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!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Therefore I Have Hope

The Lord has been speaking to me lately about how incredibly often I hope and trust in the wrong things. We all do, really. We trust in our paychecks, our job security, our relationships, our own abilities and skills, and our own efforts to find favor with others and to get them to like us and approve of us. And I place my hope in the wrong things too, so much of the time. There's a difference, I think, between hoping for something and hoping in something. It is fine to hope for a better job, a spouse, or children, or to hope for seeing your name on the pass list when bar exam results are posted. The problem comes when we start placing our hope and confidence IN those things, believing that everything will be okay if we can only have them, and that the world will come crashing down if we can't. If we start believing that our lives and our joy hinge on a certain thing happening, then it's a good bet that we're hoping not just for that thing but in that thing, instead of hoping in the Lord.

I place too much trust in having some savings in a bank account and having my ducks in a row. I place too much trust in my own plans for my life and not enough in God's better plans. But the hope we have in the Lord is the hope of "even if." Even if the worst happens, even if our nightmare comes true, even if our loved one dies, even if the layoffs at our company leave us without a job, even if we get bad news about our health . . . even if, even then, we can still have hope in the mercies of the Lord.

The writer of Lamentations stood in the middle of a ruined city when he wrote these words: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion. Therefore I will wait for Him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him."

There is so much solid gold in this passage, but first, one thing I've noticed just recently about it is that these verses make it so abundantly clear that we have total control over 1) what we call to our minds, and 2) what we say to ourselves. That may sound simple, but think of how often we believe we don't really have control over these things! We think we can't really control what is on our mind or the worry that might be plaguing us or what we convince ourselves is true. But we can. Calling something to mind implies an active effort, a conscious decision to think on these things. I will call to mind the unfailing love of the Lord. When fear of the future assaults my soul, I will call to mind all of the faithfulness of the Lord over my lifetime (blog post just about this, coming soon). I will call to mind that Jesus Christ is enough, and He's always been enough, and He will always be enough. I will call to mind the simple truth that everything I cannot do or be, He can and is. And I will say to myself and speak over my soul only truth, that the Lord is my portion. He is what I've been given, and that's all I need, and He is my delightful inheritance. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't control what you say to yourself and bring to your mind, or that you have to let the winds of anxiety and popular opinion and negativity and dread and despair steer your soul. It's not true. Choose another anchor for your soul.

And this passage also tells me that we cannot be consumed or destroyed, ever, no matter what, because of the love of the Lord. Even if we stand in the middle of a ruined city, literally or hypothetically. This is the sort of passage that, in our modern times and modern equivalents, I imagine coming out of the mouths of survivors standing in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped, or from refugees fleeing Syria after their homes have been destroyed and their families have been killed. Even then, all is not lost. We cannot lose everything. Because his mercies never fail. They are not yesterday's mercies, because they are new every morning. We don't have to try to "store up" the mercies of God out of fear that we're not getting fresh ones tomorrow, because we are. His mercy is never leftover or old or stale or something we've experienced before--it is brand-new. The Lord has enough new mercies for all the days of all the lives of every person on this planet. Celebrate the way the Lord showed you mercy yesterday, but understand all the while that you need to keep your eyes open for the way He's going to show you profound compassion today. Don't miss out because you're refusing to pay attention or are too consumed with the future or the past.

Lean in to the Lord this week, and place all of your hope and confidence in Him alone.

And finally, I just really want to encourage all of you to check out Hillsongs' Glorious Ruins album if you haven't done so already. I listened to it a few times last year but it just wasn't really speaking to me at that point in my life, but in the last two weeks I've been listening to it again, and it has been such a deep encouragement, especially this song called You Never Fail. These truths have just been washing over me in a really fresh way, and I think you all should listen to the album if you haven't yet!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Happy Fall, Y'all!

First of all, I hope you like the new blog layout! I don't think I'm going to keep it necessarily, but I was ready for a change, and I'm probably going to experiment with more styles in the next few weeks.

I think this may just be officially my favorite time of the year. I love how the weather turns crisper and the leaves start changing colors and you can stock up on pumpkin everything, from candles to lattes. I am planning to go to Bath and Body Works tomorrow for the big autumn shopping trip to get fall candles, fragrances, and soaps. It's time to get this apartment festive for the season!

This week has been really good for a number of different reasons. For one, I've just in the past few days been feeling like I have several good friends here and that lots of community is being birthed in a lot of different ways, and it feels so good. My social life is still slower than it was in law school, but I've also only been here for a couple of months, and it takes time. I'm helping to head up a Christian female attorneys' small group and am meeting several people through that, and I've been getting really involved in my community group at church and meeting a lot of good people that way too. I've also reconnected lately with someone from law school who lives here now, and we've become pretty close even though we never really hung out much when we were actually in school together. I've also been really connecting with a couple of the attorneys I keep seeing at seminars and events, and I am planning to reach out to those women more in the next few weeks to get to know them better, professionally and also personally. One of those attorneys asked me to head up a campaign among my colleagues to raise money for legal services for indigent clients in our community, so I've been jumping into that lately too. And I go to bar events all the time, so that's some prime friend-making opportunities there too. But this week was the first time since moving up here that I felt really comfortable and happy with the state of my friendships up here, and that makes a big difference.

For another thing, I was able to get some much-needed clarity on what, exactly, would happen with my employment in the event--however unlikely it may be--that my bar results are not good. To my great relief, I was told that we can work something out to allow me to keep working there and take the bar again in February--I would not be immediately done with my job if I fail the bar, and that's the biggest relief ever. But I think they like having me around at the office, and I'm pretty much at the point where I am totally comfortable with everybody. My paralegal was on the phone with someone the other day, and I overheard her saying, "Our new associate [me] actually comes in to the office on Mondays AND Fridays! And she actually works while she's here! It is so great, and we love her!" I almost burst out laughing right then because I guess not every associate she's worked with in the past has found it necessary to do those things? Haha. But really, just being professional and doing your job goes a long, long way.

My next week is booked up already with events pretty much every night--church event on Monday, family law banquet on Tuesday, small group ladies' dinner on Wednesday, and a wine tasting with the volunteer lawyers' group on Thursday, not to mention hearings and meetings and stuff like that during work hours. But that's all good, because staying busy will make this time of waiting that much easier.

