Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

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Some reflections

July 18, 2010

Update: I’ve been warned that my blog has been linked at a site that specializes in negativity. Respectful comments are welcome; however, anyone who appears to be a troll will be blocked. I welcome civil debate here, but you don’t have a right to free speech here. I consider this my personal space and trolls are not welcome. Please be respectful and polite.

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Wow, after that last post, I’m feeling the pressure to write something deep or intelligent…

Hmmm …. nope. Got nothing.

But let’s remember. This blog is basically just a chronicling of my law school experiences, and it isn’t meant to inform or advise. It’s just me talking about myself. Take it or leave it.

I do have to thank Elie and Above the Law, though, for linking to me and boosting the profile of my little ol’ blog. I got over 2000 page views in the last week! Which for me is huge, considering I was averaging around 25-30 page views a day before that. I realize that most of those people think I’m an idiot, but I hope a small fraction of those people like me enough to stick around and follow my journey.

Just look at that page views chart! (Click to embiggen)

And I am totally stoked to be accepted as a MILP, thanks to Butterflyfish! There’s a niche for everyone, and Moms in the Legal Profession suits me to a T. I’m very much looking forward to turning to these ladies for inspiration, support, commiseration, and laughs.

Some reflections on the comments I received last week:

  • I read every comment and tried to reply to most. It was hard to remain upbeat and friendly, but I tried.
  • After giving myself a couple of days to process, the comments didn’t bother me anymore. I was stunned at first, but I realized quickly not to take it personally.
  • Because none of these people know me personally. I asked myself: “Which of these people has my best interests at heart?” None of them do. Every single one was speaking from a place of personal self-interest (for example, what they have gone through). I am trying to take advice where it is well-intentioned, but the mean-spirited stuff is being ignored. Completely. Not because I’m stupid, but because I don’t give mean people purchase on my soul.
  • EPIPHANY: I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I tried to explain, but I now regret it. I don’t owe anyone an explanation or a defense of my decision to attend law school. I want to go to law school, and THAT. IS. THAT.
  • I am an optimistic person and I refuse to let the Eeyores drag me down. I am fully supported by my husband, my parents and extended family, and my friends. In real life, no one has tried to dissuade me; they all believe in me. These are the people I surround myself with, and I know this makes a difference.
  • I am excited to go to law school. I really am. Not nervous, not scared, not obligated. Happy and excited.
  • I’m not scared about “after law school.” I’m as realistic as anybody, but I’m not looking for a job this year. I’m going to school. I’ll worry about the job later. And I will get a job. And I will pay off all my school loan debt. And I will have a career that satisfies me. You don’t have to believe me, but I’m not asking your opinion.

I’m even going to go a step further and be completely honest about this whole law career thing.

I don’t know exactly what it’s like to practice law. I don’t! Apparently, it is a mindless, menial job that requires no special qualifications whatsoever, if I am to believe what I read. Perhaps. I don’t really know. But then, likely none of those people have been a copyeditor either. Mind numbing, tedious work doesn’t intimidate me. I suspect, too, that a lot of people went into law with hopes of “changing people’s lives” or “helping people.” Which is great. I also sense a lot of dissatisfied lawyers have a creative side that is dying to get out, and realized too late that law doesn’t suit their creative needs. I get that. That’s not me.

I don’t know exactly what kind of law I want to practice. And I’m okay with that. At the moment, I’m most interested in Civil Rights — as in, protecting religious freedom in this country. I’m deeply concerned about the attacks on religion by the courts and groups like ACLU, and I want to have a part in defending religious rights. BUT. I realize I may not get my dream job in that, at least not at first. Or, I may have to do it pro bono. Therefore, I am keeping my options open. I’ll need something regular to pay the bills, and I am open to working something less than my dream while either pursuing my dream on the side or waiting for the right opportunities. This doesn’t make me dispassionate, this makes me pragmatic.

I don’t know exactly what the job market will look like in 2013. Neither does anyone else. It could be better, it could be even worse. WHO KNOWS. What I do know is that the status quo is no longer working for me. I am at a place in my life where decisions must be made; changes must occur. I could sit on my hands thinking about it a while longer, but I will be 40 years old in a few years, and I don’t want to be starting my career at the age of 40; I want to start it now. I have no justification whatsoever for continuing to stay at home and putting off a career. This is a golden window of opportunity, and I am seizing it. I chose the lofty goal of law school. So sue me.

And that, as Forrest would say, is all I have to say about that.

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Mom used to tell me this little ditty:

I know my heart, I know my mind.

I know that I stick out behind.

Wait … well, the first line’s great anyway. I do know my heart, and I do know my mind. That’s the awesome thing about being 30-something.

