Archives for category: All in a Day’s Work

This has actually been social media-friendly news for some time but shocker, I didn’t think to share on this blog.

Tomorrow is my last day at this firm, in fact my last day as a practising lawyer for…I don’t know. Forever? I was going through this mentally the other day, though. I am still a lawyer, technically, because I will have to pay fees to the licensing authorities in New York and Ontario until I die and the worms are eating me and even then they may still bill my descendants if they can find an arguable loophole. But no one is paying my professional liability insurance anymore. I sure as hell am not. I’m ticking off the “non-practising” box on the exemption form and they can take their invoice for $1500 (or whatever it was for the rest of this year) and use it for kindling. So I’m a lawyer who can’t practice. What’s the legal equivalent of a Squib?

Today I’m taking home my barrister’s gown. In Ontario, we gown when appearing in certain courts, on certain proceedings.  While I have been to court, I’ve only appeared before masters (not judges) and accordingly have not had to wear the gown. Sooo they’ve been worn exactly once. To the call to the bar ceremony. Et fin. It’s over. I may never argue in court again. Ask me how much I care. No, seriously ask me.

Right now I don’t care, and I’m a little disappointed with myself. As I’ve told anyone who would listen on this blog, I felt drawn to law from a young age and if I thought there was anything I’d want to do, I’m sure appearing in court would have been sort of significant. After all, they don’t churn out legal novels and movies and t.v. shows based on the work that lawyers actually do, which generally consists of sending nasty letters and going blind reading and revising agreements.

I think it’s just become clear to me that I like the law in theory more than in practice and I’m just so unoriginal because it’s a pretty common thing. I’ll still be doing something law-esque and I’m sure my legal education and experience will serve me well  but if I never again have to look into what kind of motion I can bring to stay a proceeding in Saskatchewan I think my life will have had some kind of meaning after all. Perhaps for some of us the practice of law even brings out the worst in our personalities – maybe that’s original! But for someone like me who is inclined to be worried and anxious and obsessive about stupid details that likely don’t matter, litigation is probably the worst possible career choice. All you ever see around you is stuff going wrong. How can that not warp your general outlook on life?

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It’s so fun reading back over previous posts so I can trace just how manic my life is. The last one was practically zen-like in its calm and balance. Hah. 

This one will be a doozy, I just know it…the stress is slowly building into rage that’s going to explode in some ugly manner. Which is kind of sad, seeing as how I have admirably kept it together for the last few weeks, but every so often you hit a point where you start to feel really out of control. And, surprise surprise, I’m a dweller. I can’t just put things outside of my head and keep moving forward, even when I know that I have no other options, and even when I know that most likely, a couple of days will see things sorted out or at least just different.

The number of matters that I’m on is slooowly spiraling out of control, as I knew it would. But that’s not really the source of my angst. I could probably keep this level of activity up fairly well. I’m not the most junior person on most of my cases (woohoo!), which means that I can push work down a little. Awful, I know, since someone will be suffering for it, but I’m sticking to the party line, which is that we all have to eat our speck of dirt before we die. Aka, earn your stripes, blah blah. Anyway. More importantly, I think I have a better attitude towards work in general. Yes, it bogs me down and stresses me out, but at the same time, I’m just more matter of fact about my new reality, which is that I cannot work 20 hours out of 24. Not that it was ever reasonable to do so, but now, it’s frankly impossible. And while I’m probably jumping the gun here…it seems like it’s working out. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve done enough to establish myself as good, hard worker, but it doesn’t seem like people are choked at my “working from home” and leaving early almost every day (and then of course putting in another 4+ hours from home after the baby goes to bed). Isn’t that sick, that that’s what it’s like when things are “good” at work?? But seriously. I’m stressed, and worried about what the next few weeks might bring, but I’m also just accepting that it is what it is and I will do what I can, when I can, and I just frankly can’t do more. 