Today I went to what I will probably hereafter be calling "the rich people Goodwill." It was this really swanky Goodwill in the wealthy part of town (who can afford to give away a like-new Ann Taylor top? Apparently, people who donate to this Goodwill! Thanks guys!) I made out like a bandit, seriously. Here is the haul of cute clothes I got for the whopping price tag of $22:

Above, the necklace is one I already had, but that's just an example of how I would style it. 

The lighting is a little weird in that photo, but you get the idea. I'm really excited about the fact that all of these tops are 1) work-appropriate if worn with a blazer, and 2) cute just on their own with a pair of jeans for the weekend. I need clothes that do double duty like that because it's not practical to have to basically have two wardrobes, one for work and one for the rest of the time. 

And I am really liking my jewelry and accessories rack in the bathroom! It's so easy for me to pick out what I need for each day. 

Well, that's about it for tonight! Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Learning How to Be a Lawyer

I realized today that my bosses are probably ready for some ALONE TIME and are probably kind of tired of having an incredibly eager and inquisitive fake associate (not real till I'm licensed) follow them around and ask them tons of questions and ask permission to sit in on all their meetings and go to all their events with them. I don't have a ton of work to do yet and I certainly don't have my own cases yet (I probably won't have those till January or so), so I'm always looking for ways to just jump in and find work for myself. I know that sometimes D. and E. probably don't have time at the moment to walk me through how to do whatever project needs doing, so there's definitely some down time, some days more than others. But I've decided to set myself apart by taking a ton of initiative and just finding ways to bring value to the team (yep, in case you're wondering, that is a soft skill I'm working on). 

I've made it my habit to look at their Outlook calendars every morning, see what meetings they have going on (typically with clients, but sometimes with opposing counsel too), and then ask if I can sit in on those meetings. Then, during the meetings, I am taking lots of notes and listening the whole time to see if there is follow-up work to do (because there almost always is). Today, for example, I got myself work for the whole day by using this technique. I sat in on a meeting this morning with a client, and E. was saying that our next step would be to draft a parenting plan. So, naturally, after the meeting I'm like, "I'll go ahead and draft the parenting plan for [Client], so we can get the ball rolling on that." Then she asked me to also do the client's child support worksheet, and I told her I didn't really know how to do those (100% true) but that I would try. So I did most of the parenting plan and then realized I had to just tackle this whole child support worksheet thing. I didn't really know where to begin, so I just started looking at some examples from other cases, and then started picking through the entire file to get all the financial information I needed. (One thing I love about being a lawyer is how much you get to snoop into stuff that, but for your job, would be none of your business!) So, one way or another, I finished the child support worksheet, so we'll see. Virtually all the drafting I've done so far has been something I have never written before, because these cases tend to be much more complex than the cases I worked on at previous jobs. Many of them have lots of assets and business valuation and appraisals and amortization schedules and qualified domestic relations orders and refinancing and second mortgages and a whole lot of other stuff going on. (I feel like I'm doing great right now just based on the fact that I know what all those things mean. One step at a time.) 

Here are my work-related goals for the moment: 1) Get more involved in strategic case planning and decision-making, as opposed to carrying out just black-and-white tasks with a yes or no answer, like simple research questions. I recently dove into some of this strategic planning and research for a case with major jurisdictional issues, and it felt really good to be giving my input to some of the actual lawyering--the thought process, the decisions, the assessment of case strategy. 2) Make friends with family law attorneys in other firms to start making a name for myself in the broader legal community here--basically, just putting myself out there and letting people know I'm a brand new addition to the family law scene and am planning to practice here for as long as I can. 3) Start providing valuable information to my colleagues--in the form of the latest relevant articles, the latest cases, new legislation we need to be looking into, etc. I'm going to all these family law seminars for a reason, and I need to be passing on what I learn to others. There is so, so much I still don't know, but I want to be someone who's sharing what I learn with others.

Well, I've been reading all those articles and books about careers for years now and I am having so much fun finally putting some of that into practice. And now it is time for bed because I'm now incapable of staying up past 11pm. Have a good night!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

7 of the Best Things About Life After Law School

For the most part I enjoyed law school, but I've realized that life after law school is sooo much better than being in school, and here are just a few reasons why:

1) Having a normal schedule. Sure, in law school it was nice to not have to get going till 11am some days, but the trade-off was all those nights staying up until 3, 4, and 5am, lots of evening classes, and tons of weekend work. Here, I don't mind starting my day between 7:30 and 8:30 if it means I don't have to be awake at 2am and generally don't have to work on the weekends. I mean, I worked 11 hours today, but now I am done for the day and don't have late-night work to do.

2) No more studying! I actually don't mind studying all that much if I'm learning something interesting, but it is so nice not to have to cram for exams and strain to memorize/ understand huge amounts of material in short periods of time. Now, my version of "studying" is looking up things I need to know in the family law books I have, reading the sections I need, and moving on with my day.

3) Being able to only interact with people who are ADULTS. I don't mean never being around kids; I'm talking about not having to be around people who are my age but incredibly immature. Law school is brimming with immaturity and drama, and it is so wonderful to be leaving that behind and to have no one in my life right now who is toxic, narcissistic, backstabbing, etc. I made great friends in law school, but I will also readily say (and I think anyone who's been there would agree with me) that I met the most difficult people I've ever met in my life in law school. I saw one of those people this morning in court. I wasn't sure why she was there, but it was probably for a case her firm is handling. I saw this girl, quickly thought back to how incredibly mean she was in law school, and did not say hello. And it felt so good! (And on a related note--the way you treat people doesn't just go away down the road, even though some people seem to think that. There are people that I will always trust and respect because of the way they treated others in law school, even 30 years down the road. And there are also two people (this girl was one of them) who I will never respect or recommend in any way whatsoever, for the rest of our careers, because of the way they treated people in law school. It doesn't go away. If you asked me my opinion of them in 30 years, it would not matter one bit to me what they had done in the intervening time--my opinion of them simply isn't going to change.)

4) Paychecks, Like, real ones, not student loan payouts. Enough said.

