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  • Mexico! The day after Christmas, J and I woke up at approximately 3am to board a plane to Mexico.  In short, we had the time of our lives. We landed in Puerto Vallarta and met our friends in the airport, who had waited an inordinate amount of time while we trudged through customs; in the meantime, they snagged cheap cab info (across the street from the airport) by using our gent friend’s trusty Spanish skills.  We hopped into the slightly rusty beater, windows down, sun setting, ready for adventure.  We got to Sayulita when it was dark.  We heard the ocean waves crashing across the street.  The next morning, once the sun rose, we saw our rental house (above) in all its ocean-view glory and pinched ourselves to see if our luck was real.  It was.  For the record, this fancy-pants crash pad cost $140/night.  Total.  Split amongst 4 people.  Good deals exist. This little stairway to heaven led us to our open-air yoga class overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  If you find yourself in Sayulita, walk past Villa Amor, through the archway to the (shockingly colorful and beautiful) cemetery.  Across the way is a set of stairs.  Ascend into workout heaven. See?  ...
  • Flapping my wings, flapping my wings. I went to lunch with a partner at my firm to hear advice on how to best market myself and the firm on an upcoming business trip.  He had a lot to say, but most of it was rooted in one of his oft-used idioms: everything you need to know is what you learned in kindergarten.  Be nice.  Be genuine.  Be polite.  Be smart.  Listen.  Use good judgment.  The rest will take care of itself. He said I am at the stage in my career where I have been working very hard to get some air under my wings and I need to keep flapping until I’m flying high.  Then, it’s maintenance.  Continue to be ethical.  Follow up.  Take care of the details.  We ended our quick lunch and he reminded me to keep flapping my wings. What he couldn’t possibly have know, and what I didn’t realize until 5am this morning when I was tossing and turning in bed despite the fact that I desperately wanted to be asleep and catch up on my lack of rest from the exhausting week before, is just how poignant and meaningful his advice is during this chapter in my life. J and I have been ...
  • Three Hour Lunch at Salumi First, let me start off by saying that I definitely wasn’t business drunk.  Mostly because I wasn’t drunk at all.  But I did sip on 2.5 glasses of wine during a business lunch recently.  In my defense, it was a 3-hour lunch.  And the partner who invited me most certainly had more glasses of wine.  And never once did I question my soberness or professionalism or proper etiquette. But, still, 2.5 glasses in the middle of the workday is not insignificant. Second, ohmygoodness Salumi is delicious and really really really knows how to impress its backroom guests.  J has been many times for sandwiches at lunch.  Together, we had been once before (hence these photos from last summer—even with my 2.5 glasses of vino, I didn’t have the courage to photograph the “business-drunk” lunch).  I should warn you that the lunch would have been awful for a vegetarian or anyone on a low-sodium diet.  There was meat in every. single. one. of the 6? 7? 8? courses.  Except for the dessert course.  But for at least 5 minutes I was under the impression that the chef told us the vanilla gelato and blackberries were sprinkled with pig salt.  It turns out, ...
  • Legal Words v. Regular Words 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 ...
  • Expecting the Unexpected at Trial In my line of work, I often here the phrase, “trial is like war.” While I understand analogizing the courtroom to the battlefield, I don’t anticipate a great deal of violence in the courtroom. However, the more trials that I’ve prepared and completed, the more I’m starting to really appreciate the ordered chaos that accompanies them. For instance, despite the fact that I get play the General, preparing every aspect of a case, I’m still stuck with a very unexpected element – people. Coming to grips with the fact that I cannot guarantee every single word that will come out of a witness’s mouth is disconcerting for a Type-A person, like myself. Even a witness who you have thoroughly questioned and interviewed will say some unexpected stuff sometimes. And that’s one of the most fun (and frustrating) parts about being a trial attorney. It’s not always easy, but I’m getting better at coming to grips that there is only so much I can orchestrate and that there is a definite possibility that, regardless of how prepared I am, something unexpected can, and likely will, occur. To steal another colloquialism, it’s like walking a tightrope without a net.
  • Exhausted, But Happy 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 ...
  • Billing Time 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. 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 ...
  • A New Beginning It has been a whirlwind week. I had so much anticipation leading up to my first day of work at the law firm. I wasn’t worried about performing well or fitting in or billing hours for the first time or being overwhelmed by new areas of law (although all of those things were certainly on my mind). It was the dual prospects of a much-needed new beginning and the feeling of having made it that pulsed through my body, physically manifesting in the form of anticipatory tension. I’m happy to report that, so far, this new life is fantastic. For context, you should know that the firm considers itself a “lifestyle firm.” It has a relatively fancy office with fabulous views of Puget Sound, but people generally seem to show up before 9 and leave before 6. I’m not making big firm money, but I feel pretty lucky that they are paying for my parking spot in the building (as far as I know, a perk virtually unheard of for Seattle associates) and I feel completely comfortable with the compensation. The partners are steadily knocking on my door with projects. I billed over 7 hours a majority of days last ...
