Sunday, November 28, 2010

Don't Knock the Hustle

A quick update on the office- all is going pretty well. We've been open almost six months now, and between word of mouth recommendations with the locals and contract with my old firm, work has been steady and we're paying the bills.

Being the reasonable and prudent person I am (ha, get it?), I've decided I am going to get a small part-time job on the side (read: 10 hours a week, MAX!). I want to put back a little extra money for emergencies, and we simply aren't there yet with work in the office. I know it will come, but rather than sit idly by and wait for good fortune to show up, I'm getting a side gig.

This has not been a quick decision. I have debated whether a part-time job would undermine my reputation as an attorney. People seeking attorneys want one who is successful, both in reality and in appearance. Having an outside job might give potential clients the wrong impression, that I'm not very good and have to seek other work to make ends meet, which isn't the case. On the other hand, I know other attorneys with outside jobs, and the extra work hasn't impacted their legal reputation (not that I have heard of, anyway).

So I begin the search for a part-time job, preferably one that I'll enjoy. Since the job is not necessary, I'm going to be picky. I have already picked up an application for a position I think I'll like- playing with makeup all day!

Here's to making a little extra jingle!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hamburger v. Steak

It's been a while since I've posted. Here's a quick summary of what's happened in the past 4 months- I quit my old job and opened a law office. Business has gone pretty well so far, or well enough to pay the bills, anyway. Hubby and I have dropped cable, really cut back on eating out, refinanced our cars to lower the payments, and eat at least two dinners per week with our parents (who conveniently live en route to our office). With these changes, we've been able to make do with what we've been able to earn.

So far, the biggest challenge hasn't been legal- no mind-bending legal mysteries, no CSI-like crimes to defend- but rather has been learning to live on an uneven cash flow. As my fellow attorney Laura, who has her own office, told me recently, "It's always hamburger or steak." Although in our situation it feels more like ramen noodles or lunch meat, the analogy is still the same. I imagine any business goes through the same ebb and flow, but when you're used to a paycheck every two weeks, it's tough to adjust.

I know we'll make it. We may have to cut some more expenses or find extra work somewhere else, but we'll make it. *Throws beret into the air*

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Uncertain Self-Reliance v. Comfortable Misery

I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, then that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding.- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, Series I (Self-Reliance).

In law school, everyone fights for the ever-elusive "A," not for the sake of excelling, but for the promise of a clerkship in BigLaw, a "tower firm," with its high pay, expense accounts, and glory. I was not immune to the allure of getting my own BlackBerry, going to happy hour every other day, and making well over $10K in a summer. Beyond this, I think the true allure for law students and young lawyers is the appearance that these firms take care of you. Steady work and great pay.

My grades weren't quite BigLaw material, so I went to work for MediumLaw. The pay isn't as high, but neither are the hourly requirements. This has largely been a great arrangement: TONS of experience, lots of exposure across the eastern part of Kentucky and parts of West Virginia, and congenial co-workers, all of which are important for a young attorney.

Much like the fabled BigLaw, however, MediumLaw also has a nasty habit to taking advantage of the insecurities of young attorneys. You are asked to do more and more, but for the same pay. You do it in order to protect your fledgling reputation and to show the older attorneys that you're capable of handling a larger and more complicated workload, but there comes a time when you feel like a chump for working 60 hours when you're being paid for 40.

I've been frustrated at work for almost a year now. While I am grateful for the experience I've gained where I am and for the pretty decent pay, I feel like I should have a larger sense of accomplishment when I put in a hard day's/week's/month's work.

God, fate, karma, whatever you call it, apparently has sensed my frustration and has placed a path before me. It started with a chance conversation with a retired attorney who conducted a mediation in which I participated. He asked me where I was from, what I was doing now, and what I wanted to do long term. His office is in the county next to my home county, so he was familiar with the legal landscape there. He encouraged me to strike out on my own, as my hometown is an under-served area, the attorneys are all men of a certain age, and he was convinced that a young, smart attorney like myself would do well there.

I'm as cynical as anyone, so anytime I get a gushing compliment, I tend to look for an ulterior motive. But there was none here. This attorney is a former prosecutor and county attorney, and is as no-nonsense as I've ever met. The man smokes a corn cob pipe (really!) and has a deer head hanging in his office. As my husband would say, "He's the kind of guy who barbecues with a scowl on his face." He's not the bull-shitting type.

