Saturday, July 27, 2013


That is the only word I can use to describe the feeling I have right now, and have been having for the past couple of days. In fact, I don't know how to feel at all right now, and this post is probably going to reflect that!

I am almost done with the hardest, most intense, most challenging summer of my life: my last day of work is Tuesday, and I move back to my law school apartment on Wednesday. I've pushed my limits this summer so, so much, faced a lot of fears, and done things I honestly used to think were totally impossible for me to ever do. But now, I feel both very happy AND very sad about it being almost over.

The biggest part of me is so, so happy that this intensely hard summer is almost over, and that some rest and relaxation is coming my way soon. I am so happy that my crazy job, in a crazy work environment with out-of-control expectations, is two work days away from being 100% over. I am going to write about this more on Tuesday night--I have a whole lot more to say on that topic (trust me), but it's going to be more satisfying to write it when I am done done done with work. But I am so sad to be leaving those people at work that I have come to really love--(most) of the attorneys and the other law students who worked at the firm this summer. We've had a lot of fun. We've laughed so, so much. We've dealt with intense stress, crazy clients, and overwhelming case loads all summer, and we've dealt with it together, with a LOT of laughter in the process.

But another part of me is very glad to be saying goodbye, for now, to them. I don't mean that in a bad way at all, but while we do usually have fun together, my values are 110% different from the values of the people I work with. It's often very uncomfortable. In the past week or so, I've grown utterly weary of trying to fit in with people that are so completely different from me . . . yes, we have fun, but I truly don't have much in common with my coworkers. I'm so ready to be around my true, long-time, amazing, REAL friends again . . . friends that I can really share everything with, friends that share my faith, friends that talk about things other than drinking/ partying/ sex/ activities I'm not comfortable talking about all the time, etc. I'm ready to be around people who don't use the F-word in every sentence and take God's name in vain in every other sentence. My ears have gotten used to the basic equivalent of watching an R-rated movie on repeat all day every day, but my heart hasn't. 

And I'm just going to say it--the attorneys practice law in some ways that I am not comfortable practicing law. Some of the ways that clients are treated and cases are handled are not ok with me, and if I may speak frankly, I don't want my name associated with it anymore. I don't really mean unethically, but just totally un-compassionately. They take on more clients than they can ever really handle anyway, so no one really gets the attention and care that they pay an arm and a leg for, and I am not ok with that business model. There. I said it. This is true of many firms, not just where I happen to work, but that's how I feel about it.

I've been the case manager for some clients this summer who have gotten very frustrated with some of these issues, and I've spoken to those clients on the phone and in person many times this summer, and while I make every effort to treat them right and to return every phone call and to give them as much attention as I possibly can, I can't really do it the way I think it needs to be done while at this firm because it's so chaotic and crazy. And, I don't want to be in practice in this city in a year when I graduate, which is probably going to happen, and have my name in any way be associated with these business practices, because word gets around and people remember how they are treated and pass the word on to their friends. (I don't want the clients I've worked with this summer to remember my name, assume I endorse everything at the firm, and then to pass around that "Lauren doesn't care about clients/ doesn't return calls/ doesn't do what she says she will do.") NOT ok. Because in law practice, a good reputation is solid gold, and I'm not willing to lose it before I even really get started.

And finally, this city feels SO much like home, and I truly do not want to leave. I left last weekend for a family reunion, and it was my first time to go out of town in 8 or 9 weeks, and when I came back, as soon as I saw that skyline in the distance, I knew I was HOME. When you've found a place where you can be home, you just know. You feel like your internal compass points to that place, like your inner North Star will always guide you there. You can be happy anywhere and everywhere else, but when you return . . . well, it feels like letting out the breath you didn't even realize you were holding. It feels like walking around on a Saturday morning in a well-worn pair of jeans . . . relaxed and comfortable. That's how I feel about here even though it's only been, like, 10 weeks. And so I'm super sad that it's my last weekend here. For the record, though, I absolutely love the city I live in where the law school is, and I've missed it a lot, so in that sense I'm very happy to go back.

And where could I even begin with the lessons I've learned about God, life, and myself this summer? Starting with this one: with God, all things are possible. I'll write more about that later, too. Enjoy your Saturday!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lessons Learned on the Job

A random sampling of some things I've learned from work this summer . . .

1) About 80% of being a good attorney is learning how to ask the right questions, in the right way, to the right people, at the right time.

2) Even though it seems like there is, in law practice there's basically no mistake that's irreversible. Your client isn't going to just lose the case because you captioned their discovery responses incorrectly, like I did. Your office is not going to have bar complaints for breach of attorney-client privilege brought against it because you accidentally email one client private information intended for another client (also like I did). Just call the client, explain what happened, apologize, and ask them to please PLEASE delete the information. Mistakes are allowed. As long as you fix them.

