Late night thoughts

Last night I slept terribly. It was a million degrees in my room. Except not really. In reality, it was cool enough that the a/c wouldn’t turn on unless I set the thermostat at 66. And even that wasn’t cool enough. Eventually I turned off the a/c and just opened the window. It was only moderately cooler outside, but between the breeze and the fan pointed directly at me, I eventually cooled off enough to sleep a bit… before I woke up sweating again. Thanks pregnancy hormones.

So, as it turns out, I was awake most of the night. And my thoughts turned, as thoughts tend to do in the middle of the night, to life. I did a lot of thinking about a lot of things last night, but upon reflection this morning I realized most of my thoughts were about my career.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you know that I’m an attorney. What you probably don’t know (because I’ve been a terrible blogger for the last 22 months or so) is that I’m not a practicing attorney anymore. I did let you all know that going back to work when Stella was tiny was really really difficult for me. And I let you know that my law firm was awesome and allowed me to work an 80% schedule instead of full time. What I didn’t let you know what that even that wasn’t enough. Practicing law in the private sector is hard, y’all, and when you add an infant into the mix the billable hour, marketing, and publication expectations become downright overwhelming. In the end, though, it was the stress and another big life event that made me reevaluate the kind of life I wanted to lead. As it turns out as much as I loved practicing law (and I really did), I didn’t love working 50+ hours a week (yes, even at 80%), still not having time to complete all my work, and having no time to spend with my family or with myself.

So, in February I started looking for a new job. A job outside of the legal field. Coincidentally, at about the same time I started job searching, I got a call from the HR director my alma mater. She was letting me know that there was an opening as an investigator in their Equal Opportunity Office and wanted to see if I might be interested.  My legal practice was focused mainly on employment and higher education law so investigating claims of employment discrimination in an higher education institution was kind of perfect. Long story short, I was interested, I interviewed, I got the job, and for the last 7 months or so that’s what I’ve been very happily doing.

I love not being in the private sector. I took a pay cut to move, but I have tons of free time, lots of vacation days (I’m on Fall Break right now!), and great benefits. So, why was I up all night thinking about my career? Because I’m having a career upheaval again. Two positions that I’m VERY interested in have opened up at the university where I work. I’ve applied for both, interviewed for one and will probably be selected to interview for the other. Here’s the problem: I’m not sure which one I really want. The positions represent different future career paths and I’m having a really hard time deciding which path I want to follow.

I know that I’m the only one who can decide which way to go. I just needed to get things down on paper (or rather, on screen) to help myself think things through. Either way, or neither way, 2014 is shaping up to be a year of HUGE change for me.

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Reflections on The Bar Exam

In case you’ve been living on another planet (or know no one who’s a lawyer, law student, recent law school grad), bar exam results are finally being released across the country. This past Friday, Kentucky  released its results (like two weeks sooner than my results were released three years (!)). Even though it’s been three years since I found out my results, I remember how terrible that day was.

Spoiler alert: I passed. BUT  for the months, weeks, days, and the entire morning leading up the posting of results (in a horribly public manner), I was convinced, totally and completely convinced, that I had failed. In fact, I spent those months, weeks, days, and the morning before the results were posted trying to figure out how I was going to break the news to everyone that I failed. I was convinced that, other than having to retake the bar (something I’m honestly not sure I would have done), spreading the word that I hadn’t passed would be the worst thing that had ever happened to me.

Even though it turned out that I didn’t need to break that news, I was faced with a slightly less awkward task in the next few weeks and months. Talking to my friends who hadn’t been as lucky as I was (and yes, I think no matter what anyone says, passing or not passing the bar is due in part to a large dose of luck). Maybe it was because I had been so convinced that I had failed. Maybe I had a bit of bar exam survivors guilt. Who knows? Whatever the cause, I felt awkward talking to people I knew hadn’t passed.

