I know, I know, it’s been awhile. But I’ve been busy. That’s not an excuse — I have been really busy! To wit: the first 20 items on my to-do list (while perhaps slightly editorialized, this has not been fictionalized).
To do list:
1. Set up meetings for NYC trip this Monday/Tuesday (dinner w/ SRH? Call!)
2. Reply to 1236 emails
3. Delete 5000 emails
4. Reply to 3 texts
5. Sign up E for summer camp, swimming, golf, etc.
7. Find new primary care doctor
8. Send in follow up IRS forms (am I being audited? They always get the tax lawyers!)
9. Pick up shoes from resoler
10. Find 80s costume for T (mullet wig?)
11. Women’s bar foundation auction conf call
12. Schedule follow up interview w potential corporate associate
13. Schedule long run for Sat w Ellen
15. Find plumber
16. Buy more potting soil
17. Dress to tailor
18. Send sample proposals to J, C, & G
19. Lunch at Haru w S–schedule
20. Check on GS trademark status
Tags: billable hours, what is your hourly rate?
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.
I had the day off Monday for Columbus Day. Tim had to work, and our nanny had the day off, so it was me and the kids — the first time the three of us have been together all day in a long time. Too long, although as it turns out, a 20-month-old is very exhausting when you’re chasing him around all day.
The weather in New England this holiday weekend was summer-like — 80 degrees and sunny. On Saturday, along with the rest of New England, we went apple-picking. There was a 30-minute wait to find a parking spot, and as you may imagine, it was kind of a disaster — no shade, overpicked trees, lots of bees. But we managed to fill up our $17 plastic bag full of apples. On Sunday, we went down to the Cape and dipped our toes in the water, while the beach parking lots were jammed full and the ocean filled with bathers — we regretted not actually bringing our suits.
Monday, while Little O napped, Little Bug and I made applesauce from the surfeit of apples.
Then we all took a hike up in the Blue Hills and had a picnic. By hike, I mean “hike” (O lasted about 200 vertical feet), and by picnic I mean gummy worms eaten in the grass.
But they were tired and happy. We have a bit of a lovie addiction going on in our house, which at some point I’m going to have to address, but look how cute they are!
Blogging has fallen down my priority list. My mind will be wandering away and I’ll think: “A blog post!” and then the day, the week, the month gets away from me. And, as always happens when I take a hiatus from this blog, I get intimidated by the idea that there is so much to catch up on. So I won’t even try — I’ll just dive in. But first, a quick recap of the past few months:
I started a new job. You know that. It’s quite consuming (thus the lack of blogging) but in a very, very good way. I’ll have lots more to say about that.
I went to New York for work and to Reunions at the end of May. A wonderful trip — sometimes I can’t believe that I don’t actually live in NYC anymore. Aidan mentioned a highlight of my trip here; Lindsey captured the experience of Reunions here and here. (See? I don’t even have to blog — I can just let other people do it for me.) One thing I will mention, however, is that going to a college reunion in the Facebook age is a phenomenon. There is so much small talk and catching up that has already been done, pictures of children that have already been seen, small musings observed. So you can dive right into the fun stuff, the more meaty subjects, the real conversations. Of course, there was also dancing on the stage (ok, attempting to dance on the stage — I got kicked off numerous times by security) to an 80s band, lingering slightly hungover breakfasts, and the long, hot wait along the sidelines of the P-rade, sweating in the inevitable NJ humidity. But I was touched and moved by how nice everyone is at age 37 (or thereabouts). Everybody seems much more comfortable in their own skin and lives. No one seemed to be trying to impress. We were just all there, wrangling kids or enjoying freedom from them; keeping tabs on significant others or, indeed, enjoying freedom from them.
I broke my toe. This is the third time I’ve broken a toe, so I knew right when it happened what had happened. I was in the bathroom with both kids — E was on the potty and I believe O was rushing towards it and I was chasing him and then “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…..!!!” I taught my children a new word that morning. The last time I broke my toe was 10 years ago, right before my 5th reunion and right before I was a bridesmaid in a close friend’s wedding. I hobbled about both occasions. Of more concern to me at the time, however, was my yoga obsession. I had broken my big toe, in fact, jumping back into chattarunga. I was practicing yoga daily, if not twice a day. In my yoga-influenced philosophy, I saw the break as a sign that I was too intense. I needed to slow down, to go back to the fundamentals of my practice. This time, I can’t really slow down — I have kids to chase, meetings to get across town to. I had just been getting back into running, too — I’m supposed to run a 10K this weekend. What is the universe telling me now? Um, I’m not sure this time. Not to slow down, but perhaps to be flexible? Adaptable? Maybe nothing. Maybe it just hurts and it sucks. But also, perhaps, to not look at running as a chore (as I kind of had been) but to enjoy my ability to walk and to move with ease (when it finally returns).
