Sunday, March 23, 2014

As I lay writing this from my figurative hospital bed....

I am VERY GLAD to hear about enrollment dropping off at law schools.  I have no idea if the media is writing about it as much as they were a few years ago, but I still perform individual grassroots activities in deterring people from the profession of law. 

It is nearly 1 a.m. where I am sitting and I just finished off a glass of wine.  I have become more of a hermit than I can imagine.  I miss that guy that wrote that other blog that shut it down after he revealed his identity.  

Asking for an elimination of law school attendance is like spaying and neutering the entire pet population.  That's great until it turns out like "Children of Men."  

We need SOME lawyers.  Somebody needs to prosecute people and handle divorces.  But being an attorney is like being on American Idol.  Every week is an audition and everyone is vulnerable to being cut.

People can have everything one minute then lose it the next.  There are only a few meteoric people who maintain some sort of trajectory.  There are a few Tom Cruises but many more Chris O'Donnells and Sam Worthingtons that made some big movies then pooped out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Law School vs. Clown College

I had begun to refer to law school as "clown college," but I realized that it would be an insult to clowns.

Can you imagine?  Say that you don't want to work for Ringling Bros. anymore.  You can put a tip jar out on a street corner and start juggling bowling pins.  People will watch for a few minutes and then leave you money.

 It may not be much, but that spare change adds up over a few hours.  I don't know how many attorneys were ever voluntarily paid anything, and even if accounts are settled full and proper, there is a bit of misery about it for the client, isn't there?  Oops, there went $5,000 that could have gone to buying a new car, and it's been sunk on something they'd rather have never had to pay for in a million years.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by these lawsuits that are going after schools for employment statistics. 

I think back to my own experience.  Technically, at the nine month mark, I was employed in a job that had the potential salary of $50,000+ per year.  I was hired that exact month after being unemployed since graduation.  Then, I left the job in favor of a temp job in a non-legal field, if that tells you anything.

Now, I don't recall ever answering a survey.  I don't recall if one was ever sent to me.  Maybe they did send one.  I recall some sort of email about alerting career services if you still hadn't found anything, so maybe it was a passive "we will only count the people who come forward and ask for help as unemployed and assume everyone else is employed."

Of course, if you have been trying to find a job for quite some time and saw a distinct pattern where career services wasn't working much magic, you are not very enthusiastic about telling them anything.  It's a bit like waiting by the phone for the on-again-off-again boyfriend and you've gotten to that point where you're just sort of laying low and hoping he just drifts away and becomes somebody else's problem as opposed to giving you hope that things are going to be different.

Yes, career services!  You told me a few months ago that things were different because you see that there are problems with how things were going.  Then, I didn't hear from you for several months, and now you send me an email asking me if you would like to get together because you were busy but you were still thinking about me?

Then, you look around and see that your afternoons are filled with making your innards raw from coffee and reading a grade-C novel that you picked up on a whim at the used book store, and you are so desperate for cheap entertainment that you painfully turn through each page as you stare out the window every second paragraph. 

Hmm. 

Then you think, "Maybe I should take career services back.  I swore I would never go back to them because they've been telling me this same story for two years now about how great things were going to be if I just reached out to them.  Ha!  My employed friends are tired of me showing up to their gatherings without a job and ask me about career services and what they've been up to recently.  They look at me with a mixture of pity and doubt in their eyes when I tell them that career services is trying really hard, but they are short-staffed and are obviously very busy with OCI and they'll get back to me as soon as they can.  In fact, career services told me to provide them with my class schedule in case a potential employer tried to get in contact with me but had to send them to track me down if my phone was not working and it was absolutely urgent that they speak to me right that moment because I am such an amazing candidate that they won't consider anyone else.

"But then, here I am, at the goddamn Starbucks on a Tuesday afternoon.  If I were that amazing, maybe someone else would have expressed interest.  Hmm.  Maybe career services wasn't that bad.  They did give me coffee and occasional donuts.  And cake.  Don't forget about cake.   They were always very nice.  And they had jovial font on the fliers in the hallways.  Also, have you seen what else is out there?  Craigslist?  Law Crossing?  Maybe they are simply dysfunctional and I should be the one to change.  Maybe career services needs me to be more proactive.  Maybe I am not expressing my needs adequately.  People have told me that I am poor at communicating my needs.  Maybe they were simply waiting for me to make a move all of this time, but they were shy about doing so because they didn't want to look like an obsessive freak.  Really, I am a very cold individual.  Maybe they are giving me another chance because I screwed something up and they have such strong feelings for me that they could not stay away.  You know, I should really be more attentive to the needs of others.  Here I am, blaming them for my own shortcomings when all they were doing was pining away with the desire to help me become more than what I am.  Once again, my own cynicism about people got in the way, and I couldn't recognize that I simply just let it fall apart instead of expressing my needs.  You know what?  I'm going to show them that I still care about them and let them know that I understand that they are trying in their own way."

