Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Readers, I am back after my long but much-needed hiatus. Maintaining this blog has just not been a high priority for me in the last couple of months as I've been busy with work, and I can't promise it will be that high of a priority in 2015 either, but I have missed writing and I do want to try to give you at least a few posts a month moving forward. So don't give up on me yet!

As is everyone else, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on everything that happened in 2014 and all the goals I have for 2015. In a way, I was sorry to see 2014 go. God has been very, VERY faithful and kind to me in the past year, and I've had the sheer joy of seeing Him answer prayers with a "yes" that I had previously thought might always be answered with a "no." He has worked in my life in ways that previously He had not worked, placed opportunities in front of me that I could not have imagined having, and walked with me while I've faced a lot of my fears, teaching me that I wanted to pursue His plans for me more than I was afraid of pursuing them, and these past few days I've just been celebrating that. With graduating from law school, my trip to Haiti (where I left a little piece of my heart), starting a job I absolutely love as an attorney, moving to the city I've wanted to live in for a long time, passing the bar exam, running my first two half-marathons, and appearing in court on behalf of real clients for the first time ever, this past year has been full of exciting and happy moments. I can't wait for many more to come in the year ahead as I encounter new challenges and tackle more things I've never tackled before.

Some of my goals for 2015?

  • Go to Iceland and see the Northern Lights
  • See the Colosseum in Rome
  • Watch the sun rise/ set over the Eiffel Tower (these first three should be able to be accomplished on the trip to Europe, traveling through Iceland, that Meagan and I are planning for late fall of 2015)
  • Begin handling my own cases at the firm
  • Do a deposition by myself
  • Appear in court by myself (as opposed to being supervised by my boss, as I was when I did trials this fall)
  • Go to New York City and see a show on Broadway
  • Read at least 50 books
  • Go to Haiti again
  • Get sworn in to practice law before the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court
  • Read the Bible from cover to cover
  • Become a better listener (it has come to my attention that I'm not really such a great listener. Time to improve on this vital skill). 
  • Pay off all credit card debt and start a new habit of saving cash BEFORE I buy things instead of putting them on credit and paying them off later. 

Well, I wish I had some deeply inspirational thoughts for 2015 but I really don't. I'm just excited to be getting back to blogging after so long away! I am going to try to be kinder, more joyful, more determined, more tenacious, and more fearless in 2015 than I was in 2014, and I hope you will too. Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Readers, We Need to Catch Up.

There has been so much going on lately that I haven't even had time to breathe. That trial that I mentioned we were having? I didn't end up just sitting at counsel table and helping plan strategy . . . I was doing a direct examination of a witness after having been sworn in on Monday and getting my bar number/ official bar license on Wednesday. I have spent the last two weeks preparing everything for this trial with the help of my boss and our paralegal. It was fun, but I still have a lot to learn and a lot to work on. We don't know the results yet, but we will know something next week. I did my questioning, and I made some objections to opposing counsel (which got overruled, but at least I made them). This is me getting sworn in to the State Bar of Georgia:

Even after getting sworn in, I STILL wasn't officially an attorney until Wednesday when I got my bar number, but now, I am a full-fledged attorney and fully licensed to practice law in Georgia. Finally! I resigned from being a "law clerk" forever . . . and I can't hide behind that title anymore. Telling someone you're a law clerk, or having an email signature that says that's what you are, kind of alerts the world that you are young and inexperienced, perhaps even still a student. But when your email signature says you're an associate attorney, there's no way for anyone else to tell whether you've been practicing law for 40 years or 2 days. So it's a little scary, and I know that I'm going to be expected to start making a lot more of my own decisions about at least smaller matters on cases now that I can practice without supervision. And I can sign documents to be filed with the court with MY bar number on them!

So needless to say, work has been crazy busy lately, and my first thoughts upon waking have been about things like whether we need to get domestic relations financial affidavits updated or how to get in a certain kind of evidence over a hearsay objection. I'm starting to learn what it feels like to be a real attorney and to have a hard time leaving work at work--I've been thinking about my cases and checking my work email all the time lately, even plotting out trial strategy in the shower. 

