Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What means most

Over the past month, I have had a few clients genuinely thank me for treating them in a compassionate and professional manner.  I am usually the second voice they ever hear when calling our office, because I screen to find out if they have an open legal issue to deal with.  At this point, most of the time the client is quite vulnerable.  Remember that they are injured, confused sometimes, frustrated with the system, perhaps scared of the employer -- there are all kinds of physical and emotional issues that they are dealing with.  And you are the person that is going to work closely with them in the coming weeks, months, and years.

I have discovered that while I do enjoy the paycheck (I mean who doesn't), what I really enjoy is a "Thank You" from a client.  When someone says that I helped them, or made something easier for them, or took a weight off their shoulders, somehow it makes all this journey okay.  I might even say it's better than coffee or chocolate, and for me that's saying a lot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Depression, Alcoholism,, and the Profession of Law

I wrote this last night, but did not have time to post... so posting on my break.  So food for thought:

How much have you thought about depression and alcoholism, maybe even addition?  Start thinking about it now.  If you are reading my blog and attending law school, or about to—become educated.  The statistics are startling and something I had not thought about until about my 3rd year of law school, when I began to see the effects of both on my peers, professors, and practicing attorney’s I knew.  So let’s take a look at them.
By the end of the first year of law school, 32% of students are suffering from depression.  By the end of the 3rd year, 45%.  A year out of law school, 17% are still under a deep depressive influence.  Lawyers are 4 times more likely to suffer from depression.  There are 1 million practicing attorneys in the US, and 25% of those suffer from depression!  Only 60% of these actually are seeking help (this information was studied in a John Hopkins study in the 90’s).  Also, lawyers are 2 times more likely to commit suicide than the average population.

Alcoholism is common in this profession….  In a survey taken by the ABA 13% of those who responded said they drink 6 or more drinks a day.  Out of bar disciplines in the state of California, 25% deal with substance abuse issues.  According to several studies, alcoholism accounts for 95% of addiction problems in lawyers and judges.  And no wonder.  As a student, you learn very quickly at school sponsored events and networking opportunities that wine, beer, and hard liquor is easily available.  At my school’s events involving alumni, there was always a wine and beer bar – free to all attendees.  

In the average population, 10% of adults suffer from alcoholism.  In the legal profession 1 in 5 attorneys’, that’s 20%, have a problem with alcohol.  What is it that drives attorneys to drink?  I refuse to believe that it is because our jobs are more stressful.  I think that is a cop out.  I worked in a high stress job before…. Stress is subjective to the individual.  Someone who is a greeter at Wal-Mart could experience, to them, the same amount of stress as a defense attorney who is responsible for keeping their client off death row.
What is interesting is the same ABA survey showed that 90% of those professionals who suffered, they are high functioning alcoholics.  Meaning that they may not drink every day, but they binge.  Or if they do drink every day, they are able to function without few people realizing what a huge problem alcohol is in their lives.  They hide it and hide it well.  They may show up to hearings after a few drinks, but no one notices.  They may come to work after a drink to get them going in the morning, and then advise their clients.  They fly under the radar for many reasons.  While both those examples are possible bar discipline, many lawyers do not report each other – why?  Because how do you really know whether another person is impaired or not?  And reporting someone could have dire consequences for that person.

So how do you guard against this?  What I think it comes down to is how do you fill the void in your life?  How do you deal with the life changes that your profession forces on you?  Think about this.  You know, or soon will know, how law school changes a person.  You view the world in such a different way after law school.  Then comes the practice of law.  I would love to see if there is disparity in the percentages based on what type of law that a person practices.  I will tell you, when I worked in the DOJ, it was difficult to turn my brain off at night.  I had images of pictures of children severely abused, of autopsy reports, of psych reports, of crime scene photos, of interviews with children abused – I saw the filth of society DAILY.  Now, I hear the pain of a person whose life is being disassembled right before their eyes.  They are injured, can’t get care, and are not being paid – several of my clients rack up debt that leaves them destitute before we are able to get financial relief and time loss pay for them.  I hear their desperation.  One man, not long ago, talked about committing suicide as a way out.  This takes a toll on a person.

Why?  I have alluded to the Sacred Trust a few times, and have promised a piece on it.  I am getting there, but having problems placing into words, what it truly is.  But this is a small part of the issue.  Good lawyers empathize, care, and truly want to work towards a solution for their clients.  They see the pain, and realize that it is their duty, their responsibility, a part of the trust handed down to them, to protect those more vulnerable in society.

How to do you avoid going down the depression and addiction path?  I have to say it’s not easy.  Depression is serious.  Addiction can be deadly.  Both could cost you a career.  But you have to make some decisions now on how you will handle it.  First, learn to turn off work as soon as you leave the office.  This is critical!  I learned to do this at the DOJ after a few months.  Leave work at work.  Don’t take it home with you.  How to develop a thick skin, I don’t know.  It’s different for each person.  But do it.  Second, be willing to get help.  That’s right.  Don’t let your ego get in the way, and let’s face it, lawyers and law students have healthy egos.  Most law schools have counseling centers – use it.  It’s confidential.  If you are an attorney, be willing to go to a professional. You would not want someone to go pro se for a murder charge would you?  No that would be insane.  They need a professional.  Recognize that someday you might need one to.  And don’t be too proud to seek one out.  Third, know your limitations -- and stick to them.  Does depression and alcoholism run in your family?  Then know you are more likely to suffer from both.  Be proactive.  Seek help for depression and maybe do not drink.  As someone whose family has alcoholics on both sides, I rarely drink.  Rarely.  And when I do, I tend to stop after one.  Set limits for yourself.

Finally, find your center – that place that fills that void that we all have in life.  I think this is probably where alcoholics fall.  As humans, we each have this need, sometimes a void in our lives.  We fill it with many things.  It is where we look in times of stress; it is the well from which we pull when life gets hard.  For me, I look to my faith, to God to get through it.  I believe that those that struggle with addiction are really just searching for a way to fill the void with something, to help make them forget, to numb what they feel.  I pray.  Do I fail sometimes and lose sight?  Yeah, I do and I have.  That’s when it is important to have a strong support system who can remind you of the truth of things.  To hold you accountable.  To tell you when you are becoming jaded, cynical, hard and ugly.

My point is to raise awareness of what a problem depression and addiction is.  Be aware and make a plan on how to deal with both if it begins to hit you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Job Market

Positions as attorney's are few and far between right now.  The economy has taken it's toll on all sizes of firms.  The reality is that less than 10% of my classmates are employed right now.  This is a scary, scary statistic.  For my readers, I don't know where you are in your journey, but if you are a 2 or 3L, this is great cause for concern.  If you are still in undergrad or maybe a 1L, probably not so bad for you as long as the economy picks up soon.

It seems that firms are holding off from hiring, but not downsizing anymore.  A recent article by the ABA advises recent graduates to go ahead and take a legal assistant job.  That firms will understand in this economy that you did what you had to do.  This is, I believe, sound advice.  I do not regret taking a job as a legal assistant in a smaller firm.  I have learned a ton so far.  A smaller firm means that you will be given more responsibility, likely more interaction with clients, more drafting abilities, more hands on experience.  A smaller firm will rely on your ability to analyze a file. 

One other thing...... I now have a healthy respect of a law firm as a business.  I see what it costs to run an office.  I see how I might do things differently to streamline, but see what works and was developed by people who have been doing this for years.  I see the business practices of the office. 

I also see the importance of a great support staff.  The importance of a good software package designed to bill, take notes, and track documents.

The lesson I want to pass on is to make the most of the experiences you can gain by not practicing law at that moment.  Your time will come, but in the mean time, take a look at the practice of law from a different angle.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving.... What are you grateful for?

I love Thanksgiving.  For one, it is the holiday that remains untainted by commercialism.  But most of all, it is a time that we can reflect upon the things that make us grateful and thankful.  I have so many things to be grateful for this year.  I have my family, whom I love dearly, and whom without I would not have graduated from law school.  I am grateful that I live in this incredible country, where freedom is paramount, and prosperity is determined by the grit and the ability to dream that is inside of each of us.  I am grateful for the men and women who sacrifice to fight for and protect this great country.  I am thankful for the things I have, for the things that will be, and for the person I have become.  I am even thankful for the experiences, both good and bad, that have made me into the person I am today.

Today, as I reflected on where I am, I was grateful that for the first time in seven years, I did not have to study!  LOL.  Great feeling.  Here is wishing each of my readers a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving.  Make a list today, a grateful heart list --- and enjoy time with family, friends, and/or your children.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Varying State Laws

I am on vacation in Colorado visiting my sister who is based at Fort Carson.  I love traveling to different states and seeing the different laws.... This trip has given me lots to think about because not only am I in a different state, but I am staying on a base -- which means that federal law, not state law, governs.  This was an interesting concept to me.  As you enter the gates of the base, there are many legalease wording on huge signs -- part of which is all the things that you consent to merely by entering the base.  Things like complete vehicle searches, consent to buccal, blood, or breathalizer tests for any purpose or reason without probable cause, and many others.... It's amazing to me the rights as a civilian I give up merely by visiting my sister.  Or the rights that she gives up by having a dwelling place on this base..... mind boggling really.

