Tag Archives: volunteering

Busy

I’m not one of those people who prides themselves on being busy, or who loves to dramatize about how I’m so busy all the time.  I fight really hard against being busy.  I have a job that has regular hours and I’m working hard to keep them.  I try very hard not to take on too many commitments.  However, between my work with the bar association and my desire for a new job sometime in the next year, I seem to have gotten quite busy.

Our ordinarily scheduled events have been interrupted by a last-minute networking event; my regularly scheduled networking events run over into a post-event drink with a friend who gives me cover letter advice.  I’m still not good enough at networking to have made anything come out of these encounters, much to my chagrin, and I get home late and apologize to my spouse who has made his own dinner and done the dishes.

I have been so busy that I have missed deadlines for jobs that I wanted, that I have been late to see friends, that I have been lax about keeping in touch with people.  I think, frequently, about how to intentionally slow down my life so that I’m not so busy all the time, so that I’m not missing my friends or stressed out, but I can’t seem to make it happen.  Instead, I try to schedule weeks or months ahead of an event so that we know it’s coming and on the calendar.  I try to keep in touch with friends in other ways – my best friend from law school and I simply write each other long, newsy emails to keep in touch, because otherwise we see each other for an hour at an event and don’t get to talk.  If I do get an unexpected evening off or have a free Friday night, I try not to “waste it” if I don’t need the downtime.  I start calling friends to see what they might be up to.  If they are free, we go out.  If they aren’t, I see my husband.

I have realized recently that the people who are involved in everything, active members of everything, are people who are spread so thin they are unable to make a contribution to those things.  I do not want to be that person. I want to be able to fulfill my commitments, instead of having to juggle six meetings on the same day.  I am already stretched thin enough to feel as if I do not have time to do everything that I want to do.  I want to scale back, but I’m not sure how without insulting my friends, letting my career suffer, or not getting to do all of the fun things I want to do.

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“oh”

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.

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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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Square 1

As you may know if you follow me on Twitter, last week, my boss realized I was “dangerously close” to the end of my funding.  As in, over it.  So, yeah, that happened fast.  Yes, we should have kept a better eye on it, but nonetheless, it is what it is.  And more importantly, I knew it was coming so I shouldn’t be as surprised and bummed out about it as I am.  It turns out that suddenly becoming unemployed again is actually worse than being unemployed the first time, because when you tell people, they say things like:

“Isn’t there more funding?”  Hmmm, let me just check the office couch cushions.

“Well, at least you got really great experience.”  Yes, yes I did.  In the three months that I worked at this office.  Which still doesn’t amount to much on a resume, unfortunately.

“Do you think maybe you’ll look for jobs in [nearby city]?”  Considering the last time around, I applied to about a million jobs in [nearby city], yes, I’ll be looking for jobs here, there, and everywhere.

“Think about all the stuff you’ll get done!”  Listen, again, people, I’ve played this game before.  Unemployment is not productive.  I get more done when I work a full day and come home and do things in the evenings than when I take a full day off.  Which is why I’m still volunteering.

Really the only acceptable responses to this situation are, “dude, that totally sucks” (or variation); or “would you like some wine?”  Or perhaps, “now at least you don’t have to wear suits everyday!”  [Which may or may not be my reaction.]

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Filed under Job Search, Lawyering, Unemployed, Volunteering