But this morning I woke up and realized that at the moment, I'm not stressed out about a single thing, and I can't tell you how good it feels! This is the first weekend I've officially been a member of the bar, and I'm no longer stressing about when I'll finally get sworn in or when I'll get a bar number or whether something else will hold up me getting my license. I tackled the rest of the case issues that were blowing up all of last week by the end of the day yesterday, so I'm going to be starting pretty fresh on Monday with new things. And I LOVE being a real attorney. I just love it. Also, lately I've been connecting with other people at work that I hadn't really talked with much since I got started in August, and I'm feeling so much more like an integral part of the team and am being myself around people. I absolutely love how these days, I don't just come in and head straight to my office in the morning; now there's almost always a few minutes of laughing with people in the break room before I get going each day. 

So today, it feels wonderful not to have any big stuff hanging over my head. It feels great to still be in my pajamas at 12:48 pm on this freezing November day after spending the morning sleeping, listening to music, updating LinkedIn, etc. Last night I went to Barnes and Noble and pretty much spent my paycheck there (well, not quite, but I went a little wild buying books). Can't wait to read all of these:

I don't read very much at all these days except articles online and magazines, and I really want to get back into books. It feels more relaxing at the end of a long day to just watch TV, but I know I've grown up loving reading and don't want to lose that as I get older. So, I want to read all 6 of these books before the end of the year for sure, and then I'm probably going to go back and buy more. I know I can always go to the library, but I've been specifically wanting to add to my own book collection also, so that's what I'm trying to do right now. There's something deeply satisfying and inviting about having shelves full of great books, isn't there?

Let's see, what else do we need to catch up on? For one, I adopted a cat! His name is Max, and he is so precious and I've totally fallen in love with him:

Isn't he completely adorable? He has already brightened my life so much--I love coming home to him every night and cuddling on my couch and listening to him purr. 

And let's see, here's a picture from my sister's visit a couple weeks ago after a coffee date with our friend: 

And a couple city-at-night pictures I took recently:

As soon as I finish doing my "Saturday chores" and cleaning my apartment this afternoon (much needed, haha), I will try to post some pictures of my new apartment and how I've decorated it. I've been meaning to do that for awhile and just haven't had the chance. More to come soon!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's OK to Be Afraid

This post has been a long time coming. What I'm about to write about is something I have been thinking about this entire year, and on Tuesday last week, I was sitting at Panera eating my lunch when the words finally just came to mind, cohesively, and I started typing them out in a note on my phone as fast as I could. So here you have it.

I think we as Christians tend to believe that we should never be afraid and that we need to step it up in the faith department if we find ourselves feeling afraid. After all, the Bible does say not to worry, not to be anxious, and not to fear, and it says it a LOT. And I'm not here to advocate for giving in to brooding anxieties or constant worry about our lives, or for succumbing to the misguided belief that God will not pull us through whatever situation we find ourselves in, because that's clearly not what God wants us to do. But.

Isn't it true that being afraid forces us to embrace raw dependence on God? On Tuesday I was having a conversation with God (at Panera over a bowl of autumn squash soup) about how I so often feel afraid, underqualified, and overwhelmed at my new job. Not because the people aren't wonderful and the work isn't what I want to do--it's not that at all. It's that more often than not, I have no idea what I'm doing. 9 times out of 10 when I'm given an assignment to do, it is something I have never done before and I have to find a way to figure it out. I'm getting sworn in (yay!) a week from tomorrow, but that also means I will be licensed to practice law just in time for a major trial we have on November 13th--which means I will be not only attending the trial, but sitting at counsel table beside my boss and helping him plan strategy and figure out our next move. Kind of intimidating. I'm in a whole new world now, and I don't usually have a clue what I am doing, although I am starting, bit by bit, to learn. I'm having to get familiar with a whole different crowd of very experienced family law attorneys, and am often asked to go to events "on behalf of" my bosses or my firm. (You guys do know I have like 10 weeks of experience compared to your 20+ years, right??) Back in the summer, at one point I wrote in my journal something to the effect of: "Everything significant I have left to do this year scares me so much. Taking the bar exam, starting my job, getting licensed to practice law, moving, finding a new place to live, making new friends, etc. Everything." And sometimes, I do wonder if I can make the cut here, if I can be good enough as an attorney, and if I can overcome my inexperience and the fact that I'm younger than the next youngest attorney in my firm by 5 years. So just being honest, I feel afraid and "not cut out for this" a lot. I can't claim that I am diving into this with all confidence, because that's just not true.

