Tag Archives: clients

The New Job

The new job has started.  Entry is rough, but I think I’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.  It turns out that after seven months of saying, “oh, no, I’m not the lawyer,” I’m really eager to say, “HI I’M YOUR G-DD-MN LAWYER AND YOU BETTER LIKE IT.”  It’s a total shift in terms of area of practice, responsibilities, office setup, and everything else.

I’m not allowed to say, check my email or write blog posts, so expect blogging to be pretty quiet, or not at normal times, or clearly written yesterday and scheduled for the morning.

I am allowed to request office supplies, but I’m pretty sure this means, y’know, a monitor riser and not an iPad, since I now work for a non-profit.  It turns out that one thing I absolutely cannot live without anymore is a carbon-copy memo-book.  I need one of these for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I lose stuff, but with the carbon copy memo pad, I have a carbon of the person’s phone number, name, and message, even if I lost the message.  The second is that I like to have a chronology of who called when, and I like to have them all neatly in one place so I can check through the book and see whether I spoke with Ms. Jones before or after Mr. Smith and which day of the week that was on.  The third is that if I do not have a memo pad, I write down 6 messages on one piece of notebook paper and then I don’t know whose file to put my notes in.  I’m not going to write each message on a single piece of notebook paper, because that is a waste of space.  So I’m requesting a memo-book.  Unless you think an iPad would be more efficient, but I’m pretty sure the $295 difference in price will decide that for me.

My office is also desperately, sadly, in need of some art.  I’m probably not supposed to share pictures of my office, but I am sharing this one of the wall opposite me because I cannot fathom that it is actually breaking any rules.  This is what I’m looking at from my desk.

I’m gonna need some art.  What color would go well against the wall color?  I want something nice that I won’t mind looking at for the next few years.  Inspirational quotes are acceptable, but no demotivators or quotes about love, family, wine, husbands, shoes, or other unprofessional things.  Not really anything about lawyers either, since I will be meeting with clients in this space.  I want the space to feel warm and friendly, but like I take them seriously.  I can’t achieve the streamlined effects of the downtown BigLaw offices that are more glass than anything else, but I want to feel like more than a nonprofit lawyer making do with what was offered.  Also, this workspace is mine and it isn’t temporary and  I want to make it what I want it to be.  Suggestions, please!

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Fundraising

I have some really bitter moments, and I’ll admit that one of them came right around when I lost my funding, and a number of friends were undertaking incredibly intense physical challenges – training for marathons, triathlons, and cross-country bike rides.  With these friends came the inevitable requests to donate to their causes.  Which, for certain organizations, also includes donating to their airfare and hotel stays – which to me, sounds like I’m being asked to fund their vacation in the name of cancer research.  I know this isn’t true, but remember, this was a low point for me.

So I very nearly sat down and wrote out an extremely pathetic request for donations to support my job, which would have read something like this:

“If you donate to me, I will not run a marathon or put myself through some kind of powerful physical challenge.  I will instead get up in the morning, put on a suit, and go to work.  Where I will work very hard, where I will see up to 7 clients a day, all low-income, inner city seniors, many of whom have had very hard lives and deserve a break, like free legal services and knowing that their assets will help support their children and grandchildren, freedom from creditors and debt collectors, and assistance navigating the legal and financial world.”

It strikes me as interesting that nobody has come up with a non-profit version of Kickstarter, in which the current class of over-educated and under-employed people solicits people they know directly for help with their salaries.  I think it could be called Grantstarter (although there seems to be already an organization with this name).  This might seem like a terrible idea, but I hear a lot of, “I wish there was something I could do to help you.”  Which I sometimes wish I could respond to with, “if you donate $10 to my Grant on Grantstarter, it will help.”  Not everybody can help me find a job.  Not everybody can give me a lot of money.  But it would give people like my parents an avenue to donate to my job, without just slipping me money whenever I see them, and they would know that the money went directly to my salary.

So the questions are: 1) does this service already exist? and 2) does this sound like a good idea? Would you donate to my Grantstarter page?

