The billable hour

October 18, 2011 at 4:31 am | Posted in law school, small law, the firm, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Were I practicing at a big corporate firm, my hourly rate would be about $500/hour by now. Yes, it would cost you $500 an hour for my legal advice. Which is so absurd because I’m only a fourth year associate and I don’t know anything. (The WSJ, in this article, explores the ridiculousness of junior associate rates and the ensuing corporate pushback.)

 Anyway, the reality of BigLaw is, if you emailed me, and I responded to your email in my car while navigating the morning traffic on 93N, I’d bill you a quarter-hour’s time. Yup – $125 for an email illegally typed into my iPhone while watching the break-lights in front of me. Corporate law firms are called corporate law firms for a reason: their clients are exclusively (rich) corporations that can afford expensive legal services. In addition, one of the reasons they are paying someone like me close to $500 an hour is that they expect an immediate response to their emails or calls. They are paying me to email them back in traffic.

I won’t tell you what my new billable rate is, but it is quite a bit less. At the same time, I believe it is a fair rate for my level of expertise and experience and service. The upside is that with a lower billable rate, I can actually help individuals, as opposed to corporations. And these individuals have issues that affect their lives and livelihoods — a book they want to publish needs a libel review, a publishing contract needs to be marked-up in their favor, a movie producer wants to buy an option on their book. It feels good to help them. Guess what  — I feel like a lawyer!

Am I going to charge these individuals — individuals with whom I have daily personal contact — a quarter-hour’s time just answer an email? Of course not. It’s much less fraught to bill a corporation than an individual, obviously. But at times I also find it difficult to even charge them for my actual time — valuable time for which they should be paying me. Individual clients, it turns out, read their monthly statements carefully and are not afraid to complain about charges. While you may take some sort of professional development class in law school, the whole client-services part of a legal practice is not something for which a standard corporate experience will prepare you. I’m still navigating this transition with some blunders, and I’m sure that where once I erred on the side of billing everything (adhering to the general BigLaw motto of “bill everything and let the partner mark down your time”), now I likely err on the side of not billing enough. It’s not because I don’t think I’m worth it, but more that I feel sorry for the people on the other end getting their bills. (My time does add up quickly!) Would a male lawyer have these reservations, worry about the feelings of his clients? (This actually is a topic of much debate in law-school professional development classes — the “compassionate lawyer”, etc.)

P.S. For those of you as obsessed with billing as attorneys seem to be, my friend MommyEsq., a former colleague who just went in-house, wrote just last week about why she actually misses the billable hour, here.

What’s next?*

March 31, 2011 at 9:23 am | Posted in law school, the firm, the media | 10 Comments
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*Credit: Aaron Sorkin

The Short Story

My new job: I will be practicing media, entertainment, and general intellectual property law at a boutique Boston firm. The firm is affiliated with a literary agency, and I will become an agent at the agency as well. I have worked out a loose arrangement under which I’ll be practicing law 50% of the time (about 20 hours a week — I just love that we are talking about a 40- and not 60-hour work week here!), and I will devote the rest of my time to the agency, how ever much or little that is. At first, I expect to be in the office every day as I learn both a new area of the law and a totally new profession (agent), but ultimately I expect the job to be very flexible, especially on the agency side. In the end, being an agent is commission-based, so however much I time I put into it, I get out of it.

The Short-Long Story

At the end of my third year of law school — after I had already accepted a position in the tax department at my former, BigLaw firm — my good friend Margo told me about a partner at her firm who also ran a boutique literary agency out of the firm. Margo is an intellectual property lawyer (she is a genius and has a PhD in immunology and practices a type of law I cannot even wrap my head around), and her firm was known for its overall IP practice. “I don’t really understand the arrangement,” she told me, “but it sounds right up your alley. You should meet him.” Margo then wrote an introductory email for me, and I scheduled an informational interview. A literary agent and a lawyer, I thought. How cool does that sound? Also, I had always been interested in what is considered “soft” IP law — copyright, trademark, licensing. It is nearly impossible, if not totally impossible, to do soft IP work in Boston straight out of law school, however, so I had already chosen a different post-law school path (i.e., tax).

The partner’s office did not look like a typical partner’s office — huge bookshelves were crammed with books, an oriental rug was on the floor, art covered the walls. Sitting front and center on his bookshelf was a copy of my oldest childhood friend’s recent book. Yes, he had been her first agent. Already, the karma was good. The law partner and I talked for nearly an hour, and then he called in his partner in the agency, and she and I talked for another hour. “How does one get to do what you do?” I asked the law partner, a 6-ft, 4-inch man who could have walked out of an Updike novel, with his shock of white hair, his black turtleneck and his pressed cords (and, I would later learn, his lovely penchant for a beer or a glass of wine at lunch). “How can one be an agent and a lawyer?”

