Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Case of the "Shoulds."

I recently came down with a case of the "shoulds."  For you working moms out there, this is different than a case of the "guilts" although many of the symptoms are the same.

In the past few months, I have found myself saying "I should be working more.  I should be working less.  I should be saving more.  I should be saving less.  I should be home with my girls more.  I should get a job in the city.  I should stay closer to home.  I should be a great trial lawyer.  I should calm the heck down.  I should make a decision.  I should not make any decisions when I don't have to make a decision.  I should be at peace with where I am at my life."

I should this.

I should that.

I've literally been "shoulding" all over myself.

I have two beautiful girls.  My husband is great (even when he eats all of my leftover takeout).  I am a partner at a wonderful law firm doing the work that I love.  I am healthy.  I am happy.  I want for nothing.

And yet.  I have the "shoulds."  At thirty-two years old, I have spent the past few months waking up in cold panicked sweats over nothing.  And maybe that's the problem.

In life, we have "milestones."   First birthday.  Kindergarten.  Elementary school.  Junior high school.  Becoming a teenager.  High school.  Becoming an adult.  Graduating from high school.  College.  Turning twenty-one.  Graduating from college.  Possibly going on to graduate school.  Securing your first real "job."  Getting married.  Your first baby.  Your second baby.  For some of you crazies out there, your third and fourth baby.  Your 30th birthday.

And then you hit it.  The "wasteland."

What happens after you hit all of the major milestones on the way to adulthood and suddenly you realize that you are standing on the edge of an epic sized desolate place called "grownup land" where all you have to look forward to is your 40th birthday and the vesting of your 401(k) plan?  Yuck.

For the first time in my life, everything is still.  There is no pre-destined "milestone" to work towards.  No diploma.  No wedding.  And (for now at least) no babies.  My life has become incredibly routine in its predictability.  Work.  Pay the bills.  Spend time with the family.  See my friends.  Work out at the gym.  This is probably why I started itching uncontrollably with the "shoulds."  

"Shouldn't there be more?" I whined to my husband who, in his no nonsense way, arched an eyebrow at me and said "No."

And you know what?  After I spent some time rolling my eyes at him for being complacent -- I came to the realization that he was right (don't tell him I said that).  There doesn't always have to be something new and exciting going on.  Sometimes it is okay to look back on all of the milestones that you have accomplished and just enjoy the moment where you actually get to be still.  Heck, even God rested on the seventh day.

So, even though it is completely opposite to my human nature - I am going to enjoy this time in my life and just be.  Which is exactly what I should do.

I think.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Just buy more Laundry Baskets.

To say that my life has become a chaotic mess since the addition of our second child is an understatement.  My car is a mess, my house is a mess, my hair is a mess.  The girls' toys, which were once confined to a small  room in the front of our home, have exploded and are taking over the entire downstairs.  I actually believe that the toys are re-populating as now they are also climbing their way up the stairs and have also taken up residence in the girls' respective bedrooms. 

I admittedly have a cleaning woman who comes twice a month to help me keep our home from being perpetually covered in goo.  But - I have otherwise ceded territory of my house to broken pieces of crayon, matted stuffed animals, decapitated Barbies and other creatures from the land of "Toys R' Us."  I am okay with this.  I have accepted that my children and their toys own me and my husband and that there is nothing we can do about it. 

The one thing that does drive me crazy, however, are the piles of laundry that accumulate on the floor upstairs.  I now do the laundry for (1) myself; (2) our toddler; and (3) the baby.  I don't do my husband's laundry because supposedly I "don't do it right" so he has to "do it himself."  (Awwww, poor baby.  Feel free to punch him in the arm if you see a good looking Italian man walking around Chicago).  

I manage to get the laundry into the washer and transfer it to the dryer.  I also manage to bring it upstairs.  Hell, I occasionally even fold it.  My challenge seems to be getting the clean laundry transferred from the baskets to the proper closets.  The clean laundry stays folded (and sometimes unfolded) in a laundry basket for days and sometimes (oh the shame) weeks.  In the meantime, the dirty laundry starts to accumulate and become unsightly.  I try to hide the piles by shoving them far into the corner of the closet - but the dirty socks and underwear always start to creep out.  

