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Drama unfurls and retracts.

21 Nov

Seattle’s skies were dramatic this week.  From my office, I saw all of the beauty below in a matter of three hours.  The fog started us off, cloaking the shipyards in a dense blanket.  The fog was followed by heavy dark clouds and thick, fast, intense rain that swirled and danced between the top floors of the office buildings.  Then, as she is apt to do, our cloudy Seattle skies opened up and let a peek of her pretty blue show through.  The sparkling sun blinded me as it bounced from the waters of Puget Sound; it really was quite a show that I felt privileged to witness from my perch in the office.

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Find the irony

14 Oct

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Release.

6 Sep

There are so many lessons in death. As in life, to be sure, but lessons stemming from death are filled with the weight of finality and somehow that makes it feel all the more significant.

One of my personality quirks that has both benefitted me greatly and proven to be one of my biggest challenges is my desire to tightly control my environment.  Control is one of the tools I used to reach higher education with little help from others.  I believe it’s the tool that assisted me most in succeeding during my entrée into the initially foreign and, at one time, seemingly gilded legal profession.  Perhaps surprisingly, control has also benefitted my relationship with J. We are very similar in that we both feel the need to maintain control and we thoroughly enjoy order.  Most of the time, our teamwork is enhanced by our mutual desire to fully prepare for every scenario.

One downside to this personality “quirk” is obvious and usually manifests in relationships with others.  Friends, colleagues, family—how strange that they may want to experience life other than in a manner I suggest at the time I think appropriate via the means I deem most suitable?  Ha! [I’m working on it, I swear.]

My brother’s life and death have been a lesson in control and learning to release my desire to control.  I never had control over him in life, as hard as I tried to encourage him to make different (read: better) choices.  I certainly lacked control over his death.  It turns out that 10 months later, I have yet to release myself from wanting to control his after-death. 

My parents and I attended grief counseling recently.  The entire hour was helpful.  Necessary.  But the most valuable lesson took only a handful of words: it’s time for you to release your brother—he can’t control you anymore. 

What a novel concept, I thought.  For over 15 years, I’ve tried to control him and his choices and his life and, in doing that, I had actually allowed his choices and his life to control me.  He never asked to control my life, he never wanted that.  Indeed, as hard as I worked to convince him to do better and work harder, he worked to convince me to take a breath and enjoy this short life.  Unfortunately, he took the concept of enjoying life to a level that ultimately led him to a dark, joyless place.  For that, I will always grieve.  But I also have to learn to let go.  To release him.  To allow him and lessons from his short life to roll in and roll out, fluidly, naturally, gently changing and transforming the landscape of my life and my journey. 

Perspective.

1 Sep

coffee

I’ve felt a gentle pull toward writing for some time now.  It turns out that this space allows me and, sometimes, forces me, to consider details of this life that I may otherwise miss.  Reflections of the surrounding world in a giant store window.  The pattern of swirls in a chocolate confection.  A carefully sourced vignette of found objects collected in a corner of the neighborhood coffee shop.  Law professors, especially, like to call this detail-oriented, piece-meal approach to organizing thoughts and perspective as being in the trees.  Being in the trees, where you can really dig in and appreciate each branch and insect and footprint and wildflower, is sometimes the best.

books

But, other times, it can be overwhelming and cause you to—wait for it—not see the forest.  I suppose part of my absence from here had to do with a desire to change my perspective and see the big picture.  As seasons change, the means to fulfillment ebbs and flows.  I feel (almost) recharged and ready to once again record the small happy moments in this space.  Coffee shop + writing + sunny day in September.  It feels good to be back.

Trial Prep Music

6 Mar

Yes, it’s time to prep for another trial. The more I prep, the more I’m beginning to find what works, or what I think works. Music is an integral portion of my prep process. If I’m not listening to the right type of music, I can’t concentrate and I’ll spend hours getting little accomplished.

I’m probably very late to the game on this one, but music from Tiesto, Avicii, Deadmau5, and Skillrex is finding its way into the rotation a lot more. S is not a huge fan, which means that when I’m working from home I’m often working for hours with these tunes blasting in my ears. When I’m done, I kind of feel like I just emerged from a sensory deprivation tank.

Point being however, if you need some music that will keep you energetic and focused for sustained periods of time, give them a listen to. So excuse me, while I slip these headphones back on and get some work done.

Legal Words v. Regular Words

4 Mar

While sitting across from S at a coffee shop, I’m sort of reading and sort of eavesdropping on the college-aged couple next to us. Their conversation touches on a variety of important topics, ranging from bathing suits to utility bills. But what really caught my attention was their use of the phrase, “strong-arm robbery.”

