Tag Archives: unemployed


Last week was the big fancy dinner that my job throws.  Unlike a lot of nonprofit functions, this one is usually not boring, and doesn’t involve a lot of big financial requests.  And it made me feel very inspired, but mostly it made me feel lucky and thankful.

You guys, I work for the best people in the world.  I truly and genuinely believe this.  I work for people that care about me as a person, about me as a lawyer, and about women in general.  I think this is awesome.  Our organization does good work, and I feel like I have all of the support in the world from my boss.

I point out a lot that I work regular hours.  And I brag about this not because it means I get home at 5pm, but because I truly believe that my office’s fierce protection of regular hours is more about them trying to improve work-life balance for Americans and trying to prevent staff burnout.  I don’t make a lot of money, but my office has my back.  Additionally, my company creates part-time positions designed to help stay-at-home parents re-enter the workforce, and positions like mine allow the idea of having children and a fulfilling career seem possible, and I think that is really important for organizations that are committed to improving the lives and status of women.

This year, it’s pretty easy to say what I’m thankful for, because it’s my job.  It’s my job that reminds me continually why I went to law school.  It’s my job that gave me a chance as a lawyer, that values me as a professional, and it’s my job that allows me to continue to serve person after person who is in desperate need.  It’s my job that makes me feel fulfilled, which has made me happier than I knew I could be.

Plus I get to walk to work.


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Interview Questions, Part III

Do you have a family?

When asked this question on an interview last year, I nearly choked.  This is a question that is not only illegal, there is no good answer.  Saying “yes” says that “I will be leaving work early to go to piano recitals” and saying no says, “yes, but I might in the future.”

Several people asked if when a lawyer asks this question, is it some kind of test as to whether or not you know this is an illegal question.  Several people have suggested that I take the interviewer to task over this question.  Those people clearly do not understand the market, in which applicants are a dime a dozen and employers have the upper hand.

So how have I handled this question?  The last time, I simply said, “yes.”  Because well, everyone has a family.  I said yes in a halting way, as if I found the question offensive and the interviewer had better clarify why he/she had asked it.  Which he/she did, or tried to.  But I walked away from the interview wondering if a job that asked me about a family was somewhere I wanted to work, so the question really hurts both people.

The tips I found on the internet for avoiding illegal questions are to say things like, “I can meet the demanding requirements of this job, if that is what you are asking.”  I’m not quite that slick yet, but I’ve been practicing.  I think another easy “don’t-you-know-that-question-is-illegal” answer is, “what exactly are you asking?”  The problem is, they might clarify by saying, “do you have children?” And a don’t-ask-don’t-tell, “it is my understanding that you are not allowed to ask me these types of questions” is probably not the right response, but will do if you’ve already decided you don’t want the job.

I’ve actually been asked this, or if I am married, quite a lot.  So I need to have a better response in my back pocket that says, “MYOB.”  Any suggestions?  Has anyone else faced this?


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Retirement and Saving

I finally sat down and talked to my financial adviser yesterday (fancy speak for my best friend from high school who is a CFA), and he did not react well to the news that I’m not saving for retirement.  The conversation ended with me opening a Roth IRA at Fidelity, and a couple people asked me questions about it on Twitter, so I thought I’d explain my process a little bit.

Here’s the tricky thing about all financial guides directed to people in their twenties.  They tell you how to eliminate the credit card debt you inevitably piled up in college buying big macs and they teach you to start saving money towards a house.  They tell you to contribute whatever is left to your retirement account, preferably a 401(k) your employer matches.  (I have read this post on numerous personal finance blogs, but I’m open to reading other posts that say different things.)

I grew up in a relatively affluent area, and as such, I know a fair number of people in their twenties who are a) debt free and b) living comfortably.  Some of them have the luxury of living in a house their parent’s own, rent-free, some of them received an inheritance or a significant amount of money as a graduation present, some of them have simply been working since they were 16 and have saved a significant amount of money.  All of this is to say, there is very little advice for a person who is not currently in debt, and who either has a house, or has enough money to a house without needing to save for one, or has no interest in having a house.

There is a conception that has been promulgated recently among some of my friends that rich kids know what they are doing when it comes to money.  The truth is they don’t, because they’ve never really had to worry about it.  So let’s start with the very best advice I’ve received all year: retirement savings.

From what my high school friend tells me, there are basically three retirement options – an IRA, a Roth IRA, and a 401(k).  The difference between a Roth IRA and an IRA is that an IRA is taxed when you take the money out and a Roth IRA is that it is taxed when you put the money in.  So if you are in a lower tax bracket now than you plan to be when you retire, a Roth IRA is the way to go.  (This is how it was explained to me.  Please please please do your own research.  I am not giving you financial advice.)

A Roth IRA has income limits, which I am currently well below.  So a Roth IRA seemed like a no-brainer – so there are two remaining questions: where, and how much money do you put in?

There are a number of investment companies out there that do retirement accounts.  I went with Fidelity because my friend recommended it, based on the fact that I could invest with the S&P for free (I have zero understanding of what this actually means, expect a post on investment shortly once I’ve learned more about it).  I decided to go with Fidelity for the same reason that my parents both got iPhones.  It’s much easier to help somebody with a problem when you understand it, so since my friend invests with Fidelity, I can go to him for help in the future and he will understand it better than if I went with Vanguard (my second choice, as it’s where my husband’s accounts are.)