3) That said, the details matter, and they need to be RIGHT. Everything needs to be cited correctly. Grammar and spelling need to be accurate. Complaints need to be filed in the right court in the right county. Use of legal authority must be appropriate and not misleading. All of these things are more of a credibility issue than anything else . . . do the little things right and you gain credibility, with the courts, with judges, with clients, and with other attorneys; overlook them and you lose it.

4) The scariest email you can ever get is an email from your boss that just says "come see me" with NO further explanation. This is more or less the adult version of getting sent to the principal's office.

5) Not everything you learn in law school is useful or necessarily even familiar to a practicing attorney. Case in point: if you ask one of the attorneys if the court rules for a particular county require briefs to contain parallel citations, they'll say, "What are you even talking about?!"

6) You can only help your client to the extent that they want to help themselves.

7) Clients will ask you out on dates, and try to write their own demand letters because they think yours wasn't good enough, and try to bring champagne to their depositions, and just in general make your life a WHOLE lot more interesting.

8) Make enough phone calls to random people who may or may not want to hear from you, and have enough awkward meetings, and you'll realize that you no longer even have a comfort zone because your tolerance for extreme awkwardness is through the roof. I could call or speak in person with pretty much anyone after this summer, and I wouldn't feel awkward about it anymore because chances are good I did something even more awkward at some point this summer!

9) Law school doesn't teach you how to practice law. Practicing law teaches you how to practice law. That said, my classes have been indispensable this summer. I would have crashed and burned without what I've learned these past two years. You have to have that foundation of basic knowledge before you can learn how it all fits together in practice.

10) Work ethic and character are more important than doing your actual job perfectly. I may not be able to do my job tasks perfectly (well, I know that I can't!), but I want my character and reputation to be impeccable. Anyone can achieve this. Be on time. Respect people. Do what you say you're going to do. Do the tasks nobody else wants to do. Go above and beyond. Be honest. Take the time to get the details right, and refuse to cut corners. When you make a mistake, admit it and make it right. Thank people for what they do for you. Don't complain. And a liberal use of "sir" and "ma'am," at least here in the South, goes a LONG way. Listen to people. Take responsibility for your own attitude and actions. These simple things that anyone can do in the workplace will get you a lot further than futile efforts to do your job 100% perfectly.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Cure for Burnout

I don't know about you all, but I woke up this morning just feeling totally burned out from head to toe. You probably know the feeling . . . physically tired, emotionally spent, mentally strained, and just plain worn out. I think we all get there sometimes. For me, I know I'm in this burnout stage because of heavy demands at work, lots of social obligations, and feeling pressure to spend every waking moment I'm not at the office or with friends researching and writing that Moot Court problem. Just in general, this has been a summer of steep learning curves and a barrage of new experiences, many of them awkward, stressful, and intellectually or emotionally challenging. I'd known I was looking at a challenging couple of months, and I embrace that fully and I love stretching myself to meet new demands, but after awhile it can leave you feeling just TIRED, and kind of like me right now . . . how many days of work and writing do I have left before vacation??!

As a Christian, I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and that promise has been a life raft many a time in the past months. ALL things. But what does it actually mean to have Christ strengthening us? What does that look like in our lives?

My pastor has been doing a sermon series on the book of Ephesians lately, and he's pointed out just how many times this little epistle, even in the first chapter, proclaims that we are "in Christ" or have blessings "in Christ." We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ . . . God chose us in Christ . . . In Christ we have redemption through his blood . . . In Christ we were also chosen . . . and I could go on and on. IN CHRIST. My pastor has pointed out the truly earth-shattering implications of this beautiful truth: if we are truly in Christ, everything Christ has is ours too, and everything He can do, we also can do through his power at work within us! Your total inability coupled with Christ's total ability is more than enough power for you to do anything, anywhere, for anyone. Maybe you can't, but He can, and he shares his ability with you! He works through you and infuses His strength into you.

In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that the saints would know God's "incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms." Yes, this does mean what you think it means--the SAME POWER that raised Christ from the grave, rolled away the stone, and defeated the powers of sin, death, and hell is at work within all of us who believe. Resurrection power resides within you. The Greek word used in this passage for "power" is the same word from which we get our English word "dynamite." It is shattering, it is explosive, and it's strong enough to deal a death blow to whatever empty, ineffective, and ungodly lives we may have lived before. God has given his greatest power directly to us to reside within us--the greatest show of his strength in all of history was the raising of His only Son from the dead, and THAT is exactly the power he chooses to give to us! It is incomparably great. We can't really plumb its depths. The eyes of our heart have to be enlightened if we are to even understand it at all (see Ephesians 1:18). The power that not only raised Christ from the dead but seated Him in the heavens, far above all rule and authority, is ours too because we are in Christ. All of our ineffectiveness is swallowed up in his total effectiveness; all of our weakness is overpowered by His mighty strength. Everything that we cannot do or be, He can, and is. Because He can, we can.