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Am I making a big mistake?

July 9, 2010

YES … if I wanted to believe the numerous negative blogs out there. Believe me, if you are looking for reasons not to go to law school, there are plenty of online resources who will reinforce your fears. One of my favorites is the choleric liberal Elie Mystal from Above the Law. Every other post of his contains, at minimum, a snarky comment on why anyone would be stupid enough, or at best, apatheticuninformed and full of hubris, to go to law school these days. Look at the horrible job market! he warns. The 2010 grads can’t get jobs! he hyperventilates. The investment isn’t worth it! he doubles down with negativity.

Clearly, the man regrets his own decision to go to law school and is now projecting his disappointment and negative perspective on everyone else. Basically, unless you are going to be in the top 10% of the class of one of the Top 10 schools, you’re wasting your time (and more importantly, your money). Even then, you’ll likely hate your job.

He’s not the only one who talks like this; as I said, there’s no shortage of doomsayers running around the internet. Many of them have some salient points, and I agree that one should not go into law school uninformed and optimistically blind. It’s true: the job market for lawyers isn’t good right now.

But tell me, which job market is good right now? Medicine? Engineering? Even those have been hit to some degree. The truth is, there is no good job market right now. The whole country is in a depression, and every field is tough to break into. Should we all throw up our hands and give up?

My degree is in English (a truly completely worthless degree), and my work experience is in technical writing and editing, so I figured I’d conduct a little experiment. I did a job search for “writer,” another for “editor,” and yet another for “attorney.”

The “attorney” jobs available–and this is only a cursory search–far, far, FAR outnumbered the writer/editor jobs here in the Denver Metro Area. Moreover, it became clear to me that because I’ve been out of the loop for several years, I would have no choice but to take an entry-to-mid-level job in the writer/editor fields (think $30-40K/year). According to Elie Mystal logic, I should settle for this.

One reason I chose to pursue a JD was that it is somewhat versatile (more versatile than, say, a PhD in English, anyway). I may or may not be working as an attorney in the future; I’m keeping my options open. Yes, it is an expensive degree, and that does concern me somewhat. But then, so is every other degree. I also agree that tuition reform is needed, as well as student loan reform.

But am I making a big mistake by going to law school, as many would suggest? I suppose I won’t know for sure until three years from now. However, given my options, I’m confident I’m doing the right thing. I’m excited about starting school and a new career path. My old career path is even more forbidding than law, not to mention the crap pay, the lack of upward mobility, and job dissatisfaction. I plan to work in Denver, not NYC or DC–and definitely not in BigLaw–making DU, a tier 2 school, an appropriate choice for me. Everything has been falling into place, and I feel good about what I’m doing and where I’m headed.

Besides, I’m optimistic that Obama will lose his job in 2012 and the economy will begin to recover shortly thereafter. :-) See? It’s not all doom and gloom.

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Jump on that train

March 29, 2010

The train lumbers to a stop and lets me out. I don’t even cast a glance back at the tired-looking people in their button-downs and khakis. I sniff the fresh air and step into the open, smiling at my choice of stops. I am home. I am where I belong.

After a while, though, I begin to miss that train. I don’t really want to get back on, but I look at it longingly from time to time. Some good times were had on that train. Things were accomplished there. It was going somewhere. This spot is beginning to feel a bit dull. If that train leaves, I’ll be trapped here forever with no sense of destination.

The whistle blows and the train slowly grinds toward the next destination. Panic. What should I do? Get back on the train or stay here? I like it here. But I’m being left behind. Some of my friends are on that train. They’re going on without me, towards their futures. Where is my future? What does it look like? The train picks up a little speed, and I jog next to it, debating what to do. Don’t leave me behind!

I take a closer look at the cars. Some are filled with smiling moms and laughing babies. Others are filled with men and women in power suits with phones glued to their ears. Some are filled with adventurers and travelers. That one looks cool, I’d like that. The next car I see is one filled with people with a clear sense of purpose on their faces. They all look different–some are in doctors’ clothes, some are in hippie clothes, some are in those god-awful sweaters with apples that teachers sometimes wear, some are in suits, others are not. But they all have found meaning in what they are doing. THAT’s the car I want to ride in. I jump on and hang tight. This train is faster than I thought! Looks like I got on just in time.

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Life is like a train, and you’re either on it or you’re not. What that train looks like varies from person to person, but you either feel like you’re on the train or you’ve been left behind.

That’s how I would describe my journey towards law school. Even though I didn’t decide to go for it until a year ago, I’ve been off the train for several years.

