Monday, July 20, 2015

Travel Updates!

Readers, I have recently finished my whirlwind few weeks of travel! Since late June, I have been to Chicago, New York City, and Sarasota, Florida for a family reunion. I've seen Matilda on Broadway, been to Times Square, toured Chelsea Market in NYC, seen snow leopards and penguins at the Central Park Zoo, had drinks in the bar on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower in Chicago (and gotten stuck in the elevator on the 95th floor of said tower, but that's another story entirely), spent four days at an INTENSE but incredibly helpful family law conference, met family law associates from all over the country, seen the sun set over Siesta Key Beach, seen the Statue of Liberty, and so much more. Here are some of my pictures!

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New York skyline from the top of the Empire State Building. 

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Times Square. 

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If you're thinking, "That looks like the apartment building from Friends," you're right!

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Beautiful sunsets in Sarasota: on the beach and in the air. 

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Doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant in NYC!

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The Chicago skyline

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The Bean in Chicago

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Chicago at night. 

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And this weekend I bought a plane ticket to Paris and one to Reykjavik, which is in Iceland. I am so excited! Meagan and I are going together in November, because life's too short not to stroll the cobblestone streets in Rome, sip coffee and eat croissants in a Parisian bakery, see the Eiffel Tower, see the Northern Lights, see the Colosseum at night, and so much more!

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I can't believe that we are actually going to make the Europe trip happen . . . my sister and I have been looking forward to this for a long time, and we're so thrilled that we are going to get to satisfy a little bit of our wanderlust!

In the meantime, well, it's back to that associate attorney life! I'm in the process of drafting up a list of "core competencies" that I would like to have gained by the time I reach the end of this year . . . does anyone else do this? Probably just me, because I am a nerd. But my list includes things like knowing all the basics of divorce taxation issues; having the ability to speak articulately and knowledgeably about complex family law matters; and competency with all major types of drafting, including settlement agreements, modifications, contempts, discovery, requests for admission, motions for reconsideration, motions to compel, emergency motions, etc. By the end of this year, I want to feel confident and comfortable with most of these very basic lawyering skills so that I don't feel like I'm having to start from scratch with each new project and assignment. It is satisfying to already be at the point where, for many tasks, I have already seen it or something like it before and therefore have some idea of what to do. My absolute favorite cases are ones that involve either complex civil procedure questions, complex custody issues, or both. Well, I need to finish writing a memo so that's all for tonight!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Knowing the Heart of God

How many times as Christians do we find ourselves complaining about how we just don't understand what God could possibly be doing in our lives? We don't understand why he has brought us to a certain place or a certain circumstance. We don't know what his plan could possibly be and we start to question whether he really has a grip on what the future holds, even though we know he says that he does. We look at our lives and just wonder, "What could God possibly be thinking?" I find myself wondering this sometimes, and I'm sure you have wondered it too. Didn't he know I expected _____ to be so different than it is? Why would he think that the circumstance I'm in would ever work out ok? Why would he give me one thing when it seems so clear that I need another? And the doubts can go on and on if we let them.

But this past week, God impressed something on my heart very clearly, and it was this: I cannot know the mind of God, but I can and do know the heart of God, and that is enough. So often our angst and confusion and frustration with God comes from trying to understand what is in his mind and to see everything he sees and to know everything he knows, even though this is impossible for us as humans. We simply can't understand why God does everything he does. He knows things that we cannot possibly know--and that we should not know. He knows the future even though we don't, and isn't that a blessing? There are so many things in my life that, if I had been able to see into the future and known how hard they were going to be, I would never have pursued them in the first place, but I've been blessed in the long term because I did. There have been times in my life when years after the fact, God gave me some insight into why he allowed a certain circumstance to happen in my life or to glimpse a little bit of the purpose it may have served in his plan for my life. But other times, we never know and never see what God is doing, thinking, knowing, and seeing behind the scenes. He knows exactly what your life and the world around you will look like tomorrow, next week, and in 2050, even though we don't and can't even fathom having this understanding.