OK, that’s all for now. More soon, I promise! Thank you, Aidan, for calling me out today and reminding me why I do this — the connections that come both from friends who like to keep tabs on me and the virtual friends who share this same experience of expressing oneself into the vast unknown of the ether.
And now, a few gratuitous pictures:
Tags: iPhone addiction
My iPhone was lost. Little O had been playing with it in the morning, holding it to his ear and waddling around going, “Hi! Hi!”. I remember he handed it back to me. And then I remember going into Little Buggy’s room to get her dressed for school. Had I brought the phone in to her room with me? I didn’t remember doing so. But I needed to find it quickly because I had a big day planned: I would drop Buggy at school and head to the Wrentham Outlets, then I would drive to Wellesley to meet a friend for lunch. Little O must have turned off the ringer flip on the side when he was chewing on it, so calling it from the landline didn’t help. I tossed my room (stripped the bed, emptied the hamper, crawled around the floor). I tossed O’s room. I tossed Little Bug’s room, shaking out the blankets on her bed as well. No iPhone.
How could I drive to Wrentham or Wellesley without my GPS? Without my email? Without texting? Ridiculously addicted to the iPhone, I decided to forgo the big adventure. I told myself it was because I was too nervous that our nanny or the school couldn’t get in touch with me in an emergency (which is of course absurd because they could have called Tim or one of the other half-dozen contacts on our emergency call sheet…) I walked around the rest of the day feeling a bit unsettled. What if someone important were trying to call me (no one has my landline number anymore)?
Tim got home that night after the children were asleep. We searched our room some more, quietly searched the children’s room. Then, being a true Apple Geek, he downloaded onto my iPad an app called “Find My iPhone” which, if you have MobileMe (and, if you don’t, let my story be a strong encouragement to purchase it immediately!), will somehow make your phone ring even if the ringer is off! After downloading the app, I heard a faint ringing from upstairs. Good, at least it was in the house. I sourced it to Little Bug’s room. It seemed to be coming from her bed. That was strange: she was asleep in her bed, and anyway I had unmade it and remade it earlier in my frantic hunt. Rolling her over, I saw the faint glow from under her fitted sheet. Under her fitted sheet — there was no way that the phone could have “accidentally” gotten there.
The next morning, while we made up her bed I said, “Remember how Mommy was looking for her phone yesterday?” “Yes.” “Do you know where I found it?” “Where?” “Under your sheet?” “Oh, yeah!” “Did you put it there?”
“Yes, I wanted to see if I could feel a lump.”
Oh, my fairy tale-loving daughter, to whom we have been reading “The Princess and the Pea” for several weeks. I didn’t even try to choke back my laughter.
“Don’t do that again, OK?” I said, tears streaming out of my eyes.
Tim and I escaped to Woodstock, Vermont this past weekend. We stayed at the Blue Horse Inn, which is right in town. It is a lovely bed and breakfast, very tastefully decorated, with comfortable beds and truly the best B&B breakfast I have ever had (cream scones, french toast with maple whipped cream, shired eggs, french press coffee…). The weather was rainy and not really suited for outdoor activities (well, not to city-slickers like us who were loathe to ski or snowshoe in the rain), so there was a lot of eating, wine, dozing, and reading. On Friday night I went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. On Saturday, after a huge breakfast and an easy run through the hilly, picturesque town (over a few covered bridges, even!), we drove about 20 minutes to Hanover, N.H. and wandered around. On Sunday, like the good yuppies we are, we stopped at Simon Pearce on our way home. That’s really all we did.
Little Bug was apparently mad at us for going away with out her, so refused to speak to us on the phone all weekend. My mother let her do things like put on her bathing suit and swim in the bathtub (pretending that she was on vacation), so I think she had fun nonetheless. Little O loved spending time with his grandparents, but when we walked in the door started to babble and “talk” excitedly — I think he was very happy to see us return.
Tags: depression, depression in law students, depression in lawyers
I’m so grateful for everyone who left comments or sent emails — from family members and friends to readers I have not even met — after my last post. I felt nervous about writing about feeling depressed, but even after simply sending the post out into the ether I felt a bit better. I had sorted out my thoughts somewhat, and now at least someone (“Someone” with a capital “S”) knew how I felt.