Thus, despite having my self esteem chipped away each time I went through this, the cycle would inevitably restart.

However, on this occasion, I don't think I bothered replying to them because I was in secret celebration that I had just found a job.  Yes, I can just passively act like I never got their email and act surprised if I accidentally run into them at a school CLE event.  After all, this was now the year 2010.  Technology was so finicky that everything goes directly into the Spam box.  Plus, only old people checked their email.  It was nothing but text and Facebook, bay-bee!

Ah, but when I say that I changed jobs unexpectedly, I don't think my case was that unusual.  I think there are more than a few of my classmates that had already made job changes within two years.  This highlights the ever migratory world of legal employment.  Just like circus carnies, many will dabble in a variety of trades and employers.  Many fall off the hamster wheel they get tired enough, so it leaves this interesting picture of what true Darwinism looks like when seeing which people make it to the golden status of old geezer attorney.  Most of the people who are hired at big firms are gone within a few short years and new room is made for another round of people who think they've struck it big.

So, what they really need when measuring law school statistics is basically the equivalent to the life cycle of a star sort of diagram.

Step 1:  The non-attorney enters a ring of dark matter and is compressed for 3 years until nuclear reaction takes place.

Step 2:  The new lawyer is launched from the nursery where they are humiliated by people with high school diplomas and 20 years experience in the field they are trying to work in.

Step 3:  The new lawyer is tired of working for the jackass who is paying them nothing and keeping the rest of it for hookers and private planes.  The new lawyer decides they too can have hookers and private planes.

Step 4:  The new lawyer creates a new law firm.  They may even "go in" with someone.  Unbeknownst to new lawyer, the new partner is setting about in stealing their clients behind their back.  The new venture falls apart and moving trucks are brought in during the middle of the night to haul away case files without a Dear John letter. 

Step 5:  Bitterness and alcohol ensues.  Complaints to the state bar are made about your failure to keep the client apprised of their case.  Somewhere along the way, you may need to make a stop at the special attorney AA meetings as recommended by the State bar and have your work overseen by another attorney as you are on "probation."

Step 6:  Tort reform bills are passed.  The business base dries up, and the lawyer seeks out a last minute certification to teach high school English.  The student loans from years past are still hovering around like a goddamn horse fly that is determined as all hell to take away a yummy chunk of your arm if you would only hold still just long enough.  Oddly, even though you've paid on them for nearly 10 years at this point, they are still nearly about the same size as the day you graduated from law school thanks to deferments and low income and such.

Yes, so only if we could get attorneys to write out their full bio, then people who are thinking about law school may understand because numerical statistics just don't cut it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Horrors of Public Bathrooms

Have you ever noticed that a lot of lawyer movies have a scene where the attorney is in a public bathroom at the courthouse?

I never really thought about it, but yeah, especially if you do spend a lot of time at the courthouse, you are subjected to the best and brightest of ancient public facilities.  For example, one had fairly ample space between the slats that are supposed to shield you from the world.  Instead of fixing the issue, some enterprising individual hung strategically placed toilet paper strips over those areas.

Yes, if only they looked as opulent as they do in the movies.  I kept waiting to come down with some sort of dread disease.

I was provoked to write today because I can no longer handle my pet peeve.  This is where we play:

What would you do if this happened to you?

You are at a sink in a public bathroom washing your hands.  You have a choice between two trash cans that are equidistant from your position.  In other words, you don't have to change position or strain to reach either one of them.

One trash can is a mostly empty waist basket with a large hole.

Another trash can is the small tin trash holder that is part of the paper napkin dispenser.  There is about a 6 inch space between the area where the towels come out and the area where the napkins are thrown away.

After you dry your hands, where do you dispose your trash?

1.  The waist basket where you can watch in satisfaction as the paper disappears down the wide, spacious hole to the bottom of the can?