“One really can’t,” he told me. “My law firm let me start this agency to keep me happy and my clients at the firm.” Why don’t you come work for us as an agent? he and his agency partner suggested. I had a writing, editing, and publishing background and knew a lot of writers. But I had just spent three years and thousands and thousands of dollars to get a law degree. Still, I was intruiged.

Over the next three years we kept talking. Eventually, the agency moved out of its home at Margo’s firm and aligned itself (in a relationship too complicated and probably boring to go into here) with the boutique firm. Free from the oversight of the powers-that-be at the old firm, the agency partners called me up. We can hire you now, they told me. We can hire you to help [law partner] with his media practice and to become an agent. At this point, I was eight months pregnant with Little O. “Can you give me 18 weeks paid maternity leave?” I asked. Sadly, again, this was not the time for me to make a move.

But we kept talking. And flirting with the idea of me working for them in a hybrid lawyer/agent role. And I could never really get the two charismatic partners — the law partner/agent and the other agency partner — out of my head. What they saw (see?) in me is, I think, someone who could step into an agent’s role because of not only my general knowledge of the publishing world, good writing, and editing but also because I am an extrovert. Which, if you have seen any depictions of an agent on TV, no matter how dramatic (think: Jerry McGuire; Ari Gold from Entourage), you kind of need to be. In addition, practicing media, entertainment, and intellectual property law is much more substantively interesting to me than general tax law, so when they were finally able to create a position where I could do both, I decided to think about it very, very seriously.

I am, of course, thrilled by the outcome. I’m nervous — it is a small firm (we were negotiating over whether they could provide me with a laptop! No BigLaw perks here…), and I will be basically starting over as a first-year associate because of the new practice area. Not to mention I need to find agency clients! I mean, this is rather entrepreneurial. But my mind is already racing each night with ideas for books and the writer-friends (or friends I will turn into writers) who should write them. I feel creative and enthused in a way I have not for many years.

The Long Story

A little more than three years ago I decided to start a blog. I polled my family about what I should call it, and my mother came up with Marbury v. Madison Ave. Brilliant! It captures what I hoped to do with this blog: reflect my life as a lawyer and my interest in the law, but also be true to the life I had before law school — that of writing, popular culture, the media.

If I were a devotee of The Secret (like my sister!) I’d say that, three years ago, I put out in the universe what I really wanted to do — somehow merge these two aspects of my background and, indeed, my personality. And it has finally happened. So will the blog change? Will it become an “agent’s blog”?

In part, no. I know that my family and friends read this blog, but I’m also thrilled every time I hear that another lawyer or another mom or another lawyer mom or another lawyer dad or another law student has found me here. I will still be practicing law — this was very important to me, as I do like being a lawyer and it was a long road to become one. And I want to write about my new practice and to continue to write about the challenges that the lawyer-parent faces (although hopefully mine will change in nature now that I’m no longer working for a huge firm).

At the same time, I recognize that in my new role as agent I will need to think about being a businesswoman and an entrepreneur. I am of course aware of the role that social media — blogs, Facebook, Twitter — plays in this.  Were I a writer trying to find an agent, the first thing I would do is Google “agent blog”. And I’ve done so — many of the agent’s blogs I find are full of practical advice: how to query, how the publishing business works, etc. I’m in no position to be offering practical advice yet, however.

Writers who are drawn to me, then, will initially have to want to work with me because of what I can bring other than years and years of publishing industry experience. They will know that I am working with an incredibly reputable agency and will be backed with the support and experience of my colleagues. They will know that I have 10+ years of experience as a writer and editor myself. They will know that I also have business experience as an attorney and this will bring a different context and perspective to what I can do for them in terms of real-world issues such as negotiations and navigating the world of selling books. And maybe if they find this blog, they’ll get a sense of me as a person because, ultimately, the writer-agent relationship has to be very personal. A writer has to feel confident that his or her agent is advocating for  the writer’s best interests, whether the agent is helping shape and edit the manuscript or interacting with a publishing house.