The second question – how much money do you put in?  My friend’s advice was that once I/we have a six-month emergency fund in savings, I should be maxing out my retirement funds.  You can put in $5,000 a year.  The minimum for Fidelity is $2,500.  The minimum for other companies is supposedly lower (one tweep said her minimum was $1,500 per year.)  The thing about retirement funds is it is incredibly hard to play catchup if say, you don’t start saving for retirement until you are 30 (this was the lecture I got today), but if you start saving now, even if it’s not very much, it will give you a boost for the future.  As a person who does not make much money currently, I know that I cannot count on having a large amount of social security earnings (if I can count on any), so saving for my future makes me feel better about it.

In case you are wondering whether you really need to save for your retirement, nursing homes cost about $7,000 a month.  Does anyone else have any tips or thoughts on investing and retirement funds?


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How to apply for jobs

I know a lot of people are on the market these days, so I thought I’d put together a quick post on how I apply for jobs, and keep the application process straight.  The most important thing to have is probably the spreadsheet of jobs applied for, interview dates, and/or responses.  Just a google doc with the position applied for, firm/organization, date applied, follow-up, and response will do.  Try to keep it up-to-date – it’s helpful to know when you sent in applications and when you should make follow up calls.

Next step: create a document folder for job hunting.  Then, create sub-folders.  I create a sub-folder for each individual organization if they request multiple materials other than a cover letter and resume.  If they want a writing sample or have a specific application, they get a sub-folder.  In the main “Job Hunt” folder, I keep my up-to-date resume (labeled name_date), because in the past I accidentally submitted an old resume.  I like to have one master resume and avoid multiple copies, but sometimes experience needs to be tailored, in which case I create a sub-folder and the resume goes in that.  Other than specific organizations, I create sub-folders for types of jobs – e.g. “firm jobs”; “family law non-profit jobs”; “other non-profits”.   Generally, everything stays pretty organized.

The other thing that I think is extremely important is to make sure that you print all application materials to a .pdf.  If you are working in Open Office, there is a built in .pdf exporter under the file tab.  Otherwise I use CutePDF, which is a free program I’ve been using for several years.  I sent a copy of my cover letter to a friend yesterday for edits and she responded with, “the spacing is seriously messed up and your header looks weird”.  Your resume and cover letter need to always open and print onto one neat, professional page.  I also firmly believe in consistent file names – saving a document as Vado_Porro_Resume and Vado_Porro_Cover_Letter is helpful for employers who might be putting all the files in one place and don’t want to figure out whose resume is whose.

I also have a “job search” email.  It forwards from my gmail, but it is more professional sounding, and helps me keep my job applications and responses separate from emails from Ann Taylor suggesting I need another suit.

How do you keep your job search organized? Any tips for applicants?

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I was at a party recently and talking to a fellow attorney.  Who, when I said that I was working as a law clerk, responded with, “oh! so you’re not like, working as an attorney at all?”  With a “that is just so sad for you” look on her face.

My response should have been, “go screw yourself” but instead I yammered politely about how I felt that I needed life experience and private practice experience and I wasn’t really interested in starting my own firm straight out of law school, especially when I went K-JD.  I also pointed out that I don’t have debt, which is the number one thing that changes the tone of the conversations I have about my job search.  As soon as people find out that I don’t have debt, they go from asking why I’m not taking just any job available to me to why I’m not volunteering somewhere until I can get my dream job.  (Because even if I don’t have debt, I still don’t have a money tree in my backyard. I would like to have children and a house and a retirement account, people.)

So I just wanted to go over a few things you should not say to under or unemployed lawyers.

1) “Oh! So you’re not like, working as an attorney at all?”  No, I’m not, lady, and it bothers me way more than it bothers you, so why would you bring it up at a party?

2) “Have you heard of Idealist.org?” You mean the job search engine that’s gotten me half of my internships since I started college?  No, what is that?

3) “Have you thought about starting your own firm?” I can guarantee you that there is not a lawyer in this economy that hasn’t thought about starting their own firm.  If the one you are talking to hasn’t yet, don’t push the issue.  Also, maybe we shouldn’t encourage brand-spankin’-new attorneys to go into private practice and risk their licenses quite so much?

4) “So is your husband supporting you?” Seriously, why the eff do you care how my family puts food on the table and shoes on our feet?

5) “Is the market really that bad?” I graduated magna cum laude and am working as a law clerk.  Yes, it’s that bad.

6) “You would have made a great law clerk.  Why didn’t you do that?”  I dunno.  Why don’t you go ask the judges that didn’t hire me?

What have you heard?  Any other things I should avoid saying to people who are on the market?


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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.


Filed under Job Search, Lawyering, Unemployed, Volunteering

“Where will that be?”

Today, in talking to my old boss and telling him that I will be done volunteering with the organization the first week of August, I said that I would be looking to move to a full time job once I come back from vacation in August.

To which he said, “where will that be?”

As if I had any clue, or had gotten some kind of offer.  As if it was his business where I was applying.  Which I can see that he thinks that it is, but I don’t tell people where I apply, or where I want to work.  It’s my life, and I’m through discussing my job search with people, even the people who will be acting as my references. I don’t need judgment, I don’t need advice, I don’t even need encouragement. The only person who gets to care where I work is my husband, and that is within the reasonable limits.

So how do I answer this question?  Is a quick, “I’m done discussing my job search” too harsh? I think so.  I hemmed and hawed and said I was looking.  It’s a perfectly innocent question, but I’m touchy, and I’d like to nip the conversation in the bud rather than getting into anything too involved.

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