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.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Attempted Return to the Blogging World

Readers, I know it has been a long time. And some of you probably about gave up on me ever writing again, which I can't say I blame you for! I've realized lately that this blog is one of several things that I really enjoyed doing in law school and then just kind of stopped doing, for no good reason, once I moved and started working full-time. I know that's pretty common when we make a big transition--we get busy and totally caught up in new things and then suddenly realize that we've let some things we really enjoy fall by the wayside. And that's exactly the way I feel about this blog. I have so enjoyed sharing my thoughts, pictures, goals, life events, and so forth with each of you over the last three years, and I'm just not ready to call it quits on this blog yet. I also can't use "I'm too busy" as a legitimate excuse because I'm honestly no busier than I was in law school, it's just a different kind of busy that comes with working at a firm vs. juggling classes and a million extracurricular activities in law school. So, with that said, I'm ready to get back into this. And honestly, even if my writing only impacts approximately three people, it's still totally worthwhile to me.

So here are some general updates from the last few months:
  • I have worked at my law firm for approximately 8 months now. It definitely doesn't feel like that long! I am excited about how much more I know now and am comfortable with now than I was even a few short months ago. I still greatly enjoy working with family law clients and on the types of cases we handle. I find it to be so meaningful and something that I feel like I can make a difference doing.
  • Meagan and I head out to Haiti for our second annual mission/ volunteer/ love on all the children trip in just two weeks! This year we'll be in the village of Mesaye, painting, planting trees, spending time with kids, going to the local Haitian church, distributing health kits to families and teaching them about basic hygiene, etc. I am so excited!
  • I just ran my third half marathon yesterday and beat my previous personal best by 15 minutes! I love these runs because they make me realize that even though I am not (and have never been) athletic or even particularly strong, I am still capable of pushing myself hard and getting across that finish line. My personal record to finish those 13.1 miles now stands at 3 hours and 3 minutes, which I know most people would probably consider unbelievably slow, but for me, it's still something I'm proud of because a few years ago, I never would have thought I could run that far, period.
  • I'm getting prepared for a whirlwind summer of travel. Plans include the Haiti trip (obviously), going to Florida for a work conference in May, going to Chicago for work in June, and then going to New York and Florida in July. Chicago, New York, and Florida are actually three weekends in a row . . . that could get pretty crazy, especially since I'm not taking any days off for any of the trips but am just squeezing them into the weekends. And of course, I definitely want to go on Lauren's third annual Tybee Island beach vacation, which may end up happening over Labor Day weekend because I can't take any more days off because, in addition to my week off for Haiti, Meagan and I are planning a big trip to Europe at the end of November (Iceland, France, Italy, Luxembourg). We are incredibly excited! #singleladiestraveling
  • I am still loving my not-so-new-anymore apartment, and my cat, and exploring and learning all the ins and outs of this beautiful city. I've found my favorite places to go running, and the coffee shop that just feels like home and where I can write for hours, and a church that I really love, and my favorite places to eat and shop and go hiking and take friends when they come visit me. I'm still working on really developing a social life and strong friendships and community here, but I know that that is a process that can take a long time, so I'm just trying to keep putting myself out there.
  • I just read Lisa Scottoline's latest book, Keep Quiet, and it is great! I have a ton of other books on my "to read" list, including The Innocent Man by John Grisham, Leaving Time and The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (duh I have some Jodi Picoult books on this list--love her!), Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Defending Jacob by William Landay, and more. I want to start reading at least one book a week, because I know that is totally doable, and a much better use of my time than just watching TV. 
  • I am loving Passion's new album, Even So Come. The link is to one of the songs, but they are all amazing. I have been playing them in my car nonstop. 
  • I am getting ready to start a personal Bible-reading journey through the Psalms (which may definitely lend itself to some blog posts in the future). I am eager to get back into a devotional routine--this is something I have really struggled with in the last few months, and I know it has not been the priority for me that it certainly should be. If you have any tips on how to make time for quality Bible study, let me know in the comments. 
Well, that's it for now. I hope you all are enjoying your Sundays!