Tag Archives: law

Two Little Words

28 Sep

“Good Job”

“Nice Work”

“Thanks for your hard work on that project!”

Do you have any idea how amazing these little phrases can make my day?  Praise is so powerful when it’s handed out sparingly but meaningfully.  And when I’ve worked really hard on something, there is nothing that makes me happier than hearing “Good Work!”

My practice group leader left a note for me this week telling me that an article I drafted was “First Rate Work.”  Another partner said I did a “Good Job” on a brief, and that he really liked it.  Despite my days being hectic and long, that little sparkle of encouragement reminded me why I love the work I do.  Those words brightened my mood, and my productivity even increased!

It’s just as important to give recognition as it is to receive it.  Keep your eyes peeled for hard work, and remember to recognize it with a few kind words.  You will make someone’s day!

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The Common Plea Restaurant

5 Sep

I’ve known about  the Common Plea restaurant for about forever, but it has taken me years to make my way down to this Ross Street institution. Unlike Market Square offerings that demand a bit of a hike, the Common Plea offers a fancy-pants option in close proximity to Allegheny County’s courthouses. The Common Plea strives to attract the dinner/theater crowd, but as beneficial as its location is for lunchtime, it’s situated a bit far from the Cultural District. 

The Common Plea is total old school, Rumpole of the Bailey style (why does wikipedia have a Rumpole entry for the tv show, but not the books? Bah.)  The restaurant is dimly lit, and upholstered in dark wood and dark leather.  If it weren’t for the no smoking laws, there would be a thick lingering cloud of cigar smoke.  There was even an old man at the bar in a seersucker suit.

I loved it.

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The soup was served in ceramic tureens (I was not quick enough to snap a pic with the lid still on).

The place has novelty, but it also has stand up food.  At lunch, the Common Plea offers a variety of sandwiches, hamburgers, and pastas.  I had a pasta dish with grilled shrimp that was topped with, yes, raisins. It looked totally weird.

It was totally good.

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  One thing that I really liked about the Common Plea is that despite their old school vibe, they are 100% on board with social media and attracting new crowds.  They sent a representative to the Visit Pittsburgh social media conference I attended a few months back, and (being a social media nerd) I thought that attention to social media was awesome.
Common Plea on Urbanspoon

The Get Better Room

10 Aug

I still feel a bit like an idiot. Baby Beez was cranky yesterday morning. That’s not unusual, she’s often cranky. But she was REALLY cranky. And even that is not unusual. Sometimes she’s REALLY cranky. I dropped her off at daycare. Then about an hour later, Mr. Beez got a call that she’s sick and we need to pick her up. I feel like an idiot for not recognizing she was sick, and I worry that the daycare probably thought I was trying to pull a fast one on them (they always call me when she’s sick, it’s very strange for them to call Mr. Beez instead). I wasn’t. I’m just stupid.

Getting that sick call is any working parent’s nightmare. The first thing you want to do is race over and scoop up your little one, and snuggle them til they are better. But the sick call comes unexpectedly, and it’s never easy to drop everything. Sometimes you can maneuver to work at home. Sometimes you can’t.

Today, we couldn’t.

And for the first time, I tried out “sick care.” Our daycare participates in a program with an affiliated program called the “Get Better Room.” It’s an independent room in a daycare center staffed by a nurse/teacher, that is designed to provide care for kids with minor illnesses such as a flu or virus. I’ve put off registering Baby Beez for the “Get Better Room” because I dreaded the idea of leaving her in a new environment, with unfamiliar people, when she is already feeling miserable. Today, Mr. Beez had meetings scheduled. I had a deposition scheduled. The Get Better Room it was.

And you know what, it turned out all OK. The Get Better room generally has very few attendees. Today it was just Baby Beez. There were tons of toys, including an elaborate Thomas the Tank Engine play set (she loves Thomas, which I heartily encourage both because it defies the girls-should-play-with-dolls stereotype, and because my brothers loved Thomas when they were younger, so the shared affinity is sweet). Baby Beez cried for a few minutes when I left for work, but then she quickly warmed up to the teacher, and they played games together and read books. When I got there to pick her up, she was just waking from a nice long nap.

I’d still rather be able to indulge Baby Beez in a day at home, snuggling and drinking juice when she’s not feeling well. At least I know that there’s a reliable, caring resource for when the obligations of a tricky work life make that not exactly possible.