2.  The tiny tin located directly under the paper napkin towel dispenser, where you have to cram it in and which forces the next person to maneuver around your soggy wet trash to get a clean napkin to wipe their hands?

I seriously can't figure out why someone would have an aversion to throwing away trash in a giant trash can.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Go Back to Work?

I don't understand these people who want the Occupy crowds to stop protesting and go back to work.

Do they seriously believe that many of those people are camped out day after day because they have jobs or even a home to go to?  Or is the media inventing the 9% or higher unemployment statistics?

It's funny that the naysayers want to blame Obama for the continued high unemployment, but they also want to believe that the protesters are just a bunch of spoiled hippies who just happened to wander by the park on the way to buy some ganja from their supplier and decided to hold an impromptu party.

In fact, I find it particularly interesting that many of the initial hoards of unemployed after the financial meltdown no longer have unemployment benefits.

Finally, let me close by saying that we in America are trying to sell the concept of American-style democracy to the rest of the world--especially the Middle East.  What example do we set when our cops randomly pepper spray people who are peaceably protesting?

They look at that and see that our way doesn't give them the freedoms that they desire.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where Do Your Lottery Riches Go?

The other day, I overheard some people hating on a young attorney for being "cheap" because he doesn't go crazy with spending.  After all, this young attorney made so much money that he should be living like a king! 

I'll pause here to let the chuckling die down.

After all, those of us "in the know" know that we don't get to keep all of those glorious riches.  Haters usually don't take into account that attorneys not only have bills, but they have unique expenses.

I thought about it for a while, and decided that this is as good a time (as any) to discuss what happens to your money as a young attorney.  For sake of argument, let's say that young attorney makes $50,000 a year.

The federal government takes a bigger cut.

Now, I know that people made fun of that law professor not long ago for not having enough left over to pay for undocumented workers to be paid in peanuts to cut his lawn if the Bush tax cuts went away.  However, nobody really pays attention to what happens on a smaller scale for people who aren't making anywhere near that amount.  If the attorney has taxable income of $50,000 per year, they pay a 25% tax rate on every dollar they make over $34,500.  In contrast, people who have a taxable income between $8,500 and $34,500 pay a 15% tax rate on every dollar they make over $8,500.  Not that I'm necessarily complaining about paying taxes since I like having services, but it is a fact that an additional 10% above $34,500 goes away. 

Self Employment Taxes

For those not lucky enough to find work in a firm (or those unlucky to work in scummy firms who won't withhold your income tax), you get the privilege of paying self employment tax.  This amount is double what an employed person earns.  Of course, the upside is that it is that it is much easier to deduct expenses such as bar dues that would not otherwise count if you don't have enough to itemize. 

Student Loan Debt

I don't know what it is, but people think that schools hand out law degrees for free.   They think that if you pay $12,000 a year in student loan payments that you still get to keep that $12,000.

Ah, but don't they offer income based repayment?

Why sure!  In that scenario, you can exchange living off of ramen noodles for 10 years to get rid of them for paying a "manageable" amount for the next 25+ years that you could have bought a house with the additional interest that you paid.

Donations to Campaigns

If you live in an area where the judges are not appointed, you are expected to donate money to election campaigns.  Through donations and a combination of schmoozing at social events, the attorney helps, er, put their clients interests in a good light.  Yeah, that's it....

Social Events

At the end of your workday, you don't simply go home a lot of the time.  No. Marketing yourself is a 24 hour a day task.  Whether you belong to the Junior League or the Masons, your lunches and evenings are spent at meetings.

And people don't simply expect you to show up to a meeting, nod your head in agreement, and go home.  No, that is for losers.  If you were very smart, you would put yourself in charge of a committee that spends months organizing a big event.  That way, it makes you look like a responsible individual to people who don't know you that well.

If that wasn't enough, you are also supposed to attend silent auctions and charity events.  Again, your attendance is not good enough.  If they are selling a basket of bath soaps, you are supposed to bid on them and preferably win.

The Trick or Treat Syndrome

Do you remember how people round up their kids and drive them over to the "rich" neighborhoods to go trick or treating because they give out all of the "good" candy?  One lady I know said that one year, she had over 500 trick or treaters come to their door because she lived in the "good" neighborhood.