State laws are just as interesting to figure out.  You can still talk on a cell phone and drive in Colorado, you can still purchase sudafed without a prescription (gonna load up before going home), and U-Turns, yes they are allowed... There are more, but those are the few that come to mind.  What is most amazing is that you really can break a law without realizing it and be penalized for it...... Bonus though, speed limit is 75 mph from the Idaho border to Colorado Springs, Co!!!! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not If, When

One thing about going to college while your child is young -- the importance of education is instilled in your child.  They watch you learn, struggle, and place priority on education.  College becomes real to them.  My daughter does not talk about "if" she goes to college, she talks about "when."  As a seventh grader, she focuses on her grades, and she is already researching colleges.  Her current passion is dance and she says that is what she wants to do, but she is also realistic and wants a "back up" plan.

What is incredible to me is talking to her friends.  They have none of that drive or focus.  College is something they might do, and if they go, it's social and maybe some working.  After much deliberation I have come to the conclusion that while there are lots of sacrifices being made, one of the pluses or blessings is that I have not had to work at instilling the value of education in my daughter.... she knows it.  When, not if.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taking a Road Trip!

This coming Thanksgiving, I am taking a road trip.  First one in years, and the first one with my daughter since she was a child.  I am so excited.  This post really has nothing to do with law school, more single parenting I guess.  What I am excited about is that I am visiting my sister, niece, and nephew.  They live on a base in Colorado.  I want to see what base life is like... and I want to talk to a MP on base!  LOL.  I know there is a whole federal law issue and the MP's control.  I am really interested in how the military structures it's laws.

More than that, I am fascinated by the fact that it is federal land and so therefore, no state tax on the base.  My mom has tried to explain what it is like.  There are commissary's like giant, sterile, WalMarts with everything you can imagine, gas stations, restaurants -- this absolutely fascinates me.

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter and Hiring....

A lot of you who are following me have blogs that you write.  I would place a bet that you are on Facebook and possibly Twitter as well.  We are part of a society where we can publish, easily, any thought that crosses our mind.  We can add pictures, link articles, tweet our latest thought, pet peeve, or irritation. 

So, now that you have decided to embark on your law school journey and your life as a lawyer -- take a look at what you post.  Anything embarrassing?  Any pictures you would not want your grandma to see?  Any really bitchy comments about the classmate sitting next to you?  Because if there are, you might really want to start censoring yourself to a degree.  Law schools are starting to take a look at your Facebook, blogs, websites.  Law firms will google your name and look for you before interviewing you.

For me, I have nothing to hide!  I am who I am, and what you see is what you get!  My personal facebook is on lockdown, but more for security purposes from a past ex who is half-crazy---not because I would be ashamed of what anyone would see or read. In fact, my posts are boring and my pictures are cute Halloween outfits of my child, nieces and nephews!!!

Also, remember the power of words.  What you say about yourself and how you speak of others.  Someone recently reminded me that a lawyer only has their reputation.  This reputation must be guarded at all costs.  We don't sell a product, we brand our names --- and a good lawyers name implies integrity, trust, wisdom and truth.  If what we post implies something different, it can come back to haunt you.  If you post something about a fellow student, friend, or even a co-worker, than you are tearing down their reputation.  And would we want the same done to us in reverse?

It's never, ever too soon to start working on this. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mommy Daughter Night

Wow! I wish I would have thought of this during law school.  Tonight I took my daughter to a high school play and we had a fabulous time.  We saw 12 Angry Jurors (I think I chronicled this as a MUST see for a legal movie in a past blog entry).  What was wonderful about this is a) it was cheap and good entertainment.  That's right, for 10.00 total, we were entertained for 2 hours and pulled into a wonderful story.  b) We supported the local high school by purchasing the tickets and watching high school students do something they were talented and passionate about.

Even better, this was a wonderful teaching moment for my daughter.  More so because of the subject matter of the play.  This play was set in the jury room, after jurors have been sent to deliberate whether a young man of 19 was tried for killing his father.  The play cleverly centers around "reasonable doubt" and what it means.  This opened a wonderful conversation between my daughter and I about jury duty, why it is important, how it works.  I was able to point out to her what would really happen and what would not happen in a jury room.

And even better, we now have a list of upcoming shows at the high school.  We decided to go back for a showing of Hairspray in January.... at 5.00 a ticket, and a talented bunch of kids, it provided a wonderful night for both of us!  A win-win!!!!

Going back in time

The other night, I volunteered to be a witness for one of my 3rd year law school friends who was competing in the Don Turner Moot Court Competition.  I walked into the school and it was weird.  What felt like home to me for 3 years, well it didn't anymore.  It was like walking into a house where I use to live, but finding someone else living there.  I wasn't expecting that feeling.

I had a blast playing witness... perhaps my friend should not have asked a graduated law student to play witness for her!  I really quibbled at many of the questions.... gave the opposing team quite a hard time in controlling me.  If they did not phrase a question right, I would correct them... batted them around a bit and it was funny.

My friend and her team mate rocked!  However, the other teams motion in limines cracked me up.  First they said they wanted to exclude photos of the victim because they were prejudicial and they weren't there to argue that she was shot, just who shot her..... then they argued they were prejudicial.

I giggled... like out loud giggled....... Rolled my eyes and was really trying not to laugh (I don't think I should ever judge).  Why did I giggle?  This trial was a MURDER trial.  Her death is at issue!!!!!!!!  Oh goodness, seriously!  And of course the pictures are prejudicial.

Then there was an objection to an admission of a handwritten letter -- but really what they were objecting to was not anything other than credibility -- who do you believe?  I was on the stand at that point, I had given my friend everything she needed to lay a firm foundation. 

Oh, and I delighted in saying at the end at least three times, "The defendant shot my daughter!" HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then there were the questions, "You thought this, didn't you Mrs. Wilson."  No, that is not what I thought... totally hilarious!!!!!

I don't know if I helped or hurt as a witness, I do know I had a blast doing it! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day

Today, if you know someone that is serving, or has served this great nation -- please tell them thank you.  These brave men and women fight to preserve the constitution, protect our country, and safeguard our freedoms.  And sleep better at night, knowing there are marines, army, navy, air force, and coast guard soldiers that are keeping watch over us.

And a big thank you to their families who sacrifice as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Family in a Small Firm

Small businesses usually mean family business.  Even if only one family member owns the business, usually others work there.  Now, for 10 years prior to law school I worked for my mom.  My sister worked there too.  I now have a new appreciation for employees who have co-workers who are family members.   One thing to think about is how it will be working for family members.  This can effect your own dealings with co-workers and your employer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Client Confidentiality

You are taught from day one in law school that client confidentiality trumps all else.  There are very few exemptions to this rule.......... at all.  Unless it is to prevent an imminent crime (there are a few others) you keep your mouth shut, and your lips sealed.

Today I ran into my first real moral dilemma.  One thing I did not think about is that an injured worker is at his most vulnerable.  They are off work, dependent upon the worker's compensation insurance to pay time loss.  But what if the insurer denies the claim, and it drags on for months?  What if they literally are now broke, with no capital to borrow from for day to day expenses?  When they are so demoralized that they just have no sense of self anymore.  What if they are mentally in not a good place?  How do you help them without breaching confidentiality --- these are issues you have to deal with.  They are real and they keep you up at night.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Phew........... What a last couple of weeks....

What a busy 2 1/2 weeks of learning a new subject:  first in the statutes, then in admin law, and then, finally calling on my legal resources and friends who knew about worker's comp law.  I scrambled, fell into bed exhausted, and was ready for any 2 minute break I could snatch.

But I learned some valuable things..... my firm is AWESOME.  I had to call down to another office and talk to people I had never met.......... they were so supportive, helpful, and wonderful.  I CAN figure things out when they seem like they are incomprehensible....

I also learned that I can screw up potentially big time, and there is NO WAY I would open up my own solo practitioner office UNTIL I learned all the ends and outs of figuring out of running a practice.  For instance, I assumed (not the word) that turning over discovery was prompt or "reasonable" in WC like in other areas of law.  Nope..... it's 7 days in my state or it can be objected to and not admitted as evidence.  I should have known better and looked, but I did not.  (btw, that could be a legal malpractice issue if a client lost because evidence was not admitted).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fun on the real job......