And this is the power that we can hold onto when the world pulls us into its exhausting spiral of never-ending demands and obligations and commitments, leaving us tired and drained--we have a greater power at work within us, and no challenge we could ever face is equal to that power. Greater is the strength that lies within us in Christ than ANY challenge the world could ever throw our way.

Remember Philippians 4:13: I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me [I am equal to anything and ready for anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency.] (Amplified Bible)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

But God....

Have you ever noticed how many times in Scripture people or situations will be at an absolute crisis point, when all that can be seen is desperation and defeat, and then two little words change everything and bring a profound and lasting victory: BUT GOD.

For example:

In Genesis 50:20, when Joseph confronts his brothers who sold him into slavery, he tells them that the defeat they wanted for his life never came through. Why? Because God came through instead. He tells them definitively, "You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it for good."

Or in Psalm 73, when the writer contemplates his own death and the inevitable weakening of his body, but realizes that even what the world sees as a final defeat is not a defeat at all: "My flesh and my heart may fail, BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

In Romans 5, the apostle Paul contemplated how messed up and desperate our situation as sinful people was: "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die." (Thus, if it's very rare for someone to die even for a righteous person, what then is the fate of people like us, who have sinned?) Paul goes on to say what our ultimate hope is: again, it's because God steps on the scene and changes everything. BUT GOD demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Or in Acts 2, when the death of Christ is recounted: "You put him to death by nailing him to the cross. BUT GOD raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."

Or, when the apostle Paul considered how the people God chooses to do his work, according to the world's standards, should never have been chosen at all. "Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. BUT GOD chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Corinthians 1)

But God. Defeat. BUT GOD. Then victory. Death is not the final word, not even the brutal crucifixion of Christ. Our own physical death does not have the final word. Our circumstances don't have the final word. Other people's plans to mess us up and hurt us don't control. The burden of our sin can't control us. People's intentions to break us down, destroy us, belittle us, and demean us can't change who we are in Christ. But GOD has the final word in our lives. Things will be according to His perfect plan, no matter how defeated and distraught the world wants us to feel.

I want this to be my life story, my memoir, my autobiography, my testimony for all eternity: I was defeated, BUT GOD gave me the victory. I was lost, but God found me. I was a sinner, but God saved me by his beautiful, scandalous grace. I was broken, but God pieced me together again--somehow more beautifully than before. Others hurt me, but God restored me. I was blind, but God gave me eyes to see. I was exhausted, but God renewed me. I was grieving, but God spoke into my life and healed me. I was on the brink of despair and disaster, but God gently guided me back and gave me fresh hope. My flesh and heart and mind failed, but God was, and is, and will always be, my only strength and hope. But God. Where in your life, in what situation, can those two profoundly simple words inject some hope?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Things to Be Happy About . . .

It's about time for one of these lists again...because writing them makes me smile:

1) when all your favorite bloggers write new posts at one time

2) Elin Hilderbrand books

3) discovering that inspirational song that you know is going to be your new summer jam

4) merging onto a clean interstate, with not a car in sight in front of or behind you

5) the salty buttery deliciousness of popcorn while watching a scary movie with all the lights out, jumping at every sound (and by the way, this is how it's done.)

6) throwing off your high heels at the end of a LONG day of work . . . and driving home barefoot.

7) a freshly updated resume, ready if the employer of your dreams would call and want to meet with you TODAY.

8) sandwiches with goat cheese, chicken salad, and blackberry jam

9) that deep and profoundly peaceful realization that it is so, so well with your soul

10) going a day without getting stuck in traffic even once

11) that moment when you finally click with someone and feel like you can stop trying to impress them and just be real with them

12) exercising till you're soaked in sweat and have an endorphin rush

13) realizing that you are capable of more than you thought and you're stronger than you thought

14) the revival of long-lost friendships

15) telling people "I don't want to drink tonight" and having them not make a big deal of it

16) booking those plane tickets to finally see your best friend from college

17) a good reputation, if you have one

18) those moments when you're so productive you wish you could bottle your motivation and energy

19) reading an article that PERFECTLY captures the opinion you've had for years but just couldn't put into words

20) bath and body products

21) home

22) clothes fresh from the dryer

23) waking up on Saturday and realizing you can go back to sleep!

