I love dogs, but sometimes I look at my two giant canines and wonder what they bring to my house besides a mind-boggling amount of fur, regular $500+ vet bills, and a constant need for attention and love and space.
But then, I see this:
Monday, August 29, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
I may be unusual, but I really enjoyed being the interviewee when I was going through OCI and call-backs. In part, I'm sure, because I was interviewing in the pre-recession days when law firms were flush with cash and clients and in full wooing mode for candidates from top law schools. Summer programs were huge (my office had 26 summer associates when I was there in 2007; this summer we had 9) and budgets were non-existent. It never occurred to anyone in my class that we would leave law school without full-time market paying employment at a top 100 law firm if we wanted it. Times have changed and the balance of power has tipped, but I still think it was fun to speed date with various law firms over resumes and cocktails.
It's different being the interviewer. For one, you're now the wooer rather than the wooee. You're the old wife, and the firm is looking for the new hot girlfriend (or boyfriend). You have a job, so there's no pressure on you for the interview, but you have a job, so there's a lot of pressure coming from your blackberry that you can't check because you're in the interview. You're selling the firm, and you're judging your candidate, and you're trying not to crush the bright eyed enthusiasm coming from their side of the table.
I was probably not in the best frame of mind to be doing screening interviews for 22 optimistic candidates. I had finished working the night before at 4 a.m. and logged 2.25 hours of sleep before dragging myself out of bed to head to the law school. My case had exploded, I had a million and six things to do and emails to answer, and I'm staring with skeptical bloodshot eyes at someone saying "I can't wait to be a lawyer." But in spite of all that, I enjoyed myself. I like talking to people and we had some really fabulous candidates. Someone asked on the last post if I had any advice for 2Ls going through OCI right now and while it's not exactly advice, I do have a few observations, some of which surprised me (I've done a lot of call-back interviews at our office for the people who made it through the screening interviews at OCI; this was my first experience with the big pool of candidates, and at Chicago, employers have no say over who gets their interview slots, so it's more "pre-screened" than usual):
- With all but 3-4 candidates, I had my check-mark or x-mark made within 5 minutes. That surprised me the most, that you could make the decision so fast and the next 15 minutes only verified what you'd already decided. Twenty minutes was usually too much rather than too little time to spend with a candidate. This instant yes/no decision was based almost entirely on the person's ability to converse, to make eye contact, and to know a bare minimum of information about the firm (a very bare minimum).
- Candidates who had worked before law school were almost universally better interviewers. The difference in poise, confidence, and ability to answer questions about themselves and their intended career path was enormous.
- It is very annoying to hear a candidate refer to their 1L summer firm as "we". Once or twice is fine, as it can make sense to use that pronoun in some answers about your previous summer employment, but to universally refer to everything about that firm in terms of "we" in an interview with a known competitor firm is odd.
- Don't have a spiel. It's transparent and impossible to pull off smoothly. We have your resume and transcript and we'll send both to the hiring committee along with our recommendations for fly-backs, but the reason the firm pays to send three attorneys to Chicago for 2 days is to talk to you-- to have a conversation and to see if you're someone we'd like to work with. Don't launch in to a speech that doesn't allow for interruption or back-and-forth conversation, it defeats the purpose of us being in the room with you.
- If you have a minute before the interview, and if you have a laptop or the firm posts the interviewers bios outside the room, glance through them quickly to learn the basic info about your interviewers. Even just office location of each person-- it's not necessary, but it helps and is a way to show you prepared that easily works itself into your conversation. Knowing practice area is a bonus, but you definitely don't need to know more than that.
- Have a reason why you want to be a lawyer. It doesn't have to be a great one- I'm still not sure I have a great one, but just be able to talk thoughtfully about your path to law school and why you think it's right for you. That question was usually my favorite part of the interview, the answers varied so much and were usually charmingly idealistic.
- Know the firm's general clientele- plaintiffs v. defendants, government v. private, etc. Non-profit work is a wonderful thing, but you're not likely to find the same clients at a Vault 50 firm. If anything, we probably represent the companies you were adverse to and are now maligning in your interview.