Baby Beez watching Finding Nemo

Resting on the Couch, watching Finding Nemo, trying to feel better

 

Back At It

7 Aug

My first day back at work after vacay was nowhere near as disastrous as I anticipated it to be. You see, when I worked at a small firm, vacation was entirely hypothetical. Each attorney was entirely responsible for his/her own cases. There was no “backup” for when you were out of town. Theoretically your secretary and paralegal would hold down the fort (and I was lucky to have great staff), but if your staff weren’t totally all over everything, there was the potential that you could find yourself in a whole heap of a mess.

Fast forward to now, where I work at mid-to-large regional firm. Each case is staffed by at least one partner and one associate. That means that I can take a VACATION and not have to worry that the sky is falling! Sure I work hard before leaving to get everything sorted out and prepared. And I do keep a close eye on my email to make sure everything is ok. But as a general matter for that week I was FREE! And it was marvelous and refreshing, and I got back to the office totally ready to get back at it.

Except once afternoon hits, I could really use a nap. But I can always really use a nap, so I don’t think that matters one way or another.

So I returned to the office yesterday expecting everything to be a disaster. But it was not. Everything was a-ok. And I was even able to get started on that “to do” list I left for myself before I went on vacation.

Baby and Parrot

Totally gratuitous photo of me and my girls.

I have been afraid to look at my bank account since the trips. Of course the “wise” thing to do when you know you’ve given your credit card a run is to go out and spend MORE money, so last night I ordered season tickets for PNC’s Broadway Across America series. I’m super excited about Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Book of Mormon. I also got a set of tickets for Jersey Boys. Mr. Beez thinks I’m crazy for getting Jersey Boys tickets because I’ve seen it already, but you know what, I LOVED IT. So I’m going to see it AGAIN.

I contemplated going totally CRAZY and buying tickets to the Monday Night Lecture Series and the Pittsburgh Speakers Series (PS did you know Neil Gaiman is speaking on November 14?) but after entering all the Broadway dates on my calendar I had a mini meltdown about how I have overbooked myself and I WILL NEVER HAVE FREE TIME AGAIN, so I decided to put those on hold for now.

Thursday I’m going to the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Kickoff Party (you can find me working the registration desk from 6-7!)

And this weekend will be time for SLEEP SWEET SLEEP. And also probably catching up on some doc review. But I can do that in my PJs, so it’s cool.

#BlogHer12 — A Retrospective

5 Aug

This was my first year at BlogHer. I suspected it would either be phenomenal or terrible. It was neither, it was somewhere in between, closer to the “satisfying” place on the spectrum. In the opening address, BlogHer’s founders promised that we would “find our flock” and be surrounded with people who finally “get it.” My experience was slightly different, but no less enlightening.

1. I learned a ton of awesome stuff, tech wise

I blog using WordPress, and I know the basics of it, but don’t have the time to really mess around and teach myself much. I attended small, focused sessions on the WordPress platform and on WordPress plugins. Although the sessions were too short to really get into the meat of the subject, they provided exactly what I needed to point me in the right direction to get this blog more in order, tech wise.

I also attended an awesome iPhoneography (iPhone photography) panel, where I learned all about quick and easy apps for photo editing. Since getting my iPhone, I’ve ditched my 5-year-old digital camera, and with all the amazing apps and technology available, I’m convinced that was a rational choice.

I’m just not able to set aside the time I need to get my head wrapped around these things, and this was a perfect opportunity to do so. Even though I didn’t learn all the details I need, I was provided with the foundation and direction to easily find those further things myself.

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2. The blogger economy is not my economy.

I really did not appreciate the scope (and depth) of sponsorship offerings until I attended BlogHer. I met an Australian blogger who was fully sponsored for an 11 day trip to NYC (FROM AUSTRALIA) for her and her husband. There were TONS of other bloggers who came from the US and Canada on someone else’s dime. I knew bloggers are offered free products in exchange for an online review, and are also frequently paid for reviews, but the extent of this practice was lost on me until I came here and started talking to people.

Private sponsored parties were also in abundance. I met people here, started following their twitter accounts, and immediately started reading about all these fun, fantastic parties by all kinds of different sponsoring parties…none of which I was invited to. I admit, I felt left out and a little sad. I’m not a sponsored blogger. I don’t even run ads. This is by choice, it would cause too many complications with my day job. But all the “cool kids” of BlogHer have tons and tons of followers, and are sponsored to the gills. It made me feel left behind. But I’m not like them, and I’m not going to be like them.