  • Working to Choose Joy I believe in setting intentions. It’s a practice that I learned in yoga and it has served me well during challenging times in my life. I’m not always successful in following through with the particular intention I set, but I think giving it a good shot counts for something. My intention at this moment, on this day, is to choose joy. The reality is that choosing joy has presented itself in the form of an enormous, steep rock wall and I, the hopeful climber, stand at the bottom, shielding my eyes from the bright sun as I look up, terrified by my lack of both knowledge and gear. I need to find a way to ascend the beast safely and with my mental and physical health in tact. Helpless, but hopeful. That’s where I’m at right now. My brother’s death hangs like a dark, heavy cloud over me. I desperately want to move on, to find peace with the fact that he is gone, to not let the negativity suck me in. I yearn for the moment when I realize during some seemingly insignificant daily routine that, yes, I feel grateful to be living a full, beautiful life. But in the now, ...
  • Rituals So one morning we went to my Grandma’s funeral and later that afternoon we went to the courthouse and J was sworn in to the bar. All in a day’s work. There was much discussion about what was the right thing to do when my Grandmother’s funeral was scheduled on the same day as J’s swearing-in ceremony. And by much discussion, I mean at least two fights. Lots of tears. Lots of negotiation. Lots of miscommunication. And ultimately, both of us giving in to a mantra that my Grandma embraced. We decided that if we tried to relax about it all, things would just Work Themselves Out. This laid back approach does not come naturally to two Type-A planner personalities. But it worked. Beautifully. During my Grandma’s funeral service, I spoke about the legacy of love that she left for everyone in our large family (she had 7 kids, 17 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren…at one time, she had FOUR babies in diapers). She was an extraordinarily strong and sweet woman. During her last several ...
  • Seven Extra Minutes Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been doused with buckets and buckets of, well, life. Some of the buckets were filled to the brim with the very best of what life has to offer and others, not so much. What have we been up to? Both of us have been elbows-deep in case prep, suiting up far more often than we’d like for the courtroom, packing lunches and planning dinners in an attempt to abide by our short-lived “whole food challenge” (read: no processed food & no sugar), visiting a beloved 91-year-old Grandmother, sprucing up our living quarters, celebrating birthdays, lawyering it up for weekend conference meetings, attending nuptials, and processing good ol’ family drama. Oh, yes. And J PASSED THE BAR EXAM! Last Saturday, in between meetings at my conference, I came home to stalk the mail carrier for The Letter. When our mail carrier eventually showed up, he kindly sorted through his stack and found our mail first. The Letter was in my hand. But then the mail carrier proceeded to hold me hostage for at least 7 minutes telling me about his drug-addicted friend who won’t get help and who doesn’t appreciate his support. I was ...
  • Post-Bar Update As the recent Spain posts indicate, S and I celebrated the finale of 6 years in law school (3 for her, 3 for me) by taking off for Spain . . . a mere 5 hours after I uploaded my final answer for the Washington Bar Exam. Studying for the bar sucks. There is no more eloquent way to put it. For roughly 60 days, I studied about 12-14 hours per day. I took 1 full day off (the 4th of July) during which time, I agonized over not studying. A popular analogy for the bar exam is that you learn a little about a lot. I like to think of it as cocktail party law – I can tell you what is required to set up a trust for your kids, but hell-no would I feel comfortable doing it with no experience. While studying for the bar sucks, sitting for the actual test is terrifying. The exam is held in a convention center that looks like any other convention center you’ve seen: sterile, square, decorated with a lot of brown. During the exam, however, the room is full with 800 test takers. To say the energy in the room is electric ...
  • Fact: J > Bar Exam J’s journey toward the bar comes to an end tomorrow when he begins the 2.5 day exam. As of Thursday around noon, he will be freed from the painful handcuffs we call BarBri. I look forward to enjoying my husband again. I’m sure he looks forward to a much less stressful remainder of the summer. We both look forward to celebrating big time…perhaps we’ll pull out a bottle of our favorite Prosecco to toast his huge accomplishment (I know, I know, we won’t find out if he passed until October. But let me tell you how hard he has studied since June 1: extremely, ridiculously, unreasonably, impressively hard.) Maybe we have even bigger celebration plans in the works (hint: we do!). We promise to keep you posted. Stay tuned!