One thing you realize quickly in your first un-intern job (I know not a real word) is that even after you are finished with law school, you really know nothing.  You have no idea how to do anything practical....  Sure, you know what a pleading looks like, but you actually have no idea how to draft one.  The language that goes into it.  You can figure out the court rules (like font, pleading lines, headings) from reading the rule book -- but you have NO IDEA what really goes in one.  And you look at an example -- but it still is like reading greek....literally.

So school is not out when you are out.  Really the school of reality is just starting.  But it's fun.  There is something new every morning.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Worker's Compensation

There are about 12,000 lawyers in the state of Oregon.  Only 30 practice Worker's Compensation (hereafter "WC") law.  This area of the law in Oregon is a BEAST.  I kid you not.  I do not know whether I love it, hate it, fear it, or respect it.  The one thing I understand clearly is that it is often not fair.  The payouts on serious injuries are hard to get, the insurance companies are hostile to workers (most think the worker is faking it), and a host of other issues.

What boggles my mind the most is this:  WC is a carved out section of Torts law.  For instance, with both intentional torts and negligence, the defendant takes the plaintiff as they find him.  So if you injure someone, but they had a pre-existing injury, or some condition that made them more fragile -- that did not matter.  You are liable and you pay.  Not so with WC.  Not so at all.  I see the policy reasons why you would not want a system where every injury is a large payout.... Employers need to be able to afford WC insurance.

The other thing that bothers me is that people do not understand that the worker, if injured, should retain a lawyer.  There is no retainer fee -- lawyers fees are dictated by statute.  And they only pay out if the worker wins.  If you are unrepresented, you run the risk of the insurer running right over you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grateful Heart

Maybe it's just the week I am having.  Let's think about it:  seven days ago I was freaking out.  I was trusting in my God to pull me through, but the worry and stress was grinding on me.  I had to go through the motions of when the worry would come, to remind myself out loud and in my head to let it go--- trust --- let go of the wheel even though I have NO IDEA where He is taking me.  One thing I know is this:  as a highly educated person, one that is to rely on logic, rational things, facts that we can see, tangible things, and evidence -- well faith can be a hard principal to grasp.  And faith is a hard thing to do -- I am not talking about faith in a higher power, as in does He exist -- but unshakeable faith from Hebrews -- the faith in the things that are unseen.  But there I stood.

Contrast that with today -- I can look back and see the steps that led me today.  Monday was a possibility that at a turn of a gut decision of a man, my life changed -- I had a job, a way to pay my bills the week my unemployment payments ran out.... the major stress factor in my life solved.

But it is more than that.  I am so grateful to many of you who have been reading.  And who have taken time out of your days to comment, or to email me and share with me how my trials, tribulations, and struggles have encouraged YOU!  Or to just tell me that you were thinking of me, or praying for me.

The purpose of this blog has been, and will continue to be to encourage single parents to reach for their dreams.  And the best part of blogging, besides therapy for me :), is to know that somehow the struggles I am going through are things that you, the reader, can identify with.  That somehow the words that I write encourage or move  you in some way.  What that tells me is that lemons really can be made into lemonade.

Next time, I hope to write about the Sacred Trust.... this has nothing to do with God in general, but the trust that you as future lawyers will hold once the degree is conferred upon you.  I think this is a trust that lawyers lose sight of in a quest for money or power-- ultimate greed for one or the both drives them to forget about the responsibility that was entrusted to them when they first entered through the doors of that law school.  This is something I have been thinking deeply about the last few days.  A thought that is rattling around in my head, but reaching into my heart this one will be "to be continued."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First Day on the Job......

Totally cool day!  Loved it.  I was thrown right into the job, in the deep end.... It was fantastic.  I was talking to clients, learning the system and trying to just gel with the office staff... There are so many pluses to this job and I am excited.

This is a field of work that I would have never thought of entering.  Who thinks of doing worker's comp?  No one really.  But as something that is extremely statutory driven, the rules are clear.  I will try to give more detail as I go along...... but right now, it's late and I just wanted to let my loyal readers know how fantastic today was! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

I GOT THE JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's right my wonderful loyal readers!  I got the job I interviewed for today.  Hired right on the spot after an hour interview and chat session with the partner of the firm.  I am so excited I cannot even explain to you.
I look at what has happened and see how wonderful God is to me.  I am in a very, very prestigious firm that has been around my state since 1909.  I will be training with a very respected man who has practiced for years.

One more thing:  I never thought I would be doing the kind of law I am which will be worker's compensation injury and personal injuries..........  Both are highly litigated fields --- I have known since I was a child that I was made for trial work.  How cool is that??????

Saturday, October 2, 2010

More interviews....

In my quest to get out of my pit, I met up with a friend today. I was getting ready when the phone rang..... let it go to voicemail because frankly I was running late.

Last night, before I went to bed, I did another search for jobs on the internet. I found one for a legal assistant.... not want I want to do long term, but hey, it would keep my fingers in the business and my options are limited.  Seems that with a law degree you are over-qualified for 99% of the jobs out there, and underqualified as an attorney if you are not admitted to the bar.

So imagine my surprise when I listened to my voicemail and it was a Partner of this well respected firm. He is an alumni from my school. He asked me why I was applying for a legal assistant position. I asked him if I could be candid. He said, "Yes, of course." I told him I failed the bar, I wanted to stay in the legal field, and I had bills to pay while I took the bar a 2nd time in February.

Anyway, what happened was a 20 minute impromptu phone interview. He asked me all kinds of questions and it seems that we know some of the same people in town. He said, "So, here's what I am thinking, you come in, we meet on Monday and see how we like each other. Let's do our homework and check out our mutual acquaintances."

Then I met with my friend Rick who knows the partner I will be interviewing with. He said this is a stellar firm, and one of the only firms he would consider stepping off the bench to work for. Rick has been telling me to use his name if I need. In the conversation with the partner, I asked him if he knew Rick and told him that he could call him about me. So Rick said he is waiting that he will give a GLOWING recommendation. Rick said a few months ago he mentioned me to the partner, but they were not hiring at the time. So Rick said he would remind the partner.

Wow! Just wow if this works out. I don't even know what to say if this works out!

Oh, and then to top it off. Awhile back a friend of mine was charged with sex abuse. Let me just say that this friend is well-respected and NEVER would he risk his future, job or wife for this.  He was accused by his troubled foster child who has accused others of the same thing in the past.  If you know anything about rape shield laws, then you would know that past accusations will not come in -- not at all.  The jury will never hear the information.  Well, I stumbled across a decision last week that was brand new.  Basically the law that my friend was charged under was overruled as overbroad for first amendment reasons.  I wrote a memo on it, and emailed it to my friend telling him, "Give this to your attorney." He did. Landed me an offer to intern on the case. Holy Cow!!!! I could not believe it. Amazing, just amazing.  I didn't do it for any reason but to try and help my friend.  And because the decision was so new, the attorney, nor the DA knew anything about it.  The attorney would like me to draft a motion to dismiss based upon this decision.

Things just might be looking up!!!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The fall out

The fall out of not passing the bar has been really rough.  Emotionally, physically and just in every aspect.  The worst part is trying to figure out how to make a living for myself.  I have consulted two temporary agencies where I have been told that I am over qualified.  So basically I would need to lie about my last seven years of education, and last three years of work, in order to get a job.  I am stuck in this quandry of what to do. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Navigating the Bar Review Course.......

On Friday, after I got the results, the first thing I did was call the Bar Review Course that I used.  They have been great.  They have a pass guarantee.  If you do not pass the first time, they give you access and all the supplemental information to take the bar again.  So, here I am, gearing up to start studying again.  Fun, fun, fun.

In addition, they are sending a representative to the area to meet with each student that wants to in order to develop a plan of attack for the retake.  Interesting.

I still do not have my scores.  I am anxiously awaiting them so that I can see where I went wrong.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Love, love, love

My LRW professor emailed me after she saw a post I put on Facebook that I did not pass.  She is just one of the most wonderful women I have ever met.  Anyway she told me that there is an ability to appeal the results if your test scores are really close.   I should be getting my results by mail either tomorrow or Monday.  After reviewing the score, I will know whether I should appeal or not.

One thing that was interesting...... the handwriting passage rate was 50%.  That is how I took the test, I handwrote the exam.  Compared to the other passage which was 78% for computer takers..... Makes one wonder.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ruthless Trust

Today was a tough day for me, but not as tough as it could have been.  First, I need to say that God has gifted me with the most incredibly loving and beautiful people who I call friends.  These wonderful people will never know the huge part they have played in helping me to not allow a single test to define me.  On the heels of learning to bar results, the family cat Mel had to be put to sleep.  Today was one heck of a shitty day (sorry for the naughty word, but I think that God might just agree with me!)

The day I finished the bar exam, in July, I was filled with a sense of peace.  I made a conscious decision that day…..I was going to practice ruthless trust in my God.  I was going to believe that no matter the outcome of the results, I would trust that He knew, He had a plan, and that it would be to prosper me, not to harm me.