The idea of opening my own office had crossed my mind before, but would always be pushed out of the way with dreams of landing a job in BigLaw with big pay or a cushy government job with less pay but less stress and better benefits. Now, however, going on my own became a more serious option. I pitched the idea to my husband, who is also an attorney, and to my surprise, he was 100% on board. We're both risk-adverse, so the idea of trying to make it on our own is terrifying, but thrilling all at once.

Almost immediately, I began to scour the Internet to figure out what all I would need to get started: shredders, phones, bankruptcy filing software, desks, forms for filing my PSC or PLLC with the Secretary of State, so on and so forth. I ordered a book from the ABA, How to Start and Build a Law Practice (which has been GREAT, by the way). I was in it to win it.

The final push I needed came this past Friday. I decided to go to my hometown to look at available office space. I met with a realtor about a ridiculously cheap building that turned out to be nothing but rotting wood and mold. As we stepped out of that lawsuit waiting to happen, I asked him if he knew of any other space available for sale or rent, as I was thinking about opening a law office. He mentioned that the lease on his real estate office was ending in a little over a month. I told him I'd follow him there and take a look.

This office is perfect. It's on Main Street (literally), across the road from the courthouse, has lovely display windows (it was a department store in a former life), and the rent is ridiculously cheap. The kicker? The kindly realtor advised he wasn't opening another office to replace this one and didn't want to move and store the office furniture, so he offered it to me, no charge. Chairs, desks, conference table, bookshelves, a veritable start-your-own-law-office kit. For free. I was nearly speechless. My step-mother was not, as usual, and profusely thanked him, took almost half of his business cards and promised to spread his name far and wide (which she will).

I'm now anxiously awaiting the call from the company that manages the property. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that no one has beat me to it already. I would assume a realtor would be aware, more so than we non-realtor folks, if his office was already promised to someone else, but you never know.

I've been walking on air since Friday. I'm already drafting a business plan, thinking of all the people I will need to contact for business once I get started (all within the Rules of Professional Responsibility, of course), what font I want to use on my letterhead and office door, and in what areas I should and should not practice.

So I stand on the edge, ready to take a leap of faith. I'm not looking to become a billboard/phonebook staple. I just want to feel a sense of accomplishment when I lay down at night and a sense of purpose when I wake in the morning.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Experience v. Potential

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. -Benjamin Franklin (or Albert Einstein, depending on your source).

What part of the human mind convinces us that people we have known for many years will change their negative behavior? Is it our ego, believing that we are so wonderful that others will change to please us, or is it more altruistic, stemming from a desire to see everyone reach their true potential? I would love to think it is the latter, but my cynical side believes it is more likely the former.

My relationship with my mother has followed a fairly predictable pattern for many years: a period of intense attachment followed by a much longer period of complete separation. When she comes back on the scene, there are apologies, regrets for not keeping in touch, catching up, and eventually the making of grand plans to make up for lost time. We get together, reminisce and have a great time. Then nothing. No fight, no goodbyes, just nothing.

I will think about calling her, but usually talk myself out of it. She's the parent, I'm the child. She should call me. I shouldn't have to pursue her for a relationship. Or should I? As I approach 30, should I grow up and accept the responsibility of cultivating a relationship upon myself, or do I wait for her to finally do it herself?

I look to my step-mother for guidance in this situation. She's seen me through all parts of this cycle in the past. She's also been in the same situation, but with her now deceased father. During his final year, while his health was declining, she visited him most days of the week, cared for him and tried to get to know him better. When he finally passed, she went back and forth between feelings of regret and anger. She wanted to forgive him and have a relationship, yet couldn't bring herself to do it. I wonder if I will have that same regret if I don't take a proactive stance with my mother. Knowing me, I probably will.

So I stand, facing the start of another cycle. I want to believe it will be better this time. I want to try to make it better this time. That's not crazy, is it?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Legacy, Part I

While I make a concerted effort to be frugal on most accounts, I must confess that I am a makeup and skincare snob. My maternal grandmother bestowed, or cursed, me with this trait. I remember playing with her Estee Lauder and Lancome as a young child and experimenting with Prescriptives and Clinique as a middle-schooler. As the only child of her only child, she spoiled me every chance she could. Most women would freak to find a kid coating her face with $45 dollar foundation, but not her. She showed me how to do it properly. As I entered high school, she would admonish me for not wearing lipstick. I tried to meet her in the middle with lip gloss, but for her, it just wasn't the same.

