Tag Archives: young lawyer

NaBloPoMo Day 9: Administrative Assistant

9 Dec

I work most weekends, but hardly ever spend my weekends in the office. Usually, I can get my work done from home. On the weekends that really do require my presence in the workplace, Mr. Beez and I can usually sort things out so that he’s at home with Baby Beez when I’m at work, and vice versa. Some weekends don’t work out that way, and the final result is a field trip for Baby Beez.

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I’m involved in a big filing for tomorrow, and the degree of coordination required meant I needed to be in the office.  (And yes, I really DID have to use the Bluebook today.)  Mr. Beez also had obligations, so Baby Beez visited work with me. She watched Finding Nemo 1 and a half times, she wrote all over some scratch paper (pens are fascinating to her right now), she looked out the window, she ate some pretzels, and she threw some papers around. There was no screaming and no flailing, and I DID get my work done, so all in all it was a success.

When I was young, my mom worked at my school, so going to work with her was not a novelty.  My dad is an operating room nurse, and he once took me on a little tour of the OR, and I even got to watch a heart surgery (and by watch, I meant spent the time in a corner, holding onto a wall, trying not to pass out or be sick).  It was about the coolest thing my little self go to do.  I love it that our county has a big “Take Your Kids to Work” program at the courts, and can’t wait until Baby Beez is big enough to participate.  I am not pushing her to be a lawyer, but I do think it’s important to understand what Mommy is doing during those long hours away.

NaBloPoMo Day 7: Chillin out Maxin’ Relaxin all Cool

7 Dec

What is the best way to relax after a hard day?

lolcatbaddayI’m easy to please.  All I ask for relaxing is to just do something (or nothing) that is not work.  Usually this takes the form of ordering a pizza for dinner and hanging out on the couch with my family and the TV on.  Or maybe it means coffee and magazines.  But it usually is just some form of me sitting around.  On really bad days, I’m sitting around with a glass of wine.

In an ideal world, I’d say that after a hard day, I relax by going for a run or some other athletic activity, but in all honesty after most days I’m too beat to do much else than just sit there.  Since getting a Kindle, I have been reading every single night before bed.  This means both that I have read nearly 40 “fun” books this year alone, but also that I manage to slow my mind down enough that I can sleep through the night.

Hanging out with my family does make me feel a million percent better when I’ve had a bad day.  I spend my days doing work that is hard.  Law is complex and uncertain and confusing.  Sometimes (often) the practice of law feels like I’m picking my way through landmines.  And the stress is even more exacerbated because you are responsible for solving someone else’s problems.  So if you set off one of those landmines, you’ve blown it for both you and them.  (If it’s not already painfully obvious, this hasn’t been a great week.)

You know what’s not hard? Parenting.  People say parenting is hard, but it’s not.  It is very frustrating and very exhausting and full of unwinnable battles, but it is not hard.  And hanging out with my kid after a hard day makes me feel a little better, because it’s pretty darn hard to truly screw up this parenting thing.

Also, ice cream.

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Working hard or hardly working?

6 Dec

How hard do you think you work?

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Although I can rattle off the number of my billable hours completed this year with precision, I find it hard to judge whether I create an impression of diligence or laziness.  My work ethic is the most important career-related value to me.  The biggest compliment I could receive is to be thanked for working hard.  One of my biggest fears at work is that I am afraid of being perceived as lazy or not holding up my share of the work.
My attention (bordering at times of paranoia) on this quality has apparently kept me focused and working hard enough that in my annual review, my highest marks were in the “work ethic” category.  But high marks does not mean I can rest easy.  Only because I’ve been so determined to be, and to be known as, hardworking have I established that reputation for myself.

I probably work harder than lots of people, but there are also lots of people who work harder than me.  Sometimes I think that I can only consider myself hardworking if I work harder than everyone else, like that I can’t think of myself as hardworking at all when there are other people who have it tougher, and are piecing together back-to-back blue collar shifts, 7 days a week, and barely making ends meet.  Or that I can’t consider myself hardworking because I have managed to fit that hard work to my life, for example by leaving work at a reasonable hour but doing work once the baby is in bed, instead of staying in the office until late late at night.

