Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Part-Time Jurl

Well, there has been a change in my life-- as of last week I am a part-time lawyer jurl. After a couple of months of intense negotiation (or a fifteen minute conversation where I begged for mercy and two months of Big Boss thinking about it), I now work three days a week.

And now a word about lawyering. No one goes to law school hoping to work part-time. In fact, there are three reasons someone goes to law school: 1) to be rich; 2) to save the world from injustice; and 3) can't think of anything better to do.

Now, upon graduating, a law student is usually heavily in debt and cannot afford to save the world, but instead gets busy saving pennies. The law student motivated by money will also quickly realize you don't get rich lawyering (unless you're a wildly successful plaintiff's lawyer- now those bastards are sick rich). And after the fiftieth legal research memo those that couldn't think of anything better to do wish they'd thought a little harder.

So, you're dreams crushed, you get yourself a law job and try to make the best of it. I would say within a few years 70% of lawyers have major job dissatisfaction, as in they hate their job. Why? Because lawyers are assholes (and the work is pretty stressful and demanding, too).

Now of course there are lovely lawyers, like moi and my pals, but a large number of them, female and male variety, are walking egos, bullying and bragging their way through life. Ugh. If I hear one more lawyer tell one more war story about some deposition where they asked stupid questions my eyes will vomit.

For female lawyers the percent of job-hating is even higher, somewhere like 95%. Why? Because, like I said, lawyers are assholes. And even the most stalwart lady-lawyer will get tired of mining these assholes for nuggets of justice (there's no mining and usually no justice, but I thought that sounded good). I'm pretty sure women have a lower tolerance for the braggadocios shenanigans that goes on between lawyers. Oh, and women tend to have two careers, the law and the mom. Both three letter words deserving of immense respect, but only one actually generates any in the working world.

You don't realize you aren't cut out for this life-time of bickering and bullshit until you're knee deep in it. You start out a feisty young thing with no kids and you tell yourself you can keep up with all these assholes, but then.....you have kids. Suddenly, there's something more important and more demanding than your law firm. And after spending eight hours at work wet-nursing a bunch of baby lawyers, pacifying ego-maniacal partners, and arguing with some jack ass opposing counsel, there's not much left for your little bundle of joy and there's nothing left for you.

So, priorities change, though sometimes slowly. The older your kids the more work they become and the more work they become the more you feel like you're going to snap, get in your car and drive to Alaska where you will change your name to Gem Star, sale fish heads turned into decorative, but useful, items like a pencil cup or a vase, telling everyone you're an orphan with no family whatsoever!

Despite my own distress of juggling three jobs (parent, house keeper, and lawyer) and general dissatisfaction in life, it took me awhile to commit to the idea of part-time.

For starters, I like not thinking about what I'm spending. That said, we do not live extravagantly, but just waste money here and there (see Ode to Super Target). Still, it's nice to not think about how much you're spending at the grocery store (or Super Target).

The other issue with part-time is the feeling that you're giving up on what you set out to do all those years ago when you spent three years and $100,000 on a legal education. In a firm, like most jobs I'm sure, you're only as good as what you just did and in a blink of an eye you can lose your spot on the ladder of achievement.

But a few things happened to help me decide what I really wanted in my life. Last year, I finally made partner. That was the one thing I wanted to do in my professional career and once it happened I felt like I could chillax. Though I am but a lowly non-equity partner (meaning I'm still a paid employee), I am a partner.

The other change was the slow evaporation of my work. I represent companies that allegedly, allegedly I said, made asbestos-containing products and some Texas judges decided that there should be fewer of these junkie cases in our great state. Voila! Plaintiffs flee to California to mine for negligence gold, leaving us poor Texas lawyers to wonder what our next career might involve......perhaps tutu making or tamale preparation.

Finally, I've discovered that I like to write. It sounds dopey and silly, but it's true. So, less legalizing and more writing was where I wanted to be.

Anyway, I decided lawyering didn't really define or inspire me and if there was ever a time to make this move it was now. I also decided I could waste a little less money at Super Target (goodbye, lover!), though I needed serious encouragement from my dear friend Taz that I could actually live on a budget.

At 36 I am finally figuring out what I want to do with my life. I'm a late bloomer to be sure, but that's just how I do things. It takes me years of forcing my round self (not intended to be a fat joke) into a square hole before I wake up and say, "Oh wait! I don't really want this at all! I want something else entirely! Man, am I a dumb ass (shake head wryly)!"

I'm sure I'll find some new complaint like how two days off just isn't enough or how I actually work harder on those two days performing manual labor than if I just went to work and sat on my ass, but for now I will rejoice that I've taken a step in a new direction and, more importantly, that I continue to bloom.


Beverly said...

Good for you on making partner and on prioritizing. I wish I could work part-time. Maybe one day. Now get to writing!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations for taking the leap and being courageous enough to go after what you want. If you believe it or not you are inspiring.
Keep Blooming!!!


Shea said...

Awesome news about going part-time. I'm doing a similiar thing once my boys start school in August! I'm only going to work while they are in school. No more mornings without mom!

Claudia said...

yes, truly inspiring... I am jealous.

Anonymous said...

This posting was so incredibly on point to my life, legal career, mom career and outlook in general that it very nearly made me call for an exorcism to get you out of my head. Cuz you are so on my wavelength its scary. I am inspired- will you negotiate on my behalf for a PT position before I go bat-ass crazy!??!?!?!

jurl said...

Thanks, Jurls. I must say it rocks. I even kept my little soul-suckers home with me this week on my days off and actually enjoyed it! The thing most improved by part-time is my weekend...I actually have one. I wish I could get this deal for every working momma. I'm feeling a whole lot less postal now so my firm should rest easy with the knowledge that it's unlikely I'll hurt someone at work.

Anonymous said...

I am so freakin happy for you! You will enjoy being a lawyer more now that you will have time to enjoy the other aspects of your life as well. ITs all about balance.