They wonder, and for good reason, what is the difference between “robbery” and “strong-arm robbery.” Was the robber someone of particular strength? Was his other arm weak?

I want to interject and tell them that it’s just theft done with force, but they find the answer on Google within seconds. The male in the couple takes issue with the fact that a robbery is defined with a hyper-technical definition. For instance, he dwells on the portion of the definition describing robbery as the taking of another’s property with the “intent to permanently or temporarily deprive” them of that property.

The whole conversation, again still eavesdropping, reminds me of an Above The Law article that focused on 20, or rather twenty (20) lawyerisms. The gist of the article is that lawyers use unnecessarily complicated words or phrases for no particular purpose, except that it’s done that way.

The number 1 lawyerism, is the use of “pursuant to.” I have to admit, I love “pursuant to.” In fact, I might be enemy #1 when it comes to “pursuant to.” It sounds smart and, quite frankly, whenever I’m unsure how to start a sentence in a brief, I try to throw in a “purusant to.” Point is, I’d sound much more like a human if I just used “under” or “following.”

Other offenses include spelling out a number only to use the digits in parenthesis. For example, sometimes when I write a brief, I require four (4) Advil. This type of writing can only serve two objectives. First, it insults the reader. OMG! Thank goodness he put (4) in parenthesis or else I wouldn’t be able to read four. Second, it shows just how type A lawyers can get. This contract will not be enforced if I don’t write out the number twice. Good thing I wrote that number (#) out.

So, even though, I find myself a persistent violator of numerous lawyersisms (I’m not giving up “aforementioned” either), I kind of have to agree with the aforementioned college-aged couple. I’ve read some briefs that are so verbose that I can’t even understand what the other side is arguing, which kind of makes me wonder if that is just their strategy. However, if some lawyers just said, this is my argument, here is why I’m right, this is what I want, we could probably save some time (and money). And that would be nice, or cordially accepted with gracious appreciation.

Exhausted, But Happy

30 Jan

I’m starting to get the hang of this billing thing.  I’m learning that it’s much easier to bill projects to a handful of clients in one day than it is to bill 10+ clients (too much non-billable time is sucked up entering hours) or to bill just one client all day (3pm = sleepy time if there isn’t adrenaline pumping).  I’m learning that it’s not appropriate to say no to partners offering work, but it’s perfectly okay to tell them that other partners have given me priority projects and to please tell me where their project falls in line.  So far this has worked well.  But then, there are days like today where companies are being sold and notice must go out tomorrow and we need to know ASAP if the statute of limitations runs out tomorrow and the senior partner—your mentor—returns to the office in a few days expecting your (first ever!) motion to be drafted in perfect form, oh and there are a few liens to check on in the spare time you saved.  Except you didn’t.  So now you have a young lawyer event to attend tomorrow night and about 8 billable hours to complete 12 hours of work.  Yikes.  There may have been a couple of nights lately where I went to bed and woke up with a heartbeat far too fast for comfort.  Heart palpitations.  Manifestations of my need to get it all right all the time.

The amazing part, despite the pressure and stress and extremely high expectations that I’m putting on myself, is that I truly enjoy what I do.  Work is, so far, even better than I imagined it would be.  1 month in and the honeymoon period is clearly still going strong. 

Grief is Intoxicating and Weird: Part II

22 Jan

MikeMills

[Image by Mike Mills]

J and I watched the film “Beginners” this weekend. It is good. You should see it.

Actually, we watched it in a two-part series on Friday and Saturday night. I have this issue where I can’t make it through a movie in one sitting without falling asleep. It’s ridiculous. But it’s fact. So we make do and split up films into series, especially for the home viewing.

About two minutes into the movie, I realized that it was during an NPR interview with Beginners’ writer/director Mike Mills where I heard the phrase “Grief is intoxicating and weird.” Mike was talking about the loss of his mother and father and when he made that statement, it felt like he was talking directly to me.

Something strange happened last night before we watched our second installment of the movie. An ex-boyfriend friended me on facebook. This person goes way back to my freshman year of high school. Not even half of my current life had yet been lived when we dated. Significantly and deeply jarring to me, I realized this person knew me and my brother during a very important time in our sibling relationship: the last year of my brother’s innocence, at least in my view. I was a naïve freshman and my brother was a very popular senior in high school. Everyone knew him and it seemed as though pretty much everyone liked him, even the teachers. He was a nice guy, a big teddy bear who liked to have fun (his eventual demise, we ultimately learned). Looking back on that year, I believe his life had already started to fray, but as soon as he (barely) graduated, he prioritized fun and the fun led to his life’s unraveling.