I’ve been deliberately vague about for whom I’m working because I want to think through my social media strategy a bit. Do I start a new blog that is solely for my agency work, and, in doing so, freely give my contact information, the name of my agency, my thoughts on the business? Or do I stay here at Marbury v Madison Ave — the blog with the prescient name — and stay true to what I have been doing, which is writing about my work and, at times, my family and hope that this will attract the types of writers with whom I’d work well? In other words, writers who want to work with an agent who is a lawyer and a mother and a friend and a runner and a wine drinker? I would, of course, have to make myself a bit more public. It’s not like anyone reading this who doesn’t know me couldn’t easily find out who I am, but neither is it like I’m a public figure in the First Amendment sense.

Dear readers, what do you think? Keep this blog as it has been and if I choose to attack the social-media marketing world, create a new blog just for that? Or try to meld the two here?

Transition to practice (or, why I cried at law school)

April 20, 2010 at 9:17 am | Posted in law school, little bug, Little O, not yet written, politics, read this, tax law is sexy, the firm, the media | 9 Comments
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My triumphant return to my law school last week as an alumni speaker was somewhat compromised by an emotional hiccup. Namely, crying. If you have been reading this blog for the past few (say, ten or 11) weeks, you’ll know that since the birth of my baby boy in February, I’ve been doing a lot of crying. This time, however, the tears were decidedly not hormonal, but, instead, passionate.

If you have been reading this blog since its inception, you’ll know that I had my first baby in between my second and third years of law school. When she was six weeks old, I returned to campus, armed with a breast pump and lots of coffee. “How did you ever manage law school with a newborn?” I’m often asked. Here’s a secret: by your third year of law school — at least, in 2007-08, when the legal hiring market was still running at pre-recession speed — you can pretty much coast. I chose my classes based on when they met, as opposed to content, for a flexible schedule. I had friends who supported me with notes from missed class and law review offices in which to pump milk. And I had a few professors (all women…) who were stalwart champions of motherhood and the law. It was one of these professors who asked me to come speak. And because one is always flattered to be asked for one’s expertise, I blew out my hair, put on a suit, heels, and lipstick, and, feeling vaguely like the lawyer I only so very recently was, I set out for Newton.

The topic was transitioning from school to practice. My professor also had asked me to speak specifically on transitioning to practice with a child and after a maternity leave. I had typed a few thoughts into my iPhone on the transition in general:

  • Ask questions.   No one expects you to know what you’re doing for the first year. If a more senior associate or partner is giving you an assignment and asks you, “Have you heard of the 40 Act?” you may nod yes because you kind of remember skimming that part of the 750-page text book, but you don’t know the 40 Act. Better to pipe up and ask, “Well, what specifically about the Act as it applies to this matter?” then to be stuck in the office at 11 p.m. not knowing what you are supposed to be doing when the client wants an answer by 9 a.m. I’d argue that asking questions makes you look like a thoughtful, careful — indeed, intelligent — lawyer.
  • Worried about work/life balance? Let it evolve organically. It will become clear fairly quickly how different partners/supervisors expect assignments to be completed and how you can assess the urgency of a task. If I’m given a new task on top of a full plate, I’ll tell the partner, “I have this memo due for so-and-so tomorrow and an upcoming filing deadline. Do you think I can still get this new assignment done in the timeframe you need?” You kind of put the ball back in the senior lawyer’s court. In short: don’t freak out before you start that you won’t have a life. If you want a life, you can make it happen. But that’s a whole other post (and blog, dare I say tantalizingly?)
  • Find a peer group. As I’ve discussed previously, I found a support system of other lawyer-moms at my firm. I relied on them  heavily, on matters both professional and personal. But I think this advice can apply to new attorneys no matter where you are in life and no matter what your professional situation. Are you newly engaged, juggling wedding planning  amongst your billables? Find another attorney in the same situation. Are you single and married to your work? I’m sure you have coworkers who would love to have a beer with you at 10 p.m. after along workday.

Oh, wait, you want to hear about the crying part, don’t you. Eventually, my professor asked me about my maternity leave. She asked if I worried about taking it, and whether I was worried about transitioning back. I was prepared with tips for others, not to discuss my own situation, and she caught me off guard. Yes, I worried about going on leave, I answered:  Was I too junior? Would all of my great clients and assignments, which I had worked hard to cultivate, be given to others? Would I forget everything I had learned about tax law? When I returned, would I be able to ramp back up quickly enough to bill enough hours? Should I return part time? Full time? Flex time? In a BigLaw environment, did any of that even matter (which I sometimes suspect it does not…)?