  • Bar Exam Countdown: 1 Week Left Well, folks, J has made it to the final week of bar review. We are both alive and relatively well. Here are some of my observations of the process: 1. J is a creature who enjoys a schedule. Enjoys = requires. As in, all hell breaks loose if things go awry. Major time. Check engine light comes on? Driver’s side mirror is knocked off by a middle of the night interloper? Anyone parked on that block in our neighborhood should expect a friendly little note extolling the legal implications of messing with a bar-examinees’ property. Even if it is a 2003 Honda Civic with three hubcaps that smells like dead cats. Oh, and that super-itchy, sweaty, trembling, mumbling-to-himself man at the coffee shop at 7am on a Sunday? He’s not a meth addict (I promise), he’s just trying to jam his brain with an unreasonably inordinate amount of information that will be about 99% useless in 8.5 days. 2. Sometimes I am an uber-supportive spouse (e.g., waking up at 6:30am to bake Lemon Basil Olive Oil Cakes so J would feel a little baked-goods-love while I was out of town for a bachelorette party last weekend). 3. Mostly I am not an uber-supportive ...
  • Bar Prep–Day 42 Our substantive “crash course” review classes ended last week (Yay!) and now I’m on my own, working on fine-tuning the last minute details (Oh, fudge). As the exam is a mere 2 weeks away, my patience seems to have a inverse relationship with my anxiety. Take the below email exchange between S and I from this afternoon, for instance. I am very thankful she managed to make me laugh, calming me down, focusing my energies on studying, and keeping me from ending up on the 10 o’clock news as the feature story of the guy who flipped out in a coffee shop. Oh, in case it’s a surprise, I’m a humongous fan of numbered lists. And I inserted some comments in brackets to explain some things. from: J to: S subject: I am having a bad day . . . . . . and I need to vent about everything that is bothering me so that you can tell me to chill the heck out. I didn’t do my CrossFit work out as prescribed this morning. Best Buy – I hate that company almost as much as Comcast. If I become rich, I’ll buy both companies, liquidate the assets, and give the money to charity. [Our camera, ...
  • Bar Prep–Day 21 Let me preface that I’m not necessarily against people that do non-class things in class. You want to Facebook for 2 hours, be my guest. Get involved in 4 Gchat windows at once, live your life, dude.  But, this-is-the-bar! You’ve went through 4 years of undergrad, 3 absurdly expensive years of law school, and now you’re studying for the 1 test that actually matters. Got a D- in Civ Pro? Doesn’t matter. A+ in Criminal law? No one gives a hoot. (Note: Those were not my grades.) The bar exam is for all the marbles. Many of the law students that have jobs after the bar will only be able to start those jobs if they actually pass the bar. That’s called a condition precedent, btw. Boom. Lawyered. So, let’s talk about what is not appropriate bar class behavior. 1) Being the only person on a computer, booking a trip, and shopping for shoes for 35 minutes. We have workbooks for bar class. The subjects are already in outline format. While you listen to the professor, you fill in the blanks with the right answer like a good little monkey. I get it, it’s not rocket science. But, pay attention and don’t ...
  • Bar Prep–Day 20 9 subjects down, 8 more to go, 1 car towed. Yep, that’s right readers. Bar prep is sooo enthralling that sometimes you just forget where you parked your car. You assume that you left it in a legit spot. But then comes that point at about 1am, where you bolt out of a half-slumber and say, “Oh %*$#, my car got towed!” Having my car towed was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means that I’ve been riding my bike more, which is neat-o for the earth and my health. Yay. On the other, more expensive, hand, I had to pay a lot of money to get my car out of the impound. While my mind is becoming more sharpened to identify legal issues and retain legal rules, I have become . . .  dumber in other areas. For instance, after I signed the documents to get my car out of the impound, I asked the clerk for my keys. She politely said that they did not have them. I demanded that she explain how I was supposed to drive. She reminded me that my car was TOWED and that I had the keys, the keys that were in my ...