Overall I have to say that most people were great. The ones who weren't, weren't, and it wasn't because of nerves or anything superficial like that. Even with no sleep and the constant emails I had to send during breaks, it was a fun day. I even met two blog readers who made me feel like a minor celebrity. I look forward to going again next year, and just hope the judge on whatever case I'm on at the time doesn't hand down a huge, case-altering ruling just as I'm about to board the plane to my city up North.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
[I just realized I re-typed the same sentence 2.5 times before noticing that I was re-typing it. I am even more tired than I thought...]
I'm here for the on campus interviews at the University of Chicago. It is all kinds of conflicted that I'm promoting the firm that is stealing all my sleep and family dinners, while being tempted to warn law students away from this crazy job, while also being truly honestly happy to have it. It's nice to think that 6 years after I started law school, I really do like being a lawyer. And I particularly like being a BigLaw lawyer. I like our cases and clients and resources and whip smart colleagues. I also really like talking to law students, which is why I'm still happy to be here, even though this non-billable excursion is costing me a whole lot of sleep tonight.
So tomorrow I'll meet with 22 rising 2L's for 20 minutes each. These are the so called "screening interviews" before you decide who to fly back to one of our offices for a set of 8 interviews before the hiring partner and committee of that office decides to give that person a summer associate offer. (Then they come for the summer to be evaluated over 6-10 weeks before the office decides whether to give them a post-law school associate offer.) I remember sitting on the interviewee side of the table 5 years ago, nervous and naively excited about my future career. I had no idea what I was getting in to, but no matter what happens over the next year, I wouldn't change anything. Through some combination of meticulous research, interviewing skills, and blind luck, I've ended up at a firm I can whole-heartedly endorse.
Also, walking through the city to dinner with the 3-attorney interview team after our pre-OCI cocktail reception (really, the first interview in this process, no matter how much we pretend it's an informal social gathering), I was hit anew with Chicago love. I miss Chicago more than I ever missed Austin and it doesn't seem to fade with time.
(Also, also, I miss these two little ones.
(*I actually never ask that question. Mostly because I still don't have an answer for it myself.)
Monday, August 22, 2011
I know it's trite, but when did my snuggly little baby become this big, very independent little girl?
Claire, being Claire, marched right in to the new Toddler room without so much as a wave goodbye. She immediately appropriated a set of plastic farm animals and then spent about 10 minutes transporting them across the room to a little nest she made in the foam "gymnasium" corner. When I went to say goodbye, she allowed a hug and gave me a brief but enthusiastic wave, before turning back to her conversation with two baby/toddler friends. She seemed much older than her 14 months.
But then, tonight, she shrieked when I walked in the door. Over the course of the evening she gave me at least 30 hugs, all of them fierce, with her strong chubby arms wrapped around my shoulders. She wanted to be near me, on me, and she sighed with happiness, head resting on my shoulder, as we sang "You Are My Sunshine" in her room before bed. And as I laid her down, her hands clutching her pink blanket and Landon's loaned duckie, it was nice to see she's still at least part baby for a while longer.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I have two stories from the past three days that I don't want to forget, but first, thank you so much for your helpful, generous, wonderfully opinionated comments on the last post. They've been printed, stapled, and lovingly placed a hypothetical folder under tab 1 of a hypothetical 10-step career plan. I'll be talking more about it, but not yet. And if it helps, the job is truly the same in all 3 places, the pay is good (but the same), and we'd be going for 3-4 years before likely returning to Austin.
Now my stories:
(1) I arrived home from California on Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. The kids were home with a back-up care nanny because daycare was closed for 3 days this week to prepare for the new school year. I opened the door and heard Landon yell "Mommmeeeeeeeeeeeee!!" - then a blue blur ran through the house and launched itself at me. As I was crouched on the floor, hugging the heck out of him, I heard a squeal come from behind the tall kitchen counter. It belonged to the Biscuit and she came charging around the corner, as fast as she could go, her water bottle clutched under her chubby little arm, her body rotating right to left as she waddle-walked as fast as she possibly could. Approximately halfway to me, a good minute or two after I'd walked in the door, she looked down at her feet with a mixture of annoyance and confusion, like "COME ON. We should be there by now!" Then she looked back up at me with an enormous smile and bright eyes, tucked her chin down and hunched her shoulders forward, and got back to moving as fast as her little body could carry her. I hope I never forget that adorable, frustrated, determined look on her face.