But. It is still remarkably uncool that just at the time I decide to go back to work full-time, Josh’s job responsibilities have all of a sudden increased a thousandfold. I am muy unimpressed, like, actually irrationally angry. Not at him, although I’m nagging him about “pushing back.” Totally unfair, because he does, and it’s probably reflecting none to well on him. But that the hell? He’s gone from being out a couple nights a week to 3+, including travel, and now some weekends too. No, it hasn’t come down to a “your job or mine,” because as Josh likes to remind me, MY job can be done from home 99% of the time. Not that there are optics issues with leaving at 5:00 every day of course!

Perhaps naively, I didn’t really anticipate this type of situation. But it’s getting all of my type-A, feminist hackles up…because yes, I understand that it’s hard for him to tell his work to go to hell. BUT isn’t he implicitly telling ME that I have to tell MY work to go to hell? And no, I don’t want to play this card, but I make a lot more money! As in, it would be a lot more devastating to us if I were to lose my job. 

But more than that, the reason this can really even go on is that my work has been remarkably accommodating, as discussed above (even though I know it probably doesn’t sound like for people with more conventional jobs…) And his, well, let’s just say that when he told his boss he couldn’t be out every single next next week, his boss suggested he hire a babysitter. What. The. F. Dumbass, she’s already in daycare full time! I have no objection to hiring babysitters, of course, but that’s not a long-term solution. Even Josh suggested we get a nanny, which makes NO sense to me…unless he means let’s get TWO nannies, one to cover the day shift and the other to cover nights. Some people do it around these parts, but that’s where I draw my personal line. Maybe I had a baby because I’d like to see her for at least a couple of hours a day, assholes.

Thing is, this wouldn’t be such a disaster if we could just split the responsibilities roughly 50/50 as we had planned. But instead, as usual, the woman is expected to make the accommodations! Not by Josh, obviously, but his boss (also a father of small children) seems to think it’s totally fine for him to be out every single night. And yup, he’ll probably get what he wants because I am “allowed” to push back a little bit at work. Probably because I’m a woman and everyone “understands” about my family responsibilities. Well, what about HIS? Why is no one “understanding” about that? Because this child didn’t leap from his uterus?  Funny thing is that I am pretty certain that there’d be a pretty ugly poopstorm at my big, evil, soulless Wall Street law firm if someone callously suggested that I hire a babysitter. And rightfully so.

And I’m not even back to full time yet. I know, you’re dying of shock. 

The other day I added up all the cases I’m working on and oh, it’s hovering around eight or nine. Right now, not too trying, since some are mercifully dormant, but when the day comes – as it will – that they all want a piece of me, it’s going to be gruesome. But for now, I’m busy at that sort of tiring but stimulating level that I could probably maintain forever and ever. And it’s actually pretty interesting work, in that it’s research and writing as opposed to, say, document review. Ahhhh. I try to resist it…but maybe…maybe…I may be a teeny tiny bit of a workaholic. Ugh, no, scratch that. I hate that word. I hate that it gets applied to anyone who would voluntarily work past five or check their Blackberry after hours. I hate that anyone who takes pride in having a career as opposed to just a job is seen as deficient somehow. The phrase “you work to live, don’t live to work” drives me batty (so does “eat to live”…screw that!). 

I just wish work didn’t come with the inevitable attendant bullshyte. Not just your regular office politicky stuff, but managing insane personalities. This surely can’t just be a law thing, but I think that in law we really coddle the crazies. I’m guilty, guilty, guilty. Right now, I’m working with a partner who has the worst case of adult ADD I have ever seen, and that’s saying something. Let’s call him, oh, Willy. Willy is brilliant, educated, thoughtful, confident, and a wonderful speaker. He can have judges eating out of his hand in under five minutes. He is tall, pretty handsome for an older dude, and just inspires confidence. But he is a royal mess to deal with on a day to day basis. He’ll call you into his office to discuss a brief he wants you to write and spend fifteen minutes going off on a total stream of consciousness, raising and discarding ideas at such rapid-fire pace that you leave more confused than you were when you came in. So maybe you puzzle it out at your desk and start drafting. But! Then he’ll call you. Repeatedly. Purportedly to change his instructions, but sometimes I think it’s just to hear himself talk through the theory of the case again and again and again. Cue more confusion. The good thing, though, is that he’s so scattered that half the time he won’t even remember what he’s said, so if you missed a point or just flat out didn’t get it, you can just not include it, and he probably won’t remember that he told you to.