When I stared at the results and my name was not on the list, my stomach sunk, my heart rose in my throat, and I fought the tears.  Then I felt numb for about a minute.  As I sat in my quiet front room, I remembered my promise to practice ruthless trust.  I went to the dictionary --- imagine that, I mean I still am a law school graduate!  One goes to the source!  Ruthless means having no pity.  That means no pity for myself.  No holding back.  No sinking in sorrow.  No falling into a pit of despair.  Got it.  Trust has many meanings.  There are legal definitions, moral ones, academic ones…. All kinds.  But here is what websters says Trust means:  Trust:  a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b : one in which confidence is placed.

There it is.  I know my God, I know His promises.  I know that He set me on this journey seven years ago.  I know that there is a provision, a blessing in not passing.  I don’t know what that is.  I don’t know what is going to happen over the next six months……but I KNOW in the pit of my soul, where my heart beats, that His plan is perfect……my confidence is placed in Him.

I am not going to pretend I am not disappointed.  Likely when this slumber party is over, and the girls are gone, I am going to take a “me” moment and cry.  Not with pity, not with defeat, not with hopelessness, not even out of fear….. I will cry because I believe that God gives us tears to cleanse the hurt out.  When I am done, I will focus on tomorrow.  I will focus on what needs to be done to climb the mountain.

Ruthless trust does not mean I won’t hurt……..ruthless trust means that when everything looks like the odds are stacked against me, I will turn my face to the One that sustains me.  I am willing to ride in that car, with Him behind the wheel – even if I  have no idea where it’s going.  My confidence is grounded  in the belief that the road was paved before me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bar Results.... tomorrow.

Tomorrow is D-Day, the day that I find out whether I passed the bar.  I feel that I have been in this waiting phase for way to long now.  And I have.  Life has been on hold since May.  First graduation, then study for the bar, then taking the bar, now 8 weeks of waiting hell.  Honestly, I have not been that worked up about it until today. 

I woke up this morning and my stomach hurt.  Of course, I could not sleep, so it started before then. 

I am ready to work.  I cannot do this anymore.  This nothing to do during my days.  I mean, I look for work, but still.  I am having a really hard time not having purpose.

Bar results out 2:00 pm.  To Be Continued.......

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Contact Me Button....

A regular reader wanted to share with me what her first years were like and only could post on the comment button.  So I have figured out a way for the contact me button on the sidebar.  Feel free to contact me directly if you have questions or need an ear.  I really want to make myself as available as possible to you---especially if you are juggling that first terrifying year!!!!!  So Lauren, thanks for giving me the idea.

Thank You Notes

When I first heard about sending thank you notes after an interview I could not believe that you were supposed to do this.  But apparently, you are.  Actually it is another opportunity to put you and your skills in front of the interviewer so that they can be reminded of what an awesome applicant that you are.

Just don't do what I just did --- double, triple and quadruple check!  I misspelled the name of an interviewer on my note.... UGH.  If you do that, graciously apologize, showing that you caught the slip and corrected it and were sorry for it.

Handwritten notes are the preferred method, but if time is of the essence, an email is acceptable as well.  The notes should be sent within 24 hours of the interview.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Round Two Over

I have never been to a callback interview before.  This was interesting to say the least.  I had no idea how to prepare for this go around.  This time, I met exclusively with another attorney on staff that does all the legislative work.  We chatted about the job and he asked me what I was comfortable doing and what I was not comfortable with.  Could I, and was I, willing to say "I don't know, but I will get back to you."

After a 40 minute interview, I met once again with the attorney who interviewed me the first time.  She showed me around the office and showed me the empty office for the new attorney.  I will say the office is REALLY nice and it has my name all over it!  LOL.

The timeframe has changed a bit.  They want to have someone in place on or about October 1st!  They also want to have one final round of interviews with the final two candidates.  I am really, really hoping I make it to round three and conquer!  Keeping the Eye of the Tiger alive (Rocky would be proud).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Call Back Interview and Reality Check

Here are some of my musings tonight.

First, I interviewed for a staff attorney position on Monday and on Thursday, I received a call back interview.  I was really excited.  Let me share with you first that this job is nothing like I imagined doing when I went to law school.  There is no court room involved.  More contracts and torts work (love torts, not so much on contracts!).  But, I am excited.  First, because it is a small office enviornment and close knit.  I can tell that they are looking for a really good fit to be a part of the team.  Second, law is the not the primary purpose of this business.  I would be a staff attorney for a trade association.  I like this thought.  My job would be primarily teaching CLE classes for a trade.  One thing that always bothered me about working at the DOJ was lack of people contact.  I like people (most of the time).  I like human interaction and miss it when I don't have it.  I also do not like drafting the same motions over and over and over.  This job would be varied and I would remain in a constant state of learning.

Which brings me to my next musing.  I went to law school to prosecute.  I took a high concentration in criminal law and I love it.  However, having these last few months off to study has also given me time to reflect.  I had started becoming jaded and cynical with almost a cop mentality.  Everyone was suspicious.  Everyone was a potential child abuser or criminal.  I really don't want to live my life that way.  And certainly, while my child is at home, I don't want to be someone who ticks the criminal element off to the point that someone might try and hunt me down.

Also, after four months out of law school, I am really quite tired of all the legal questions that come my way on criminal matters and divorce.  I kind of want to be able to honestly say "That's not my specialty.  I can give you the name of someone."

I guess I say all this to admit that maybe I am wussing out, or maybe I am changing my mind, or maybe I never really knew what I wanted to do to begin with?  I don't know.  I am just open to all things.  I am open to all possibilities.  And I am excited that this job will be new and interesting -- keep your fingers crossed for me.  They said they want to make a decision by September 24th (btw: bar results come out that day too!).

EDIT TO ADD ON 10/6/2010:  I had to read back on what I wrote here and admit something......this job would have been a copout for me.  I was MADE to do trial work, whatever that may be.  I was made for the cut and thrust of litigation, the challenge, the thrill, the chase, the stress, the nerves, the first responder attitude I have, all of it.  I was uniquely created to take up a mantle that few lawyers have taken up and few are cut out to do.  I would have taken this job for two reasons:  1.  Fear of failure and 2. Lure of money.  Really, not until I held the "Thank you, but we are not hiring you" letter did I really, really evaluate how much of a sell out this would have been.  And how much a breaking of a sacred trust this job would have been for me (more on this thought to come).......  MORAL TO THE STORY:  Be open to different TYPES of law, but be TRUE TO YOUR SELF!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Preparing for an interview

Research tells you that an initial impression is made in the first 5 seconds of meeting someone.  That means that it is absolutely important to look sharp and polished.  I have spent endless hours trying to decide what to wear for interviews, what color to wear on my finger and toe nails, and what shoes to wear.

1.  Polish is important.  I have chosen to wear a medium tone gray suit with a purple shirt underneath.  Conventional, yes, but not boring.  I am wearing ankle boots on my feet with heels to give the illusion of height (I am 5'2 in my stocking feet).  I will have my nails short and practical, but in a french manicure.  Classy, understated, polished.  I will put on my Mac makeup with natural coloring, not to light, but not evening wear either.  No perfume---my regular soap/lotion will suffice.  I will straighen my hair with a flat iron, and sprayed with a shine finishing touch.  All giving an image of professional, confident, and polished --- just what I want to project.

2.  Do your homework.  I researched the association I am interviewing with.  I have figured out who I think will be interviewing me.  I looked everyone up on the internet.  I know the CEO is from the south and new to this area, has middle school and high school children, and was formally an adjunct professor at a small liberal arts college.  The two attorney's are vastly different.  One is a confident looking woman, who is an ex prosecutor, who went to an Oregon law school, though not alumni of mine.  The other attorney is a man around my age, but admitted to the Oregon Bar in 2004.  Nothing much personal about him, but he does the lobbying and legislative work for the association.  He is frequently quoted and pictured during campaigns and ballot measures speaking on behalf of the association. 

I also have read the magazine that the association puts out quarterly for the last year.  I know the hot topic buttons, the issues that are important to the association, and have a clear picture of what the association stands for.  I have done enough research to figure out that this place is a good fit for me, at least on paper.

3.  Be confident.  I have tried to anticipate questions that will be asked of me.  I will be honest and candid.  I have nothing to hide, and in fact, I have much to offer to the team.