Interestingly (though perhaps not a total coincidence), I am working on a freelance magazine article about depression in law students. Many of the sources I interviewed have repeated that one of the most debilitating aspects of depression is feeling that you are alone. They have told me that, especially for lawyers (arguably competitive by nature), admitting depression is like an admission of failure. One person told me he hopes that eventually people’s discomfort with discussing depression and the even more taboo topic of suicide will turn to rallies of support, as happened for cancer (indeed, cancer used to be the “c-word,” right? Whispered in hushed tones as if someone’s cancer were his or her own fault…). Let’s do three-day walks and bike rides and wear ribbons in support of depression.
So, anyway, thank you for reaching out. For telling me your own stories. For letting me know you’re there for me. For suggesting ways to approach both rationally and indulgently (thank you, Pam, for the mani-pedi/Pinot suggestion!) the very real emotions I’m feeling.
At the very least, I know that I’m not alone. That knowledge enables me to sit with this and trust that the roller coaster will go back up.
Sometimes, the most mundane of tasks – walking down the hall to make a photocopy, checking a voicemail, even going to the restroom – are impossible. I sit glued to my chair, frantically flipping through web pages looking for a solution, frenetically refreshing my Gmail in the hopes that an email from someone, somewhere, will pop up to save me. I am heavy and limp and tired. I do not want to eat, nor do I want to talk to anyone, especially a colleague who, for whatever reason (mostly imagined), might make me feel worse about myself than I already do.
Depression is the rocks in the pocket of your raincoat, weighing you down, tempting you to dip your toe in the ocean, perhaps walking out further. There are no solutions because you are trapped. Well-meaning suggestions are futile. In the past, I have literally leapt out over this wall: moving to the mountains, ending a relationship, changing jobs (again). The first two are no longer feasible, so of course I am currently fixated on the third.
But, now, I am older and wiser, and despite my outward protestations, I do know that the job is an easy excuse. It’s an immediate target for all of the usual self-doubt, blame, and uncertainty that seem to bubble up from time to time: I’m not smart enough, dedicated enough, focused enough. (Enough, enough, enough… it’s never enough.) It is also all too easy to let the mommy wars suck me in: why am I paying someone else (a great deal of money) to take care of my children? Why can’t my 3-year-old read (if I were home, sounding out letters with her, she would be reading, right)? How can I live with the fact that I see my sweet baby boy but one waking hour of each work day?
Why am I not happy? Why am I not satisfied with what I do have – which is so much? Why am I so negative? And, thus, the spiral of self-hatred begins.
For 30 years – since I was old enough to realize that life can bring prolonged periods when nothing seems to go right – I have been visualizing a roller coaster. A metaphor of life’s sines and cosines. I picture a car inching up a rickety incline, and I tell myself to hold on, even though I know that once I’m back on top, at some point in the near or distant future there will be another drop. It’s physics and calculus – unassailable, hard science. I have difficulty waiting out the troughs, of course. I want to jump start my life. This time, however, I just have to trust that things will get better. Not that they will change, necessarily, but that they will get better.
My internet wanderings recently led me to this post about Bhakti, or self-love. “This is me,” I thought. And I’ve been trying, I really have, to stifle the constant self-hate of whatever chemical, seasonal, external, situational trough in which I find myself as of late. But to turn on some mythical switch and love oneself? I find this almost impossible to comprehend. So I just have to trust.
Yesterday morning, I drove the children to a suburb north of the city for a playdate. My friend has three children — a little girl just a week younger than Little Bug, and twin 17-month-old boys. She and I were classmates in college, and while we were friendly then, we didn’t know each other well. We reconnected a few years ago when our girls were infants — we lived just blocks from each other in the Back Bay and were both attorneys. Because she went right from college to law school, she is now a partner at her firm. Nevertheless, we have many of the same experiences being mothers and lawyers. Our girls play really well together, and Little O had fun chasing after the “big” boys. As the kids traipsed around her sunny playroom, we caught up in bits and snatches, and I found myself saying, “Now that we have such a great nanny, it’s really pretty doable.” And I believe that: with quality, reliable daycare, the working parent is free to pursue his or her career with much less anxiety. If the children are happy and well cared for, you can spend your days at work focusing on work, as opposed to worrying about what is going on at home. Our excellent nanny has made that possible for me.