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Working for Free

Although I have a new job, I’m continuing at my former job for one to two days a week.  This is because I really like what I do there, and I like my clients, and my new job doesn’t actually technically let me “practice” law.

Here is the problem with working for free.  And I find that this is true of pretty much any place where I have worked for free.  You get taken advantage of.  I’m not sure whether this is because the type of people who work for free are generally nice people who want to help out, or if employers really think, “lets get whatever we can while she’s here”.  But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing more clients, when I was supposed to be seeing less, and getting roped into more cases.

For some, being taken advantage of is par for the course, part of paying your dues as a young attorney.  But most of those people get paid for the work that they are doing, they are just being asked to do more.  And I’m not talking about going above and beyond, I’m talking about being asked to do things that are outside of your job description.

Lately, in addition to being taken advantage of, I have been feeling a bit…abandoned and ignored.  I think I established that I’m a bit needy.  Mostly, I need supervision.  I want to run all of the wills I draft past my boss, because two heads are better than one, he’s been doing this for longer, and I miss stuff.  Sometimes I don’t think of things that should go in, or I forget to take something out.  I can only catch so much on my own, or when I review them with clients.

Part of the reason for the abandonment is totally legitimate – we are in the middle of a huge case, that is incredibly intense and takes up most of my boss’ time.  So he was out all day today on discovery while I ran around the office like a chicken with my head cut off trying to draft a “quick” special needs trust (they do not exist.)  Nonetheless, part of the reason is because he can leave me to my own devices, and I’ll keep showing up and doing good work, since so far, I haven’t given him any reason to doubt that.  Last week, I made a pretty big mistake though, and unfortunately but fortunately, that has finally gotten me back on his radar, with promises to sit down and go over my open matters.  So hopefully that will happen so I can feel like I’m on solid ground.

So I need some lessons in getting what I want, without making a huge mistake to get it.  Any tips on how to approach this without rocking the boat so much that it falls over?  I would like to preserve a good relationship with the office and my boss, because I do genuinely like it and them.  I also want to keep working there, because every day that I work as a lawyer is another day closer to the “3-5 years experience” that most of my dream jobs require.

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Appreciation

I was expressing to a friend’s wife over the weekend that I really like working with the elderly because, among other things, they genuinely appreciate me.  Well, most of them.  Sometimes they scream at me just because I went to law school and know more about the law than they do. 

But one thing that I have learned is that I really need to be thanked by my clients.  This might seem silly, but I make about as much as a waiter, and I spend at least an hour with each my clients, on average.  My job takes an incredible amount of patience, patience I don’t have in any other aspect of my life.  And I have that patience with my clients because I know they need my help.  I know that they are one of the most vulnerable populations, and that they don’t experience a lot of kindness in their lives in our city.  But at the end of the day, I also know that they leave my office feeling better; feeling like everything will be alright, or at the very least, they will be treated fairly and they got their story told. 

I spent an hour and a half with a woman explaining to her that her dentist office, in fact, did not overcharge her, and did in fact do her a favor.  I added up the numbers for her, pointed out her bill, explained everything.  Even though, at the end of the day, she owed $100 more than she thought she did, she thanked me profusely.  And after she thanked me, I didn’t even mind that I’d devoted an hour and a half of my time to helping her.  So it helps keep me doing my job, knowing that I’m appreciated. 

People that call my office and yell at me, people who feel that they are entitled to my services, they do not endear themselves to me.  They are my least favorites, in fact, and if I have to pick between clients, I’m gonna pick the one that thanks me at the end of the day.  I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do.  One of my professors told me that I should in fact, not expect a thank you from clients, or let the lack thereof affect my work (which I do agree with).  Her general attitude was that pro bono attorneys should treat their clients no differently than paying clients, and therefore, not expect to be thanked. 

My general attitude is that there are many, many, many very real differences between a pro bono attorney and a paid one, and that along with clients who regularly miss appointments, are happy to wait to see me when we’re running behind, and call me to ask them for help with non-legal problems like their cable bills, I think that clients should thank attorneys who don’t charge them.  I generally think that you should thank anyone who helps you, whether they charge you or not, and that you should especially thank people who don’t.

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