The laundry situation started to cause me a great deal of stress and anxiety.  I would actually think about the laundry piles while I was at court or at the office and feel a tremendous sense of guilt and shame that I could not get the laundry done and put away in a timely fashion.  A classic overachiever (with a hint of OCD), I can't stand the unsightliness and disorganization of dirty laundry piles! 

I tried to share my dilemma with my husband but he just arched an eyebrow and asked me, "Why don't you just go and put the laundry piles away now?" 

Men.  They never understand.  

So, I called one of my favorite law moms and shared my problem with her.  She listened intently and made soothing noises and sounds at the right moments.  And then, she handed me one of the greatest pieces of advice that I have ever received: 

"Why don't you just go and buy more laundry baskets?  Then the dirty laundry will be off the floor and you can just stick it somewhere." 

GENIUS.  I would expect nothing less from one of the shrewdest legal minds in the country.  So now, I still have baskets of clean laundry that haven't been put away.  But I also have baskets of dirty laundry that one day, may be lucky enough to be clean laundry in a different basket - waiting to be put away.  Who needs closets anyway -- when you can have a clean looking and controlled system of laundry baskets instead?  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Amending the Complaint

Tonight, I got the call from my office that a complaint we needed to file tomorrow had to be revised.  I was already home with my two girls making a world class dinner of hot dogs and cheeze its.  My husband was working late.  I was flying solo with the munchkins.  

Here is how a law mom amends a complaint:  I pulled up the document on our remote server while I boiled the hot dogs.  As the girls munched on their dinner, I revised the document.  I then cleaned up from dinner.  I went into the living room and signed the revised pleadings using the "Easy Sign" app on my iPad.  I emailed the documents to my office.  As the documents traveled through cyber space to my office (where our legal assistant and associate were faithfully waiting for them), I changed a poopy diaper.  Then I changed another one.  

Soon, it was bath time.  I fielded some calls to my office about the revised document as I marched the girls up the stairs.  While the girls played in their tub, I fired up the old lap top and reviewed the final scanned version as I sat on the toilet (With the lid down of course! It is the only place to sit in our tiny bathroom!).  I got the girls out of the tub, dried them off, and snuggled them into their jammies.  I fielded another call.  Then I put the baby down while my toddler watched television in our bedroom.  After the baby fell asleep, I moved my toddler back downstairs and had a conference call with our associate attorney to review the documents for the final time before she left to file them in the city tomorrow morning. 

The best part?  I even got the girls down for bed earlier than usual.  To say that a female attorney (especially a mom) can multi-task is an understatement. 

You Only Get One Baby Shower.

The other day, a girlfriend called me perplexed.  She received an invitation to a shower for a mommy-to-be and her soon to arrive baby.  The reason my dear friend was perplexed is that she had attended the baby shower of this mommy-to-be for her first child a few years prior.

"Don't you only get one shower?" she asked me.  I thought for a second and then suggested we use the methodology that I use as an attorney to solve her dilemma.  She agreed.

In "the law," there is always a general rule with well carved out exceptions.  Here is a simple example.  The general rule is that people are not allowed to kill other people.  A well carved out exception to that general rule is that people are allowed to kill other people if they do so in self-defense.

My friend and I agreed that the "general rule" when it comes to baby showers, is that you only get one.  We then decided it was important to identify the exceptions.  Here is what we came up with:

You can have a second baby shower if:

A significant amount of time has elapsed from your first child to your second child (ten years or more).


You are extremely poor and are suffering hardship.

These are the only two exceptions we could come up with that we perceived to be fair.  We agreed that the shower my friend had been invited to did not fall under one of the two exceptions.  We mutually grumbled that it was rather annoying that this mom was having a second shower.  We both have two kids and only had one shower a piece.  We went on to agree that if the mom was having a pedicure party or spa day instead, that we would be okay with that as an alternative.  We also agreed that, to be fair, this particular mom was very kind and probably agreed to let someone throw her a second shower because she was so polite.