5) Weekends. Weekends when you're working are 100 times better than school weekends, because not only do I typically not have to work on weekends, I also appreciate them so much more because they're pretty much the only times in the week when I have free time to do whatever I want. I love the weekends these days: time off, sleeping in, lounging in my pajamas watching TV, going for a long run, going shopping, and whatever else I want to do.

6) Working on real cases that affect real people! This is awesome. In law school we slaved over appellate briefs and memos about "hypothetical" cases. Now, they're real, the people are real, and the issues are real.

7) Having someone try to network with you instead of the other way around! For example, the other day a law student asked ME for my card, and I realized that I had pretty much succeeded in life (kidding). But I remember very well how hard it can be to get a job these days, especially since many people are not able, or sometimes not willing, to help students fresh out of school to find employment. So I promised myself a long time ago that as soon as I was in a position to help students get jobs or at least get them connected with potential employers, that I would do everything I possibly could to help them out. As for the student who asked me for my card? We're getting together for lunch soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Current Obsessions

It's been a LONG time since I've done one of these posts--so bear with me, this list might be long. Here are some products, activities, food, etc. that I am really into right now:
  • Anything with a Chevron print. Especially if it's pink and white. Like my new mousepad!
  • And I am loving these iPhone cases from (Christmas list item?) I mean, my name's not Alexia, but how cute is this? 

  • The globe I just got for my apartment! Really affordable (Target--cheaper than I've found these anywhere else) and it completely rounds out the international/ urban/ vintage travel-y look I have going on in the living room:

  • Any monogrammed things. For some reason I've been really into these lately . . . as the mousepad example above shows. 
  • J Crew floral skirt. So cute, and I think I'm going to pair it with a navy oxford shirt, a navy bag, and nude flats or heels for the office:

  • This running shirt. And along with it, the Nike running app:

  • Indian street food from this amazing restaurant nearby:

  • This:

  • My office! I've done some decorating and here's what it looks like now:

Lots of books:

  • Spotify premium. Now that I finally have a real smartphone, it is so nice and convenient to be able to play music anywhere (especially in my car) without having to own the songs, for a small fee of $9.99 a month. I will never buy CDs again because there's no need for it. And smartphones, in my opinion, also make iPods completely obsolete. It's so great to have pretty much any song there is at my fingertips for such a low price, because these days a single CD with 10 songs on it costs $20, and you may not even like all the songs.
  • Coinstar!! For anyone who's not familiar, at a Coinstar machine (usually in grocery stores and places like that), you can dump in all your unused change and it will count it for you and then convert it into cash or gift cards. No one spends piles of dimes or nickels, right? So this money would otherwise pretty much go unused. I had a big pile of change (no quarters though, because I use all of those to do laundry at my apartment), and it had been sitting in my car for weeks. So I took it to Coinstar and just like that . . . $20 Starbucks gift card. 
  • Lazy Sunday mornings. Since starting work and going to my church up here, Sunday has become my favorite day of the week, which is saying something, because for years Sunday has been one of my least favorite days of the week (and no worries, it has nothing to do with church per se). I  was just never really a huge fan of Sunday in college and law school because that was the day that all my most frustrating errands/ hardest homework/ cleaning that I put off invariably got assigned to. Also, it was always just hard to get up early enough on Sundays for church when I had been getting up early all week and when Saturday nights often involved being out late. Now though, my church up here has realized that lots of people don't necessarily want to give up one of the two mornings a week they have to sleep in, and they offer services throughout the day. I go to the 5pm service, so it's the best of both worlds--I can go to a church I really like AND spend all morning on Sundays in my pajamas, or going to brunch, or whatever else I want to do. (I still feel a little weird about sending emails or texts or running to Target or whatnot on Sunday mornings--I do go to church, I promise). And as for the other problem, well, I generally don't take work home with me, and I try to get my errands more or less done on Saturdays, so that I don't have to race around stressed out all day on Sunday. Because that's a really bad way to start the week. 
  • Every season of Criminal Minds is now on Netflix streaming. Need I say more? And since I gave up the DVD plan to save money, more instant streaming options get me really excited. 
  • Coming up with creative clothing options for work! Basically, the rule I've come up with for myself for professional attire is that you should never go cheap on the base of your outfit--in my career, that usually means a suit (I prefer simple skirt/ blazer suit sets). I will never buy suits at Goodwill/ Target/ etc. no matter how much I love cheap finds! Because it will just look cheap and probably won't really fit right and may be sewn oddly or what have you. Ann Taylor is my go-to for suits, and I see these as investments because you want to be able to wear them for years. But, once you have the basic suit, you can pair it with a LOT of different kinds of tops, shoes, jewelry, and accessories and it will still look great. Don't spend a lot of money on these other pieces--or at least, you don't have to. And the accessories are your chance to show your personality a little. I can't wear a leopard print dress to work, but how about a leopard print belt? You also can play with patterns and colors a lot when it comes to shirts and blouses that you wear with the suit. For these other pieces, you can go all out at Target, thrift stores, Kmart, H&M, etc., and no one will ever know. For example, here's some pieces I've added to my wardrobe:

These were all very affordable but pretty high-quality. One of my secrets to stretching my clothing budget for work is right here:

This is technically nothing more than a V-neck T-shirt. It was on sale for $7. But, when you pair it with a nice higher-end black suit, black heels, and pearls, it looks great and very professional, and no one will ever know how little you paid for it. Also, for more clothing ideas from someone who's far more of an expert than me, check out my cousin's fashion blog: High Class, Low Cash

Well that's about it for now! Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Finding a Good Place

I don't have much time to blog these days, and it has been at least 6 weeks since I wrote in a journal, which is something really important for my own emotional health and well-being, so tonight I'm having a chai tea latte & writing party at Starbucks and it's going to be great. It's time for writing for my blog, writing in my journal, and reading my Bible, which I'm sorry to say has been really neglected in recent days. The Bible app on my phone is just not the same as my real Bible with all of its stains and ripped pages and underlining, and I'm ready to get back to the real thing. My thoughts are all over the place right now and there's a lot of different things on my mind that I want to share with you, but this is a start.