But in that moment, telling God all these fears, I just felt Him saying in my spirit, "Lauren, you're acting like you came here to be comfortable. You didn't move here and take this job to be comfortable. You came here to make yourself and your life better, to be challenged and to grow, to develop new skills, and to stretch yourself to accomplish things you didn't believe you could accomplish. It's ok to be afraid sometimes. It's ok to have that adrenaline rush of looking at your life and realizing you have no clue what to do next and no clue whether you are even capable of doing that next thing. I want to induce in you a raw and constant grasping dependence on my Spirit and relentless straining for my presence, and this is how you get there. This. Not having a clue, not knowing what to do next, not sure you can make it through the next challenge without making a fool of yourself. This is where you're supposed to be AND it's how your're supposed to feel! This was never supposed to be easy, and you never signed up for something easy. Doing something significant is scary, and that is ok. You wouldn't have to be afraid if you were just sitting on your butt doing nothing or suppressing your potential, but that's not what I want for your life. If you were never afraid, you'd start convincing yourself that you don't need me. And you DO need me. Every day, every hour, every minute."

Well. After that little pep talk, I don't think I need to complain to God about being afraid anymore. Sometimes our deepest trust in our Savior is born of our greatest fears. And maybe, just maybe, if you feel like you aren't qualified and don't even know what your next move should be, you are exactly where God wants you to be for Him to show you--and the world through you--how strong and capable He is. Remember, He displays his greatest power in our greatest weakness. Pushing yourself to do things you don't believe you can do, but that you know you are called to do, puts you in a position to see God's power on display in your life.

I am not always capable, but I serve a God who IS always capable. I am not always enough, but He is enough, I can't always do it, be He can. I fail, but He doesn't. When I am afraid, He's got it covered. If my fear creates in me that moment-to-moment dependence on the power, guidance, and wisdom of God, then bring it on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Big News

So, I know you all probably want to know, so I'll just go ahead and tell you that I PASSED THE BAR EXAM!!! Of course, Friday was October 24th, the day that has loomed large in my mind for months, the day that was going to basically determine what a lot of my future is going to look like. This whole time, October 24th has been my stopping point. I could tell you what I'd probably be doing until then, but I couldn't tell you about after or plan for the days after. And now, I can! I get to live here indefinitely. I get to work at this law firm indefinitely. Indefinitely. There could not be a better word than that right now, since everything I have done in my adult life so far has been all about the end--college and law school have a predetermined end point and you know that no matter how much you're enjoying it, you will have to leave before long. I am absolutely thrilled that it is perfectly conceivable that I will be living in this city and working at this job ten years from now, or fifteen, or more. I get to STAY here indefinitely. And everything has changed as a result. I feel comfortable joining activities and truly making friends and committing to volunteer work and buying some furniture and things I need, and so forth, because I get to stay here. It's not temporary anymore, and literally everything else I have done since I was 18 years old has been all too temporary.

But before I go off any further on that tangent, let me tell you how it all actually happened. I will never forget where I was and who I was with when I found out. My sister Meagan flew in on Thursday night and was here till Monday morning. We had been planning for a long time that she was going to be here the weekend results came out. I had heard lots of different advice on how to handle checking bar results--should you do it with someone else or by yourself, where should you plan to check, etc. This may sound silly to some of you if you're thinking it's just like checking your grade on any old test, but it's not like that at all, because the very best case scenario is that if your name is not on that pass list, you will be spending a couple thousand dollars to take the test and a prep course again, and spending hundreds of hours to prepare for it. So checking those results is a very big nerve-wracking deal and you need to plan ahead for how you're going to find out. I had been thinking the whole time that I was going to leave my phone off all day Friday (to avoid getting texts from people about results), leave work a little early, and go check results at home with my sister. Then on Thursday afternoon D. asked me to go to this deposition with him the next day and told me it could last all day. (He was like, "What do you have going on tomorrow, besides this whole bar thing?" Um . . . not much!) So he told me that I could just excuse myself whenever I needed to so that I could go check results.