Not surprisingly, most of these massively sponsored bloggers do not have day jobs. Blogging is their “day job.” In blogging, time is the currency. The more time you can invest into your site, into scouring the internet and commenting on other sites, and driving more traffic to your site, and optimizing your SEO, the more traffic you will naturally receive. In the economy of time, I am impoverished. Even without revenue, I love to see my site traffic go up and up and up, it’s purely an ego boost. But I have to be at peace knowing that there will be limitations on my ability to build traffic, simply because there are limitations on the amount of time I can put into this little hobby.

Yes, up against these “big time” bloggers, I felt a little inadequate. Then I realized that my feelings were RIDICULOUS. Feeling inadequate undermines all the hard work and accomplishments I have devoted to my professional life, where I’m lucky to be involved in prominent cases, and make my mark on the legal landscape on a national scale. With all the elbow grease and dedication I’ve put in my career, it is absolutely ridiculous for me to feel sheepish in comparison to moms, who have all day long to tinker with their sites and get their traffic sky-high.

3. I know my flock.

BlogHer is not all mommy bloggers….but it is a lot of mommy bloggers. I’ve spent so much time scouring the internet for the working, blogging moms. And specifically, moms that work demanding, high-hours jobs. And I have had little luck finding these people, presumably because they are WORKING instead of blogging. OK, we lawyers and doctors and phamacists and engineers are not working ALL the time, but when you work a time-intensive job, there are limits on how many hobbies you really can pursue, and while many people in this position enjoy playing sports or similar endeavors, there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of them who are really into blogging.

So when the speakers announced in the BlogHer opening that I would “find” my flock this weekend, I wondered where that flock was hiding. And after mingling with and meeting bloggers over the last few days, I know exactly where my flock is– all around me at home in Pittsburgh. I am so blessed to have so many people who understand me, and where I come from, and the challenges I face. And these people are not online, they’re all around me, in real life. I’m lucky to have a great group of friends who understand the challenges of a demanding job. I’ve got my friend Christine, who is always up for a Clarks show and a beer, and my friend Sandy, with whom I can email with day-in day-out about the frustrations and triumphs of raising headstrong toddlers, and even my friend Krista, who I can call up and have a total meltdown over why does everything I write still have typos, even though I’ve proofread it 178 times?!?! I don’t need to FIND my flock, I HAVE my flock. They are all around me, and I am so lucky about that.

4. Folks need to learn some PERSPECTIVE

BlogHer isn’t just for Mommybloggers, It’s for all bloggers. But there sure are a LOT of Mommybloggers here. Mommyblogging, by the nature of the industry, is egocentric. You’re making money talking about yourself. Combine that with a massive expo with tons of freebies, and it’s like a wrathful god dumped all of the Costcos on the planet together on sample day in the Hilton NY. Mommybloggers make money (or at least get free stuff) from their writing. I get that. I get that writing is effort, and is work, and is valuable, and should be compensated. But I overheard entirely too many elevator conversations about the “absurdity” that such and such a vendor would think they’d deign to write about the product, just because they handed out a product for free, but not “working with” (i.e. paying) bloggers.

This came to a head when I was watching the #BlogHer12 hashtag feed on Twitter. During the session on how to price and value services, there were all kinds of enthusiastic tweets about how valuable writing is, and how a blogger shouldn’t sell herself short, and she should get a good contract with whatever company she’s working with, and make sure it compensates her fairly. Then came the tweet about how bloggers should get those contracts reviewed by a lawyer FOR FREE.

Wait.

What?

YOUR writing about the marvelous scrubbing powers of P&G’s latest creation is so valuable and meaningful that it’s beneath you to put hand to keyboard without a check on the way, but I spent over $150,000 on a legal education, have worked damn hard in a cutthroat industry, and have developed meaningful expertise and I should review your contract for FREE?

Sorry ladies, the world doesn’t work like that. The Mommyblog bubble lacks serious perspective about the give and take of the professional world. It’s to be expected, when the main tasks in your life are chasing after little ones, testing new crafts and recipes, and sorting out which humorous anecdotes about your humble existence wrangle the most page hits.