  • Bar Exam Prep–Day 7… err 12 Fact: I began this post on Day 7, but didn’t get to finish it until Day 12. Whoever told me that the bar exam is easy is a jerk and a liar. Who is this diabolical person you (hopefully) ask? Well, no one. Everyone told me that studying for the bar would be “miserable” “terrible” “exhausting” and “crap-tacular.” Also, here are two other things you may have noticed: My tone is way less positive than Day 1. I stopped using double spaces in between sentences. Here is a typical day for me. Wake up at 5:30a and go to the gym. Get back, walk dog, eat breakfast and ride my bike to school. Shower, change. Lecture consists of 3 hours, getting a crash-course in an entire subject. After lecture, I inhale my lunch. Literally, 5 minutes, tops. Like a piggy at a trough. I may enter competitive eating competitions. After “lunch,” I outline for a couple hours. This is where I “learn” the material. Next, I write several essays, each takes 45 minutes to write and 45 minutes to “grade.” As the clock hits 7:30p, my stomach growls and it’s time to leave school. Ride home, talk to Stacy while I inhale dinner, look over some ...
  • The Bar-Purgatory People Aaaand…it’s all coming back to me now. In a pre-bar-examinee’s life, there is an egg timer constantly looming in the background of each and every daily activity. Morning lecture: 2-4.5 hours. Outlining said lecture: 1.5 hours tops. Essays: 1.5 hours each including writing and grading, usually 3-6 essays per day. Showering: 7 minutes tops. Barbeques with friends: 2 hours. Oops. I forgot about this unwritten egg timer rule on Saturday afternoon and accidentally caused J’s blood pressure to rise steadily until the 2 hours 47 minute mark. At that point, he finally couldn’t take it anymore and politely indicated to me via head tilt when I went for another beer that it was this-close to being time to go. Meaning, we should have left already. 47 minutes ago. Let me just say this: thank goodness I’ve been through bar review before so I knew exactly where his crazy was coming from. He knew he had at least two, but hopefully four, essays to complete Saturday night. Based on the above-mentioned time increments, you now know that equals between 3 and 6 hours of work. Getting home at 5, rather than 6:30, would have made the possibility of finishing 4 essays ...
  • Bar Exam Shenanigans So here’s the deal. J’s studying for the bar exam, in case you hadn’t noticed. This is kind of a redonculous deal in the life of a wanna-be-lawyer. You work SO. HARD. for three straight years. Nonstop. Summer breaks? Still working hard. You put your brains and heart and soul out there for everyone to judge and stomp on and critique and, every once in awhile (thank gooooodness), you are rewarded for your efforts. And then, you don a fancy hat and gown, you walk across the stage to receive a fake diploma (those come in the mail months later) and you celebrate for half a breath. Even after so much hard work, law students only half-heartedly celebrate graduation. Because they know what’s coming next… The Washington State bar exam offers the unparalleled opportunity for 800+ Type-A people to figuratively join hands, align themselves in very tidy pre-determined alphabetical rows while basking in the blue glow of their (hopefully) trusty laptops (the hand-writers are exiled to another room deep in the bowels of Meydenbauer Center), literally praying to a god they may or may not have met before that they won’t have to raise their hand for tech assistance during the ...
  • Bar Exam Prep–Day 1 Today I learned that preparing for the bar exam will, at the very least, be filled with plenty of tired and overly used colloquialisms, such as It’s a rite of passage . . . Do it once. Do it right. Never do it again . . . Going to law school for three years is the price of admission to sit for the bar . . . and the most straight to the point, OMG, this is going to suck. If you’re not familiar with the “bar exam” then check out this article.  And if you are familiar with the bar exam, you’ll appreciate the irony that three years of law school can’t prepare me for being a lawyer, but furiously writing essays for 55 days does.  Oh, sweet irony. Day 1 of bar exam prep is pretty similar to every other Day 1 that I have ever taken part in.  You instantly gravitate towards people you know and make nervous small talk like, “How was your break?  Oh, really?  That’s nice.  Mine was great, I went skiing with a polar bear and opened up a club in Vegas.” The night before Day 1, I sat in bed with nervous anticipation.  I considered ...
  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Law School Lies – Part 1. Recently, law schools and, more specifically, law school statistics have been featured in several news articles.  As a sucker whose sense of self-confidence was beaten out of him by the Socratic method recent graduate, I’m truly excited to begin my legal career.  Seriously though, prior to law school, I had an uninteresting 3 year detour in corporate America in jobs that left me way less than truly satisfied.  Going to law school was a choice that I gave great thought to and despite the complaining I did about it, I know that, for me, it was the right move.  That being said, the news about law school statistics and practices concerns me, and I think it’s necessary to share as much information about it as possible so that potential law students know what they’re getting into.  In order to do this, I’ll post some articles and thoughts in our most recent law related category, Sidebar. If you know a lawyer or a law student, the odds that they tweeted or posted this nearly 5,000 word New York Times article is almost a sure bet.  For those that may have missed it, here is the gist of the article: Law students take ...