4.  Have questions prepared.  I want to know how, or if, the association trains.  What would be expected of me as I try to get up to speed in the area of law that the association operates in.  I want to know how long before I would be asked to do any legal work and what that work would be.  This area of law is immense and not something that you can master in a month, let alone a year.  I want to know how these attorney's learned this area so well, and how fast I am expected to get up to speed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Making plans just in case

Autumn Lee was 34 years old the day she climbed on the raft with her parents, siblings, husband, and six children.  She was excited about the trip and had been talking about nothing else on her facebook status updates for weeks before.  On Sunday of the rafting trip, she was thrown from her raft.  She was trapped under a log for seven minutes, while her siblings tried to rescue her.  They performed CPR and she was lifelighted to the nearest trauma hospital.  Autumn never came too.  She was pronounced brain dead.  What happened next was a nightmare.  Her mother refused to say goodbye, even though the doctors said there was no hope.  Her husband wanted to let her go.

I tell you about Autumn because I want to stress the importance of having an advance medical directive, also known as a living will.  Most states have these forms that you can down load.  You fill it out, have it notarized and make sure that the person you give the power of attorney to make the decision whether to pull life support has a copy, as well as your primary care physician.

Autumn's mom is not ready to say goodbye.  But her husband and children do not need to see her this way anymore.  While her husband has the right to make the ultimate decision, fighting over what to do can be a painful wound in the family circle.

As single parents, we have to think of these things.  I will be filling out an advance directive to leave with my will.  I do not want anyone doubting my wishes.  This tragic accident has made me talk to my loved ones to let them know I never want to be in that state.  The ultimate gift of love to me would be to let me go to be in the arms of Jesus.

My first official interview

After several applications out, I finally got that treasured call:  a call for an interview.  The words, "Your resume has risen to the attention of the CEO and rose to the top for scheduling an interview."  I am so stoked!  I have never really thought about practicing in the area of law that I applied for, however, after much research, I think I would be a good fit. 

So what tactic do I use to interview?  I read as much on the organizations website I could.  I am applying for the position of a staff attorney.  So, I made myself familiar with the business that they are in.  I looked up, by googling, some of the major players in the organization.  Then I looked at the area of law and will be researching some of the issues so I can be prepared to talk about the industry itself -- though I have little knowledge of the practice of law in this area.

My interview is I prepare some more, I will update here what I am doing to prepare (besides finding a new suit to wear because I have gained the proverbial 10 pounds this summer).  While I want the employer to decide on me, I want to look and see whether I want to hitch my train to this particular star! 

Grants and Scholarship Question

Brynea asked me a great questions:  Are there opportunities for any grants or scholarships for at least tuition that u have encountered?

Any degree above a bachelor's degree presents challenges for finding grants or scholarships.  They are scarce on the ground.  Most reputable law schools with strong alumni base offer scholarships for tuition if you have good grades and do well on the LSAT.  Willamette offered me a scholarship the first year that was pitiful.  But after performing well during my first year, my scholarship was increased to cover 1/3 of the academic cost for each year.

The American Bar Association, as well as state chapters, offer scholarships to minority groups especially hispanic and african-american groups.  These typically have to be applied for by December.

I ran into very few other scholarships in my search for law school.

However, be aware that new school loan restructuring makes student loans much less scary.  In addition, there is a new system in place were if you work in government, public interest, or true non-profit for 10 years, the rest of your loans may be paid off.  Between an income based consolidation loan and the loan forgiveness programs, it is possible that you would have the majority of your student loans forgiven.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mission Accomplished vs. Mission Changed (or Turn the Page): An open letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

I am cynical-maybe more than most.  But while watching the speech, I began to chuckle.  A few times, I outright roared with laughter.  Admittedly the laughter was caused by disbelief at the transparency of why you felt the need to take up 20 minutes of Primetime television.  If I were an east coaster, I would be ticked --- I would rather watch a rerun of NCIS then the rerun of this speech – I can imagine, if we were in your room kicking back with a beer, you would ask: Well Lisa, what do you mean?  What I mean is that we have seen this exact speech before, and I for one remember it.

First, I do not want to diminish the fact that our boys are coming home.  I fully support the military and the families of the military men that serve.  What gets me going is the political rhetoric you used tonight in your speech that I have entitled:  Mission Accomplished” vs. “Mission changed (or turn the page)”

President Obama, you said:  “So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”  Unless anyone has forgotten, on May 1, 2003, President Bush said, “Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”  Like I said, Mr. Obama, I have heard this speech before.

Why not be truthful with the American people.  We aren’t stupid; in fact we are pretty bright.  President Obama, you said in your speech tonight, “This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.”  And the truth is your party is some major, major trouble if the polls are to be believed.  You are scrambling. People are mad at you, something that the polls support -- you know the same polls you used to point out American's disssatisfcation with the last guy that had your job. (I would now strategically pause for a cool sip of my beer). Why not tell the American people that the pull out of the Stryker unit was wholly symbolic?  And that our troops remain there, doing what they have since President Bush made his declaration……largely backing up Iraqi troops.  Mr. President, do not patronize me and please, please, please --- stop the rhetoric.

I have to tell you, that as I continued to listen to your speech, Mission Accomplished filled my mind.  You said, Mr. President, “From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency.”  Oh Mr. President, you chose your words very carefully. You said “fight” instead of “war.”  This plants the illusion that major combat has been going on all this time.  That your administration is responsible for some mighty change (which by the way you promised us all).  While it is true that you have reduced troop levels in Iraq, it’s also true that troop levels are increasing in Afghan.  By using the word “fight” – you didn’t outright lie to us, but creates a fallacy and an illusion that does not exist.

Furthermore, Mr. President, you said:  “The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.”  That’s right they did.  God Bless them --- but wow,Once again you repeated the words of mission accomplished.  You also said that combat has shifted to security, that elections had been accomplished – well, so did President Bush….again, nothing new there.

Okay, now for the part that made me laugh until I nearly peed myself.  I mean, my sides still hurt (again, I take a cool sip of beer because by now I am really worked up and hoping that I don't get arrested for not kissing butt) Mr.  President, you also said, “Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.”  Can you imagine my mirth when I heard this one?  Oh it’s the double whammy!  It’s the rhetoric galore.  It is so transparent as to almost make someone choke.  And so patronizing that honestly, I am aghast. Where do I begin to explain to you just how insulting it really was?

First of all – you have spent the last several years avoiding President Bush.  Blaming and demonizing him.  “Time to turn the page.”  On what?  There are two messages embedded in this message – each means something very, very different.  One is to the President Bush supporters who might still exist and the subtext of it reads a little something like this, “Hey, I talked to your buddy.  We made friends.  I might not have always agreed with what he did, but he is a great patriot and we are united.”  Sounds good, right? You, the nice guy image that you have carefully cultivated, making peace and acknowledging President Bush for his vision and commitment to our country.  Until you read the more cynical message and subtext.  This one goes to the rest of America and goes something like this.  “So yeah, it’s President Bush’s fault for this war.  Remember that.  I am cleaning up his mess.  I mean, I know he really said he supported the troops, but I am the one that got them out finally.  But I have to play nice now.  And we are united” Gosh, I am still laughing at this line……….You Mr. President, have steel cahonas.

Both speeches, Mission Accomplished and Mission Changed, scorned terrorism and named Al Qaeda as enemy numero uno.  So, rerun.
President Obama:  “Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.”  President Bush said something very similar in Mission Accomplished, “The Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on.”  Same sentiment, so in essence, a rerun.

President Obama: “Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government.”  Did you catch that one ladies and gentlemen?  More mission accomplished speech while claiming we are turning the page.  Our troops remain, just as they have since 2003.

Here was my next big chuckle and laugh out loud moment (really you should have polled me before giving this speech because I am quite sure you didn't mean to make me laugh).  President Obama:  “Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential partners. New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas.”  Immediately what came to mind was, do you mean America and Iraq – or President Bush and President you?  Hum………. Depends on who you are I guess---giving you the benefit of the doubt, I shall believe you meant both.....generous aren't I?  Oh, and this beer is really good.

Now next in the speech is where you backhandedly blame our economic hardships on the cost of war, and the old administration (i.e. Bush).  (I guess we are no longer united).  What you did not acknowledge is that several Billion was spent by your administration in failed bailout attempts.  So the financial point of this speech was really to blame the Bush and Republican Congress theme we have been hearing for the last three years.  And even more implicit in this part of the speech is it’s all the war, we spent too much on that, instead of blaming the Congress for gorging at the table of the taxpayers.  And now that their bellies are full and they are uncomfortable, and the rest of us are starving and starting to wake up – you have to do something to protect your party.  You might actually just try to distance yourself.

Another thing, “ Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security.”  President Bush, “Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition.”  A little more concise, but Mission Accomplished again!  Mr. Obama, this is nothing new.  Same old, same old.

And there are a few, well let’s just say, little stretches of the truth or imagination:  “We are treating the signature wounds of today’s wars post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.”  Unfortunately this is not happening Mr. Obama, and I for one am outraged.  The help is coming from the private sector with the help of Veteran’s Associations like the one a friend of mine Greg Warnock runs, there are some legislation moving to help and protect servicemen and women who suffer from these issues.  The military is still turning a blind eye to it…..but you want us to believe that you are doing all you can to help?  Talk to someone who does not know the truth on this issue.  And stop invoking powerful imagery of soldier’s being kissed by their mothers and hugged by their spouses to sell us this piece of misinformation.  I am insulted....and here is your beer back!