So, I work with pretty much the best people in the world, and I am so blessed to be where I am. I'm finding my place here. We have a lot of fun together and are always laughing about something. I don't feel quite comfortable enough yet to really show people my sense of humor because so far I've been pretty much all business in the office, but I feel like in the next few weeks I will get to that point and really join in to some of these conversations. Yesterday I was totally absorbed in a parenting plan I was working on, and didn't really notice that pretty much everyone else in the office had already left (most people stay till 6 or so, but not on Fridays--usually we're gone by 5:30 or so on Fridays). Then E. came back by my office at about 5:45 and was like, "It's Friday night! Leave!" I said, "But I'm not done yet!" She said, "It's ok, you can finish your project on Monday!" Then she started asking me whether I was getting acclimated and whether I was making friends and feeling comfortable here and things like that, and it made me really emotional because I'm still getting used to how wonderful it is to work in a place where people care about me. People don't ask you questions like that unless they really care about you, and it feels so, so good to work with people who are kind and who actually care. I haven't always had that privilege (read: former job where the boss yelled at people all the time for anything and everything). For my first couple weeks of working here, I was so scared to make any mistakes on my work because I was afraid of getting yelled at because that's what I'm used to, but I've realized by now that that's simply not going to happen, and it's like breathing a huge sigh of relief as I've realized: This is not my old job. God has given me something better. And I don't know how to tell you how good it feels to go to work in a place like this, a place where laughing is the norm instead of yelling, a place where it's not cutthroat competitive and we all get along, a place where I don't have to be scared to make mistakes because I know D. and E. will simply calmly show me how to fix my mistakes instead of getting mad. And a place where my boss pretty much kicks me out of the office because it's Friday night and time for the weekend. :) All I really wanted going into this job was to be treated with a baseline level of respect and professionalism, and I've been given so much more than that. I've been given people who are kind and funny and generous, and it is such a blessing to work with them. I'm happy and excited when I wake up in the morning to go to work, and that in and of itself is a great feeling. Life is too short to wake up 5 days a week dreading your job, or to be in a bad mood every Sunday night because the weekend is over.

I've been extra emotional this week about everything, and I've not really been able to pinpoint exactly why. I've been emotional about realizing that I'm in a good place now, and I don't need to be stressed out about anything here, because I have people here who care about me and who are going to help me out. I've been emotional about the ongoing stressful state of career and life limbo that is waiting for bar results. Sometimes I can "forget" about it for a short time, but then I remember and usually end up feeling just kind of mad because having your whole life up in the air for 3 straight months is not so much fun, especially when you desperately want to keep what you've been given because you love it, but it all depends on what happens in October. I'm doing my best to trust, to believe that God is FOR me no matter what happens. He is for me. I've been emotional today because this day marks exactly four years since one of my close friends in college died from cancer. I know that there will always be a heaviness of heart when I revisit that experience and that time in my life. I don't think about it very much and I talk about it even less, but no matter how far removed you are from it, you never completely stop missing someone you've lost. I've been emotional, in a good way, about how God keeps allowing me to cross paths with people who are looking for community in this city as badly as I am. I ran into someone I knew in law school at church last Sunday, and I wouldn't have even called her a "friend" exactly just because we barely knew each other. But we're both new in town and we were so excited to see each other just because it's so good to run into a familiar face. And we talked and have been texting all week about starting up a Christian female attorneys' small group here, and I'm so excited about it! I think it will be great both for spiritual support and networking (two of my favorite things!) I still love networking. Networking is how I got this job, and now one of my job responsibilities is to make contacts with others and build relationships in the community to help promote "client development" and meet people who may need our legal services. We had our first client development meeting this week, and I was told that I didn't need to produce a list of potential referrals because I had only been working here for 3 weeks and wasn't expected to have met anyone yet. But I had been out and about meeting people at my church small group and other events the entire previous week, so I made a list anyway of my potential contacts from those meetings. The founder of the firm had this to say about my list: "Lauren, I can't wait to see what you'll be able to do when you've worked at this law firm for more than three weeks!" (Soft skills/ networking for the win!) I mean, it's just socializing with a purpose, and we all know I love to socialize because I love to talk . . .

Well, I have a big week ahead of court, depositions, community group, meeting to brainstorm the attorneys' small group, brunch with Jenny, some DIY projects I want to do in the apartment, and I'm sure some other stuff that will come up last minute. I have some fashion and decorating blog posts hopefully coming soon, so stay tuned for those!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Engaging the Mess

As many of you know, I work in family law. I've found that several times when I am talking with Christians and they ask me what I do (or back in law school, when they'd ask me what I planned to do), I'd tell them that I planned to do/ currently do family law. Several times, the person asking has followed up with the question, "Does that include divorce?" in a seriously disapproving tone. For example, while I was in Haiti, two different conversations with Americans at the mission practically ground to a halt when they found out that I planned to practice an area of law that includes divorce law. I could just sense their confusion . . . I could tell they were thinking, "Wait a minute--you're here on a mission trip, so obviously mission and ministry is important to you, but your job back home is to do what?" I felt judged, and to be perfectly honest, I felt like those two people kind of wrote me off as someone who can't possibly be a serious Christian the second they found out that I wanted to work with people who are going through divorces. Because God hates divorce, so if you represent someone in their divorce, you're enabling them to sin, right? Not exactly. In fact, not at all.

Yes, God does hate divorce and the Bible tells us as much. I think we can probably all agree that God's design is for marriage to last for a lifetime. He is grieved over broken marriages, broken homes, and broken families. But here's how I need to respond when people incredulously question why any Christian would ever step into divorce law, and why I, personally, can do so and still consider myself to be serving the Lord in my career.

First of all, I want to honor God with my life above all else, and I would never have pursued a career that I didn't believe would accomplish that. Second, I really believe that God has called me to this field, and he has opened so, so many doors for me to work in this field. And I say that because this is where God has led me after lots and lots of prayer and indecision about what to do with my life. You don't have to defend God's calling on your life to anyone or justify why He's led you to do a particular task--frankly, you just need to obey His leading.

But with those things said, I think there are a lot of things we need to realize about my clients--people who want to get divorced or people who have gotten divorced already. First, when people come to a lawyer because their marriage is failing, it's not the lawyer's fault that their marriage is failing! Their marriage is their responsibility. I didn't make anyone's marriages fail; they made their marriages fail. Just because they come to me for advice on how to move forward doesn't mean I am playing any role in the collapse of their marriage.

