The First 100-ish Days

I haven't been able to spend a lot of time blogging lately.  Mostly, that's because I spend all of my time lawyer-ing, which involves an absurd amount of writing.  Writing for fun after writing for work just wasn't working out for me.

However, now that things are settling down a little bit, I can sit down and write a little bit about the new world of lawyer-life that I've found myself in.  Since the world is obsessed with this idea of "the first 100 days," and I've been an attorney for 100-ish days, it seems like a good time.

Since I've transitioned from teacher to lawyer, people have a lot of questions... 

Ok, maybe not that question..

I'm going to try to answer some of them.....

1.  Do you like being a lawyer?

A: Generally speaking, yes.  Sometimes it is hard -- actually difficult.  While I'm not doing anything physically exhausting, I am expending a lot of mental energy.  I have to stay focused and I have to keep myself on track.  For the most part, there's no one over my shoulder saying "Hey!  What are you doing?  Are you done with X yet?"  It's more like "Hey, I need you to be working on X, Y, and Z this week.  X is due on Wednesday, Y and Z by Friday" or something to that effect.  Occasionally I will get an assignment at 8am with a "due this before you leave today" instruction, but those are few and far between.

2.  Is it what you expected?

Short answer -- is anything?

Longer answer - I didn't really know what I was getting in to.  My "dream" job was at the PD office, but there were only a couple openings and over 100 applicants this year.  It is a tough gig to get.  So, when I realized that wasn't going to happen, I jumped on another offer (more on that one later) and didn't look back.  I decided to jump in with two feet and give it my best effort.  I have been pleasantly surprised that I really enjoy what I do.  I never wake up in the morning dreading work.  I occasionally grumble at the commute or the waking up part, but not the actual going to work part.

As someone who had been doing the professional going-to-work thing for a decade before I passed the bar, I knew what grown-up work was like.  However, I did not know what to expect from lawyer life.  Even from my brief months at the PD office, I didn't get a great picture of real lawyer life.  I went to court with a team, so it was a different person every day.  My colleagues went once (or twice) a week.  I went 5x per week.

Now I work in civil litigation.  There are no crimes.  It's all about money.  But, people will do and say weird things for money.  So it's interesting.

3.  Do you miss teaching?

Most days, not really.  I miss the social aspect of it.  I miss having built-in friends and people to talk to all day.  Being a lawyer is a very solitary job.  I wasn't quite prepared for that.  I have a lovely office filled with things I like (including my coffee maker from the previous post), comfortable furnishings, and photos of people I love.  But, I'm the only person in the room most of the day.  Occasionally another attorney will pop by to ask a question, or a secretary will drop something off to me, but for 9 1/2 hours a day (out of 10), I'm in there solo.  That part is a little lonely.

I don't miss the constant go-go-go of teaching.  I don't miss the absurdity of some of the things the state required me to do.  I don't miss grading and lesson plans (although I do have to keep time sheets now, which is similar).  

I do NOT miss being on a strict schedule.  I did not realize how managed my time was as a teacher until my second or third week in my office when it suddenly occurred to me that I could a) eat lunch b) have coffee or c) go to the bathroom whenever I wanted to!  I did not have to eat lunch at 11:26 because that was when the lunch bell rang.  I could eat lunch at 11:30, or 12:30, or 1:18 in the afternoon.  Or I could skip lunch and eat snacks all day at my desk.  Or, I could eat some snacks and use my lunch hour (yup, and hour) to do something else -- go for a walk, run to the store, whatever.  I have to tell someone when I'm out of the building, but that's mostly so people aren't hunting around for me.

I do miss my students.  I do miss my coworkers.  So, this one is more of a toss-up.  I miss parts of teaching, the good parts.  

4.  How do you find a job?

Law school did not teach me how to find a job.  I'll be honest.  I fell into mine by sheer dumb luck.  I was on a job-search website, I saw a job that looked interesting and clicked on the "click here for application information" button.  Then, I got a screen that said "thank you for applying" and two days later, I got a phone call for an interview.  Then they offered me a job.

Mind you, by this point, I'd already been rejected a few times through the traditional job-search channels, had a couple of networked interviews that didn't scream "success" and turned down two jobs that payed an amount so small, it is almost embarrassing.  Even as a teacher (without the JD), I couldn't take a job that payed so little.  I was actually starting to panic because I hadn't found anything.  I wanted a legal job and the market was tight before bar results.  I didn't have the traditional connections that a lot of students make.  But, it worked out.

After bar results came out, I had a few more phone calls; I think that was largely from firms that made offers to people that didn't actually pass the bar and then they were scrambling to fill slots.  I ended up accepting that "accidental" job and didn't look back.  I felt good about it then and I still do.  I get occasional calls or emails from head hunters asking me if I'm interested in meeting with partners at another firm.  But I'm not.  I make a good salary, I enjoy my work and my coworkers.  No complaints.

5.  Any advice for me before I graduate/start job hunting/end my clerkship?

A lot of the people I know are already working in law.  They know what it's going to be like.  They are legal assistants, and legal secretaries, and paralegals.  They get it.  

For everyone else...

Don't get hung up on what your "dream job" might be.  Your first year as an attorney is going to be pretty similar no matter where you work.  Lots of research, lots of writing, lots of drafting.  I write a lot of motions and file a lot of complaints.  I summarize a lot of documents so the people above me on the food chain don't have to read them.  That means I spend HOURS reading fairly boring stuff and distilling out the important bits.  We are talking thousands of pages.  Thousands.

Find a job you think you can tolerate - decent co-workers, comfortable work space, realistic expectations for 1st year associates - and go for it.  A good salary helps.  I work pretty long hours, but I make fairly good money, so I don't really get hung up on it.

Manage your expectations.  You're new.  Nothing will be super-exciting.  It takes months, if not longer, to figure out what exactly you're doing.  After nearly six months on the job, I'm finally getting to the point where I feel comfortable doing things on my own.  Someone still double checks every single thing I do, but it's not scrutinized like it was a couple months ago.  

Find people you like.  These are the people you will see every day.  I love my team.  They make my job somewhere I'm willing to go every day.

And last but not least.... 

6.  Can you help me with my ____________________ (insert legal problem here)

Honestly, probably not.  I've been an attorney for about 16 minutes and I have limited skills.  I can probably refer you to someone that can help you, but they will likely want money from you.  


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