Friday, December 31, 2010

No. 6 - "I work at a law firm" becomes "I'm a lawyer"

I went to college with the intention of enjoying the experience, making new friends, learning some new things, and graduating.  Other than that, I had no real plans for the future.  I did not grow up knowing what I wanted to be or do in my adult life.  I had general notions of success, being able to support myself and a family, and doing something that would make my parents proud of me.  The specifics though were always blurry. 

Even as a senior at DePauw, when graduating with good grades and a lot of accolades was just a few months away, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I interviewed with random companies that all told me I was "over-qualified" for the position they had available.  I was miffed.  So, I bit back at the corporate world and sent a huge application to Teach for America and attended a day-long interview that was by far the most intimidating thing I've ever done for a job.  I studied for and took the LSAT and applied to a couple of law schools.  Low and behold, I was not over (or under) qualified for either TFA or the College of Law at the University of Cincinnati and was accepted to both.  Yay for options but boo for having to make tough decisions.

Me and Dana at a Cardinals game with
our students.
At our end-of-year- party. Phew!

Those of you who know me well know that I chose to join TFA, moved to St. Louis, had a desk chair thrown at my head, sprayed two brawling teenagers who were 18x my size with Windex, called a classroom full of seventh graders "crackheads" while on the phone with some one's grandmother, raised the average reading level of my homeroom class from 4.2 to 6.7 in one year, donated every book, crayon, marker, bag of candy and piece of chalk I had spent all of my money on to the school, and quit more in debt than I was when I had started 9 months earlier.  Clearly a success.  I always say, I love teaching but I hate babysitting other people's kids for a piddly $7 an hour.  Teachers just aren't valued like they should be.

UC Law Graduation, 2008

So, on to law school it was.  I loved law school.  I mean, I ate that stuff up.  The competition, the huge classes and even huger books, law review, cleeckers, the law review lounge, the new people I met... all right up my alley.  I would go to law school forever if it didn't cost so damn much.  In hindsight, I should have gone to a more prestigious school so that I could have qualified to be a professor.  I'm pretty sure no law school student has ever thrown a chair at his professor.

Anyways, I was fortunate enough after law school to be offered a job at a good sized law firm in Indianapolis.  Unlike many of my classmates who graduate without any good job prospects, I found a firm that pays well, has nice benefits, and for the most part, respects my personal life and family time.  For the first year and a half though, when ever anyone asked "what do you do?" I said "work at a law firm downtown."  If I wasn't asked to elaborate, the inquirer, probably walked away thinking I was a secretary or a janitor. I was not exactly exuding the confidence or swagger that most people expect from an attorney.  The problem was that I just didn't feel like an attorney.  I didn't do anything lawyer-like.  I didn't go to court.  I didn't talk to clients.  Heck, I barely even talked to other lawyers from other law firms.  I still had my training wheels on while the people around me gained confidence in my abilities to not royally screw up and I was terrified of the moment they would come off.

But, in 2010, they did.  I knew it would happen eventually and, luckily, it wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated.  It was actually kind of liberating.  I wrote some briefs, I took a deposition, I "won" a small claims trial on my own, I bargained and negotiated with opposing counsel.  I felt like I was earning my salary and like I was proving my worth.  I've proudly told people for the last 6 months that "I'm a lawyer" and I really do feel like one (most days).  Clearly a success.

Very truly yours,

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