But, then, there are the weekends. And holidays, such as today. When there is no nanny and, yet, because of the nature of our particular careers, we still have work to do. On weekends, Tim and I find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending negotiation about who gets to work when. Today, for example, he is going into the office from 10-3. He asked his mother to come over and help me out, which just means she and I will probably take the children to lunch at the local diner, and maybe she can stay with the baby while he naps and I can take Little Bug to the market with me or something. Fine — I’m grateful for the company and the ability to get some errands done. But I also have about three or four hours of work that I should do before tomorrow — two hours of which I absolutely have to do before tomorrow. When will I do mine? Before 10 or after 3, I suppose. When Tim works on weekends, I don’t begrudge him the time away from our family so much as I feel guilty that I should be working and I’m not. I don’t actually work all that often on weekends — but I always feel like I should be doing so (everyone else at my office seems to be) — and so when Tim steals away to put in a few hours himself, it reminds me that I’m probably slipping behind.
If I weren’t working at all, would these weekend tensions ease? Maybe not because I might feel like the weekends were family time or my time — a break, perhaps, from a long week spent taking care of the children. That would be a different negotiation between my husband and me. But I wouldn’t feel this constant sense of inferiority to my own colleagues, one that I fear manifests itself in my relationship with my hard-working spouse. In a two-career family, does one spouse’s career necessarily take priority over the other’s? And is that the career of the highest earner? It seems that things would shake themselves out this way, but I don’t feel like I’m in the type of job — junior associate at a big law firm — where my career can take second fiddle and maintain any sort of longetivity. Just as I’m starting to feel like maybe I am doing the right thing (and have the childcare to make it possible, at least during the week), I’m reminded that — while many of my colleagues are in the office on weekends and holidays — that will never be me, and I’ll probably never really measure up. This is frustrating, and I feel terrible that sometimes my family bears the brunt of this frustration.
Tags: New Year's resolutions 2011
You know I love New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, my resolutions were clearly defined and yet highly unattainable. Last year, they centered around simply finding happiness (hot showers, more wine, more yoga…). I understand why people eschew resolutions in that they set unachievable expectations, leading to disappointment, etc. etc. Looking back over the past two years, it’s clear that I’m not one who makes resolutions and actually sticks to them, but I do get a lot of pleasure out of making them (in that I set up some sort of idealized vision of the future?). This year, I’m less able to articulate my New Year’s resolutions — I have some vague ideas about living more simply, lowering instead of raising my expectations, and trying to exist in some sort of more tempered universe. Of course, in the back of my head is a little voice saying, “Run more! More yoga! Spend less money!” but at the end of the year that included birth and death and health issues and lots and lots of sleepless nights — and somehow, in the midst of it all, a growing sense of contentment — I’m going to resist the urge (at least publicly) to enumerate my Resolutions.
Instead, my friend Lindsey had a fun and introspective little survey/questionnaire on her blog this morning, which I’m going to adopt. I’m answering these less thoughtfully than I otherwise might (blogging, as I am today, in the short window of Little O’s nap!) But maybe that will make my answers more honest.
What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? I spent seven months as a stay-at-home mom. I took a weekend trip to Florida with my college girlfriends. I participated in a competitive blogging challenge. I went three (almost four — since September 1, basically) months without running. This last one sounds like a crazy thing to list, but it actually imparted to me an important lesson. I used to think I needed to exercise for weight-maintenance. Eleven months of nursing, however, took care of that for me, and I realized that running in fact gave me much more than the ability to wear skinny jeans. If I have any resolutions at all for 2011, it is to remember that running keeps me sane, not thin.
Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for 2011? Of course not. And of course — albeit with a more measured approach, I hope.
Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! I did! But also my sister. And several close friends and seemingly half the tax department at my firm (literally — nine women in my relatively small department had babies this year!).
Did anyone close to you die? My great-uncle. And, just last week, a close family friend.
What countries did you visit? None. Sigh. Again, if I do have a resolution for 2011, it is to “remember Italy” (a metaphor and theme in a striking book I read recently, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson — see Lindsey’s interview with her, here) — although in my case, it would “Remember Paris.” More on this in another post.
What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Patience. Acceptance. Faith. Confidence.
What was your biggest achievement in 2010? Having a healthy baby would have to be it. But I’m also proud of myself for going back to my job. It wasn’t clear I was going to, but I do think it was the right choice, and perhaps the first time in my life I’ve done something truly rational, career-wise.
