I've been realizing that with only one (quite notable!) exception, the people at my law firm are incredibly FUN. And because we're a really small firm, I think we've been able to bond with each other in ways that would be unheard of in bigger firms. At some of the bigger firms that my friends work at, they are basically required to go to super awkward forced social events with the attorneys, like karaoke night and lake days, and I'm like, no thanks! I'm not a fan of awkward socializing with people that you know you still have to impress, whether you're on or off the clock. And because our jobs are incredibly stressful, we absolutely need to get along well and be able to laugh, and I feel like the intensity of our work has made us closer than ever. I think it also helps that only one person in the firm is over 30, because that means that us clerks and the "real" attorneys are pretty much all peers and can just be friends (and we clerks do everything the lawyers do, except we can't give out formal legal advice, can't argue in court, can't sign stuff, and have to have attorney approval for everything). And we legitimately have so much fun and laugh constantly. Everybody makes fun of everybody else, so you know that no one's going to get offended about it. We make up fun nicknames for our clients, laugh about all their crazy stories, and pile onto the couch in the front office to watch video footage of an exploding 2-liter of Coke that allegedly caused a personal injury (not really convinced that anyone got hurt too badly there!) We have lunch together every Friday and then our work productivity pretty much goes downhill from there. Most Friday afternoons involve a lot more hanging out in M.'s office cracking up about something than actually working. Last Friday night, we all went over to A.'s apartment, had wine and far too much kettle corn from Costco, and talked for HOURS. I think that's pretty much going to become an every-weekend event. And sure, I do feel like I still need to "impress" the attorneys to a point because I know they'll probably be writing me recommendation letters sometime soon, but I also know that nobody's judging anybody else, and I feel totally comfortable just being myself around them.
And as much as we laugh about some of our crazy clients, I've come to realize how much I care about them and enjoy them. Meeting with and helping to counsel clients on a personal level is hands-down my favorite part of this job and my passion. Making a client's day makes my day. I know that as an attorney I have to maintain some level of professional detachment, but at the end of the day, these clients are real people with real lives and I really, really care about them. I care about how my favorite client's back surgery just went. I care about the kids who need someone to help their parents get their acts together. I care about the smart and sweet professor who's trying to win custody, about the young couples trying to get divorced, about the young mother who needs help getting back on her feet after a serious car accident. I feel like it's kind of uncommon for attorneys to take a real interest in their clients' lives, and maybe I care too much, but I'd rather do that than not care enough. I enjoy being a marriage counselor, a therapist, and a friend to these people, depending on what they need at the time. Maybe I get too emotionally invested in it, because I've definitely already worked on cases that have kept me awake at night, unable to stop thinking about the people involved. The ones that break my heart are the custody cases where I know for a fact that neither parent is a particularly good one, and I just can't stop thinking about those children. And the things that some parents say and do to their kids make me so, so angry and sad. But then there are also those times when I KNOW that a case worked out the way it was supposed to, the way that was right, and those are the really encouraging ones. Anyway, I've pretty much found my calling, because improving somebody's life and protecting someone's rights is one of the most satisfying things in the world.