Mr. Obama when you said, “And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears, but also on our hope,”  it was a well crafted sentence, but we have heard this one from you before.  Change we can believe in.  I find it simply ironic that “change we can believe in so we don’t get more of the same” is in fact, shoveling us more of the same.

Rhetoric is defined as the art of speaking or writing effectively.  As always, your delivery was beautiful.  Your speech was even powerful, I mean, I even wanted to believe you……but was it effective? Maybe.  But for me, I think your speech writer should be fired for plagiarism (I am a recent law school graduate and could have done better.  You talked about wanting to put people to work, how about a job?)  We have heard this all before seven years ago from a different president. A president you made fun of.  A presidnet that you called a liar for Mission Accomplishent.  But here you are selling the same line of malarkey.  This mission has not been accomplished; it’s been shifted to a different country.  Let’s look at the death toll numbers for proof.  The last three months have seen our troops have the HIGHEST LEVEL of casualties in seven years…………ALL TROOPS.

I for one am not stupid Mr. Obama…..and I am watching and listening to you. And I, for one, am not sold.

The cynical Me.

Consolidating Student Loans.....

The last couple of days I have been getting everything together in order to consolidate the 100,000's of thousands of dollars that I have in student loans.....well, it's not that bad.....but close :)  When the last stimulus package was passed, there were several riders to the bill that included rules that effect student loans.  One major, major benefit was the restructuring that effects consolidations.   In the past, to consolidate your current lender had to approve.  This prevented a lot of students from consolidating.  However, the new bill has the federal government in charge of consolidation....makes life easy.

My first task was to find all my student loan information.  It was confusing as all heck.  But what I did find was a wonderful site by the Department of eduction that lists all the student loans you have taken out:  You will need your fafsa pin. For fun, check it out.  Gives you all the information you need about your lenders so you can contact them if you need to.

Then go to:  This site is where you apply for those consolidations.  You enter in all your loan information and can electronically sign your promissary note.......However, the process takes a lot of time.  I have spent 5 hours rounding everything up, and filling in the information but I am not done yet!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Friend completes her first week as an Attorney

My good friend from law school was one of the lucky few that snagged a job before getting the bar results.  She started last week.  I was itching to talk to her and hear all about her experience.

What was funny is she read that I was struggling with wanting school.  She and I are a lot alike.  She said she felt the same way until she started this job.  Because she figured out she knows jack crap about being an attorney and she is in the school of hard knocks figuring it out!  She is in love with her first job.  She said that private practice is nothing like the government work we did.  She works for a small firm (only two attorney's), in a small town.  So her tasks have been very, very varied....(lol, how's that for alliteration).  The point being one day she was learning how to fill out a deed, the next day she was drafting letters for a hot custody dispute.  She is becoming a master of several areas and satisfying her need for knowledge.

This has just made me want a job so much more.  I want to feel this excitement!  I want to be challenged and pushed.  And she is living it right now!  So happy for her, so, please Lord, let me find a job!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Safety Net

I found myself the other day researching graduate schools.  I have been struggling with the fact that many of my friends are returning to law school, but I am now graduated and out of the club.  What is funny to me is they think I am nuts for wanting to be in classes.  I tell them graduating is not always all it's cracked up to be.  I found myself looking at options for forensic psychology or an LLM/JSD.  I am frankly confused by my behavior.

Then an astute family member said something to me.  School was my safety net.  I knew the rules, I was really good at it, and it's safe.  Right now I am without a safety net, my future is a bit uncertain, I have no job --- but rest assured I am ready to conquer this new area.

She was right.  I want to go back because I know I do not fail at school.  And right now, my life is in a holding pattern.  I really cannot do much until my bar results.  So I am stuck.  Without direction, and seemingly without a purpose.  I like goals, I like direction, I like to know where I am going.  Where I am at is scary and I am not seeing it as a fun journey, but an out of control roller coaster ride.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

DDay has been announced.....

Yep, that's right, the Oregon Bar Association has announced that bar results will be available on September 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm.  Anyone wanna bet me on how agitated, freaked out and terrified I am on that day?

Monday, August 9, 2010

School is about to start

I have to say that it feels weird knowing that classes are about to start/resume for law students, and I will not be a part of this. Part of me is so relieved, the other part is sad. I loved school.

So, some last minute tips:

1. Party this weekend if you can.... get in some me time. Because hey, me time will be rare for the next 10 months.
2. Go get those school supplies...for you and your kids. Get it out of the way.
3. You still have enough time to get the booklist and buy your books online. This will save you a TON of cash.
4. Read a book for you... Shortly you will not have time to do so for yourself.
5. Depending on the age of your kids, prepare some "activity packs" you can get out for them in emergency situations. Little new items that will buy you time if you need some extra study time. This way, they get something neat, and you get some added time.
6. Go take a nice slow walk in the park and breathe in the air.
7. If you don't have Microsoft OneNote to do your class notes in, buy it now and figure out how to use it and tag important information. I LOVED this software for class notes. Absolutely made my outlining a breeze.
8. Brush up a bit on the structure of our three branches of government. The first couple of weeks of law school were a breeze for me because I had a poli sci background and understood the structure of government.  Others (particularly some psych majors I knew, struggled with this concept).  If you were not a political science major, check the following books out:
How The US Government Works
(This is a complete kids book, but it is GREAT for explaining the three branches of governments and the good thing is, you can give it to your kids so they can read about what you are learning about.  My daughter has this book and LOVED studying it).

(Not kidding.  If you did not take political science classes, this is a life saver for you.  You will learn the basics and have a step up on your classmates.)
9.     Get on top of your housework and laundry....... because the house is about to go to pot.
10.   Spend some extra time with the kiddos..... that extra time is about to get rare.

Good luck guys!  I envy you, I really, really do!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The MPRE nightmare

I was dumb.....I should have already taken the MPRE, but I didn't...I procrastinated.  So here is my story of what happened to me today while trying to get to the testing site......Please learn from my mistakes!!!  (This was copied from my facebook notes)

Some mornings, when your feet hit the floor, you know instantly you want a “do over.”  My do over actually started sometime around 1 am when I realized that sleep was nowhere near.  Knowing I had one of my last hurdles to bar admission, I was frustrated.  2 am rolls around and I am laying in bed praying for peace and rest .  Sometime later, as I am about to fall asleep, the two cats get in a cat fight in my bedroom.  I startle.  Yell at the cats.  Sometime later, one cat is in my room doing something under the bed, messing with stuff.  I yell, kick the cats out, close the door, lay back down.  Sometime later, one cat was not happy with the closed door and began scratching at it and the carpet……. 4 am, eyes now still wide open, stomach growling.  Get up, eat something, lay back down.  Nothing.  I slowly watch the light begin to pierce my curtains and realize, another night with no sleep.
As soon as my feet hit the floor I realize I forgot to pay the rent which was due by the 5th. I knew if I could get the payment in the drop box before the managers got there, it would not be late, and I would not owe a 75.00 late fee --- BUT I CAN’T FIND THE CHECKBOOK!?!?!?!?!?!  After a frantic 20 minute search, Ashlee locates one that was hidden somewhere – go figure.  Pay the rent, pour the coffee, grab my purse and realize that my ticket for admission to the test is not where I left it the night before.  Neither are the directions…. Can’t find it….. 7:45, I should have left.  Frantically print off another one and realize that the stupid thing required a picture to be affixed to it….. scramble to find one.  Affix it.   8 am out the door….. Get in the car, spill coffee down the front of me---scalding hot—turn the car on, head down the road and “ding-ding-ding” fuel light on…. WTH!?!?!?!  Someone surely designed this day to stop me.  But I stop and get gas and start praying – HARD!  Please Lord, let there be no traffic.  Please let me get there.  Please pave the way like the parting of the red sea.  And please, please, please, no COPS!
Off I go….time:  8:15.  Miles to go:  60.4.  Oh and by the way, I have no idea where the University of Portland is.  I mistakenly thought it was Portland State until I plugged it into the GPS at the gas station.  I am a dummy.  Tuck in behind a red car (the cop should get him first, he is flashier then my little blue car).  Speed along.  Thanking God no police (Sorry Jimmy), and no accidents…..gaining time on the GPS, might just make it with 1 minute to spare.
Hit Wilsonville --- Why is it when there is an accident going the opposite way, my lane stops?  Yeah….it did…..   finally get through……praying………..”God, if the traffic parts, I can make it still.  Please Lord, please.”  What happens next?  Yeah, the Terwilliger Curves…… where traffic ALWAYS stops.  And it did.  At this point I wonder if I should just turn around…. Nope.  Not gonna, I am going to trust God and go on.  5 minutes left, getting off the exit—I know I can JUST MAKE IT.  The school is only 2 miles away on the GPS……….OMG-----------------NO FREAKIN’ WAY!  THE CITY BUS (Betcha satan was personally driving that one.)  Directions are wrong….schools not there. 
I turn around…..9:05, frantic call to my mom.  She’s not available so I talk to Amy….I start crying.  At this point, the ticket clearly says they won’t sit you after 9.  Amy says, “Go – Try – We’ll pray.”  9:10, I rip into a parking spot, tear off my flip flops and run across the grass as fast as possible.  Heart is pounding……I run right into one of the administers.  She looks at me, I am crying… I said, “I have to get in there.  I just sat for the bar last week.  If I don’t take this test….I won’t be able to practice until after the 1st of the year.  Please.”  Her face softens and she says, “I just sat the last classroom.  Let’s go see if it’s okay with the proctor.”  And it was okay with the proctor.
At this point, I don’t even know if I passed the test.  I can’t remember it.  I was upset, tired, eyes puffy and completely not composed, but I was in there……with one thing left to do….Pray HARD.
Here’s what I learned today:  GOD LISTEN AND HE PROVIDES.  I could have given up.  I could have turned around.  I could have said, “Well the ticket says………”  But I didn’t.  I pushed and pushed and allowed Him to work.  I allowed Him to show me His glory.  To make a morning that was crap……turn to glory.