So at 10am on Friday I was sitting in opposing counsel's office and we were doing this deposition. At basically the last minute on Friday morning, I changed my mind and told Meagan to text me right away if I passed. I had been so hesitant to do that because I didn't want to be assuming the worst if I didn't hear anything from her--but I also by all means did not want to find out bad news in public. So we took a couple breaks during the deposition and each time I checked my phone for messages. At 11:50, I checked my phone again. Still nothing. At that point I got very nervous because I had had a gut feeling all along that the results were going to be released around noon, even though they weren't guaranteed to be posted before 4:30. At about 12:10, we finished the deposition and D. went into another room to meet with the opposing counsel while I stayed in the conference room with the client. I pulled out my phone again and saw that I had a picture message from Meagan, and I immediately knew what it was because I had told her to send me a screenshot of the pass list, not just to tell me "You passed!" It was in fact a screenshot of the list and my name was on it, and I just was like, "I passed the bar exam, I passed the bar exam!!" and the client and I hugged and D. and I hugged and I just kept saying, "I just don't even know what to say right now." I was just so, so relieved, and surprised, and happy, and it felt like the weight of the WORLD had just fallen off my shoulders. And then there was drinks with the coworkers, and a fancy dinner with my sister, and shopping, and cupcakes, and champagne, and you get the idea! We had a great weekend. And now, I still have to get sworn in to the State Bar of Georgia, but once I do that in two weeks or so, I will be a licensed attorney!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Going Beyond the Comfort Zone

Yesterday and today were pretty writing-heavy days at the office, which makes me really happy because I've realized I would be totally satisfied with my career if I could just sit and draft documents and write briefs for clients all day, every day. I enjoy being in court and preparing for hearings too, but I really think the writing is what I like more.

I'm excited because I've been asked to assist on a really big case where we're working to handle some very complex financial issues that have come up in one of our divorce cases. I've been asked to write the settlement agreement, complete with a ton of details about how the retirement accounts and pension plans will be split up, how child support and alimony will be handled, how real estate will be divided, etc. Never mind that I have never written one of these before, I want my finished product to look like I have been doing these for years. I'm learning not to say, "I don't really know how to do X" because if I don't know how to do it, well, I need to just learn/ teach myself/ ask someone to show me how to do it. If I've never done something before, that's all the more reason for me to be doing it now because then I have something else under my belt. So for the past two days I've pretty much just sat down and figured it out bit by bit. I've put in the merger clauses and tax indemnification provisions and all the details about dividing pension plans via qualified domestic relations orders. It's turned into a 25-page document and might get longer yet. I'm basically done for now, but I need to have a major conference with one of our tax lawyers on Monday to make sure I wrote in the tax provisions correctly before I pass it onto my boss. I'm hoping he can let me know if I made any serious mistakes before I embarrass myself in front of the partners with it.

I'm getting to the point, though, where I am okay with feeling dumb sometimes. Part of me would rather always know exactly what I'm doing and feel totally on top of things, but there is something to be said for being stretched WAY out of your comfort zone at work and challenged to develop new skills and push yourself to do things you've never done before. I was in a bad mood on Wednesday night because everything all day had just made me feel stupid (no one at the office has ever made me feel that way because they're all very patient, but I was just feeling that way in general after a day of not being able to figure out how to do anything people were asking me to do). And I was feeling very out of my league at this job and wondering if I was in over my head and if I would ever just get it. And I've been feeling very drained lately too, because I really love all the new things that have begun in my life in the past couple months, but adjusting to a new job/ new city/ new apartment/ new friends all at one time is pretty challenging, and I've had to learn and adapt to a huge number of things in a very short time. But then I realized that feeling clueless and overwhelmed sometimes means I'm pushing myself, and being challenged, and dealing with the discomfort that so often accompanies professional and personal growth. It's boring if you always know exactly what you're doing and are totally comfortable with your work. And I know that even if I feel dumb sometimes (some days more than others), I've still developed a lot of new skills just in the past few weeks in this job, and the more I keep working at it, the more natural it will probably feel.

My boss is going on vacation and she left this morning and won't get back till a week from Monday, after bar results come out a week from today. So before she left, she said, "Lauren, next time I see you, you're going to be a lawyer!" I'm thinking, boy I hope you're right! But I feel good/ relaxed/ at peace about the whole thing right now, no matter what happens. And she was like, "Text me as soon as you find out!" I hope I'll be getting to tell her that our firm officially has another attorney . . . very, very soon.

Well y'all, I need to go to bed because tomorrow is service project day at the refugee mission north of the city, and I have to be there at 8am. Enjoy your weekend!