“But I’m grateful for my firm’s generous maternity leave policy,” I said. And as I sat there, dark circles under my eyes, sleep deprived, my mind suddenly obsessed with all of my fears about returning to work, the tears arrived. I’m so, so tired (have I mentioned?). My baby is 10 weeks old and not sleeping through the night. Neither is my two-and-a-half-year-old. What if I, like most women whose companies’ leave policies are not even half as “generous” as mine, were back on the job already? What if I had to worry about keeping up with my coworkers and my assignments and my clients operating on four or five hours of sleep, worrying about who was taking care of my newborn?

Why do I have to qualify my maternity leave with the word generous?

I love being a lawyer, and, for the most part, I really like working, as I suspect many mothers who work do. Perhaps some women drop out of the workplace after having a baby because, instead of the oft-cited, “I just can’t leave my baby,” their harsh reality is that they only have four weeks maternity leave. Because society pressures them to breastfeed but doesn’t allow them the time to get their babies on a schedule, nor provides the space and time to pump milk at work. Because, even when they are senior executives, coworkers refer to their maternity leave as “vacation.”

My maternity leave shouldn’t be thought of as “generous.” It should be standard. Hell, it should be a starting point.

I cried because I’m angry.  I’m passionate about my children, and I’m passionate about my career and my education, and why won’t society support this duality?

If you haven’t read Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness, and you care about these issues, please read it. I know Warner has her critics, and I realize that she’s writing about a particular sliver of the population (highly educated, professional women), but I happen to fall into that sliver, and her book has resonated with me to a degree that surprises me in the passion and anger it has inspired. We need a movement. We need quality affordable day care. We need realistic maternity leave. And no one seems to be doing anything about it.

Maybe I can. Maybe we all — I say to you, my small but perhaps similarly inclined readership — can put our collective heads together and do something.

Stay tuned.

In which I consider getting happy

January 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Posted in law school, little bug, read this, tax law is sexy | 2 Comments
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Before you start thinking I have a major crush on Gretchen Rubin (which I do — a major career crush), based on my last few posts (I’ve previously written about her here, here, and here. And here.), I wanted to share my thoughts on her book, The Happiness Project, and why the book attracted me so instantaneously. (Actual reviews can be found all over the Internet — my favorite so far has been by Gwen Bell, here, who puts the book into a larger, Buddhist-oriented perspective.)

This is a bluebird of happiness, of course.

Rubin is a lawyer-turned-writer. If you are not an attorney, you nevertheless might be slightly impressed that she clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. If you are in fact an attorney, you’re probably more impressed that she was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal (I mean, that is as good as it gets in terms of law school credentials!) Obviously, she’s smart and probably inclined towards perfectionism. She loves to write, she has an interest in the law, is driven, and she’s a mother of two. So I can relate personally to many of her motivations.

But the book is decidedly not written for a narrow audience and is relevant for anyone who has wondered, “Why do I seem anxious and ill-at-ease in certain situations?” or “Why do I feel like I’m wasting time worrying about small things?” or “How can I enjoy my life more?” She tackles such questions in what is probably for her a characteristically logical way: devoting each month of the year to examining a certain area of her life and then figuring out how to make herself happier in it. Even if you are not quite as logical, you’ll benefit from her extensive research into studies and literature and psychology — it’s interesting to read about areas such as parenting, marriage, energy, career, pursuing a passion, and friendship on macro level through the prism of becoming happier in them — even if you yourself don’t feel the need to make any major life overhauls.

Just as Rubin herself states that she finds personal anecdotes and shared stories as helpful as abstract anthropological studies, however, her own accounts of how she tried to become happier in these areas of her life were what drew me in. She devotes the month of February, for example, to her relationship with her husband. Her husband, as it turned out, wasn’t that pleased when Rubin tried to dump her anxieties on him right before they went to bed, and would rather watch TV sitting next to her on the couch than gaze into her face for a heart-to-heart. Rubin cites some studies that show that, really, women are best suited for face-to-face conversations with other women and men often are satisfied simply being in the presence of their partner — to them, side-by-side movie watching is as intimate as a dinner a deux. This is probably basic Men-are-from-Mars/Women-are-from-Venus stuff, but it was gratifying for me to see it explained both logically and personally. When Tim and I are finally tucked in bed at night is when I want to turn to him and talk, and I try to do so while he is trying to read and decompress, and he doesn’t focus on me, and then I get upset. After reading this particular chapter, I mentioned Rubin’s conclusions to Tim, and he immediately replied, “I could have told you that.” Of course he could have — but because Rubin has not only read studies and dozens of other accounts of relationships, but candidly examines her own interactions with her husband, her analysis was enlightening to me. And reassuring. For Tim, lying next to me in bed reading is contentment, and if I want to talk through my day with him, maybe I can rethink the time and place to do it. This is not to say that spouses shouldn’t make concessions to each other and strive to be active listeners, but it did suggest to me that there is a whole body of scientific, anthropological, and anecdotal evidence out there to support a slight change in my habits that would result in a desirable outcome for us both. My need to be listened to could be satisfied earlier in the evening (perhaps over dinner) and Tim could read in peace.