The reason we do not need to be burdened with our inability to know the mind of God is because we do know the heart of God, and it is for us. His heart delights in us and delights in working in our lives for His glory and our good. Because we know God's heart for us, we know that he works in our lives out of his great love and compassion for us and his desire to build our faith and make us more like Christ. We know that he has good plans for our lives and that he has promised to meet our needs, to fill our cups, and to satisfy our desires with good things. He has promised that he is FOR us and fighting for us, and that he goes before us and will be with us in everything, no matter what we face. Because I know that this is the heart of God, I can trust him and trust his purposes and plans even though I cannot know the mind of God, and I cannot see everything he sees or know why certain things happen and other things don't. I can take great comfort in knowing that I know the heart of God, and it delights in me. And in you.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tips for Brand-New Attorneys

So this week has involved many hours writing a trial brief on contract construction/ parol evidence, getting ready for a big hearing, consoling/ counseling tearful clients, doing subpoenas, writing consolidated orders, etc. Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about some of the tips I would offer new associates, just out of what I've learned in my first year so far. Here's a few:

1) There's no such thing as a first draft--ever. Assume that your work product, once it leaves your hands, could be filed with the court, submitted to opposing counsel, presented to a client, etc., with absolutely no changes or time for revisions. In other words, whatever work you give to your assigning partner had better be a final draft--captioned correctly, with any certificates of service included, totally ready to go. If you don't do this, you run the risk of having your work being labeled as sloppy.

2) Learn the preferences of your assigning partners and supervisors, even if you think they are nitpicky. Find out exactly how anyone who is assigning you work wants it to be completed--printed or emailed? Paper-clipped or stapled? Find out each person's stylistic preferences for pleadings and motions--and don't just stop there, make a running list of the types of edits you receive on work from each partner so that you can start to learn what they do and do not like. It's impressive when a partner doesn't have to tell an associate something twice because the associate referred back to The List before turning in another assignment to that partner.

3) Read this article. Do basically everything it says. Better yet, print it out, highlight it, and ever so casually leave a copy laying on your desk for when the partners come into your office (as I have unashamedly done).

4) Start carving out an area of expertise as soon as possible, read as much as you can about that topic, and make it known to others that you are really interested in that area so that they are more likely to assign cases in that area to you. I've made it known in my practice group that I love working with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Since 90% of family law attorneys hate those cases and I actually really like them, I've been given a lot of responsibility on any cases that our firm gets that have to do with the UCCJEA.

5) Make a professional development plan. My plan includes hard skills I would like to develop (taking a deposition, arguing a motion, writing a significant brief or motion for summary judgment, etc.), classes and conferences I would like to attend, networking activities I would like to be involved in, soft skills I would like to develop (things like being a better listener, taking more initiative, etc.), and industry publications I'm committing to keeping up with (and, down the road, hopefully writing articles for). Put deadlines into the plan. "By ____ date, I would like to have handled a client meeting by myself." This plan should also be printed out and casually placed on your desk next to that article described in point #3.

6) Do the job before you have it. If you want to be a partner at your firm someday, you need to start thinking, working, and strategizing on your cases as if you already are one. If you were handling the case by yourself, what would you do? Don't be afraid to offer unsolicited ideas on case strategy to partners, to take the initiative to research ideas on your own and present them as options to partners, and even to present alternative solutions to a problem.

7) Do the little things well. Always keep up with your billing; no one should have to ask you to do this. Proofread all of your emails before you hit send--it's amazing how often people don't do this. Keep up with your paperwork and keep your office reasonably organized, or else people might think you are a slob. Always show up to everything on time, even if it's just a quick meeting in the office.

8) Networking is now your job just as much as it was before you had a job. Go to events, join your local bar association, volunteer somewhere, and follow up with people you meet. This is how you begin to establish both your reputation in the legal community and a client base.

9) Volunteer for anything and everything you can. Volunteer to write short articles for your local bar association newsletter, to draft up new policies for your firm on e-discovery, to head up fundraising for the campaign to raise money for pro bono organizations, etc. Demonstrate a willingness to jump into things with energy and enthusiasm and the greater opportunities won't be too far away.

10) Don't wear green nail polish to work.