Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Law school isn't hard

Yesterday when I was leaving my clinical office, I rode down on the elevator with my supervising attorney and another attorney from the office. They were leaving for the day, and I was headed home to continue work on my giant research paper and to cram for my final on Friday. I looked at them chit-chatting and said, "I'm so jealous of you guys. You don't have finals to study for."

They laughed. Scoffed, more like it. Their workload is so immense, and the consequences for not doing their best work far exceeds mine. When they screw up on a deadline, their clients get deported. When I screw up, I get half a letter grade off. It reminds me of what an attorney I know said to me during the very first week of law school: "Law school isn't hard. Being a lawyer is hard."

Of course, I'm still riddled with anxiety over this paper and my exams, and the few cases from clinic that I still have to finish before I go. And the loose ends that must be tied up here and there (and everywhere) before I can graduate. I'm still paranoid that something will happen at the last minute and I won't be allowed to walk across that stage. Even thinking about it to type this short paragraph makes my heart quicken with nerves.

But I'm putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that it will work out. I've been given a lot of support from friends and family, who remember a similar panic from when I was wrapping up undergrad eight (EIGHT?!) years ago. It's their encouragement that gives me strength, and their advice rings in my ears as I try to just get it done.

Yesterday a client came to my neighborhood to drop off a critical document we needed for deadline. I met her in the parking lot of the convenience store by my house. When I got there, she was standing outside smoking with her sister. As we talked, they both drilled me with questions about the process of getting her immigration relief. How long will she have to wait to hear back? What happens next? Who will guide her through the process? Will my organization still be her attorney after I leave? When can she work? And the hardest question of all: What do I think the outcome of her case will be? I tried to give her the best answers I knew off the top of my head, crafting responses that would make sense with her limited English and that would give her the confidence to be a good witness without creating false expectations about the certainty of a positive outcome.

Then I got the best encouragement I've received so far. My client's sister, who herself has an attorney and has dealt with many through her family, said that I would make a great lawyer. She praised my ability to explain things to them in terms they understood, and said she really appreciated that I hadn't lost sight of her sister's humanity. Really. That's what she said. After we said goodbye, I went back to my apartment smiling. If I get my law degree, and if I become a lawyer, it will be thanks to the inspiration of people like my client's family, and all the immigrant families I've known who have fought to put down roots in their communities, sometimes despite the quite hostile terrain. And in the end, no matter how hard it gets, I'll try to remember that I've got it pretty good.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The last mile

It's exhausting. But I'm starting to see a faint flicker of light off in the distance. Could it be the end of the tunnel?

I wonder if when it's all over, and I look back at my time in law school, it'll seem like one long fever dream.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cosby Show quizmaster

Things I've done to procrastinate in the last 24 hours:
- Baked brownies
- Played Spider Solitaire, sudoku and Klondike
- Read the Wikipedia articles on the entire cast of the Cosby Show
- Sang "I just died in your arms tonight" and "We built this city" on YouTube karaoke
- Updated my other blog and obsessively checked its stats on Google Analytics.
- Scoured Google Maps to get a better understanding of the urban layout of Kingston, Jamaica
- Called lots of landlords about potential apartments
- Napped

I'd say it's been a productive day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It was a beautiful day.

Let it be known that today was a beautiful day.
The weather outside was undeniably warm. No question about it.
I wore my brown HM t-shirt with the stripes, and my hot pink sweatshirt.
During Advanced Contracts, I discovered the rumor was true: I do NOT have to have all of my supporting documentation in to the State Bar Examiners by the regular filing deadline (Friday) in order to pay the regular filing fee.
I confirmed that with FSIL on the front steps of the law school building.
Although I spent about six hours in the library doing legal research for a client who is at risk of being deported to a country he doesn't know, where he would more likely than not be killed, I enjoyed the work. This makes me think I might actually like being a lawyer.
My life decisions, if only for a day, have been validated.
Tomorrow I have an appointment to look at a very promising apartment in our neighborhood and price range.
There is a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and an episode of Steven King's The Stand awaiting me in the living room.
The windows are open and the breeze is blowing through the house and the noises of passing cars are soothing to some deep down part of my soul that was probably born in childhood when I had dreams of living in a big city.
Let it be recalled, it was a beautiful day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

perfect costs as perfect does

the search is on for our new apartment! t and i have already looked at two this morning. all this thinking about relocating really has me thinking more generally about where we live. essentially, it's the perfect neighborhood, as far as city living goes. it's right in the heart of the city, without being noisy. it's as safe as city living can be. the neighbors are a diverse set of characters: young families, old italians, immigrant workers, all ages and races. within two blocks of my apartment are two grocery stores (including whole foods!), a pet store, two coffee shops, several restaurants/bars, a wine & liquor store, mail supply store, playhouse, bike shop and park. my landlords are on the corner, as is a bus stop. and beyond the immediate vicinity, it takes between 5 and 10 minutes to walk to city hall, to the big shops, the tourist destinations, the subway and train stations. t's walk to work is about 15 minutes. i looked up the walkability score of my address yesterday on out of 100 points, it scored a 98.