Rubin is more organized than I would ever be with her personal “commandments” (which range from “Be Gretchen” to “always carry a sweater” to “act how you want to feel”) and resolutions charts, but I already have gleaned a few tips from the book. For example, her “one minute” rule would greatly improve the quality of life around our house. I’m very clean (hate dirt) but I am not neat (I leave things strewn about, cabinet doors open, toilet paper off the roll, etc.). The one-minute rule suggests that if something takes less than a minute to do — do it! (“I could have told you this!” I hear Tim saying…) I’ve been trying to implement it. Were I Rubin herself, I’d mark off on my chart every night whether I have done so. Not sure if I’m there yet, but at least I have this intention in the back of my head.

She also thoroughly examines the importance of sleep — the lack of which makes us less inclined to do things that make us happy (play with our kids, read a good book, exercise). Duh, we all know this, but, on top of the usual summaries of studies on the importance of sleep, Rubin’s lighthearted account of how sleeping more improved other areas of her life was inspiring. While we’re often aware of good ideas in the abstract, seeing them applied can be hugely motivating. As a result, I’ve tried to get to bed earlier (knowing that, if I’m shooting to be in bed by 9:30, I really have to start the process at 8:30) and have tried to limit my reading in bed to 15-20 minutes. Has it worked? Well, two out of three nights I have committed to doing so it has — but last night I got entangled with Twitter and the Internet and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed (more on that book when I finish it — wow!) — and then it was 11 p.m. And I feel like crap today, and as a result have eaten like crap and am totally unmotivated to exercise — so there you go.

Of course, Rubin is a full-time writer who works out of a home office and has the flexibility to put her resolutions into action. One of her specific resolutions, for example, is to create a house full of memories for her family, which includes making homemade books with her kids. I had to fight to not get overwhelmed by this chapter (how would I ever find the time to make homemade books, assuming I like crafts — which I do not — in the first place?!). I already feel slightly guilty that I am horrible about documenting our family life, and Tim and I often talk about how we really should have baby books and albums. But neither of us has the time — or, more aptly, the inclination — to do so (because if we were so inclined, we’d find the time, right?). Thinking about it only makes me anxious. So, if I’m going to follow the advice in the book, I have to remember to “Be Kathryn” — I hate crafts, and I enough relatives take photos, etc., of Little Buggy that should she decide some day that she wants a photo album I could figure out a way to get it done. Still, I had to remind myself several times while reading the book that there is no way that a person not writing this particular book for a living can actually do all of these things. Instead, the self-improvement junkie in me has to remember that Rubin’s actions are suggestions, inspiration, and context.

This is not, I should note again, a self-improvement or self-help book. It really is quite personal, but I think even Rubin’s reading lists would be interesting to anyone (not just overachieving lawyer types!) — she cites everyone from St. Therese of Lisieux to Samuel Johnson to Elizabeth Gilbert. In short, yes, I’m totally impressed by Gretchen Rubin’s resume, but more impressed that she used her obvious intellect and attention to detail to create a book that goes beyond what seems to be a rash of “I spent a year [cooking Julia Child] [living by the Bible] [fill in the blank]” books and, instead, examines the philosophical roots of happiness and then applies them truthfully, rigorously, and critically to her own life.

No, I’m not in Paris

April 7, 2009 at 7:33 am | Posted in law school, the firm | 3 Comments

Apparently, some people want to know where I have been. Am I not writing because I’ve run off on sabbatical and am now in Paris, typing this into my iPhone (because I bought one as soon as I ditched the firm-issued Blackberry) whilst sipping Cote du Rhone in a cafe on the Seine (with Little Buggy speaking fluent toddler French next to me)? Sadly, no. Well, sad that I’m not in Paris. Not sad that I’m not on a sabbatical (read on…).

A loyal blog reader (and friend) emailed me this morning to see what had happened to me now that I’ve disappeared from the Internet (as you might remember from last year, she is the friend who gave up Facebook for Lent. She has done so again this year, so she cannot keep tabs on me that way, either…) I sent her back a quick email and thought I’d post it here both in the interest of time and for a brief update:

Dear K,

Yes, the blog has suffered a bit as of late. I’m trying not to feel guilty about it (isn’t that ridiculous?) But I don’t really have the energy — by the time I come home, put Buggy to bed, cook dinner (sometimes), and do some work (and maybe even exercise somewhere in there — but not usually!) — all I can do is watch Gossip Girl or read one Talk of the Town before I lose all brain functionality. Being a working mom is hard! (But being a working-anything is hard, and being a mom-anything is hard, so I’m not really complaining.)
 