As I drove home, He was not done with me. I don’t normally listen to Christian Rock or radio…… all sounds pretty much the same to me, but I turned it on.  I needed so bad to feel uplifted and to feel settled.  Prayer wasn’t doing it.  I could see Him working, but Goodness I felt so alone……And then it was magic….the playlist was like listening to love songs that He wrote for me.  What I needed at THAT specific moment.  So here is the second thing I learned…. Sometimes there is purpose in our exhaustion.  I have not been listening to that still, small voice lately.  But in that drive home, my mind and heart was exhausted and it was then that the healing started to begin.  The assurance that things were going to be okay.  The absolute belief that I am loved ….. In fact a song by Matt Maher affirmed this in that moment, “It's waiting for you knocking at your door, In the moment of truth when your heart hits the floor, And you're on your knees.”  The exhaustion, the stress, the depression of the last several weeks, the insomnia……all the ugliness that had been thrown at me……were being used for a moment for MY HEART to hit the floor – and for me to experience that moment on my knees…..  And then followed it up with a beautiful love song by David Crowder:
 He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
That was my message for the day.  And I realized that I would not trade one minute of this hellish morning, if it meant that I would not experience the glory, the love, and the beauty of the affection that God has for me.  To realize that God has time out of his busy day…to speak to me.  He is not too busy to stop and listen to my cry for help and to answer it.  That my stress, my insomnia – my afflictions – he cares about those.  That He cared about a stupid test – for me.  How great is that?  How beautiful is that…. So it with a grateful heart that I thank Him for pushing me to have faith to believe in Him………So no do over for me today.  And you know what?  I am kind of sleepy now…..nap time.  Amen.
 EDITED TO ADD:  So, yeah the missing ticket?  Found it under the bed shredded, chewed on, and in pieces...apparently this is what the cat was doing last night.  Anyone want a cat?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Music while studying...

I got the following comment recently:

Hey Lisa!

This is totally off topic, lol! I'm getting ready to start classes in a week or two and I really want to put a ton of classical music on my iPod as well . . . can you recommend any songs or artists that were good for you while you studied? 

First, let me say that my ipod looks like a music store exploded in it.  I love music.  For me, I found that if I could sing along, I got distracted....which led me interestingly Italian opera!  Can't understand a darn thing, because I don't speak the language, I really don't hum a long like I would to Mozart, but it's noise and it, for the most part is peaceful..... Pavoratti, The Three Tenors, and of course Bochelli!  that made me expand more into German opera to Wagner, Debussy and others.  I like the swells and emotion, but I can't understand a darn thing....AND the beat is not predictable so I don't try to tap my fingers, swing my foot, or tap my pencil on the table to the beat--- therefore annoying everyone else around me.

I also picked up this great classical CD at WalMart for 5.98 that had Mozart's greatest. 

And you know, it's not a silly question!  As single parents, we need noise to study I think.  We are use to the racquet and silence = child getting into something they are not suppose to!  Libraries drove me nuts if I was not listening to something.

BTW:  to the poster -- I am excited for you!  This journey is going to be awesome for you.  I am small parts jealous because I loved law school so much.  And that first year is a wild ride of ups and downs and new discoveries.  Good luck!  AND PLEASE, let me know your thoughts and impressions.

Friday, July 30, 2010

MPT portion of the BAR

I was surprised to find out that all jurisdictions do not require testing the MPT portion for the bar.  Oregon does.  What is the MPT?  Basically, you unseal the book and it contains memos, evidence, and legal authority.  You are to analyze and answer the question that has been posed to you.  In all truthfulness, it was not too difficult.  If you did well in your legal research and writing class, this is an easy issue.

I can't tell you the specifics of the test, because believe it or not, they make you sign a confidentiality issue.  What I can say that our issue had to deal with whether a lawyer had to testify against her client in criminal proceedings.  We were given evidence, a letter from the attorney, some work product, and then "cases" that we read.  In return, we wrote a legal memorandum with what our conclusion was.

Very simple, very straightforward.  And it counts for 12.5% of the Bar.  So, moral of the story:  Pay attention in your LRW classes!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Job Hunting.......

In life, jobs have always just fallen in my lap.  Somehow jobs have just found me and I have never had to work very hard at find them.  Legal jobs are so very, very different.  I am finding out quickly, it is about who you know in the business....and likely who THEY know.

The heat is on right now in job hunting.  I have enough money to see me through until August 31st.  After that, I will have zero in my checking account.  I am terrified.  And in a catch 22.  The bar results won't come out until mid September or so.

So the networking has commenced. I have contacted as many of my attorney friends as I know, asking them to keep their eyes and ears open.  I am also applying for anything that pops up, but the truth is that lawyer positions are rarely listed....Usually someone knows someone, and word of mouth is what gets you the job.

So as you are going to law school, especially if you are going to stay in the area of the school, build networking opportunities.  If you have a guest lecturer, make sure and introduce yourself and get their card.  You never know when that contact will come in handy later.  Get to know the adjunct professors that teach only one class or so in their area of specialty -- take that class if you can.  Position yourself so that they like you and are familiar with you -- they will HELP you when you need it.

Finding a legal job is not like finding regular jobs.  Know this and plan for it.  And be prepared for many no's before you get the yes.  Be prepared to get LOTS of no's before you get your bar results.  But work your connections.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Down and Dirty Truth about the BAR

Just finished taking the Oregon Bar.  I can't speak to other jurisdictions, but I can obviously speak to the MultiState portion as well as the Oregon specific portions.

Now, I am not a good multiple choice exam taker and have always excelled at essays.  So, you need to know that I HATED the MBE portion of the test.  To me, two of the answers always look similar and it was sometimes hard to decide what was really be asked.  Also, six hours of multiple choice questioning........well now, that is BRUTAL.  It is very hard to stay focused for that long, on task, and sitting in a chair for long periods of time.

The Essay portion was a breeze.  This is an issue spotting test.  The more that you throw at it, the better you do.  You show them what you know both with what they asked you, but what you eliminated for good reasons.

Now, what I want to pass on is this:  The bar is NOT as bad as everyone makes it sound.  It is what YOU make of it.  I roomed with an awesome friend.  We laughed and balanced each other out perfectly.  We made the best of it.  But more than that......I think if you let the stress get to will experience it in a horrible way.  I would take the test again.  Yes, there is a lot you need to know, but at the same time, school really does prepare you.

AND:  Barbri or Ameribar can teach you everything you need to know about Trust/Wills, Secured Trans, Taxation, Business Entities, Sales, and Administrative Law.  You don't HAVE to take these in school.  I would highly recommend taking Criminal Procedures though.

Sometimes I think people who say that law school was awful or the bar was this horrid thing are nuts.  I would do this again all over, if given the choice of a "do-over."  I think that some of us are just called, it's our passion and we know this.  So for us, it's a journey not a terrible torture device.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Alumni Rocks

The bar is fast approaching.......... Just got an email from the alumni association.  They are hosting free lunches for each day of the bar exam.  Good lunches too!  On top of that, they will have ear plugs, energy bars, water, gatorade, advil and other goodies free to get us through the exam...... My alumni ROCK!!!! How cool is that?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fighting Depression

I have not written about this before and it is something that I really should have.  For the three years of law school - I fought depression.  When consulting with the doctor, we came to the conclusion it was fully situational.  The reality is as a single mother, everything is down to you.  Providing for your needs, your child's needs, doing things around the house, helping with homework - and then you have your own needs.  And sometimes the priorities are just overwhelming.  Most universities have a wellness center with counselors available - take advantage of them for your needs!  I did, and I am glad that I did.