When Christmas rolls around, you can't afford to cheap out with either your bosses or underlings and giving presents.  A good present to your boss shows that you are thankful to have a job.  A good present to your support staff is expected as a thank you for putting up with your bullshit all year.  Also, donuts and fruit baskets to the court's support staff also helps because you're going to screw up and you're going to need them to remember you as the individual who brought them donuts last week in helping you fix the error so that you won't be sued by your client for malpractice. 


This also extends outside of the office.  People two floors down from your office somehow magically make their way in the door and expect you to buy candy bars for their kid's PTA, pledge for their walk to combat breast cancer, and buy candles, wrapping paper, and tickets for cook offs. Sure, you can use the excuse that you don't have any money or you are on a diet, but you don't know if you're burning the bridge with a potential client, do you?

This leads me too...

Keeping up Appearances

At one time, I used to laugh at the idea that a nice car and clothes were legitimate business expenses, but what do people think of attorneys that show up to court in a beater?  They certainly don't think that the attorney is simply being reasonable and trying to keep the student loan people from harassing them.

Trust me, I've tried that conversation with people.  They don't want to hear it.  If you don't have the goodies, that is a red flag that there is something wrong with you.

I don't know if any of you have ever read the book The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, but there is a scene at a country club where the older lady is teaching the younger lady how she should act now that she had substantial money.

The older lady told her, "Don't talk loudly at the waiters.  Make the waiters lean in to listen to you.  They expect it."

Yes, its incredibly bitchy to treat the staff like that, but that exchange has a specific point that is echoed when some of the non-attorneys make merriment of your economic misfortune.

I will give this example:

My grandmother and grandpa lived in a house that was in such bad condition that you could hear rats in the attic at night.  Eventually, she went to work in real estate to earn some extra income.

My grandma bought a Lincoln, wore diamonds, and bought clothes from the nice boutiques.  Not only that, she did not screw over clients.  She had a 30+ year career in real estate that survived the busts.

In contrast, the realtor that my parents used a few years ago drove a beater (that could stand to be cleaned) and always acted like he would rather be somewhere else.  In fact, he once said that he had a nicer car, but used the junker for work because it was cheaper for liability purposes.  For a couple of years after my parents bought their property, the realtor used to mail circulars to them to keep him in mind.  After the real estate bust, the circulars mysteriously went away.  I assume the guy is flipping burgers somewhere.

Not that my grandmother and grandfather ever moved out of the neighborhood, mind you.  It ended up being an assurance that she still had a job.

Moral of the story:  In a people business you can't afford to cheap out in the eyes of your clients.  On one hand, people are annoyed that you are driving around in a Hummer while you ran off with their last dime.  On the other hand, they want to hire the attorney who drives the Hummer because it means that this attorney is legitimate and can get their clients results.


So, yeah, the truth is that the nature of the business doesn't allow you to simply get 10 years of use out of your beat up old Civic even if you were perfectly happy with your old car.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Unemployment: It's Hard on the Body

I exercise pretty regularly.

Even when I was unemployed, I normally went walking about two hours a day.  I kinda watched what I ate, and I considered myself fairly fit.

However, my girth expanded a tad.  True, I wasn't close to wearing Women's sizes, but there was a bit of a difference.

Ok.  You realize that even if you go out walking about 2 hours a day that there is still the time that you sat around or slept in.  Plus, you can eat things like vast quantities of spaghetti at lunch instead of making due with the portions in your TV dinner.  But it wasn't merely weight gain.

My knees creaked and I walked around as stiff as all get out.

I'm not very old compared to the usual person who has this problem, but I had some problems with agility.  And it didn't really happen gradually.  It felt like it became noticeable during my unemployment.

I wasn't sure if I would get it back, or if this signaled the downhill slide that came with age.  I used to use equipment at the school gym, and considering that I still made it a point to get exercise on a daily basis I didn't see much hope for returning to how things were when I was in my 20s.

It took a year of working out with Yoga and cardio exercises, but my knees felt "normal" again.

And I had never really done any of those exercises in any quantity before all of this happened.

It took a few months for the creaky feeling to go away.  It took even longer for the stiffness to leave.

It's like I had to spend an entire year rebuilding myself from what I considered to be a very non-physically demanding lifestyle. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back in My Day, We Had Fun Parties!

If only I had a picture to contrast two representative Halloween parties.

Which one sounds more fun?

At one party, people are laughing, wearing fun costumes, eating interesting foods, and engaging in creative activities such as pumpkin carving.

At another party, people are sitting around and staring at their phones.