And I would add here that not everyone who gets divorced does so for selfish or foolish reasons, and I don't believe it's right to judge people with broken marriages when we don't know their stories. Not everyone who seeks a divorce does so just because they "can't get along" with their spouse or because they argue a lot or because there's someone else. Some people, especially women, seek divorces because they're being constantly physically and emotionally abused, often in connection with drug abuse and alcoholism, and it's not safe or healthy for them or their children to remain in that environment. I'm not sure whether others would consider this theologically sound, but I believe it is acceptable, if not necessary, to seek a divorce in those circumstances. After all, the Bible doesn't simply command married folks to not get divorced while being silent about the issues of justice, protecting the welfare of children, and speaking up for people who can't speak up for themselves. If you or your children are in danger in your marriage, you need to get help, and in some extreme situations that may involve ending the marriage. Of course, in an ideal world we would never need to talk about this. In an ideal world, marriage would always work, and married people would always be safe in their own homes and with their own spouses. But I don't think anyone needs a reminder that we don't live in that world.

Moreover, in Georgia, as in many states, one party can seek a divorce on no-fault grounds, claiming the marriage is "irretrievably broken." This means that many people I see in my law firm have gotten served with divorce papers from their spouse even if they don't really know what went wrong, or even if they desperately want to give the marriage another shot. But if they don't deal with the situation and find someone to represent them, no one will be able to protect their interests moving forward. It's not just about representing people who are determined to get a divorce themselves; it's about helping people who are grieving and scared because their spouse has decided the marriage is not worth saving, and they don't know what to do. Irretrievably broken. I've seen those words on almost every divorce pleading I've ever read, and they still make me cringe. I've worked with many people who feel defeated by those words and their finality and what they mean for their lives, people who begin to believe that their lives are irretrievably broken or, even worse, that they are that way--damaged goods, cast off, unworthy. They carry those words around like so many scarlet letters, ashamed and wondering how they got to this point in their lives.

It is my job to minister to people who are grieving their failed marriages and shattered dreams and to show them the love of Jesus while I fight to protect their interests. Yes, of course the Bible talks about how God hates divorce. But God also hates injustice. God hates it when children are left in vulnerable situations with no one to speak up for them. God hates it when the "least of these" are ignored. God hates it when vindictive spouses try to personally or financially ruin the person they previously loved, leaving a trail of broken hearts and broken lives in the process. Love of neighbor and justice for the broken and destitute demands that believers step in to situations like these. I'm drawn to these situations because God has led me to this field, and while the brokenness of others makes me grieve for them, I just can't ignore it. I can't step aside just because the mess is distasteful or the emotions are painful. I find great joy in offering whatever light and hope I can to people who are in these agonizing situations, because they will remember the person who was kind to them, who listened to them, and who helped and protected them in their time of greatest need.

I might add that I consider my job to be just as much about helping children as it is about helping married couples, which is why I want to eventually volunteer some of my time as a guardian ad litem to speak up specifically for children's interests in these types of cases. Almost all of these couples have children, and those children need to be protected and provided for financially through our child support statutes when their parents break up. It's common for the standard of living for women after a divorce to drop by up to about 33%, and women get primary custody of the children a majority of the time. Part of my job is to help minimize those painful financial impacts so that my clients and their children remain provided for. I've also worked with men who weren't the breadwinners and who would be left with virtually nothing and entirely taken advantage of by their spouses if their interests weren't protected. It's my job to step in to situations like that.

In my three weeks at the firm, let's just say I've already seen and heard some nasty stuff that breaks my heart, things I can't talk about with others but that I certainly can pray about. I know that I will need to go to counseling on a pretty regular basis throughout my career just to be able to talk to someone about some of the terrible stuff you see and hear when you work on divorce cases. But I can pray about those situations, and I can pray for those children. I can pray for them by name on my way to the courthouse for their custody hearing, as I did this week.

Divorce is messy stuff. There's no denying that. But who is better at engaging the mess than Christians? If I don't help these clients, they will go to another attorney. It's not like they're not going to get a divorce if I refuse to represent them for fear that I'm "promoting divorce." They will just go to someone else--and I'd far prefer that they come to me, someone who is a Christian and does care about them and wants to minister to them in their time of need--than to someone who just wants their money. Christians are called to be in virtually every field of human endeavor, including this one. I don't see my job as helping marriages break up. My job is to protect the interests of my clients and help them to look out for the welfare of their children and their finances when they are already traveling down the path of divorce. And if I think there's any possibility of reconciliation, you'd better believe I'll encourage my client to get back in there and try to work it out. I'm blessed to be working with other lawyers who feel that way about it too. Our business model is to encourage prospective clients to work it out, even if we lose their business as a result. I've respected my boss from the day I first met him because I could tell he's in this for the right reasons. But I've never respected him more than the day he told a prospective client, "I hope you don't ever have to come back to our office. We'll help you if you do, but if you think there's any way you can make it work, I want you to go make it work."

I see my job as being to minister to people in a time of their greatest brokenness. Believers, we need to engage this mess, because if we don't, someone else will. And even if my clients have never given faith a second thought, maybe someday they will look back and think that their attorney showed them the love of Christ and be willing to give Him a chance. Maybe they'll realize that He is the only one who can truly heal and redeem our brokenness. That He makes all things new. That He specializes in picking up the shattered pieces of our lives and molding them into something beautiful. That because He allowed Himself to be bruised and broken and shattered for us, nothing in our lives is beyond redemption. Maybe they'll realize that because of Jesus Christ, our lives cannot be irretrievably broken, no matter what words our laws use. Because he tracks down and picks up all of the shards of a shattered heart. He declares that our past cannot define us and our present is not the end of our story. I want my clients to know Him through what I do. That is my hope, and this is my job, and I won't apologize to people for it. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 3 of Lawyer Life

Friends, I have made it through three full weeks of more or less being an attorney (just waiting on the law license to make it official)! I like my job so much, even on days like today when I spent the majority of the day poring over financial spreadsheets for clients calculating payments owed to them under consent orders and postnuptial agreements. I learned today that there's a really easy way to become the most popular person in the office, and that's to bring in Krispy Kreme doughnuts on a Friday morning. D. said, "Lauren, you're setting a precedent--now we're going to expect these from you every Friday!" But they got devoured, as I predicted, because people in my law firm really like to eat (I mean, it's true). They make fun of me because they say I never eat anything, which is so not true, but I don't blame them for thinking that because I'm usually way more focused on trying to be professional and carry on a good conversation than on actually eating when we go to lunch together.