Flash forward to after school.  For some reason I thought that once school was over, then all those stressors would just disappear (naive of me, yes?).  Well it hasn't.  Instead, somehow along the way I lost my identity.  Seriously.  I have been a student for seven years.  I have no idea who I am anymore.  I am tired, rung out, and during my seven years - I gave up so much to reach this goal.  I didn't date, I didn't hang out with my friends - my child came first, my school came second.  And now that there is no school, there is this big gapping whole in my life.  I am having such a hard time balancing and equalizing that loss.  My friend said that it is like post-partem depression.  The focus in on one goal, so much excitement - and then it comes and it is anti-climatic.  And you are standing in place looking at what has come, and what your life is - and you just don't know what to do anymore.  You have a hard time recognizing yourself.

I don't mean to sound like "poor me" at all.  This is just something that I have been struggling with.  I am guessing that it may be pretty common to us single parents.  Prepare for it....and if it does not happen - wonderful!!! You coped well.  But if it does, take some time to evaluate and get some help.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Federal Income Tax

Today I studied Federal Income Tax.  What I found was that I really, really enjoyed studying this subject. I did not take it in law school.  I thought about it for a moment, but the teacher got such horrible reviews from students I talked to that took him, that I decided not too.  I can say after studying it in Barbri and Ameribar, that I don't think a whole semester is needed.  They are just testing basic concepts that I already knew and understood.  The differences tax wise, briefly, of S and C corps, alimony is taxable to the recipient, but a deduction to the payor, child support has no tax consequences, those kinds of things.  Anyone that has ever filed a personal tax return, or worked in a business on tax issues, probably possesses the knowledge needed.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Bar Investigation.......

No, I so have not forgotten about my readers.  Right now I am in the midst of studying for the bar exam.  There is no doubt that it is a crazy, exhausting, time consuming endeavor. 

So, I have received notification back from the state bar.  My application apparently caused there to be an investigation into financial fitness - why?  Because I was honest about a few late accounts that happened during law school.  And true to lawyer form, I now much fill out a huge financial affadavit and provide a credit report.  -- All this to say that they do read every little item that you place on your bar application.  Sigh.  I am not really worried about the outcome... but it is aggravating that it is just one more hoop that needs to be jumped through.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Plugging away......

Bar study is really intersting, because you have to be able to condense 3000 points of law into a short, short outline.  For instance, take criminal law.  Burglary is the breaking and entering of the dwelling place of another at night with the intent to commit a felony within.  [Thanks to Professor Appleman, I know this one in and out].  So my outline looks like this:  Burglaray = Breaking + Entering + dwelling place of another + night + intent to commit felony.

Now that is not good enough to know...because you have to know how each of those "elements" work.  Breaking does not mean simply means to open a door, window, or create another opening.

Entering means that the person must place his body, some part of his body, or an instrument into the dwelling.

Dwelling is the residence [not business] of a person.

At common law, burglary only occurs at night.

Must have an intent at the time of entering to commit a felony [meaning stealing].  The person does not actually have to take a thing..... just have the intent.

So for this one point of law, there are tons of rules you have to know.  And break down into a sentence.  Tough challenge!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bar Study......

So I finally started studying for the bar.  After an extremely upsetting week with the death of a friend and then becoming ill, I was really, really behind.  Or so I thought.  I am not taking the Barbri course that about 90% of students taking the Oregon Bar take.  I, as a single mom, wanted a home study program.  And quite frankly, I did not have the 3000 to spend on Barbri.  So I went with Ameribar.  The first day is spent listening to lectures on how to study effectively and a good strategy for planning  your study course.  The way they put it made so much sense.

Also the program has you make your own schedule.  This is nice.  There are a few points of law that I did not take in law school that will be covered by the bar.  So, the closer I study these areas to when I will be tested, the better off I will be.  I have a huge expansive knowledge of criminal law, torts, and constitutional law, so it makes sense to study those first.  And to study any Oregon specific points tested next, then move on to the newer stuff, leaving property and contracts [the hardest portions for me] for last.

I know have a plan of attack and have padded some free time in too.  I will update as I go.  But so far so good because I made it through my first day.

Oh, one interesting factoid.......there are close to 3000 points of law to learn for the Oregon Bar Exam.....let that one sink in.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Briefing a case.................

The major part of your first year study will be to learn how to break apart a court opinion. To do this, you will learn to “brief” a case. Through learning this process, I felt stupid, frustrated, and if I was the only one in the classroom who was not “getting it.” What no one tells you is this simple fact: No one is getting it. And really, a brief is nothing more than notes so that you can remember the case when you are being called on unexpectantly in class. Also, you will use these to study as well.

In order to demystify this experience I am going to break down the process of briefing a case. Every LRW [legal research and writing] class will teach you this skill. And every professor will have a different way of breaking it down. But this is what I learned to do.

Here are the parts to a brief: procedural history, facts, issue, holding, judgment, reasoning, dissent. That’s it! What you want to do is read the case through the first time, without trying to analyze. Then go back and read the case again, looking for the highlights and important information in the case. The pivotal points, so to speak. Then you start writing your brief. I actually have another step that I use. I have a highlighter with a different color for every part of the brief. And the second time through reading, I will highlight the points before writing. As a second year, I stopped briefing, and instead used the book brief method.

For this illustration, we will look at the case Wisconsin v. Yoder [one of my favorite 1st Amendment cases]. The case can be found at:

Procedural issue is how the case made its way through the courts. In Wisconsin, the case came from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This is a state route, rather than through the US District Court, to the Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court.

The facts of the case are the important things that happened during the case. Facts is really a term of art and hard to pinpoint the actual meaning. I have had many professors tell me the facts are what you make them. And this is true. Every litigator slants the facts in their direction and how the facts are presented often determines the outcome of the case. So you don’t want the minute detail, but the important factors that the court relied on.

The issue is the question before the court. This is what each side is arguing over and is the point of law that is being decided.  And a clue to find it in the case is to look for, "The issue in this case is whether...." If you see "issue" or a question starting with "Whether" early on in the opinion, you are probably being signaled that this is a point of law that is going to be argued.

The holding is the legal decision made in the case.
The judgment will have one [or several depending on how many points of law argued] of these outcomes: affirmed, vacated, reversed, or remanded. Basically whether the higher court agreed or disagreed with lower court decision.

The reasoning is analyzing the law and seeing what overarching themes the majority of the court used to decide the outcome of the opinion. This is where the hard work of your brief is done. You have to decide what is important and what the key points of the legal reasoning is. This takes lots and lots of practice.

The dissent is opinion and reasoning of those in the minority of the decision and the reasons why they could not agree with the majority opinion.

Here is my brief:

WISCONSIN V. YODER, 406 U.S. 205 (1972).

PROCEDURAL ISSUE: Criminal conviction in Wisconisin criminal court. Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed from which the state appeals.

FACTS: Amish parents are convicted under compulsory attendance laws for not sending their children to school after the 8th grade. Parents claim 1st Amendment protection as the Amish seek to protect their children from outside, worldly influence and education after the 8th grade does not aid them in the practice of their religion or life within the Amish Community.

ISSUE: Whether Wisconsin’s compulsory attendance laws requiring children over 14 to attend school, violates the Amish’s 1st Amendment free exercise right incorporated through the 14th amendment to the states?

HOLDING: Yes. Wisconsin’s law violates the free exercise clause.

JUDGMENT: Affirmed.

REASONING: Very narrow holding, applied almost exclusively to the Amish. There is a rich history in the Amish community for holding their children out from worldly influence. The Amish continue to educate their children after the 8th grade, but in subjects and trades that will help them to practice their religion and to aid them in providing for their community and family. Formal education does not help this, but burdens the exercise of religion of both the parents and the children.

The state has the right to require education when it is reasonable. However, the Amish have a firmly rooted religious belief that is being burdened as is proven by their history and tradition and their constant adherence to their beliefs over the years. The burden is great as the sanction is a criminal conviction for not sending their children to school.

Wisconsin’s law is generally applicable and this decision in no way challenges the compulsory attendance law as a whole. However, the state cannot meet the burden of proving that the interest it serves in requiring two more years of education to the Amish children is so compelling as to override the religious liberty and practices of the parents and children.

DISSENT [in part]. The court focused more on the rights of the parents, than the rights of the children who may well want to continue in their education.

Once you get the hang of writing these things, it becomes second nature.  You will begin to read cases and hunt out the sections.  And by the third year, you can skim a case and know what you are looking for.