After we hung up the phone (my friend had resigned herself to attend this second shower, have a good time, and be gracious to the mommy-to-be and the hostess), I thought some more and came to the following conclusion:  since this second shower does not fall under one of the two recognized exceptions, my friend should really file a motion to dismiss the shower as barred by an affirmative matter.

In the law, if a claim does not fall within the protection of the general rule or one of the recognized exceptions, a person impacted by that claim (such as my friend who is impacted by this second shower), is permitted to file a motion to dismiss that claim as barred by an affirmative matter.  In this case, the second shower is subject to dismissal because (1) more than ten years has not transpired since the first baby and (2) the mother and her family are not extremely poor or suffering hardship.

To be fair, my friend will suffer "actual damages" if she has to attend this shower -- she will have to purchase a present of course and will also miss time away from home (diminishing her non-economic contribution to the marital residence).  And if she decided not to bring her two children to the second shower and her husband is unavailable to watch them, she may incur additional damages in that she will have to hire a third party to watch her children while she attends this event.

There should be a court -- an etiquette court perhaps -- where these types of social dilemmas can be resolved properly without forcing poor unassuming individuals to attend events that would otherwise not be allowed under the law.  That is a great idea.

Another great idea?  Don't ask your obnoxious lawyer friend about what to do when you receive a socially impasse baby shower invite.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Law is a Jealous Mistress

I have made my career and livelihood from the law.  I argue the law.  I read the law.  I talk about the law.  I write about the law.  I think about the law.  I love the law.

So what is the "law" anyway?  Simply put, the "law" is a bunch of rules compiled by people to help us bring organization and structure to our lives.  The "law" is incredible -- it is a non-existent force that controls and manages everything around you.  You cannot see it.  But it is there.

How do you know not to blow that red light?  Well, the "law" says you can't.  How do you know that you are married?  The "law" says that you are.  Why do you pay taxes?  The "law" says that you must.  And so on, and so on.

Disobeying the law can have consequences, i.e. a ticket -- or a penalty from the IRS.  I would never advise someone to disobey the law.  But sometimes, even I have to admit, the consequences of enforcing the law can be just devastating.

Today, I read an article about a married couple, the Duquets, that adopted a baby girl from South Korea -- or so they thought.  Apparently some attorney somewhere botched the adoption and now South Korea is demanding return of the child.  Forget the fact that the girl has been living with this family for months and has accepted the Duquets as her parents.  The best part?  A federal judge ordered that the girl be handed over to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to possibly be returned to South Korea -- where her birth mother admittedly does not want her.

I read the law allowing the United States to return the child to South Korea.  I talked about this law.  I thought about this law.  I argued this law.  I am now writing about this law.  And while I can see it in front of me, in black and white, that this is the law, I know in my heart that returning this child to South Korea is simply not right.

You see, the problem with the "law" is that it cannot anticipate every future situation under which its regulation will produce a consequence.  I am certain that when this law was drafted, the intent was to protect children in the international adoption market.  Now, instead of protecting a child, this law is being used as a vehicle to take a little girl from her mommy and daddy.  Forget the United States.  Forget South Korea.  The simple truth is that an otherwise happy and healthy family is going to be destroyed because of the "law."  And for what purpose?

Well, the purpose is actually a higher one.  The media has focused a lot of attention on how international adoption law is being used to take this child from her family.  But remember, the law exists to protect many other children.  And, I am confident that there are many other children that have been protected as a result of this law.  If several thousand children were protected under this law -- would it be worth the consequence of one American family losing one child?  I don't know the answer to that.  I suppose only the "law" does.

The lawyer in me knows what the law says and knows that it must be respected.  The mother in me wants to speed through all kinds of red lights to pick up my children so that I can kiss and hug them and give thanks that I get to keep them safe in my arms.  As Justice Story said, "the law is a jealous mistress."  Even though she is, I hope that at least this time, she gives the Duquet family a break.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Trust me, I'm a Lawyer.