No, I did not take the firm up on the sabbatical offer. After talking to a bunch of people here, I realized that, while the firm was very happy to have people take the fellowship option, the sabbatical might not be the smartest move for a first-year lawyer. At least with the fellowship you could be doing something related to the legal world. I think the sabbatical is more for fourth-years who might quit soon anyway so that they can go take cooking lessons for a year; I also heard that this option was offered in response to a lot of guys who wanted more paternity leave (supposedly). Also, when I think about it, I have a MASSIVE [I used an expletive in the actual email] load of loans. That made me too scared!
 
Anyway, it was sort of a hard choice — but, rationally, not really that hard. Being in the tax department, I’m fairly busy (but not TOO busy, which is good!) I worry about the future of the legal profession. Well, no, I don’t — it’s a stupid model that has far too inexperienced people billing out way too much. But I don’t want it to change until  pay off my loans (and I’m retroactively pissed at BC for not giving me any financial aid…but that’s a whole other story…)
 
Please let me know how you are doing!
xoxo [I sign all my letters this way now. Guess why.]

25 random things, etc.

February 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Posted in decor, law school, little bug, NYC, read this, running, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, wine, yoga | Leave a comment
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Are you on Facebook? No? Then you are missing the internet craze of the month, the viral “25 Random Things About Me.” It’s wonderfully self-indulgent.

The instructions: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

My list:

1. Waiting nine years after to college to go to law school — and then going to law school — was the best decision I have ever made.

2. Don’t think I’m crazy: I also loved law school, even when I missed five weeks of classes because I was too nauseous with morning sickness to drive to school.

3. I’m a far, far better (happier) person today than I was 5, 10, 15 years ago. As my mother would say (quoting “The Velveteen Rabbit”) I’ve been “rubbed real.”

4. In high school I wanted to be a U.S. Senator. Now I would like to someday be a speechwriter for a U.S. Senator.

5. This is probably because I have career ADD: I am currently on my 10th job since I graduated from college.

6. My daughter is named after my mother.

7. Speaking of my mother, she is the shining inspiration of my life.

8. I talk on the phone, or email, or both with my mother and my sisters every day.

9. And speaking of my sisters, they are without a doubt my best friends. I wish Erin would move back to Boston already.

10. My husband is one of nine children — he and his twin sister are #s 7 and 8.

11. Here is where I have lived since 1996: New York City; Ketchum, Idaho (Sun Valley); Los Angeles; Paris; Princeton, NJ; Boston.

12. Of the places listed above, I would move back to Ketchum, Paris, or LA in a heartbeat.

13. I am obsessed with interior design — blogs, magazines, etc. I fall asleep at night redecorating the rooms of my apartment in my head.

14. On average (even counting the three months or so I had to give them up while I was pregnant, meaning that there has been many a day when two were consumed), I most likely have had a Starbucks soy chai latte every day since the year 2000. I am, in fact, drinking one right now. (Oh, the money! The calories!)

15. I am a certified yoga instructor.

16. Sundays make me slightly blue, but I love our Sunday family dinners with just Tim, Little Buggy, and me eating spaghetti at meatballs at 5:30 p.m.

17. I don’t drink hard alcohol but make up for it in the amount of red wine I consume.

18. Oh yeah, when I lived in L.A. I worked at a wine store and took classes at UCLA to become a sommelier (did I mention my career ADD?)

19. I have run one marathon and two half-marathons.

20. I used to be a rather intense ashtanga practitioner (every morning at 6 a.m. for 2 years) and almost-vegan.

21. I have been to 29 countries and have: trekked in the Himalayas, visited Ankgor Wat and the Taj Mahal, sailed down the Mekong, seen the wailing wall in Jerusalem and Palmyra in Syria, sunned on the beaches of Rio, hiked the Swiss alps, watched the sun set over the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Those days are long gone, and I’m quite okay with it.

22. That being said, my dream is to live with my family abroad someday, preferably in Paris or London. Do you think they need tax lawyers there?

23. Despite my newest career, I still want to publish a novel. Maybe that will get me back to Paris.

24. I am in absolute awe of the fact that I found my husband, and that we made our incredible child.

25. I truly, truly believe in karma and that everything that happens to you in life — good or bad — leads you to where you are supposed to be.