I recognize that this last bullet point probably just made everyone I met at BlogHer hate me now, but whatever. I do have some comfort in the fact that my pals in out in the real world do have some perspective, and don’t make my hair light aflame with anger quite so often. Phew.

So where does this leave me with BlogHer? I am glad I went. Would I go again? Maybe. This year, BlogHer made up half of my official “vacation,” and I wouldn’t spend my vacation again on the conference. Next year is in Chicago, and I could catch a night flight there, and only miss one day of work. The conference itself is surprisingly inexpensive, so I’m certainly not ruling it out. This year it made sense for me to spend my vacation at BlogHer– Baby Beez is too young to behave on an airplane, I wanted to check the conference out. All the pieces fit together. But next year I need a vacation that involves snuggling with a (hopefully better behaved traveler) Baby Beez. So next year is a “maybe” on my attendance, but I’m certainly counting this year as a good experience, and an eye-opening one.

Sucks to be You (also good luck)

24 Jul

Starting in 2008, the last Tuesday and Wednesday in July have been consistently pleasant days for me. Why? Because I’m NOT taking the bar exam.  There are few emotions as truly satisfying as knowing I am DONE with that nonsense.  Even if someday I had to take another bar exam, it wouldn’t match the stress and the terribleness of taking that first bar.

So to all my friends testing away, all the best to you! May you remember the Rule in Shelley’s case, or better yet, not get asked about it! May your computer be reliable! May you not be seated next to someone noisy, or worse yet, smelly!  Good luck and godspeed! And I’ll buy you a beer on Thursday!

Bills, Bills, Bills (P-G Article featuring yours truly!)

25 Jun

The Post-Gazette interviewed me a few weeks back for an article on billable hours, which was published today.   Of course, the minute the interview was over and I hung up the phone, I panicked over whether I said anything stupid, but it looks like I did a-ok! Yay!

Related thought on billable hours:  I spend 1-2 hours a week just writing up my time.  Not working, just summarizing what I’ve been working on.  That comes to about 50-100 hours PER YEAR of time just spent writing up time.  That’s 1 to 2 weeks of full time work! GAH!  My method is that I keep a time diary throughout the day of what I’m working on, but since it’s such a mish-mash of my own notes, afterward I have to go back and summarize it, which is the real time suck. So if anyone has any BRILLIANT timesaving ideas for writing up time, I am ALL ears.

 

Science! and Engineering! and Accounting! Oh My!

21 Jun

First order of business, when I was so proud of having over two hundred views in one day, I spoke too soon.  Yesterday I had over 1,200 views in one day alone! You like me! You really really like me!

Second order of business, now to the actual content of this post.  By sharing realistic stresses of the lawyer life, I feel like I’m always a negative Nancy.  Today I want to talk about one of my favorite parts of my job.

One of my absolute favorite things about my job is working with EXPERTS.  Maybe litigation is more of a skill than a substantive practice.  Litigation has its own rules and practices, but you have to plug in the substantive law, and often you have to plug in entirely different substantive disciplines.  Your job as an attorney is to work with the expert to learn the necessary components of whatever substantive discipline is at issue, and learn those things well enough to communicate them effectively to a jury.

When I was in high school and college, I loved SCIENCE.  For a stint, I planned to major in Chemistry, but then I took O-Chem and was literally bored to tears with having to write lab reports (in retrospect, they were just tedious, and I was a drama queen), and instead decided to spend my time reading stories and majored in German.  Working with experts is now how I get to play with SCIENCE at work.  I love working on products liability/design defect cases, because I love to learn how things work.  I’ve learned about everything from giant construction cranes to surgical  staplers to tree stands.  I like dealing with products I can see and manipulate, rather than with pharmaceuticals or chemicals.  A case is far less interesting to analyze when you cannot see, and possibly replicate, the problem that everyone is discussing.  I particularly love it when I’m dealing with some mundane product, like a frying pan, that I’ve never given thought to before, and suddenly the case I’m working on raises all these new and interesting questions I’ve never even considered about how the product is made, why it is made that way, how it operates, and all the decisions and calculations that went into the product.