24) when someone gives you the most unexpected, best compliment ever and you turn their kind words over in your mind for days to come

25) sunshine after days of rain

26) courage

27) freshly vacuumed carpets, sparkling clean sinks, spotless mirrors, mopped floors, clean sheets, and just all-around, a clean home

28) realizing that you're actually totally going to make it . . . to work on time, through your tough situation, to the end of your semester, etc.

29) the Friends theme song.

30) the first night after a HUGE problem or worry has been resolved or relieved, when you sleep wonderfully and can finally truly relax for the first time in who knows how long

31) waking up the first morning after something amazing happened the day before (think getting a job, getting into college, etc.), and suddenly remembering what it was as your brain fully wakes up--and being able to get incredibly excited all over again

32) knowing that no matter how far away you find yourself in years or miles, you can ALWAYS find your way back to your college town. Back to those little coffee shops where you spent hours upon hours chatting with friends, back to that campus you've always loved, back to the house you lived your last year, and back to the memories that you still treasure.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday today and celebrating their freedoms! I am planning to go to the baseball game with law school friends tonight to celebrate, and I'm hoping the weather cooperates because they're calling for flash floods/ heavy rain/ thunderstorms (official forecast today: 100% chance of rain. Doesn't sound too promising, I'm afraid!) But if all else fails, we'll just go out to dinner or to a movie or some other relaxing indoor activity.

I have today and tomorrow off work, so I don't have to go back till Monday. I'm taking it easy today for the most part, but after today it's going to be a jam-packed weekend. R. and I have a big custody hearing on Monday, and we haven't had very much time to prepare (in fact, I just met with the client for the first time yesterday), so I have to help him get some arguments and case law pulled together. This is one that I really believe in, and if there's ever been a trial I'd really want to win, this would be it! I wish I could just argue the whole case in court instead of just doing the prep work, but that will come soon enough.

On top of that, I have outlines due on Monday for the Moot Court competition problem I'm writing (or, um, supposed to be writing . . . haven't really put one word on paper yet). The draft of the entire problem (about 35-40 pages) is due on August 1st, so I'm going to be absolutely booking it for the month of July. I probably need to start getting up at 6am so I can write for awhile before work, and then write for an hour or two every night. My last day of work is July 30th, I have to be out of my summer apartment on the 31st, that project is due on the 1st, and then I am going on the most needed vacation I will ever have gone on! I can't wait.

I feel as if I have changed a LOT just in the 45 days since I moved here and started my job, and I hope that the changes are good ones, although I'm still trying to figure it all out. I've grown up a ton and gained a ton of confidence. I now know that I can do a whole lot of things that I never would have thought I could do before. This whole summer has been about stretching myself and pushing my limits in pretty much every way possible--working at a challenging and stressful job that demanded advanced skills I didn't have when I started (but I think I have them now), living in a place that initially stressed me out a lot with all its vastness and people and noise and traffic, meeting and growing close to a bunch of new people, and learning how to be just fine with primarily brand-new friends, since most of my close law school friends are not here for the summer. I feel like I've gotten less sensitive and more aggressive because that is the type of attitude that's expected and rewarded at a fast-paced litigation firm, and I'm not sure how I feel about that--I don't want "less sensitive" to start meaning "less compassionate," because that's not ok with me. I've been also trying to assess where I'm at spiritually after weeks of being the only Christian at my job. To be painfully honest, I've been trying a whole lot harder to fit in and impress the attorneys than to be a light for Christ, and at church last Sunday, I started feeling so very convicted about that and how I need to change. I'm not sure what that will look like for me, but I need to gather the courage to just be different and to treat people the way I would want to be treated and to do my work with exemplary diligence and to talk about people the way I would want to be talked about (which hits close to home because hanging out with my coworkers is often, well, a gossip fest. I'm not saying you can never poke fun at others at all, but when it's mean-spirited or rude or disrespectful, that's a different story, and I don't need to have a part in that). So, I need to be praying that God would show me how to be a witness in these last few weeks, to leave the fingerprints of a different, joyful, meaningful life all over my office.

I got this fortune with my Chinese food the other day and I thought it was spot on as I've dealt with the many challenges presented by this summer:

No, it's not my character to give up, and I'm not going to give up now. I'm going to keep working hard, to continue trying to be a Christian witness at my job, to keep trying to make a positive impression on the attorneys without compromising on what I believe is right, and to continue building up all those legal skills I desperately need for my career. Now is SO not the time to give up when I've made it this far.