I'm also trying to bond with every single person in the firm and not get all clique-ish with my own practice group or, worse, only hang out with the other attorneys and ignore our amazing paralegals and support staff. I'm not sure if it's particularly common for our attorneys to invite paralegals to lunch, but I did this week, because I figured even if that's not done too often, there's no harm in putting myself out there and showing that I'm willing to connect with everybody. I also coordinated a group lunch with "the other side of the hall," aka, the guys in the business litigation group that I would rarely see otherwise.

I've gotten used to wearing a suit, pantyhose, and heels every single day, and now whenever I'm off work I pretty much only want to throw on a T-shirt or something and make no effort at all because I have to be so polished the rest of the time. I've drunk more coffee in the last three weeks than I probably ever have before, because I am not a big coffee drinker, but now every morning I get myself coffee in the break room because that's pretty much what everyone else does. I've found myself getting more and more refills lately during the day, which probably means I'm starting to need my caffeine, but oh well. I also went to a bar association breakfast on Thursday morning and have filled up my calendar for the next month with bar events, young lawyers' events, and seminars on various family law topics.

I've been very focused for the last three weeks on making sure I get started on the right foot and start building a very good reputation quickly, because you don't get to "fix" a bad reputation later. I want to be known around the office as someone who is dependable, personable, professional, and able to do excellent work. I've also been trying to work on "soft skills" for the office, which are things like taking initiative, volunteering to pitch in on projects when you see there's a need, being friendly to everyone and taking time to talk to others so people feel like you're part of the team, remembering other people's interests and likes and dislikes, etc. For example, if you know your boss is particularly interested in a certain new development in an area of child custody, sending him or her a thoughtful article on the topic that you just read is totally a soft skill, because it shows that you're tuned in and thinking of them. Keeping track of what's important to others is a soft skill. For example, I noticed that my boss has someone's birthday noted on his calendar pretty much every day, so I kind of figured that remembering people's birthdays is important to him, and made a mental note of that. It was his birthday on Monday, and he was out of the office for a couple days, but when I saw him next on Wednesday, I made sure to tell him happy birthday and he seemed really pleased that I remembered. And let's be real, I brought the doughnuts today because it was one of my soft skill development goals for the week, not just because I wanted to be nice.

I still have new-girl worries a lot and have had some freak outs about very minor things (such as, is it ok to text my boss? Because it's 8:00 on Sunday night and I need to know if we're meeting in court tomorrow or at the office and then driving together. So I sent the text, and to my relief, she wasn't like, oh for Pete's sakes it's the weekend and please don't bother me . . . although I'm not sure why I was so worried she would say that in the first place). It's still so early in the job that I honestly get really excited when either one of the two partners I work with says something as simple as "See you tomorrow Lauren!" because I think, "Whew, they still want me to come back tomorrow!"

Every day at this job I am reminded that you really never know unless you try. I've had a lot of moments when I pause and look around my office and think, "I cannot believe I actually work here!" I had had my eyes on a job at this firm since late last fall but I kept thinking, "There is no way they will ever hire ME--no way. I'm too young and have virtually no experience and they don't hire people right out of law school anyway." I am so, so glad that I woke up on a morning in January this year and decided to just try and sent them my resume. That was the best thing I could have done, because you just don't know what will happen. And even though I am the youngest lawyer there by at least 5 years and one of the only women and by far the least experienced, they still gave me a chance and I hope I get to spend a long, long time there making everybody happy that they took a chance on me.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Time to Be a Career Woman

I started work at the law firm on Monday and in six days, it feels like my life has completely changed. I've gotten used to putting on a suit/ pantyhose/ heels every morning, driving to work, making my coffee and reading the paper, and getting settled into my fourteenth-floor office. I have met a ton of new people and more or less learned my way around the office, or at least the parts I really need to know for my purposes. The domestic relations group is all on the same hall, and really as long as I know who and where everybody is in my practice group, I'll be good to go. I've been to a mediation already this week and will be going to court with D. first thing Tuesday morning. They want me to go to as many depositions, mediations, and court appearances as possible in the first few months, to go to a few family law classes and seminars, to draft some pleadings, to do a lot of reading geared toward my practice area, etc. They've put me in charge of providing email updates to the whole firm every other week about recent case law developments in our practice areas, so I've started keeping lists of all that information to have on hand. I've learned how to use our billing software and our research databases and been practicing with both. And then I've been coming home and trying to go for a run and then falling into bed exhausted by approximately 10:45 pm every night, which is so early, but after getting up at 6:30 am, I am tired.

I am joining all these groups like the Young Lawyers' Division of the American Bar Association and a volunteer lawyers' group and am planning to go to all their events, like family law section breakfasts and movie nights and wine tastings, to meet people and to network. I want to be that girl who brings in a HUGE case for the firm approximately two weeks after getting started, and you can't meet potential clients if you don't join groups and put yourself out there. I'm also hoping to join a gym or a running club and to start doing volunteer work, because those are the places where the potential clients will be.

So, I love my job and I can't believe I actually get to work at this firm and in this place. This is definitely what I have wanted for a long, long time, and it's everything I thought it would be. And it feels so good to love a job and to be truly excited for Monday (well, this week, for Tuesday because we have off for Labor Day). I haven't always loved my law-firm jobs, but I had a feeling that this one was going to work out, and it sure seems that way. I can't hide how excited I am about the next few months. I've already practically filled my calendar up with events to try out in the city in the next couple of months (I reasoned that I have no friends here yet besides emerging work friendships, so I may as well go to these events, since I'm guessing that's a pretty good way to make friends). Stay tuned for some more posts to come on: developing soft skills in the workplace, why I won't let people judge me for being (gasp!) a divorce attorney, and how to stay sane while waiting for bar results. Have a great Sunday!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Almost Done Moving!