We have all heard the lawyer jokes.  My dad told me about a hundred of these when I told him I was going to law school.

"What are a hundred lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?  A good start!"

"How do you spell 'lawyer' - easy! L-I-A-R."

"What's the difference between a lawyer and a shark? One lives in the ocean."

I am sure that you can come up with a few of your own.

While I don't mind taking some good natured jabs at my profession, I hate these types of jokes because I dislike the perception that they raise about my industry.  For me, I take my ethical responsibility to my clients very seriously.  I believe in providing my clients with excellent service -- regardless of whether I am even getting paid or not.  I believe in treating other attorneys with decency and respect.  I respect the judges I appear before.  I believe that I can be fierce without being cruel or manipulative.  It may be a simple idea, but I still hold firm to the ideology that a true fact -- will always be more powerful than a false one. 

But.  I am not the naive young attorney of seven years ago.  And unfortunately, I had a hard reminder over the past week that not all attorneys are honest -- and that many will lie and cheat to get a result -- no matter what the cost --- even if their poor decision making places their client in a terrible situation.  I cannot share the details of my hard reminder at this time -- since the matter is still pending -- but it did cause me to take pause and think.  

How do people (non-lawyers) hire an attorney?  Most of my clients come to me through a referral from a former client, a friend or family member, or from another attorney.  It is pretty rare that a client will just 'ring me up' on the phone -- although we have been getting a lot of new client calls thanks to our fancy firm website and Google.  

When a client meets with me for the first time, I like to think that I "do things right."  I ask questions.  I review their paperwork.  I listen to their story.  I tell them about my background and why I am (and in some cases am not) right for their case.  I never tell the client what they want to hear -- and always tell them what they need to know.  Some clients don't like this -- they just want to hear what they want to hear.  Unfortunately, this usually costs clients a lot of money and a lot of heartache down the road.  If I don't know an answer, I admit it -- but I ask them for the opportunity to do some research and find an answer.  Most importantly, I never lie to my clients.  Not ever. Not never. Never ever

Lawyers have a tremendous amount of power and authority over their clients' lives once retained.  We can impact a client's finances, their family, their health care, their freedom, and sometimes, even their life.  The trust our clients give to us is so special and sacred.  It is an honor to serve a client.  Many lawyers feel this way. 

But then there is the other kind of lawyer.  Manipulative.  Greedy.  Argumentative.  Polarizing.  Subjective.   While these attorneys exist throughout the legal industry -- I think they are the most dangerous in the family law sector -- where husbands, wives and children must co-exist with attorneys who have the power to help heal a family -- or destroy it further with toxic decision making.  Watch out for these kinds of attorneys.  If you think getting out of a failing marriage is bad enough, try introducing an attorney into your life who is going to rip open old wounds, play on your emotions, and use your children as pawns to get the result they want.  

So, I thought it might be helpful to offer some "tips" on selecting an attorney. 

First, if you know an attorney that you like and trust, talk to them first.  If you don't know an attorney that you like and trust, ask your friends and family if they have an attorney that they like and trust.  Don't worry about what specialty the attorney practices in at first.  Just track down an attorney that either you -- or a friend or family member -- likes and trusts.  

Once you track down this lawyer, schedule a consultation.  If this attorney cannot help you -- maybe this likeable and trustworthy attorney will know other likeable and trustworthy attorneys that they can put you in contact with.  For example, I am a personal injury attorney (a.k.a "an ambulance chaser" - another obnoxious lawyer joke).  I do not practice family law.  But I do know attorneys that I like and trust who practice family law.  I am always happy to meet with a client that comes to me from a family member or friend and listen to their problem.  If I cannot help them, I put them in contact with one of my colleagues who I know will take good care of them.  

If you cannot find any lawyers that someone likes and trusts,  I recommend contacting the local bar association of attorneys for your county or town.  Tell them what kind of attorney you are looking for and ask them for a recommendation.  Bar associations know their attorneys very well (especially the smaller ones) and can probably give you a few names. 