But being “hardworking” isn’t a contest.  There is no limit on the number of people who can be “hardworking.”  And just because someone’s workload is comparatively harder than someone else’s, does not mean that the person with the lesser workload is not “hardworking.”  Comparing gets me nowhere.  I just have to keep at it, keep my hours up, get my work done, and hope that people recognize my efforts.

NaBloPoMo Day 4: Lead? Follow? Or Collaborate

4 Dec

Do you feel most comfortable being a leader, a follower, or a collaborator?

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For me, it is completely dependent on the circumstances.  If the task at hand is one that I’m familiar with, I’d prefer to lead, because I know what needs to be done and how to do it.  If it is a task I am not so familiar with, or if I’m working with a group of people who like to schedule lots of meetings to talk about the things that need to be done (instead of actually doing those things), then I suppose I fall in the “follower” category, except I’d prefer to call it the “legwork” category.  I am not interested in holding meetings to talk.  If something is actually going to be accomplished in a meeting, that is fine, but meetings for their own sake are not my style.  I’d rather everyone else sit and chat and get out of the way, while I get the work done.

Admittedly, I’m not very good at being a “collaborator.”  I can work fine in a team, but prefer that responsibilities are clearly deliniated, and responsibility is very clearly allocated.  When I had group or team projects at school, I frequently chose to work with the kids that I knew would not contribute at all.  I got a talking-to by the teachers a couple of times, because I’d do all the work and others would coast based on my efforts.  To me, I so dreaded the uncertainty of unclear division of labor and having to wonder whether the others would actually do what they said they’d do, that I would rather pick a group where I had to do all the work myself because at least the division of labor would be certain.  That is neither the most effective nor the most mature way to work on a “team,” but I think it serves well to illustrate how important clear deliniation of responsibilities are to me.

I love that at my work, the structure of most assignments is 1 partner/1 associate.  While we work together on developing ideas and strategy, the tasks themselves are fairly clearly distributed.  I don’t think the leader/follower/collaborator paradigm works well to describe the dynamic.  I suppose technically the partner is the “leader” and the associate the “follower,” but associates are encouraged to speak up, share their thoughts, and challenge things they find problematic, so it’s not a true leader/follower dynamic.  It’s also not quite a “collaborator” paradigm, because each person has specific tasks that they complete independently.  The structure of this working format fits my personality well.  I love that I know what my tasks are and what is expected of me.  I especially love that, at times when I have uncertainty about the parameters of what I’m supposed to be doing, I work with people who are completely open to me being frank and saying “I need more guidance, I’m not sure what you are asking me to do.”

NaBloPoMo day 3: Being a “Pro”

3 Dec

What do you consider yourself a “pro” at?

zebra-social-media-expertI’ve spent years thinking that it is presumptuous to declare yourself a “pro” at anything, and that instead it is up to others to identify and announce your expertise.  So I sat back quietly, waiting for someone to call me up and tell me how much they want me to give a presentation about all these things that I know.  THIS IS NOT HOW THE WORLD WORKS.  People don’t know what you know unless you tell them.  Declaring yourself a “pro” at anything of course must be preceded by a lot of elbow grease, patience, and really gaining the expertise in your claimed area.  Then you tell people what you know about by writing about it, and helping people out whenever you can when they have a question of your area, and writing some more, and reaching out to the world and offering your expertise.  I’ve had to put my squeamishness over being presumptuous aside.  You won’t be recognized as an expert until you are an expert, and you show the world that you are an expert.