I got off the train by choice, because I didn’t like the car I was riding in. And I admit, I enjoyed the rest, the slowing down, the being present. For a time. When I first got off, it was like, “WOW, I needed this!” After a while, though, I got restless. Fidgety. Bored. Unsatisfied. The train was moving out of the station, and I wasn’t on it.

On December 28, 2001, I quit my technical writing job to become a stay-at-home mom. My daughter was almost three and I was pregnant with my second child, and as a young mom, I desperately wanted to do the right thing and be there for my kids, 24/7. To this day, I believe it was the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. I have never regretted turning away from a career I didn’t really like in order to raise my kids myself. My daughter had been in day care for nearly three years and I swore I would never put a child in day care again — and I didn’t.

In the following years I began to build relationships with other moms and attend things like MOPS and playgroups. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t have much in common with the other moms, though. While they seemed to find endless conversations about potty training, sleep habits and birthday parties to be fascinating, I longed for friends I could carry on serious conversations with.

I really hit my stride when my oldest daughter started Kindergarten. I met a lot of different types of moms at that time, many of them through the Girl Scout troop I started to lead. Some of them worked, part- or full-time, some of them didn’t. Most of them were older than me, some by quite a lot. Many had older children or had blended families. And since that time, I’ve been very content with my social life, and I believe that being a SAHM helped me develop my best friendships that I would have missed out on if I’d been working.

But as my kids got older, I felt that train starting to pull out of the station. It was slow at first. I looked for things to do, hobbies to take up, freelance work to fill my time. When my son (my youngest) started preschool, I decided to take a part-time job not only to help pay for the school, but also to get me out of the house. I was going stir-crazy. By that time, I knew that domestic bliss was not for me. I hate cooking and cleaning. I love reading and thinking and analyzing. I was sick of not feeling productive. I have to get out of the house every day or I start to feel trapped and isolated. As my kids were getting older, I knew it was time to get on that train.

The train really started picking up speed about two years ago. It was a difficult time because even though I knew I wanted to get back on the train, I didn’t know which car to pick. I wanted to finish my bachelor’s, but then what? Work or more school? The economy sort of helped with that decision. There are few to no jobs in writing/editing right now anyway, even if I did want to pick that car, which I didn’t. So then, what type of degree to get? One year ago from now, I was in a Brit Lit class and loving every minute of it. I was back on the train, and it really felt good.

As I sifted through my few options for grad school, I really questioned whether I was crazy to even think I could do law school. But it was sort of making sense. I mean, I learned from Bit Lit that I’m a very good reader and good at analyzing. I am very interested in politics and follow it fairly closely and I’ve always been curious about how our laws affect our freedoms. While I hate creative writing, I learned that I can write a good essay and complex writing doesn’t intimidate me like it used to.

And then, I told myself, I am just as smart as those people and smarter than a lot of others, so if they can do it, why couldn’t I? I’m no genius, but I’m smart and I’m a hard worker. Dumber people have done a lot more with a lot less.

I’ve picked my car and I’m back on the train. I’ll be honest, I’m still terrified that I picked the wrong car. But I’m on the train. I’m excited about that, and it feels great!

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Three years is NOT a long time

March 27, 2010

This is what I tell myself alllll the time. Of course, because I am old(er) I know this to be true.

My youngest child is 6-and-a-half. How the hell did that happen? Where did the time go, and more importantly, when did I get so old?

Time flies, and three years is just a blip. My eldest child is graduating from elementary school in June, for pete’s sake, and I’m pretty sure she was born only about 3 years ago.

Of course, as any mother knows, when you find out you’re pregnant, nine months is literally an eternity. Hindsight be damned, the nine months of pregnancy are the longest months. of. your. life.

Then the baby has colic, and the doc says, “Oh, babies usually outgrow it by the time they’re three months old.” And if you’ve ever had a colicky baby, you know that three months filled with a screaming baby might as well be thirty years.

And then the baby starts teething. They teethe until they are TWO YEARS OLD, people! They cry, they fuss, they drool. They throw tantrums. Fun, fun, fun.

Then it’s time to potty train the baby. And believe me, by the end of the first day (or week, or month), mom is asking herself if her child will ever go in the potty, and if he will be the only one in diapers in his Kindergarten class.

The first three years of a child’s life are the longest three years of a mother’s life. Sure, it speeds up extra fast after that, to make up for lost time I suppose, but many times you feel like you will never reach that next important milestone.

I’m assuming law school will be nothing like this. Right? Right???

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Why Law? Part Two

March 21, 2010

My reasons for going into law are pretty fluid. At first, it was an idea: I could do it, so why not try? Then: It could help me achieve my goals. Now: It’s time to get some political balance into the law profession.