What struck me about this person who friended me on facebook is that he didn’t know me during my brother’s unraveling; we had long since parted ways by then. I don’t know what to do with the way it feels; I can’t even properly articulate how it feels. But I know this: it is simultaneously comforting and painful to remember interactions between my brother and I during a time when our lives both fit, more or less, into the innocent category.

I cried as we finished watching the movie. It got to me. The dying and the writing letters to creditors and the printing of the death certificate and the $1400 bill for the cremating and the presenting of the small box of ashes and the  going through personal items and the donating of items and the saving of items and the trying so hard to hold onto the memories and the losing of the loved one. Mostly the latter; the loss. That got to me.

It turns out that my grief is still intoxicating and weird. Especially when the past creeps in and squarely presents memories of a time and place that you thought you had safely tucked away in a pretty little box, meant to be opened and sifted through only after much more time has passed.

Like I said, I don’t know what to do with all of this. But if I were taking the choose joy approach, I would work to find the good in all of it. So here it is: (1) I have some very happy memories of my brother that are tucked away for safekeeping and (2) I feel very fortunate that my life is what it is and that I get to spend each day with a good person who makes me happy (yes, J, that’s you), which is precisely the feeling one hopes to come away with after contact from an ex-boyfriend.

Snow Days for Adults

19 Jan

Being a 20something year old lawyer who gets a snow day is just as awesome as being a 10 year old who gets a snow day. Except better.

See, when you’re a kid and you get a snow day, you don’t have to go to school and and you get to play in the snow. When you’re an adult and you get a snow day, you get to play in the snow, and you get paid to not go to work, and you get to go to happy hour (really early). So, it should come as no surprise that I took advantage of all of these activities yesterday.

But I also took time to do something that I have not done in a long time. Read for fun. One of the downsides (or upsides, depending which side of the coin you belong to) of being a lawyer is that you read, a lot. And sometimes, it’s really dry or boring. Or terribly boring. So, I fired up the old e-reader – because I don’t like killing trees and love me some high-tech gadgetry – and downloaded an e-book.

Allow me to have a momentary flashback. In my senior year of high school, I took an advanced English class ’cause I write pretty frickin’ well sometimes. In an attempt to be a rebellious (read: pain in the ass) teenager, I asked my teacher if I could do my report on American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. She thought it was a fine idea . . . until she actually read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. She described it as “filth.” Perhaps she found the part where Patrick Bateman chases a prostitute down a flight of stairs with a chainsaw to be in poor taste. I should also point out that I went to a really Conservative religious school.

A decade or so later, in another act of rebelliousness, I decided to read Easton’s first novel, Less than Zero. This book is dramatically less creepy than American Psycho (read: no chainsaw scenes), but if reading about privileged teens, who sleep with anyone and everyone, while taking every drug digestible is not your thing, then perhaps you might find this book “filthy.”

But what I really got out of this snow day was not just an early happy hour or some cold hands from playing in the snow – it was a helpful reminder that it’s ok to slow down every now and then. So, if you don’t mind I’ve got to curl up on the couch and finish reading some “filth.”

Billing Time

18 Jan

When I put my mind to something, I highly prefer for that thing to go smoothly. I tend to set high standards for myself when it comes to my career, which has generally served me well. But I’m also impatient and I expect things to come together right.this.second. When it comes to a learning curve, I’m not so comfortable on the incline side.

Sunset

[The view from my office last Friday; everyone I work with decided this ridiculously impressive sunset, which presented itself in millions of colors and changed more brilliantly as each second passed, indicated snow to come. They were right.]

Snow

So it turns out, despite my best efforts, it is not possible to bill 95% of the time I spend at work. Ha! Say the lawyers who read this blog. Ha! Say my friends who have warned me for a long time that billing isn’t so easy. I typically spend 9 hours a day at work, which is really pretty light for a private civil lawyer. On my best day, I spent about 10 hours at work and billed 8.6. On my worst day, I was there for about 9 hours and only billed 5 (note: I am now much less charmed by the slow drawl of southern customer service call center folks; you taking twice as long to say half as much isn’t my fave when I’m trying to bill time. Seriously). This whole billing-is-hard thing is not necessarily a surprise, even to me; I just want the transition to come easily and quickly so that billing 7.5 is my norm. It’s doable. I’m confident about that. I just want it to be doable right.this.second, you know?

The most recent billing curveball comes in the form of a snow day. Seattle is notoriously awful at dealing with snow. The entire city is basically closed and I’m sitting at home wondering whether I’m supposed to brave the downtown hills in our trusty Forester to try to make it into work this morning. I’m the new kid at work and I don’t know protocol yet. Snow day? Bill time? Decisions like this were so much easier when I was a law clerk.