I finally signed up for Twitter (though am still not sure why you’d need to be on Twitter and Facebook, especially since the Facebook redesign seems like it is trying to replicate Twitter). My sister had to stop me from also purchasing an iPhone (which I obviously don’t need since my firm doesn’t support them yet and thus I need to be physically attached to my Blackberry at all times. I’m not sure I can be one of those people who carry around both — although I know many people who do!) and a Kindle. I can think of a dozen justifications for both (especially the Kindle — saving space! Saving paper/the environment! Saving money! Commuting reading! Patriotic economic stimulation!), but will hold off until the glow of my newly wired self wears off a bit.
Tim worked all weekend (big site relaunch tomorrow — we hope! Stay tuned for a link…), so I had a Little Buggy weekend. It started off with a wonderful girls’ dinner on Friday night (with only one bottle + one glass drunk between three of us, making the next morning even better), a successful dentist’s appointment on Saturday morning (for some reason I’m the only person in my family with good teeth…), the successful trip to the Mac store on Boylston (accompanied by my sister, the Mac genius), playground, run, Starbucks, errands, playground, run, playground. Oh, and it’s spring, I think (see the photo below for proof — the light and the shadows and the joy of a baby pushing an empty stroller).
Work has been busy. Obviously. Apparently I cannot be a mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, and work full-time and have a blog. That’s OK — the mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter parts are more important. I’ll try to get back to it soon (if anyone is still reading!)
Below, the view from my office window on an early spring morning, out over Logan. I wish you could see the ferry boats cris-crossing the harbor and the planes taking off. It’s pretty. It also shows you how early I was here today!
What I’ve been up to: training for the half marathon, then getting sick and not running for a week (oh well). Seeing an old friend from journalism school who is now a NYTimes reporter (what every j-school student dreamed of, back then. Am so proud of her!) Working — a lot. Having a sick husband, nanny, and baby. Going to a brunch with work-mom friends and their families — these women help me realize I can do it. Working some more. Watching with amazement as my baby turns into a chatting toddler and climbs up on to anything stationary (chairs, tables, ledges — yikes!) Taking her to the park on the first real day of spring (before the next day’s snow). Dreaming of how I will decorate our new place when we move out to the ‘burbs in the summer. Going to Stabucks. A lot. So, you know, the usual.
It’s all good.