I’m a pro in two things:

1. Allegheny County local civil procedure. I rock the socks off this county’s local practice (bookmark this page because you will never see that phrase again).  My first 3 years in practice were spent at a small firm.  This was simultaneously the most stressful experience in the history of the universe, and also the absolute best thing for my career and comfort/familiarity with local practice.  When you work for a small firm, you are thrown RIGHT into the fire.  It’s not “sink or swim” because sinking is not an option.  Even though you are just barely a lawyer, you still are a lawyer, and you are representing people and their rights and interests.  Failure is not an option.  So you figure things out, sometimes you do things right, rarely do things turn out to be actually wrong, and almost all the time you get by with doing things not-quite-right-but-close-enough-that-it-gets-the-job-done-and-everything-turns-out-ok.

I’m lucky to practice in a county that is incredibly forgiving with local practice.  If something is not-quite-right, the court will still hear it.  And after thousands of hours of getting it almost-right, you start getting it actually right more and more often, and you go from wading in a fog to actually knowing how to do stuff. And that’s where I am now.  I know how to do stuff.

2. Blogging and law (but not Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog).  Holy cow, I’ve been blogging nearly eight years now.  And I’ve gone from a blogging college student to a blogging law student to a blogging lawyer.  And now my practice also incorporates the intersection between law and social media.  That intersection is staggeringly broad. It’s like saying “I am an expert in the internet.” It is so broad it is virtually meaningless.  My expertise is more specifically in defamation issues and discovery issues (i.e. when and in what circumstances can your social media content get dragged into a lawsuit).  I’m working on an article/presentation about social media defamation issues right now that I’m really excited about, details to come as it progresses!!

NaBloPoMo Day 2: Workin’ it from Home

2 Dec

working-from-homeI have a love/hate relationship with remote access to work. I love it on days like today:  I had a lot of work to do, but was also down to yoga pants as the only clean clothes in my house, and it being the weekend, I wanted to see my family.  If it were 10 years ago, I’d be stuck having to haul in to the office for the better part of the day (with laundry left undone, and a lonely kid).  Now, thanks to good VPN access, I can throw a load of laundry in the washer, open up my laptop, and get work done as the little one dances around to the Wiggles. And working on the weekend is much more pleasant if you can work in your jammies.

I don’t often work from home.  One main reason is because I have to be on the phone a lot, and we have 2 parrots at home. Try to explain parrot noises on a client call. It’s not pretty.  Also, I do love the structure and professionalism of an office environment.  In a pinch, though, the access is priceless.

Remote access is also perfect for when I need to think creatively and intensely.  Appellate briefs in particular require uninterrupted focus.  My office is not a place for uninterrupted focus.  There are always people calling and stopping by.  I love that with remote access I can park myself in a quiet, vacant corner of the library and get my thoughts together.

The downside of remote access is that it means you can work everywhere, anywhere, all the time.  Sick days become work from home days.  It’s virtually impossible to have a true day away. The answer is setting personal boundaries, but that is often not a practical answer in the legal field.  Courts and clients have deadlines and needs, regardless of whether you’ve got the flu.  It’s nice to not have to scramble for a Plan B, but it would also be nice to actually not have to worry about working when you’re feeling under the weather.

On the whole, remote access is a blessing for my family.  My husband and I both work hours-intense jobs, and our ability to get the household to run and also to spend time with our daughter (admittedly sometimes multitasking, but time while on the laptop is better than no time at all), is only possible because we are able to, when the need arises, work from the couch.

Does remote access give you freedom, or keep you tethered to your work?

Social Media Power Practices for the Young Lawyer Set

18 Oct

My latest article for the Legal Intelligencer was published today: Social Media Power Practices for the Young Lawyer Set.

If you have a subscription to the Legal Intelligencer, the article is available online and in the print edition.

But you can also read it right here!

Continue reading

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.

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!

FOUR more days

23 Jul

I leave for vacation on FRIDAY.  This is going to be the worlds longest 4 day week.  Of course, it could be worse…I could be spending Tuesday and Wednesday taking the bar exam.  Best of luck to all of yinz, but boy oh boy, I’m glad I’m not in your shoes!

So until Friday, I’m grouchy that it’s not Friday YET.  I’ve got several things I need to wrap up before then, so I’ve got plenty of stuff to keep me busy, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!