Things They Don’t Tell You In Law School: THE PANIC

24 May

I was taking a shower this morning, minding my own business, washing my hair, when THE PANIC hit.  I filed a motion a couple weeks ago, and all of a sudden I worried DID I ATTACH THE RIGHT EXHIBITS?  It was long enough ago that most of my memories of that filing had faded, and all I could remember is that I felt generally comfortable with the motion. FEELING COMFORTABLE DOES NOT MEAN THAT I DID NOT MESS UP.

THE PANIC hits unexpectedly, and is all-consuming.  I get tunnel vision. I can’t think, or talk about, or do ANYTHING else, until THE PANIC is resolved.  It’s almost always about something I did long enough ago that the details have faded in my mind.  It wouldn’t be unusual for me to leap out of the shower, suds in hair, and go log on remotely RIGHT THEN to figure out if I really did mess something up.  This time, however, I was able to convince myself to finish the shower first, then worry about the filing, by using Stuart Smalley-style self-talk that I am not an idiot, I checked those exhibits, and even if I did mess it up, it is fixable.  After my shower, I logged on and checked. Everything was fine, all the exhibits were correct.

It’s hard for non-lawyers to understand THE PANIC.  Once when it struck at 11pm (and when I was working at an office without remote computer access), my husband didn’t quite get why I needed to drive to the office RIGHT THEN to check on something.  He thoughtfully reasoned that even if there was a problem, I couldn’t do anything about it until the next morning anyway.  That is not the way THE PANIC works. It does not subside until it is tackled.  Remote computer access and my insistance that my secretary scan an as-filed version of every single thing that goes out the door, has gone a long way in quickly squelching episodes of THE PANIC.  When I worked at that firm without remote access, though, I remember wanting to just sleep at the office, so that if THE PANIC struck, I’d have everything right there to figure out the issue.

My most shameful episode of THE PANIC occurred on Mr. Beez’s 29th birthday.  Instead of going out to a restaurant, he asked that I cook him dinner.  I made him a dinner of all his favorite things.  As soon as I set it on the table, THE PANIC struck, and I was petrified that I messed something up with serving a document.  I dashed up to our bedroom and spent the evening on the phone with another associate, who tried to talk me off my ledge.  Mr. Beez ate his birthday dinner alone.  And, of course, it turned out that I didn’t actually mess anything up.

As time has passed, and I’ve become more comfortable with practice, and better able to discern what is and what is not a problem, I’ve had fewer episodes of THE PANIC.  It usually hits me when I’m coming down from an extremely crazy period of work into a more normal level of work.  When things are extremely crazy, I’m too busy panicking over my workload itself, so THE PANIC lies dormant.  But when I have just a tiny second to breathe, THE PANIC springs back into action.

BarBri starts in the next couple weeks.  Eat your heart out, kids.

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4 Responses to “Things They Don’t Tell You In Law School: THE PANIC”

  1. soniabgill May 24, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    I’m not a lawyer, and the consequences of my work are much different, but I definitely understand that panic! I awake often in the middle of the night to check email and project tracking systems because I fear I forgot a crucial piece of the project. I hate that feeling! I hope it gets easier for you 🙂

    • BeezusKiddo May 24, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      It gets progressively better as time goes on. THE PANIC strikes far less frequently now than it did a year or two ago. I’ve heard that it never completely goes away, though.

  2. Viki May 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    I have to say that THE PANIC strikes me as well… lately it’s been more of a “did I document that correctly? did I tell the parents what I was thinking?” but there have been times when I wonder about ordering the right tests.

  3. Baby Solo May 31, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    I love you blog! I know that panic all too well.

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