What was your biggest failure? A few work-related ones come to mind. But mostly I regret the times I’ve been short-tempered with Little Bug and a less-than-present daughter, sister, friend, and wife. I didn’t put down my iPhone/work email enough to stay focused on my family.
Did you suffer illness or injury? I feel like I’ve been sick a lot this year — an immune system no doubt compromised by severe sleep deprivation and preschool germs.
What is the best thing you bought? My iPhone and Pilates. (Am I a yuppie or what?)
Where did most of your money go? Starbucks and J. Crew. Ha ha, just kidding. Sort of.
What did you get really excited about? My girls’ weekend in Florida. My husband would tell me that I’m being all “Joy Luck Club,” but oh, god, there was something so refreshing and invigorating and inspiring about spending three days with the women who were with me when I became the woman I am, the women who have been there for me for the biggest hardships and greatest joys in my life, the women with whom I speak an abbreviated shorthand language and who can finish my sentences. And now, at this stage of our lives, the women with whom I can discuss my career, daycare, siblings, husbands and parents. Even though they may not be part of my day-to-day life, the are a part of the foundation of my life.
What song will always remind you of 2010? Have I listened to so little music that I can’t answer this? Probably, however, something country (since that is all Tim and I seem to listen to these days). I really like that song Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley, though I suspect that was not released in 2010. OK, so, maybe I’ll make another resolution: listen to more music. It makes me happy — just as Glee made me so so happy this year.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
— happier or sadder? Happier
— thinner or fatter? Well, as I was eight months pregnant, this isn’t really a fair question!
— richer or poorer? It’s probably not a good thing that I can’t really answer this literally, but I imagine that since we spent most of 2010 paying two mortgages, poorer!
What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d written more — here on this blog and elsewhere. I have a great idea for another blog, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I wish I could let myself go with my children — really play with them, focus on them wholly, without thinking about what’s next (be it cleaning up lunch, or what’s for dinner, or how much work I have, or even who has posted what on Facebook).
What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I had spent less time agonizing over my job — both preemptively before I went back and then also on a daily basis once I was back. I think it affected my relationships with my family. It’s just a job. It’s not the greatest, most important job in the world, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m not a victim. I have to remember this.
How did you spend Christmas? As we do every year, in New Jersey, with my whole big crazy family. We snuggled in during a blizzard and took Little Bug in to New York City to the Museum of Natural History the day after the blizzard — rather ill-advised when it took us 4.5 hours and four different trains to get home!
Favorite TV program? Glee and The Good Wife.
Favorite books? I actually had a lot of time to read and finished more books than I have in years, both fiction and nonfiction. In the former category, the three books that stand out are: Dear Money by Martha McPhee, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. They weren’t earthshaking, but I just loved each one. In the nonfiction realm I really liked No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the Roosevelts on the home front in WWII) and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison.
Favorite films? I only saw one movie in the theater this year — Eat, Pray, Love. (But I loved it. Sue me for my questionable taste!) Recently, I’ve seen The Town and The Kids are Alright on OnDemand, and, surprisingly, liked both (as you know, my taste in movies runs towards the saccharine, e.g., Eat Pray Love…)
What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? I can’t even really remember my 36th birthday! Luckily, I blogged about it. It was spring, and I was still home on maternity leave, and Tim took me to a local Italian joint for dinner because I was craving a real Bolognese.
What one thing would have made your year more satisfying? Just knowing from the start that I was going to go back to my job and that it would all be OK.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? I have to divide this in to two parts: January – September and September – December. In the former, it was black yoga pants and spit-up stained black t-shirts. In the latter, it was black Theory pants or skirt and cashmere cardigans or blazers.
What kept you sane? Red wine. For reals. And phone calls with my mother. Daily, sometimes twice a day. Also, emails and texts from my hilarious friends.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010? You are not your job. In fact, I suspect that nobody really cares what you do except for you. You’re not a victim of some amorphous FIRM that is out to get you (a la John Grisham?) — you’ve made your choice and you can unmake it at any time. You’re not trapped. Also, even though you may get frustrated that your husband doesn’t like to hash out the nuances of your day, he is listening. More important: baby boys may not sleep and pre-school girls may whine, but it’s all doable. You can be much happier being grateful for what you have than wanting more, more, always more — this easier said than done, of course, especially for me, but slowly, slowly I feel like I’m on the verge of grasping this. I haven’t actually grasped it yet, but at least its a tangible concept now, something I can turn over in my mind, rather than something completely inaccessible.