Law and Order
May 11, 2007

We got all dolled up and attended a Hillsborough County Bar Association dinner. In a room with 600 lawyers we dined on hotel food and listened to Fred Thompson. He is hysterical and quite fortunate having experiences from Watergate to Hollywood to Washington DC including a current stint on Law and Order, where you probably know him best. I just don't know about him as President and that has some things to do with my registered status. But we had a great time pretending to be important. The things is amongst all the speeches about how wonderful and prideful it is to be an attorney it made me not want to me one. I was coming off a pretty crappy day which did not help my sentiment regarding the law. And all the reasons cited for why the law is great and fulfilling fell on my deaf ears. What was described was not something that I feel that I actually do or that I am helping to contribute to.

My legal world is not filled with altruism and doing good and I don't often feel a sense of pride. Not in the way that was described anyway. I feel it is just a job. A new office sure, but still just a job. With that made me really wonder, and not for the first time, if this is the right fit for the long haul. Whether I should continue down this path. Because really in only a few short years I will have hit the seven year mark. Which is not reserved for just itches but also partner status. That is tempting because there is a pride there, but that too may also be short lived. However, the money and lifestyle become increasingly difficult to walk away from. Even now I would say it would be a challenge. But of course it is not impossible and my sanity and happiness certainly are not worth any amount of high income. It is just something that I have to keep in mind.

Really I also know that I have to have perspective. It has only been three years and in that time I should not have been expected to find my place. It takes time, work and a dose of good fortune to get to those kind of right fit special places. That is true of not just being a lawyer but any career choice I chose to pursue. It is not going to happen overnight and it is not going to be easy as pie. Really that is true about anything in life including friendships and relationships - they take time to build, some effort and patience and finding the right fit for you. We all look for love and spend so much time dating and investing in that relationship. This really is not that different. You need to take the time and effort to find a career that fits for you in the same way a mate would. It does not happen over night and it is not automatic that the first one is going to be right. Same deal for a job, right? So really at this point I need to just be aware of that phenomenon and keep it in perspective. Recognizing that my time will come but also knowing that I need to work at it and work towards what I want. I cannot grow easily frustrated, rather I need to keep resetting goals and deciding what I want and need to be doing.

Fred Thompson was a lawyer trained at Vanderbilt who happened to fall into a political campaign which led him to Watergate. They wrote a movie about the event and he got to play himself, which led to a film and TV career. Along the way he stayed in the law game and ran into politics as well. For him it was about timing, hard work and that dose of good fortune. I am fairly certain when he set out 35 years ago he had none of this in mind and could not have generated it if asked. That is really the beauty of it.

It is that kind of perspective I need to hold onto. That and for him it has been over 30 years of building a life and career. My three by comparison pale. Not that I want his life, but just that there are other paths out
there and that life can often lead you down them without a lot of
forethought or planning. I am lucky to have been given the chance to make these decisions and really to whine and complain about the whole thing. I also have to understand where I have come from, looking back to where I started three years ago and where I am now - knowing where I can go from here. I feel steps ahead of where I started and I can totally see new and different potential in the role I have not. Add into that what I really want to do, at least what I think that is, and I believe I should be just fine. It is not all peachy keen and wonderful, but I hope that some day it can be close to that. That and the picture below well that was my dessert, so how bad could it all really be? At least I had some chocolaty goodness to keep me warm and comforted. For the time being that is going to be enough.

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Blogger brookem said:

i think everyone feels this way at some point, especially starting out in their careers. and it really is all about perspective. what you have may be ideal to some, but it has to be right for YOU. and it all takes time, like you said, to find the rightness in the spot you're in.
that seems to not make much sense. i dont know, im a little foggy on this friday.

7:40 AM 

Anonymous dreaming said:

what is it about so many lawyers who bother with law school, only to then discover that they really are, um, writers, or Navy SEALS or 3rd grade teachers?

yr not alone in yr discontent. but if the money and 'lifestyle' are what you focus on when the job seems like shit, then you could be one of them....

7:53 AM 

Blogger Bre said:

Once upon a time I was a power-suit wearing big wig with a paycheck that even I could barely put a dent into.

And I was miserable.

Now I work for peanuts, scrape together change at the end of the month, and I am blissfully happy with the change.

I'm not saying, of course, that you need to change or even will find that you want to. But I've found that, though it has moments of frustration when it comes to the money and the lifestyle, walking away for something that makes you happier isn't as tough as it seems at first!

7:56 AM 

Blogger e.b. said:

There are certain obligations you have at certain times that are not about prestige but about getting by and not incurring debtors. At some time you get to a point where that is less of problem and you can take those steps. It is personal to all. Money always is people.

All things job related are not so terrible. I did work hard to get here and for that I am proud. There are certain aspects I love and things about my personality that are so so so right for this. So making a move is a big deal and not just for economic reasons.