After today’s slaughtering of the Constitution by passing the horrifically anti-American health care “reform” bill, I’m mad as hell. I’m pissed off and I don’t want to take it lying down. Then I read a bunch of posts on Twitter in a law student feed, and it pissed me off even more. I’ve never seen so much stupidity coming from a supposedly brainy group of people. I don’t know how representative Twitter is, but it’s become apparent to me that there’s a terrible imbalance of conservative vs. liberal lawyers/law students.

Why is this? Why are conservatives less likely to go into law? This question fascinates me.

I think the answer actually lies in conservative philosophy. I don’t think conservatives are generally activist by nature. Personally, I’d really rather not. I’d prefer to mind my own business and take responsibility for my choices, my family, and my role in the community. That’s a large part of what makes me a conservative. I don’t feel the need to get all up in other people’s business.

It would also help explain why liberals become lawyers. There’s something about liberals that makes them believe they were born to help everyone, regardless of whether they want to be helped. Even if their “help” is misguided and rather more harmful than helpful in the long run, liberals seem to believe that if they are involved in other people’s business for the “greater good” then they must be good people.

Something I’ve touched on before, though, is that I have been searching for something to do to “make a difference.” Do something meaningful. Having been interested in politics since 2000, I’m becoming more convinced every day that what this country needs is more conservative lawyers. Outspoken and organized ones. It’s time to become a conservative activist, if that’s not an oxymoron and get in the game and help defend the Constitution and our people against the anti-liberty attacks coming from the left.

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Personal Statement Tips

March 1, 2010

I still have not heard from DU or CU about whether I have been accepted, so no news there yet.

I have noticed in my “top searches” a lot of hits from people looking for personal statement advice, so I’m going to use this down-time to see what help I can provide regarding this.

I do need to emphasize (again) that I am no expert, and honestly, I may never know how well my own personal statement is received. I haven’t posted anything about my own personal statement because I’m a little paranoid about plagiarism and don’t want anyone to copy mine. But what I can do is give you the general gist. I’m sure there are a lot of women in a position similar to mine who could relate, so this one’s for you.

Set yourself apart.
With the personal statement, the trick is to differentiate yourself from all the other applicants. This can be pretty tricky if you’re like me: a middle-class white woman who hasn’t faced any earth-shattering challenges (yet). I imagine it’s even more difficult for white males. You don’t want to take something trite and make it sound like a bigger deal than it is. Yet you want to impress the admissions board with some tale of heroic achievement. Where to begin?

First of all, if you have overcome any real challenges, that is where you start. It could be the death of a parent, the loss of a job, dealing with an illness, fighting with an insurance company — anything that you can use to leverage your way into the admissions board’s heart and mind.

If you’re like me and are blessed by no deaths in the immediate family, no job loss, good health, and so forth, it can be a little trickier. In my case, I ultimately settled on addressing the fact that it took me 11 years to finish my undergrad degree. This may not be an obvious choice, but for me, finishing my degree at the age of 32 was really the slingshot that threw me into the law school madness. I decided to spin what appeared to be a bad decision on my part initially into an actual benefit that changed the course of my life.

Go with what comes naturally.
In your case, you’ve probably been thinking about a topic for a while. Write down everything you think of and stew on it. Write down opening sentences. Write down “zingers.” Write down every angle you could take. You will probably find yourself being attracted to one specific life event; that is the one you need to write about. It will come most naturally, and you will feel more passionately about that than something else you may think the board wants to hear.

Remember Composition 101? They were on to something.
Coming up with the topic is the hard part. Now you’ll have to write it. If nothing else, use good basic writing. Make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect. Use an outline and stick to it. Intro with thesis, supporting paragraphs, conclusion with restatement of thesis. You learned this in Composition 101. A rep from DU told how the dean was ticked off when someone didn’t capitalize “Denver.” Those are mistakes you can’t afford to make.

Keep it interesting.
The admissions board undoubtedly reads a lot of dry essays. I wrote mine in a story-like tone, keeping the language simple and flowing. I didn’t use a lot of big words to show how intelligent I am. My goal was to engage their interest with the very first sentence and to keep them reading till the end. I wanted to make it fun for them, not a chore. I inserted a little humor without being unprofessional. I also wanted to come across as someone who may have made “mistakes” but is comfortable with who she is.

Get your essay reviewed.
I had several people read my essay. When they were nitpicking at commas, I knew that the content was pretty good. I should have taken advantage of Regis’s writing center, but I didn’t. If you have access to a pre-law advisor or writing center, USE IT. They will tell you where you need improvement. Mine was reviewed by people who know me very well, a professional technical writer, and a colleague. I made sure to get a green light from all of them.