If you have to go blind and turn to "Google" or look a lawyer up in the yellow pages (to my disbelief - people still do this), here are some questions you should ask during your consult: 

How long have you been practicing? 
How long have you been practicing in the field for which you are being retained (i.e. family law, criminal law, estate planning etc.)? 
Name three attorneys who would give you a positive recommendation in the legal community. 
Have you ever been investigated by a regulating body for an ethics violation? 
What is your strategy or plan for my case? 
What is your practice philosophy? 
How can I help to keep the costs down? 
What do you anticipate the costs being for this case? 
What do you anticipate the fees being for this case? 
What do you know about the jurisdiction or venue where this case will be filed? 
Who are the judges practicing in that jurisdiction or venue?  Do you currently have cases pending before any of them? 
Have you ever been fired by client, if so, why? 
How will we communicate once I have retained your services? 
If I call your office or send you an email, will you be able to respond within 24 hours (excluding weekends and holidays unless it is an emergency)? 
Will you be the attorney working on my case?  Or will this case be assigned to someone else after you are retained? (Sidebar.  Many firms will "sell" a client using a seasoned partner or a senior attorney.  Once you retain the attorney, the case is then passed onto an entry level attorney or associate. If you find out that more than one lawyer will be working on your case -- ask to meet the entire legal team that will be handling the matter.). 
Has the firm/attorney won any awards? 
Have you published any articles relating to the area of law for which I am retaining you? 
Have you presented at any legal seminars relating to the area of law for which I am retaining you? 

These questions should put you on the right track.  Feel free to interview a few attorneys before you select one.  It is important that you get a good feel for the person.  Also, if you tend to be a poor judge of character, bring somebody you trust with you to the consult.  Get their opinion.  Hiring an attorney is an important decision.  

And if anyone ever tells you, "Trust me, I'm a lawyer," don't walk -- run from that office as fast as you can! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fairness Needed for Pregnant Workers

You have a mom.  I have a mom.  Somewhere, somehow, somewho -- you have a mom.  She might be a crazy workaholic.  She might be a stay at home mom who bakes delicious cookies.  She might be a stay at home mom who does nothing but online shop.  She might be an absentee mom.  She might be a mom who gave you up for adoption.  Whatever kind of mom you have -- male - female, you are here, because your mom chose to have you.

Humanity would not exist if a woman did not carry and give birth to a child.  Our kind would not be here if women did not have kids.  I am certainly not shortchanging the man's contribution to the whole process (don't worry boys -- you are important too) -- but the truth is, the physical responsibility of carrying a child and subsequently giving birth to a child, rests with us chicks.

We can all accept this as TRUE.  Please don't try and debate this with me.  I will hunt you down and attack you with my highlighter.

Since this is TRUE -- it is then common sense that during a woman's pregnancy, she will require some accommodations.  She may need to sit down and rest for a few minutes.  She may need to drink more water.  She may not be able to lift heavy things.  She may need to do all of these things to care for the child growing inside of her.

With more and more women joining the workforce -- and with more and more women becoming the breadwinners of their families -- is it completely unreasonable then, to have to offer a pregnant woman some accommodations at work?  For example, a woman who works for UPS.  If she can no longer lift heavy packages because of her pregnancy, is it unreasonable to place her on desk duty until her condition passes?  As a head's up, a UPS employee who suffers a back injury gets to be placed on desk duty until he or she is healed -- but not a pregnant woman.

Today, I read this article on CNN that detailed how pregnant women are still heavily discriminated against in the workforce.  Is this still really happening?  Don't we live in 2012?  I mean come on.  Unless we have some kind of crazy revolution where us gals are shooed out of the workforce and back into the home, I think we all need to come to terms with the fact that ladies in the workforce are here to stay.  And since women need to have kids so humanity can continue to EXIST, it makes sense that a woman's physical condition must be accommodated during the course of her pregnancy.

Go ahead.  Argue with me.  I double dog dare you.