8:00 AM 

Blogger JustRun said:

Oh I think you and I could write the same work stories right now (except mine does not contain law school because, umm, no way could I have survived). It is a difficult spot because while there isn't a darn thing wrong with what you do, there's something just not right about it, either. Not forever, anyway.

I have the same confidence as you, though, that it's just too early and little by little, we'll find more of a fit.

8:52 AM 

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I like how you are grappeling with your position in work and not just accepting it for life. If with time it turns out that this 'fits' you and you do become a partner...sweet. If not, I like that you've already condidered the fact that there just might be something else out there you could do that might fit you too. I had to realize that after I had to walk away from performing and doing it after you leave the thing you thought fit you - makes it tough. Just keep your heart and thoughts open! :)

9:07 AM 

Blogger Rachel said:

you should blog more about all your partying and then Fate will decide for you.

Fred Thompson rocks. I'm kinda jealous.

9:28 AM 

Anonymous brandy said:

I think what makes this so tricky (at least when I struggled with something that your post reminded me of), is that no choice is horrible. You aren't choosing between a life of guaranteed personal happiness and selling plastic purses out of your trunk and crying yourself to sleep. I used to hate that- knowing that I couldn't readily make a choice because one wasn't awful. Now, (like you!) I see that's a blessing. If I'm choosing between equally amazing options in my life, that pretty much makes me think I have a great life. And when you don't know what to do, sometimes knowing you have a good life can get you through until you do know what to do. Holy hell. This just turned into a country song.

10:24 AM 

Blogger dara said:

I think the one thing I took away from my time working for the big lawfirm was that there's a big difference between occasionally not liking your job (and wondering if it's the right fit) versus absolutely hating what you do and everything about it.

So here's my unsolicited advice:

The first scenario is acceptable. Some days are good, others are not, and, yeah sometimes the road is quite bumpy and you're not sure it's the road you want to be on. But it's not the worst thing for you to be doing, it keeps you from defaulting on your student loans/mortgage payment, and yeah, maybe something better will come along someday.

The latter is unacceptable, and if it's the case, you should find something else to do as soon as possible. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

10:29 AM 

Blogger Accidentally Me said:

Well, everyone I know hates lawyers (hee hee...kidding. Most people hate most lawyers, but not all of them:-))

The thing about that kind of job is that all the time you put in now qualifies you to do a lot of different things later on that would be much more fun. Most companies have a general counsel, for example, which pays really well and would require probably less work...and the right to pawn of the tedious stuff to your underlings:-) But you can't do that if you don't first put in your time as a peon.

So, I think Fred is right...keep doing what you think is right, and good things will happen that you can't imagine yet:-)

10:46 AM 

Blogger Mel said:

You owe me chocolate just for putting that picture up. Mean, so mean.

I hope you find what you need inside to be happy and content, no matter what you do. :)

11:16 AM 

Blogger Ally said:

I know what you mean about not having a sense of pride about really really helping people. Sure we're helping an insurance company keep premiums down by defending against a bogus claim for damages or helping company X not spend as much money on the agreement with company Y, but in the end some of us want more of an altruistic feeling on a regular basis (although there's nothing wrong with not wanting that in a vocation). I guess it's wanting a feeling of personal satisfaction that we're using our intelligence and abilities to help someone in a unique way--like how I felt when my indigent defendant told me how much my kindness and help meant to him. We don't tend to hear that from insurance adjusters after all:) It's easy to feel like a widget of sorts.

As for the long haul, the awesome thing about our generation is that it's much more acceptable now to switch paths midstream. Of course there are factors like economics that make that less desirable--which is one reason I never adjusted my standard of living with raises--and used that money to pay off my debts and build my 401k and savings.

One thing I did that was sort of helpful was writing down each day how I felt about my job, the work I'd done that day, etc. and then looked back after a few months to see the general sentiment. Because sometimes a busy week or a bad day can color our perception, and then again, sometimes we realize that a pattern of discontent and stress is evident too many days to be acceptable.

12:24 PM 

Blogger Ally said:

p.s. I think that was the longest comment ever!

12:24 PM 

Blogger e.b. said:

Thank you all for your comments, ideas, and support. It helps to hear it all and to get it out there. Ally I REALLY like your idea about making a list - I also like the long comments, isn't that what this space is for?

Sorry Mel - it was wrapped in this chocolate bowl too which is not in the picture because I ate it!

Brandy - lucky for you I like country music.

AM - is that why I have issues? I hate myself?!?! But you are right in house counsel is a great opportunity and something you cannot usually consider until a few years in.

Dara - I know you know this and really Ally too though you have chosen different paths. I can say I am not at the latter, not yet, so I will take my own personal steps from there.

JR - You so could've made it through - don't sell yourself short. Everyone can do it - it just takes time and dedication, which it seems to me you have if your running/exercise schedule is any indication.

Rachel - he did rock he has this awesome southern accent that was to die for. You shoulda come along!

1:10 PM 

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