Tag Archives: elder law

No lateral moves

Somewhere along the way, I made a promise to myself: no lateral moves.  No moving from my job to a slightly-better-job.  I want a salary, I want benefits, I want personal fulfillment.  Does this make me sound entitled?  Maybe, except I have a job that I like very much that does not have a salary or benefits (but is more personally fulfilling than I ever expected.)

So there is this other job, that was listed yesterday.  It’s at an organization I used to work for, doing work I swore I was finished with, but it has a salary and benefits and personal fulfillment.  I would be working in an office with a very good friend of mine and I would be doing good, important, meaningful work.  It would be a lot of litigation, which isn’t something I have any experience with (and experience I probably need), and it would offer me a route back into the public interest job sector.  It has reasonable, flexible hours, and reasonable expectations of it’s entry-level opportunities, so it seems like a no-brainer.

What doesn’t it have? An avenue for advancement.  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, I would eventually end up back in public interest elder law (an area that just doesn’t hire enough.)  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, I could eventually transition to a future in legislative advocacy work.  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, I would be good at it.  A guarantee that if I got and took this job, we would have everything we’ve been talking about for a year and therefore Everything Would Be Okay, like we’ve been talking about for a year.

I come down to wondering if I’m just scared.  I’m scared, genuinely scared, to get a real job.  I have always worked at jobs that were below my experience level, that didn’t pay, that offered rewards in their nonmonetary compensation.  When I have been paid, it’s almost a token of appreciation, enough to pay gas and parking and maybe for groceries.  I make money at this job now, but not a salary.  And I wonder if there is a reason for that besides the crummy economy – if I’m letting The Fear hold me back.  If they pay me a salary, they will expect me to show up and work hard, and while academically, I know I do not have a problem with hard work, I have always worked hard, and I will continue to do so, what if what if what if it isn’t good enough for the real world?

At the same time, I’m itching, as my friend C. said, to get out there, to lawyer, to put my name on my work and have it be mine and to own who I am and what I do and stand up and say, “I’m your lawyer, b*tches.”  But on the other shoulder is the little scardy cat scales of justice telling me that if I continue to go for jobs that aren’t what I really want, I’m selling out for the money and the health insurance and in twenty years I’ll look back on my life and say, “well, how did I end up here?”

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Cleared out

Yesterday, I went to my old office for The Last Time.  I turned in my keys.  I will be back, I’m sure, but at the same time, I’m not sorry to go.  I’ve been split between my volunteer work and my job for awhile now, and it will feel very good to really focus on my job and my job search for gainful, full-time, grownup employment.

There is something about clearing out of a job that is exhausting.  You have to go through countless clients, assess their cases, scan everything, file everything, shred anything unnecessary, and make sure that there are adequate notes in case you ever get sued.  Some clients are bound to fall through the cracks – the notes won’t be as thorough as they could be, a client who never called back to schedule their final appointment must be contacted, sometimes mistakes are found and must be corrected.

But nonetheless, I have turned in the files I was carting around in the trunk of my car, I have cleared out my desk, and I feel good.  I stayed at my old job longer than necessary, considering I stopped receiving a paycheck back in May, but I have easily fulfilled my pro bono hours for the year, I’ve gained a lot of really valuable experience, and most importantly, I’ve helped people who would otherwise not have gotten help.

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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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First Day

Tomorrow, I start a new job.  I’m really excited about it – I think it’ll be a good learning opportunity, and I think it was definitely the right move for me, career-wise.

But I’m filled with jitters that come from starting anything new.  Things like…what will I wear? What if I say the wrong thing? I like to joke around a lot at work, and I don’t think my boss is terribly serious, but she’s also not sarcastic and joking-funny the way my current boss is.

I’m also afraid because it’s a tiny office – like, there are two and a half of us working there.  We have to share a computer.  That’s potentially a lot of one-on-one time with another person.

But I’m excited, because it’s experience.  Different experience.  Paying clients experience.  Private practice experience.  Solo practice experience.  All of these are good things.  It’s also a slightly different area of law than I’ve been practicing, but things I need to know if I do want to pursue elder law.

I’m also excited because the workplace is business-casual.  It is “nice pants and a dress shirt” kind of attire.  It’s “you don’t need to wear a suit” kind of an office.  And have I made it quite clear that I don’t care for suits?  Anyway, as they said at the end of How I Met Your Mother this season, New Is Always Better.

So here we go!  Any tips for getting along with people or going with the flow at a new job?

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Where do we go from here?

As soon as the reality of not having a job anymore sank in (after cleaning out my desk and closing out my cases), I headed home with a heavy heart.  Sure, I’ll still be doing work for my office, but mostly from home because they don’t really have room for me, what with the summer interns.

So I’m back to where I was four months ago.  Sure, I have a wealth of experience, but I also have some things to decide.  For example, I used to want to do family law.  But I think what I was looking for in family law isn’t what family law can offer me.  I want to feel like I connect to my colleagues and my clients, I want to feel like I can actually do something to help my clients, and I want to feel like I’m making a difference.  And I know this is potentially contentious, but as discussed, I like to be appreciated.  Family law clients tend to hate their lawyers, because they never get everything they want, since what they want is the kids, alimony, and their ex to be lit on fire and thrown in a ditch.  I’m not just talking about female clients, by the way.

The great thing about elder law is I love my clients.  I feel like I connect really well with them, and I feel like I have the patience that this work requires.  I’m not a good listener and I tend to be a terribly blunt person that hurts people’s feelings.  The elderly tend to not mind repeating themselves for my benefit (often without me asking), and they have an appreciation for honesty, even if it comes in the form of bluntness.  Many of my clients are tired of people beating around the bush and leading them on.  I often talk to people who have been bounced from one agency to another because somebody was too chicken to tell them they had a bad case.

So I think I might want to continue working in elder law, but there aren’t a lot of jobs in it right now that I have found.  Maybe I just don’t know how to look.  I know all the right buzzwords for family law, but I’m not really sure how to search for elder law, beyond the “Seniors and retired persons” interest area on Idealist.org (why yes, nosy person I just met at a party, I have heard of Idealist.org.)

Anyone have any tips on switching a focus area or trying to reinvent your current skill set?

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