Though she has passed on, I like to think she would be proud of my makeup collection over the years. In college and law school, my roommates and I would hit up the fall and spring Free Gift with Purchase promotions at the department store counters. Through those pursuits, I gathered quite the collection of lipstick, small tubes of mascara, and blushes that didn't quite match my skin tone. Getting gussied up with friends before going out, or staying in for pizza and videos, provide me with many fond memories. Such thoughts are not from the act of putting on makeup, but the camaraderie and friendship of the company.

As I began work, I found that while I still enjoyed putting on makeup, the frequent early mornings shifted my priorities from achieving a flawless face to an extra 15 minutes of sleep. That trend continues today. Most weekdays find me with mascara on, at most. The weekends are another matter, however. I take extra care to fulfill my cosmetic wishes on those long, leisurely mornings.

While most days find me bare-faced and un-lipsticked, I would like to think my grandmother would be pleased anyway. She found pleasure in hard work even more than in cosmetics.
I miss you, Grandma.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bunning v. Sanity

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky), is an embarrassment to our state, the electoral system, and, most importantly, to himself. While I have never agreed with his politics, his misbehavior within the past couple of days is astonishing. Flipping off the press? Really? We can expect such rude behavior from middle-schoolers or hood-rats, but from a United States Senator? For shame.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Desire v. Need

For my friends and I in our late twenties, the approach to the big 3-0 seems to have us in a wistful mood. However, on paper, I should be happy and content. Great husband? Check. Well-respected job (lawyer)? Check. Decent income for my age and experience? Check. Good health (and health insurance)? Check. So what's my problem? Here are some possibilities:

1. Job. Don't get me wrong. I like my job most times. The supervising attorney I deal with on a regular basis is great, I enjoy 75% of my workload (bankruptcy), and the environment is fairly informal, which is nice for a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl like me. However, my other supervising attorney and the other 25% of my workload create such chest-tightening pressure, anger and fear that it can be overwhelming. Without boring you with the details (or breaching my ethical responsibilities), suffice it to say that even the best attorney cannot help those clients who will not help themselves. Yet those same clients want amazing results, like getting money from 85 year old widows with no tangible assets and whose only income is Social Security. *facepalm*

2. Lack of "meaningful" hobbies. When I'm not working, I can be found on my couch, laptop in lap (as I am at this very minute), working out, visiting with friends or family, shopping, petting my cat, or watching TV or movies. That's 99% of my life. It's pretty nice, but I "feel" I should do more. I have this grand vision of *gasp* reading again, being civically active, learning to play the guitar I got for Christmas, taking voice lessons, so on and so forth. I'm sure I could make more time for these things, but what I do already seems to take up all my time. Do I really want to do these things, or am I compelled to do them simply to round out the image I've created in my mind of what I should be?

3. Kids (or lack thereof). I absolutely love kids and kids absolutely love me. I've always been around lots of kids. My brother is seven years my junior, so I had my own living, breathing baby doll as a second and third grader. I've always had a valid excuse to not have kids (underage, in school, single, learning a new profession, living in apartment, etc.), so I've never really felt the need to do so. However, these excuses no longer apply, so my brain has shifted into mommy-mode, and it terrifies me. I'm risk adverse (hence the name of the blog), so the thought of actually having a child, being responsible for its every need, forming the basis of what will become its personality- it's all too much to comprehend. Women around me seem to do it just fine, but the sheer uncertainty spurs a mild panic attack in me. Yet whenever I see a baby, my voice involuntarily raises two octaves and IWANTONERIGHTNOW. Biology vs. mind. Not a fun fight.

The media tells me that these are common concerns of women my age, so I know I'm not alone, which is reassuring. Now time to figure them out.

I did a lot of driving today (Pikeville and back) and a lot of thinking, hence the cathartic inaugural post. I promise they won't all be so heavy. Fart jokes will come.

Jumpin' on the Bandwagon

All the cool kids have blogs (I'm looking at you, #lextwitterati), so I, of course, must have one too. I have no specific goal or theme at the present, but I hope one will develop organically over time. If nothing else, I hope it will entertain and/or enlighten the handful of folks who will probably read it.