Moving is a lot of work, friends. A LOT of work. Although I had a moving company help me with my furniture and some boxes of things, they didn't move most of my other stuff, like everything in the kitchen and bathroom and random stuff left in the bedroom that I really can only categorize as junk. Yesterday I spent all day hauling baskets and bags of the remaining stuff to my car, DEEP cleaning and scrubbing and disinfecting and vacuuming pretty much everything in my old apartment, and dragging huge bags of trash to the Dumpster. Today, I am moving all of those same baskets and bags up two flights of stairs (no elevator here) and into my new place and taking a break now to write this post. So, needless to say, I am giving myself a free pass to not work out for both yesterday and today, although I will probably go running tonight anyway because I am dying to use my new running app I just got that tracks my mileage (smart phones are an amazing thing).

But even though these past two days have not been particularly fun, the good part is that I am basically done moving in now and no longer have to keep going back and forth over and over between my old place and here. Just in general, I have driven back and forth between those two cities what feels like about 1,000 times over the past year and a half for various things, and I am so glad that I just LIVE here now and don't have to go on a huge drive every time I need or want to do something here. It is such a great feeling. It's also a really great feeling to know that, at least in terms of my living space, the transition has more or less been made already. I just have a few things left to unpack and put away, but we're starting to get pictures on the walls and real dishes in the cabinets and magnets on the fridge and it actually looks like I live here now. It will be good to get fully settled in with the living situation because the next big transition is starting work on Monday and taking a stab at developing a social life/ making friends, which means I need to be getting some suits dry cleaned, getting my nails done, and just generally getting myself ready to go. I feel like if I'm not together for my first day, I may never be together for my new job, so I need to get my ducks in a row now!

Over the weekend I went down to Florida to visit Catherine and her husband Craig, and we had such a good time. I got to see their beautiful new home and we just had a great, low-key weekend. One thing I love about that friendship is that we don't have to do a lot of stuff or spend hardly any money to have a good time. Some of our most fun times together in law school involved simply going running together or making dinner together and watching movies. Our Friday night involved making brownies and playing chess and a marathon Scrabble game, and we spent most of the day Saturday going to thrift stores. So it was a lot of fun, and now I'm back and enjoying a few final days of relaxing before the big day on Monday. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's High Time for Christians to Stop Demonizing Mental Illness

Today, I decided it was time to finally join the 21st century and get an iPhone. This is my first smart phone ever, and I knew I had to get one now because it's just expected in the work force. It's not an excuse to be like, "I'm sorry, I didn't get your email yet because I was in court with no Internet access for three hours." That's like saying to your boss, "I'm sorry, I can't type up that memo because I don't have a computer." Well then get one and figure it out, because it's expected of you. So I got one. And I really like my new phone. It's lime green (just like my car). But I digress.

Christian at the Apple store helped me get the phone all set up. He was really cute and nice and I was secretly hoping I might walk out of the store with a phone and a date. We had a lot of down time waiting for my contacts to get imported and for AT&T to run a credit check on me and so forth, so Christian and I started talking about Robin Williams' suicide yesterday. I told him that I hope the good that might come out of this is to raise awareness about how big of a deal mental illness and depression really are, and how misunderstood they tend to be in our society. Then this afternoon, I read this article by Matt Walsh and it made me mad. I am not trying to attack Matt Walsh because he has written a lot of articles before that make me want to say, "Thank you for speaking truth when no one else would dare to do so!" And I'm more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wrote this article from a well-meaning place. But what he actually wrote? It does nothing but shame people--Christians in particular--who suffer from depression and mental illness (and this blog post is going to focus on depression primarily as it affects Christians). Frankly, it's this sort of ignorant, condescending junk that makes many Christians so afraid to seek treatment for mental illness or to even admit to others that they think they might be struggling with it. And I don't normally say things like that, but this needs to be said. For all my fellow Christians out there reading, we all need to sit down together, pour ourselves some after-dinner coffee, and have a long chat about this topic. It's high time.

First of all, I am tired of the church acting like people who have depression have spiritual problems, have inadequate spiritual lives, or just need to have more of the joy of the Lord in their lives because "joy and depression can't coexist." It doesn't exactly work that way, and it's called clinical depression for a reason--because it is a DISEASE. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain, not a sign that you are a spiritual failure. And ultimately, what is the purpose of us getting on our high horses and being like, "Well, so-and-so has a spiritual issue or he wouldn't be so sad" or "So-and-so needs to have more joy in her heart"? This makes Christians who are depressed feel like they are failing spiritually in addition to the mental and emotional pain they already feel, and it probably makes them want to say, "Thanks a lot for making me feel even worse!" It is incredibly painful when fellow Christians call your faith into question or act like you are doing things all wrong in your walk with the Lord, or when they act like your spiritual shortcomings are the cause of your problems. That hurts, and why would we want to pile more pain onto Christians who are already knee-deep in the darkness of clinical depression? It's beyond me.

And maybe we wouldn't be so quick to make these stupid snap judgments about people with mental illness if we 1) had actually experienced it ourselves, or 2) had watched a loved one or friend experience it. It is so easy to speak from your place of having a healthy mind, "Suicide is a choice. Depression is a choice. If so-and-so really wanted to, he/ she could get better." Right. I understand that for people who hurt or kill themselves because of depression, no one makes them cut themselves, or overdose on the pills, or engage in any other act that brings about self-harm. And in all cases, it is tragic. But do we really believe that people who decide that life is so empty and meaningless and painful that they want to kill themselves are capable of rational decision-making about the acts of self-harm or suicide? I don't think so. It's too easy to say that suicide is a "choice" that someone should never make. But I believe that when mental illness reaches certain levels, it can lead people to do things that, in the moment, are not really their "choices" and do not emerge from a rational, thought-out decision. This is just another way to shame people with mental illness, and guess what? It is exactly this sort of demonizing of mental illness in the Church that makes so many Christians afraid to even admit to others that maybe, just maybe, they need help. For those who have never experienced the depths of mental illness, there is simply no way for them to understand what people go through who have suffered from it.