Last week I stayed late to write a brief (an “emergency” of course) and luckily was able to play the flex-time card and leave at 10pm. I would have been fooked otherwise, since he stayed until 4am revising what I gave him (doing what, I cannot tell you, as the “finished” product wasn’t much different from what I did in the first place!). I’ve explained the whole flex-time thing a few times and I don’t know if he follows. Not because he’s a jerk – well, to the extent that a total disinterest in anyone else’s affairs makes you not a jerk – but I just don’t think anything registers other than the task at hand. I guess I can sympathize. You don’t get to be a [redacted redacted] partner without being pretty single-minded and uncaring of other people’s personal lives!

But anyway, that’s the work at work bit. Then there’s work at home…or rather, the impact of work at home. I actually don’t think that my time with Piglet has necessarily suffered much, but again, I’m still home on Fridays for another couple of weeks and have only had to stay late a handful of times. Plus she’s still in the on-site daycare, so I have not yet had to go more than about three hours without seeing her on any given day. I’m a little surprised at how a married couple with kids and busy work schedules can get a wee bit disconnected from one another, though. It’s definitely different…we’ve done the “busy professionals with no kids” thing, and the “busy parents with small child, but one not working” thing. Both had challenges, but we worked it out. Now we’re into “busy professionals with small child” thing and it’s, well, different. We are in the process of hiring a babysitter so we can have our first date night since Piglet’s arrival, but I don’t know if that’s even going to make a dent. I mean, we already have most evenings together once she’s in bed and half the time we’re so drained that all we can do is stare at the TV or our respective laptops. I certainly don’t feel like I have it in me to be clever or conversational. Is this what they mean by “making an effort”? I always thought that was so comical in the context of marriage. “OH GOD, now I have to TALK to you too?” And I mean…obviously, we talk. But the conversations tend to run to either absurdly mundane topics (“How are we for diapers? Did you call Amex? Did the dog have his dinner?”) or depressing laments about our respective jobs and meandering conversations about what the hell we’re supposed to do with the rest of our lives. 

Maybe I’m totally romanticizing the “past,” but I feel like we used to be funnier. Cheerier. Happier in one another’s company. It’s kind of a side effect that I wasn’t expecting from being back at work. I thought it would be all about Piglet and my general anxieties about screwing up parenting, but I find myself more thoughtful about how on earth you keep a marriage interesting after babies. It’s not even about the “romance,” as people like to frame the issue. Forget that. We’re still in love, passionate, considerate of each other…that doesn’t worry me. We’re just…boring, I guess. Disengaged. Tired!?

Okay, I won’t sing. But I will link, willy nilly!

The Times printed an editorial on April Fool’s Day (natch) about how the legal profession needs an overhaul. For your reading pleasure. Anyway, point well taken about not letting a crisis go to waste and all that, but for fack’s sake. I’m going to take a poor me minute and whine WHY? I worked my ass off to become a lawyer. It was pretty much all I ever wanted to do. And now they’re going to go and change all the rules up on me now. I can’t deny there’s mucho room for improvement in the profession, broadly speaking…and who knows, perhaps it will rise phoenix-like from the ashes in a brand new and vastly better incarnation. But the growing pains still sting. 