so those are all awesome things about our neighborhood. as you can imagine, it comes with a price that could be easily avoided by moving to a further out neighborhood. there are lots of cool, up-and-coming neighborhoods full of young, creative people doing interesting things, with housing that is significantly cheaper than the housing in our neighborhood. it happened that we really lucked out and it was pure chance that we found our current firetrap through word of mouth before we had even moved to the Big City. we rent from some old-school neighborhood types that don't know about Craigslist and are charging us less than market value. sometimes when i walk through our neighborhood and look at the amazing houses and beautiful street art and famous eateries, i wonder how we ended up here. that's when i start to think we're crazy for trying to get a better deal here in the neighborhood.

we absolutely have to find a larger space, soon. this tiny apartment has been perfect for the three years i've been in law school. if i were honest, i'd say i could continue to live here a little longer and save money, just to keep the location. but we need access to the outside, beyond an open window on the third floor. t routinely talks about wanting a better apartment. and our friends (who have two incomes) live in an awesome place just a block away. so we're searching, and we're putting up more money for it. but a part of me wonders if it's realistic to expect to find the perfect "next step" apartment in our current neighborhood. i also wonder what it says about us that this is where in the city we've chosen to live. we have friends who pay half what we're willing to pay, for much bigger space, in different areas. when people hear where we live, they peg us as yuppies. when i ask around at shops for potential leads in the neighborhood, i get comments about how hard places are to come by here and how expensive they are.

if we can pull this off, it'll be amazing. i just don't want to go broke doing it. oh, exciting times. i can't wait to see where we end up.

Monday, April 4, 2011

zomg i'm almost finished: a freak out

Today I had the sudden realization that I am going to be finished (FINISHED?!) with law school in a month. I mean, I've known that the end was approaching for quite some time. But this was like an out of body realization. *I* am going to be finished with law school? For real? Didn't I just get here? I still sometimes feel surprised that I ended up being a law student in the first place. I don't *feel* like a law student, much less a lawyer. Yet, as swiftly as it began, it is coming to an end. And I can't shake the feeling that I am getting to resume my life, as if it was on pause for a while or something.

The thought of being a working stiff again sends pleasing shivers down my spine. I remember those joyous, carefree days of putting in a good day's work, coming home to our cozy apartment and sitting on the porch with a PBR and a good book. Or maybe T & I would go out for dinner and watch television at a friend's house. On any given weekend, we'd spontaneously drive out on a scenic back road until we hit the mountains. Wait - am I missing life before law school, or Virginia? I seem to have conflated the two.

The reality is that my post-law school life will probably not look similar to my pre-law school life so much as it will be some other unpredictable permutation of "life over the age of 25" (ha!) or "life from 30 on up" as my blog's sub-title should be renamed soon enough. It's not as if I'll magically relocate to our old apartment with the tilted balcony and temperate winters once I've been handed that sweet, sweet JD. We'll still be in the Big City, at least for now. (Although we will hopefully be out of the firetrap, finally.)

But the scariest part of how different things will be once I have my law degree has nothing to do with my lifestyle, per se, or my housing arrangements or where we live. It has to do with work. What will it look like? Will I screw it up? Being a lawyer is much scarier, it seems like, than being a human resources person or whatever you want to call the kind of professional I was before I left for law school. I mean, just to be allowed to do this job, I have to go digging through my past and confess to every little transgression I may or may not have been caught for. (Hello, six stitches on my chin from a bad night out when I was a junior in college. Come on in, various tickets for expired registration! Long time, no see!) Just today I discovered that I owed my college town a bunch of money in property taxes that I had NO IDEA I even had, for a time when I wasn't even living in the municipality. The joys of LexisNexis Public Records searches and nosy bar examiners. Couldn't I just take the pat down?

Ok, I'm rambling. I mean, I just really want to be a good lawyer, and I really want to do this work. To even get to that point, I need to graduate, successfully complete the APPLICATION for the bar, and then, you know, pass the bar. And then I have the rest of my career as a lawyer to be on my best professional behavior - not procrastinate, not forget a date, not mess up my advice, not commit malpractice. I'm just nervous, ok? I can't believe I got this far. I don't want to screw it up