From here on out, I’ll just kind of run down how I wrote out my essay. Perhaps someone will gain a little inspiration from it. :)

Paragraph 1: I immediately addressed my “mistake” of not finishing my college degree on schedule and set up the rest of the essay by implying that was actually “the right thing at the right time.”

Paragraph 2: I did not go into WHY I didn’t finish undergrad on time; that’s not the point. The point is how the intervening years shaped my life and ambitions, and gave me the confidence to tackle law school – something I wasn’t ready for eleven years ago.

Paragraphs 3-4: I talked about my career and how I benefitted from that.

Paragraph 5: I set up how becoming a stay-at-home mom changed my life (but this is NOT about the kids–I felt that talking about “how becoming a mom changed my life” would come across as insincere and insipid. Besides, that would have taken my essay totally off course.). I took on two significant leadership roles during this time that helped prepare me for law school/career.

Paragraph 6: I told how I assumed a major leadership role in my freelance editing position–I really wanted to emphasize how adult this role was, and send the message that I Am a Leader. (Leadership was really my overriding theme.)

Paragraph 7: I told how my volunteer position as a Girl Scout troop leader further shaped me as a leader and added a bit of humor. I showed how I have really dealt with the nuts and bolts of dealing with people on an intimate level while trying to keep order and harmony whilst pursuing real goals. I also added this to show that while I was a SAHM, I wasn’t just sitting around watching Oprah all the time. I was actively involved in my community.

Paragraph 8: I shifted focus on my desire to go back to work, finally finishing that college degree, and how doing that shaped my ambitions to become a lawyer.

Paragraph 9: I reminded them that if I had finished undergrad school on schedule, none of the events they’d just read about would have taken place. I would not have acquired the skills, confidence, focus and direction that I have now. This is why finishing college 11 years late was actually a good thing — for me.

Paragraph 10: I concluded my essay by restating my thesis and telling how I plan to use a law degree to continue my community involvement and leadership, just on another level.

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14 Things I Wish I Had Known When Graduating from Law School

February 1, 2010

I received this email from the pre-law advisor at Regis University, Jim Riley. He did not include a link, so sorry about that. I thought it was kind of fun.

14 Things I Wish I Had Known When Graduating from Law School

By Neetal Parekh

A law professor at law school graduation: “from today forth, please call me by my first name, because now I am no longer your professor, I am your colleague.” And like that, 3 years of law school are done, and the real world awaits.

Though you’ve been anticipating this day since law school orientation, when it actually comes it can lead to a mixed bag of introspection. From considerations of a looming Bar exam, to broad questions about what the degree means to you and where you hope to go with it, you may be looking for sage advice…and a little good fortune.

And while transitioning into law school may have taken a little practice, going from a J.D. to the next big thing is not always a cakewalk either. But fear not, counsel is on the scene.  We polled our fellow J.D. colleagues here at FindLaw about what they wished they had known when getting their J.D.’s…or more precisely, on the day of law school graduation.  A special thanks for sharing input…and now, their pearls of wisdom:

  1. For 90% of employers, what you’ve accomplished professionally is vastly more important than where you went to school or what extracurricular activities you participated in. Formulate your resume accordingly.
  2. Nice attorneys finish ahead.  The attorneys that win the cases aren’t the most aggressive and overconfident ones.  Nobody wants to work with an aggressive attorney- not the judge and certainly not the opposing counsel. 
  3. You can be creative with your degree.  Law firms are not the only place for J.D.’s. 
  4. Your study abroad experience will be useful in the long run. You might even wish you had gone for a semester abroad instead of just the summer.
  5. Relatives and friends come out of the woodwork for legal advice on anything and everything from wills to traffic violations.
  6. You can’t necessarily bank on your J.D. in order to make you filthy rich.  Just saying.
  7. Being a J.D. makes you think differently. You may never be able to watch Law and Order, Judge Judy, or any other pop culture tv the same way again. 
  8. The practice of law is nothing like law school. It’s a business, not an exercise in the humanities.
  9. Choose who you tell you have a law degree to wisely. You’ll see why.
  10. You will do more math in one afternoon trying to figure out how to bill for an 18 minute phone call than you did in 3 years of law school.
  11. Law school may be much more fun (yes, fun) than practicing in the legal profession.    
  12. You have a J.D., you haven’t been made Emperor of the free world. Humility still means something and you may learn that, or be taught it.
  13. Though you’ll have your student loans to remind you of law school for years to come, staying connected to classmates and professors may lead to collaborations and connections you can’t even imagine now. 
  14. You made it to and through law school, you’ll make it out too.