The layoff rumors are flying, and I suppose it’s silly to quasi-feign surprise at this. But a little part of me did think that it wouldn’t come to my firm. We’d never laid people off before, ever…people were discreetly weeded out as they moved up the ranks and couldn’t justify their salaries anymore, but man oh man, there are some total bozos who have been able to coast for years and years. A handful of people a few pay grades above mine I swear couldn’t write their names in the ground with a stick and yet they’ve been collecting $200K+++ a year for the better part of the last decade. I want that too! Heh. *weakly*

Is it kind of sick though that the thought of a layoff doesn’t necessarily send me into a panic? Part of me wonders if it could maybe ultimately be the best thing for me because it would force me to take stock and do something that I feel is really worthwhile. I know, this is a high class problem, please don’t get the pitchforks out yet. I’ve been suffering from career inertia pretty much since the beginning and this is really just what you get when you aren’t particularly invested in your job or even your profession for the long-term.

In the short-term though, it does give me a bit of anxiety. So far I’ve found it exceedingly difficult to be even close to as productive as I used to be on this flex-time schedule…and I don’t like it. No one is pressuring me to produce more, but I feel it. The “need” to justify my position and salary is greater than ever, but at the same time walking back into a full-time position could literally throw our lives into a tailspin. There are no limits when you’re full time. None. One of my girlfriends (a corporate lawyer at another firm) was woken up from a deep sleep at 2:30am last night…she was called back into the office at 2:30am, people! That should be far more shocking than it actually is. How can I do that to my little family? But at the same time, what am I doing at [prestigious white-shoe law firm] if I’m going to be doing the piddly, non-time-sensitive, low-control tasks? What a pathetic waste. 

Four-day schedules, just FYI, are not all they’re cracked up to be, especially not in the legal profession. Since I’m home on Fridays, I feel compelled to justify it by cleaning the bathroom and kitchen at least. Since I make less money now, we couldn’t possibly justify a house cleaner. I feel guilty that I work less than Josh – like I need to make up for it somehow.  I feel like I’m setting myself back professionally in a huge way, because I’m not getting the “best” work anymore. And guess what else? The hours I bill to professional development and the like are no longer counted towards my minimum targets. That’s a huge disincentive to keep up with my training and learning new skills. Yesterday there was a one and a half hour training on Bankruptcy and Reorganization and I sucked it up and went, even though now technically I have to make up that time somewhere else. On Monday, I have to be trained on a new computer system for an hour and a half as well – also time down the drain that I don’t get to “claim.” So…worth it!? I can’t even decide that for myself.

I know I should probably save my “blogging of the news” efforts for something a little more highbrow – like maybe all the amazing food policy articles that the NY Times has published in the last couple of weeks – but this one just made my little heart pitter-patter.

Best Trattoria in Rome? Let the Debate Begin

Aw man! Doesn’t the Times realize that its pages are voraciously consumed by unhappily employed people who really don’t need it rubbed in their faces that other people get to do that kind of thing for a living? “Ohhh what a controversial question. Which is the best trattoria in Rome? We investigate, pronto!”

Coveting, coveting…and only a little discouraged with my own little lot on the job front.

Without good reason, really…in this case it’s utterly self-imposed. I had to stay home with Piglet today to take her to the pediatrician and as luck would have it, a partner e-mailed me first thing in the morning looking to set up a meeting today about a brief I’m supposed to write. Keener that I am, I immediately wrote back explaining the situation and offering to call in. And then literally minutes later someone else wrote and said they couldn’t make it so we’d have to do it tomorrow. Doh! Foiled by my own lameness. But is it weird that I was so perturbed by having to write in and say I couldn’t be at the meeting? I mean, this is a super nice partner, who I’ve worked with for years, who likes me a lot (if my reviews are anything to go by anyway) and there’s absolutely no rush on this brief. And he couldn’t have been nicer in his response.

Still. I think I’m just so wound up about this endeavor – like trying to be back at work pretending that nothing’s changed and I’m still the same uber-reliable, hyper-conscientious associate that I ever was. But truth be told, things have changed – a lot. And I don’t think anyone, even at my firm (as in, not known for its warm squishy touch), would seriously expect me to put work before the needs of my sick baby. So really, I’m stressing myself out about a problem that hasn’t materialized yet. And to think I complain about motherhood in an age of anxiety.