Along those lines, we need to stop saying that suicide is selfish. I've heard this my entire life, and I understand where this is coming from--it's easy to assume that someone who decides to end their life, leaving those who love them to grieve, is making a selfish choice. But again, I don't believe it's really a "choice" to someone with severe mental illness, at least not in the way mentally healthy people define "choices," and I think we are sorely mistaken to assume that suicidal or deeply depressed individuals go to the extremes they may go to because they're being "selfish." They just want their pain to stop. If you were in unrelenting physical pain, you would probably do just about anything to make it stop, wouldn't you? How would you feel if people told you, "You're being selfish by wanting to make this pain stop?" Is it really that different when people suffer from the constant emotional pain of mental illness? Most of us don't have any clue what it would be like to wake up morning after morning, for months and years at a time, feeling like life was meaningless and devoid of any pleasure and joy--yet this is exactly what many clinically depressed people experience. Who are we to say they are selfish for wanting to make their pain stop? But for the grace of God any one of us could be in that boat at any time. And I am not trying to say that people who are contemplating suicide have no options--I'm just trying to say that for most people in that situation, it probably doesn't really feel like they have a "choice." They don't need the world to be on their case about being selfish--they need help.

The church also must stop acting as if depressed people just need to pray about their condition or be prayed for. I am a huge believer in the power of prayer. Prayer is not a last resort. It is a first resort. As long as you can pray, you will never be in a situation where you are "powerless" to do anything, because you can pray. With all that said, I don't believe that prayer was ever meant to be a be-all and end-all that gets us off the hook from taking action to solve problems. Prayer was never meant to be an excuse to sit back and do nothing; it was never meant to be a spiritual Band-Aid that we slap on someone's gaping emotional wound; and it was never meant as a free pass to not take actions to help ourselves. And many times God clearly shows us courses of action that can help us "answer our own prayers," in a way. Let me give you an example to show what I mean by that--praying about my finances or for God to provide for my needs is not a free pass for me not to have a budget and save some of my money each paycheck. And in this context, the answer to prayers for mentally ill people is very often going to be medication, therapy, or both. Prayer by itself is not the same as treatment. Prayer was never intended to be a substitute for practical solutions. Can you pray about being physically healthy? Of course, but if you expect those prayers to be effective, you're going to need to eat right and exercise too. So we as a Church need to stop acting as if depressed people just need to "pray" about their condition more. Prayer is a wonderful thing, but God sometimes provides us with the answers to our own prayers in the form of treatment, and it's ok to use it! It's not like saying that you don't believe prayer is powerful enough or that you don't trust God to heal you.

What do we as believers have to gain by demonizing mental illness in other believers? Does it help make people who suffer feel better? Or does it just allow some people to feel all high and mighty from a place of, "Thank God I've never suffered from that"? These attitudes have gone on long enough and they need to stop. In fact, they have to stop if we want to see change on the way the Church handles mental illness. I desperately want to see that change. I want to see it in my lifetime. I'd love to see it now! Have you ever wondered why our churches often tend to have such a high percentage of people in the most dire stages of mental illness? Maybe it's because these people should have sought treatment long ago, and could have improved their condition by doing so, but never did because they were terrified that, on top of everything else, they'd get marked as a "bad Christian" if they did. I'm over it. Let's end these damaging attitudes. Where is the grace to be found in heaping judgment and shame on people who experience a private pain that many of us will never begin to understand? And I think we're called to be a people of grace.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

2-Week Staycation Starting Now!

Well, I got back from my three days of being a beach bum on Tybee Island a couple days ago and it was amazing. I feel like all I did was swim, walk on the beach, sleep, do my pleasure reading (I am reading The Associate by John Grisham right now and it is SO good), and eat, especially the excellent gelato sold at this little shop right by the beach. This is probably my favorite vacation spot of all, and I always come back so renewed/ refreshed. I've also been feeling so refreshed in general because I have slept better in the last 10 days than I have all summer--no more staying awake till 3am unable to stop thinking, or waking up at 5am from yet another crazy dream, as was the case on a number of nights this summer.

Then bright and early on Thursday morning, I officially got all my furniture and most of my other things moved into my new apartment. I have a few things left to pack up plus I need to clean (and I have a feeling that will take WAY longer than I think--you probably know how that goes), but once it's done, I can turn in my old keys and officially turn over my new leaf. Honestly, I was getting kind of scared as the moving guys loaded all my furniture onto the truck and as I followed them to my new place on Thursday--because moving for me is taking an unequivocal step toward a new life. It's like jumping into the deep end and hoping you'll be able to stay afloat, because there's no going back. It's getting rid of the safety net and just moving forward in faith that you're doing the right thing, even if it freaks you out.

But I really love my new apartment (not least because this is the first place I've ever lived in that I've actually chosen for myself) and I am now in the process of getting settled in. I have all the furniture where I want it and am hanging pictures, unpacking boxes and bags, getting some actual food in my fridge, etc. I will post pictures when everything is more or less in its place. I got the Internet set up yesterday, and I love how 1) it actually works reliably, and 2) I have wireless in every room in the apartment, including my bedroom, so I can write this blog post while laying in my bed on a relaxing Saturday morning. At my old place, the Internet went out all the time and was never available in any room except the living room, so I couldn't write or get work done in the bedroom if I so chose. I am loving that, and that there's a gym and pool right here, and that I can drive five minutes down the road and be at the mall if I want to be. I only go to that mall to window shop because I can't afford anything there, and even if I could, I am one of those people who still can't imagine paying for a designer purse/ designer clothes/ designer anything, but it's still really fun to look.

The gym here is nice and I'm sure I'll use it sometimes, but I'm also going to look into getting a gym membership somewhere so I can have access to more machines and equipment and also go to fitness classes. I'm getting ready to start getting short "trial memberships" at different gyms and going to a couple of free classes to see which ones I like best. There's a few gyms here that offer kettlebell classes, and I really want to try one because I read about them in Women's Health and they sound like a great workout. I haven't really been eating great or exercising too often over this summer with studying and all, so I am really ready to jump back into a healthier lifestyle.

And now, I still have two weeks off because I don't start work till the 25th. I can't remember the last time I had this much time off--probably in college sometime--so I'm excited about having time to get refreshed, to explore and get used to things here, to decorate, to read, to work out, etc. I know that new associate life is very demanding and I'll be grateful for the time of refreshment beforehand as soon as I get started! Next weekend I am going to Florida for "Lauren and Catherine do Tallahassee." (Which should be very interesting . . . my law school BFF and I can always find an adventure).

More to come soon!