All of this to say this: a friend of mine who didn’t pass on her first time, just posted a bit of advice for those unlucky ones. If you have ever taken the bar exam, regardless of the result, or know someone who has or might in the future, you should read it. She does a great job of summing up every.single.fear I had about not passing and then telling you what the reality is: It doesn’t matter whether you pass on the first time. Really. Once you pass, you’re a lawyer and that’s all that matters.

P.S. I just realized I wrote a post last year about the bar and promised it would be my last ever. Apparently I suck at promises. Sorry.

 

 

 

The Bar

It’s been awhile since I wrote about The Bar. Honestly, after I found out I passed I thought I would never speak of those dark days ever again. That I would slowly, but surely, block the entire summer between graduation and The Bar out of my memory until it was like I went straight from graduation to lawyering.

Something happened this week that prompted me to revisit those terrible times. I’ve had a few people who are taking The Bar this year contact me because they needed to be talked off the ledge for advice on how to spend the last few days before the bar. Those calls and texts broke open my carefully concealed memories, but I only decided to blog about The Bar again when I saw what people have been googling to find my blog in the last week. Take a look:

yoga bar exam, care package bar exam,  day in the life of a law clerk, “extreme stress” “bar exam” “kill myself”

Yikes.

That last one is particularly concerning.

So, I’ve decided to offer some advice to those of you who may be taking The Bar in the next week or so. For those of you who aren’t taking the bar, go ahead and read this. You probably do or will at some time know someone whose liberal arts degree forced them into law school in hopes of not living a life of poverty who is taking the bar. I’m not saying my tips below are the best ever, but they are things that would have made me feel better.

Exam-Takers:

1. It’s okay to be crazy. The stress brought on by the bar exam is indescribable and does terrible things to you physically, psychologically, mentally, and emotionally.

2. Take a break. It doesn’t matter what you do, but don’t do it in your study cave. Get out and really take a break.You’ll feel taking a break will doom you to failure, but I promise taking a break will refresh you enough to make it through.

3. Study. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. By way of comparison, the week before the bar is like the hour before a normal final. Cramming isn’t going to work; it’s only going to make you so stressed out that you’ll forget everything that you re-taught yourself over the summer. (Don’t worry. You actually did re-learn things this summer).

And that’s all for all you bar exam takers. Seriously. Take it easy and don’t beat yourself up too much.

Surprised there were only three tips? That’s because the bulk of the burden falls on the friends and family members of exam takers.

Friends/Family of Exam-takers:

1. Your friend/family member is going to be crazy. Accept it and don’t judge.

2. Back your bar-taker take a break. Take them out to the dinner or to a movie or to an actual bar. It doesn’t matter where, just make sure they take a break.

3. Do NOT, under any circumstances, EVER reassure your bar exam taker that they are going to pass. Depending on where they’re taking the exam, it might be that statistically they are more likely to pass than not to pass. BUT, do not say that to them. To the bar exam taker, the seemingly innocent “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll pass” just adds to the pressure. It lets them know that you think they’re smart and in the  stress twisted mind of the bar exam taker that means they will let you down horribly when they fail. So. Never ever try to soothe by reassurance.

4. Soothe your bar-exam taker by taking care of them. Studying for the bar is like having a job where you work 20 hours a day. Make sure they eat real meals and shower everyday. Take over chores they normally do.

5. Care packages. Great idea. In theory. In practice, a lot of care packages are full of things that require effort to use. If you’re giving a car package, make sure the recipient doesn’t have to do anything to use the contents. So. No gift cards. No un-popped popcorn. Nothing that needs refrigeration or freezing.

I’m not going to pretend that these are the best tips ever, but they are things that I wish someone had told me or things that I wish people had done for me. If you have any other tips, feel free to live them in the comments.

Also. I will now returned to my regularly scheduled memory erasing for that period of my life. So. We will never speak of The Bar again.