Addiction

November 16, 2008 at 8:51 pm | Posted in law school, the firm | 1 Comment
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For those few readers who, fortunately for them, are not lawyers, here is some background:  Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw the two legal research services out there.  It’s hard to overstate how much you use them (and it’s difficult to comprehend the time when they weren’t on line — you had to go to the library and look up cases or subjects in an index and then cross-reference them in huge binders. Actually, I’m not even really sure what you had to do since, fortunately, I was in the law school section with the legal research professor who eschewed teaching us the “old-fashioned” way, as some professors still did. On a side note: my father always swore that it was his idea to put Lexis online but that he just never knew how to get it done. That would have been nice for us, no?)

Anyway, in law school, access to both of these services is free.  You can search as much as you want for as long as you want. In addition, each service has representatives at every law school in the country, who set up tables almost daily in the lunch room or the student center, passing out water bottles, highlighters, and candy, or who lure you to free “training sessions” replete with pizza or Thai food. And when you’re a poor law student you tend to hit a lot of those trainings…

And now, as I sit here conducting a search which is getting me nowhere — so I know I need to both redefine my search terms and Shepardize anything I find (a little trick by which you look up cases that have themselves cited to the case you’re looking at) — I realize that Lexis and Westlaw are crack. They’re doled out for free in law school, along with all sorts of other fun gifts, in order to attract your loyalty to one brand or another (I’m a Lexis girl. In part because it’s Lexis-Nexis — Nexis is the journalistic equivalent of Lexis, to which every reporter becomes addicted, so I was indoctrinated a long time ago…). So then you’re hooked, and you search and search, and you get used to the high of always finding exactly what you’re looking for because you can go back and hone your search terms, and hit that “Shepardize” button. And then you get to your firm and learn that every search costs like $225 and every time you Shepardize it’s like another $85. So you sit at your keyboard, almost physically shaking from the withdrawal as you waiver: “Do I just do the search? Will the client get mad? I need that search! I NEED it!” And then you feel slightly guilty, but oh, so satisfied when you find your case…

The numbers don’t lie

October 29, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Posted in law school | 2 Comments
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My blog stats, which tell me the search engine terms people have used to find me here, show that recently more and more people are searching the terms “Massachusetts July 2008 bar results,” “July 2008 MBE mean/passing score,” “when will the July 2008 Massachusetts bar results come out?”

To all you searchers: I feel your pain. I check the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers website daily just in case the passing list somehow went up online before the letter arrived.  (And, as an aside, is it like college admissions?  Do you get a big letter for passing?  A thin envelope otherwise?)  I coached my husband on how to handle the (unlikely) situation should letter come while I am in New York.  (The command: “Don’t you dare open that letter until I’m home.” Response: “Are you kidding? I’m opening it for you. But if you don’t pass, I won’t tell you it arrived.”  Which is a ridiculous approach because every single one of my law school friends will be emailing me instantly, so I’ll know it’s bad news if he doesn’t call…) And I feel ever so slightly nauseous all the time. 

I am not at all convinced that I passed.  I’m not just saying that.  Yes, yes, I know everyone feels that way.  But read through my archives and you’ll see:  I struggled mightily with the MBE (and ended up filling in at least the final 10 questions of each session with a “B”) and the whole bar review process in general.  In Massachusetts, while the MBE score is combined with the written score to get your overall passing score, you also need to pass the written part to  pass the whole thing (in other words, if you get a perfect score on the MBE but don’t pass the written part in and of itself, you don’t pass the bar. Please someone correct me if I have this wrong…).  I feel pretty confident about the written part; nevertheless, I may be that one person who passed the written part but whose score still wasn’t enough to overcome a dreadful MBE score. 

So there.  My anxiety is out in the open.  If I pass, Tim has promised me dinner wherever I want.  (L’Espalier? Sorrelino? Fugaku?)  If I don’t pass, my mother said she’d give me $1,000.  (Remember, Mom?) Does this reflect the supreme confidence only a mother can have in her child’s abilities, or is it merely a sum sufficient for short-term retail therapy?

Unemployed almost no more

September 12, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Posted in law school, Starbucks | 2 Comments
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When I started this blog, I had hoped that I could provide some sort of relevant commentary on being a law student and mother and/or lawyer and mother. But as my days grow busier, I’m realizing that this is probably going to devolve into more of a journal-type blog, to be read mostly by people who know me and want to keep tabs on me. So this won’t be my book-deal making masterpiece — sigh — but at least it will keep me writing.