I love the challenge of working with someone who has highly sophisticated knowledge, and talks about things that are way over my head.  I love the challenge of figuring out what the heck they’re talking about, interpreting it, and working with them to apply that knowledge to the necessary hypotheticals to be able to express the idea I need to get across. Some days I get to pretend I’m a civil engineer designing roads, some days I get to pretend I’m an accountant, some days I get to pretend I’m a doctor.  When you’re working with an expert, you get to dabble in all kinds of different interesting things.  Ok kids, I admit it, lawyering isn’t all that bad.

“Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter

19 Jun

My July/August issue of The Atlantic came today, and it features an article so incredible that I can’t wait until it’s posted online to share it (The full article is now available online).  Anne-Marie Slaughter intelligently, and finally, steps outside the harmful, foolhardy assumption that a woman’s success is entirely a function of her own ambition, and confronts the hard truths that our society is structured in a fashion that is not conducive to “having it all.”  It’s time to move beyond blame (both of self and of others) for not “having it all,” and work on fixing those social roadblocks that make it so damn near impossible.

While I clearly can’t reproduce the whole article here, here are some amazing excerpts:

But precisely thanks to [the progress of women now in their 60s, 70s and 80s], a different kind of conversation is now possible.  It is time for women in leadership positions to recognize that although we are still blazing trails and breaking ceilings, many of us are also reinforcing a falsehood: that “having it all” is, more than anything, a function of personal determination.  As Kerry Rubin and Lia Macko, the authors of Midlife Crisis at 30, their cri de couer for Gen-X and Gen-Y women put it: “What we discovered in our research is that while the empowerment part of the equation has been loudly celebrated, there has been very little honest discussion among women of our age about the real barriers and flaws that still exist in the system despite the opportunities we inherited.”…And although women as a group have made substantial gains in wages, educational attainment, and prestige over the past three decades, the economists Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson have shown that women are less happy today than their predecessors were in 1972, both in absolute terms, and relative to men.

*     *     *     *     *

Yet instead of chiding, perhaps we should face some basic facts.  Very few women reach leadership positions.  The pool of female candidate for any top job is small, and will only grow smaller if the women who come after us decide to take time out, or drop out of professional competition altogether, to raise children.  That is exactly what has Sheryl Sandburg so upset, and rightly so.  In her words, “Women are not making it to the top.  A hundred and ninety heads of state; nine are women.  Of all the people in parliament in the world, 13 percent are women.  In the corporate sector, [the share of] women at the top– C-level jobs, board seats– tops out at 15, 16 percent.”

Can “insufficient commitment” even plausibly explain these numbers? To be sure, the women who do make it to the top are highly committed to their profession.  On closer examination, however, it turns out that most of them have something else in common: they are genuine superwomen.  Consider the number of women recently in the top ranks in Washington– Susan Rice, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Michelle Gavin, Nancy-Ann Min DeParle– who are Rhodes Scholars.  Samantha Power, another senior White House official, won a Pulitzer Prize at age 32.  Or consider Sandberg herself, who graduated with the prize given to Harvard’s top student of economics.  These women cannot possibly be the standard against which even talented professional women should measure themselves.  Such a standard sets up most women for failure.

*     *     *     *     *

These “mundane” issues– the need to travel constantly to succeed, the conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, the insistence that work be done in the office– cannot be solved by exhortations to close the ambition gap.  I would hope to see commencement speeches that finger America’s social and business policies, rather than women’s ambition, in explaining the dearth of women at the top.  But changing these policies requires much more than speeches.  It means fighting the mundane battles– every day, every year– in individual workplaces, in legislatures, and the media.

*     *      *      *     *

The flip side of my realization is captured in Macko and Rubin’s ruminations on the importance of bringing the different parts of their lives together as 30-year-old-women:

“If we didn’t start to learn how to integrate our personal, social, and professional lives, we were about five years away from morphing into the angry woman on the other side of a mahogany desk who questions her staff’s work ethic after standard 12- hour workdays, before heading home to eat moo shoo pork in her lonely apartment.”

Women have contributed to the fetish of the one-dimensional life, albeit by necessity.  The pioneer generation of feminists walled of their personal lives from their professional personas to ensure that they could never be discriminated against for a lack of commitment to their work.  When I was a law student in the 1980s, many women who were then climbing the legal hierarchy in New York firms told me that they never admitted to taking time out for a child’s doctor appointment or school performance, but instead invented a much more neutral excuse.

Ok, enough of my quoting the article.  Go out and pick it up.

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.