…and this is why I haven’t been blogging

My desk after a three day appellate brief writing binge. That particular brief is done, but today I’m starting on another for a 6th circuit appeal (eek!). This will be my first federal court appeal and I’m a little nervous…

Anyway, my camera is also lost, so expect a few posts with no pictures until I find it or buy a new one. In the meantime, prepare for blog silence until this brief is finished.

Why my boss is awesome

Scene: Random Wednesday at Noon, Firm Thanksgiving Dinner

Me to person sitting to my left: Are you going out of town for Thanksgiving? (Don’t judge me! Small talk is a good way to start a real conversation.)

Boss (from across the room): The Syrah is open! Who wants a glass of Syrah? Or a white? Martha*?

Me: No thanks. I can’t drink while I’m on antibiotics.

crickets and an incredulous stare

Boss: At all? Or just like 2 hours after taking them?

Me: At all.

crickets, incredulous stare, dropped jaw

Boss: I think I’d rather stay sick.

This is why I love my job. This may also be why attorneys have a high rate of alcoholism.

*Please note I was the first name called out. This is probably due to my general unwillingness to allow wine to go un-drank.

Seriously. Can we be a little more creative?

Today, I’m sending you over to The Thoroughbred Brief for a look at over-used horse related phrases in legal writing.
Really, click the link. There’s some hilarious phrases. Lawyers, you should take this as a lesson. Don’t use those phrases! Come up with something new already!

Thanks, I needed that…


I’ve had a pretty exhausting few days. Long weekend, second to last week at work, restless nights, these are all adding up to me being exhausted. Allow me to elaborate.

Memorial Day weekend was, of course, wonderful. Mostly. You see, on Sunday, probably sometime Saturday night actually, my a/c broke. It started blowing only lukewarm air. It’s early June, so some of you may not understand why this is a big deal. I’m assuming if you don’t understand you don’t live in Kentucky. Or the South. It’s HOT in Kentucky right now. And humid. Hot + Humid = really uncomfortable. I feel the need to explain this because I know that not all parts of the world have humidity like we do here (and I wish I lived in one of those places), so not everyone realizes that a humid 87° F feels more like 97°F would feel inside a plastic garbage bag. It sucks. Anyway, we’ve been without a/c since Sunday and it will be at least Tuesday before we can get a new one.

On top of being hot at home, the a/c at the courthouses broke on Tuesday. So I’ve been hot at work too. Basically I’ve been hot 24 hours a day for the last 4 days. As you can guess, I haven’t been the most enjoyable person to be around. AND on top of all that, it’s been too hot to run outside, too hot to run inside, and too hot to do yoga. AND on top of that, a month long  trial started yesterday. The lawyers are all really good lawyers and I’m enjoying watching them work, but the case itself is really sad. Just watching the trial is emotionally draining; I can’t imagine living it. AND on top of all that I’ve been really cracking down on the caffeine intake—one cup of half-caff a day!

To recap: Hot at home. Hot at work. No exercise. Sad trial. Very very little caffeine.

I think we can all imagine my emotional state today. If we can’t this was it: breaking point. I thought about drinking a lot of beer but then I remembered it was too hot to run off the calories. Instead, and against every instinct I have, I went to yoga. *Sidebar: this is because they keep the yoga studio really warm to aid in stretching the muscles and I really didn’t want to go to yet another hot place.* This was the beginners class; I go because I really like the teacher. But today she wasn’t there and there was a sub. Initially I was a little sad (and hot), but then I realized that there were only going to be four people and felt a little better (still hot though). The class turned out to be what I needed. There was a lot of movement, more so than in most beginners classes, but it was still a really gentle, for lack of a better word, practice. All the movements were slow and restorative. When I told the instructor that I thought it was a great class and exactly what I needed today, she said “Thanks! I needed that.” It made me feel good to make her feel good. Post-yoga I feel a lot better about life (still hot though) and I’m much more relaxed and much less likely to burst into tears for no apparent reason.

I guess the point of this is that sometimes doing the one thing you really really really don’t want to do for whatever reason, might be the one thing you really need to do.