My last few days of relative stay-at-home-motherhood have been sweet — probably more sweet than they might otherwise be. Morning trips to the Duck Pond and Make Way for Ducklings statue (via Starbucks, of course). The Little Bug goes absolutely crazy for both, jumping up and down in her stroller as soon as she sees the gates of the Public Garden ahead of us. We’ve run into lots of moms and babies every day, and I always have to drag her home. If I were a more prepared mother — or had an iPhone! — I’d have snapped some cute pictures. As I’ve posted about  before, I’m not very good at documenting Buggy’s baby-hood — we have a rarely used video cameras, there is no real baby book. I should post a picture of her new hair cut (she looks more and more like I did at that age, probably now due in very large part to the bowl-cut bangs…but what else can you do with a squirmy one-year-old?). I should order pictures for my office. Actually, I should upload our vacation pictures, too. Why is this one area of my otherwise relatively organized life that I’m so bad at keeping up-to-date? I keep telling myself that an iPhone will solve all these problems! (ha.)

But I’m ready. I think. I had drinks with Meg last night, who started work on Monday, and she was visibly excited and enthused about her new life as a lawyer. In fact, we also ran into her walking across the Garden to work, looking adorable in her suit. I’m excited to look adorable in my new suit.

But then, even as I ducked out solo to run some errands this afternoon, I saw a toddler being pushed in his stroller by his babysitter, and I had a pang of sadness. He was so cute, just as cute as my little Bug, who is going to spend more time with her babysitter than with me. I’m not going to rehash the Mommy Wars anymore — at least I’m going to try not to — but instead will approach Monday remembering two things my mother recently told me:

First, I walk out the door every day knowing I am providing a good life for my child. And she’s a happy child, and she’ll be just as happy when I’m working as she’d be if I weren’t.

Second, I am very, very lucky that I have a baby at home to miss. A healthy, happy baby who will keep me focused at work and who will continue — as she always has — to give my life purpose. So missing her is a good thing.

Nevertheless: check in with me Monday to see if I haven’t broken down and bought an iPhone (even though that will make me the woman who is checking her email on her work Blackberry and then on her iPhone!)

P.S. Random aside: my brother-in-law texted me today to see if I wanted him to get me a ticket for the musical Legally Blonde, which apparently is headed to Boston. I was like, “Um, do you have to ask? I am Legally Blonde!!!”

Why listening to Coldplay and drinking wine is not usually a good idea

September 10, 2008 at 8:53 am | Posted in law school, little bug, music, wine | 1 Comment
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I got uncharacteristically weepy last night. I spent the rainy afternoon indoors with the Little Bug, dancing to the Dixie Chicks and cooking dinner for us (Tim was coming home late, so she and I noshed on butternut squash ravioli and blueberries — doesn’t it sound like an In Style party re-cap?), while simultaneously trying to keep her away from the unprotected electrical socket and out of the toilet. The song “I Believe in Love” came on (by the Dixie Chicks — the Coldplay came later), a beautiful song made melancholy by its minor harmonies. I just held my Little Bug (and she let me, putting her little head on my shoulder) and wiped away the (my) tears. My time being home with her is almost over. For the past year, except for some crunch times around exams (and the bar), I’ve spent at least some part of every day with her, mostly in the afternoons, strolling around Boston or hanging out playing at home as we did today. I’m not second guessing my decision to be a full-time+ lawyer, but perhaps finally (and perhaps necessarily) I’m feeling acutely the close of this rather wonderous year.

After she went to bed, I opened the Sauv Blanc and put on Coldplay (a combination which just screams “Warning! Warning!”) and organized the kitchen cabinets (not kidding.) When I finished, I realized that I’m now also done with all of the reorganization/cleaning/redecorating/shopping I meant to do in my post-bar/pre-work hiatus. Now I just have to sit around until Monday. And, again, tears. This larger, three-year period of my life also is coming to a close. These three years when I moved out of my longtime holding pattern to what I knew my life always could and should be. I’m very much at peace — surprising for me — with where I am in my life. And, yet, I’m again a bit blue at this crossroads. I loved law school from the very first day; then I met Tim and pretty much loved him from the very first day; then, of course, there was the Little Bug. And in between, the intellectual stimulation of classes, the camaraderie of my classmates, and a deepening and strengthening of my existing friendships as I began to find my footing again. It was a whirlwind, and still it was incredibly grounding. And this interlude in my life is now over.

So, onward (although first I shall spend the next three days drinking wine at lunch, sleeping in, and reading every trashy magazine I can get my hands on!)

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