(2) On Thursday, I was asked to take and then help defend a deposition in New York City from Aug. 30-Sept 2. That would be my 5th cross-country trip in 5 weeks. I was given the right to veto, so I punted that to JP, telling him that while I'd love the opportunity, I would also be very happy to just stay home. He has been working 60+ hour weeks and doing the vast majority of the parenting while I've been flying about, but rather than throwing a hissy fit like I totally would have done when being told of another 4-day trip somewhere far away, he just said, "sounds like an awesome opportunity; the kids and I will be fine." Then, two hours later, I received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers with a note saying "just wanted to say we love you and are so proud of you- JP, Landon, and Claire." I have myself a really amazing husband, and in the best way possible, he never lets me forget it.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Yesterday afternoon was suddenly made fabulous by being able to meet up with one of my closest law school friends and her new baby in Palo Alto (her baby who just turned 1, but we're saying "new baby" because otherwise I'll be too sad it took me this long to meet him). We ate a delicious dinner at a Tapas place on University Avenue, stopped for frozen yogurt (Palo Alto has 5 frozen yogurt places for every 1 restaurant, it's awesome), and just like with all my law school ladies, you would never know we hadn't seen each other in person in 3 years. Also, her baby boy is adorable and made me miss my Biscuit quite fiercely. Luckily, after much suspicion, he let me hold him and love on him at the end. We played a game where he chased my feet (encased in my favorite gold glitter flats) all around my hotel room- he found it hysterical and baby belly laughs are a balm to the soul.
After dinner, reality came crashing back with two new crises which kept me up until 1 a.m., a mere 4 hours before my "I have a plane to catch" wake up call. While I do enjoy the fancy hotels and the expensing of all my food, Starbucks, and frozen yogurt needs, I am so over business travel.
Which brings me to a question we'll pretend for the moment has no practical purpose. Hypothetically speaking, if you could move to San Francisco, Denver, or Washington D.C. for the same job- where would you go and why?
Monday, August 15, 2011
So I'm back in Palo Alto, sitting in sweat pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt with both doors to my hotel room patio wide open. I realize weather is not usually an exciting topic, but it quite seriously blows my mind that there exists a place anywhere in the continental US that is less than 60 degrees in August. I find it comforting, actually. It's after midnight my time, but my happiness at the chill in the air is powering me through all the work I need to get done before I meet the partner for breakfast at 7 a.m. Well, that and the glass of red wine I just poured myself from the mini bar.
In between airplanes and hotel rooms, I have been doing a lot of deep thinking and decision making and even the tiniest bit of picture taking. Behold, my Biscuit, now more commonly called "Bear." She is a force of nature and will likely one day rule the world. For now, she's settling for complete domination of her home, daycare, and big brother.
A quick story: I picked the kids up from daycare on Thursday, and because Claire was in the hallway coming in from a buggy ride, she saw me before I could pick up Landon first like I usually do. So I grabbed her up, with her big smiles, dangerously enthusiastic gesticulating, and ear-splitting squawks of happiness, and took her to the "big kid" room to collect her brother. I set Claire down on the floor so I could sign Landon out (my left side is useless for carrying children and/or holding a pen), and rather than be overwhelmed by the large room with its large, loud kids running around, Claire marched right through the center of them, batting wayward 4-year-olds out of her way, got to the lunch table, pulled out a chair, sat herself down, and then banged on the table, like, "Hey! I'm here, come, listen to your new master." Then she surveyed her new kingdon and nodded, likely thinking that "yes, this is much better. Now, you there, bring me your favorite toy."
Thursday, August 11, 2011
You see, this is stolen time. I am supposed to be on a plane home from Seattle right this very second, but I'm not because I made it by 1 second on to an evening flight home last night and landed at 1:00 this morning. And after billing 112.5 hours so far this month (that's billed, not worked, and I didn't bill anything last Saturday), I've decided I can give myself a morning of laundry, errands, blogging, and a pedicure. It feels delicious. I'm going in to work for less than two hours this afternoon to sign an affidavit and do a few other things for a motion we're filing tomorrow and then I'm picking up the kids super early and taking them to the pool.
Out of habit, I was about to write how much I missed them on my trip, but the truth is I was in Seattle for 34 hours and I billed 28 of them. I never left my hotel room, ate room service, walked the 1 block to opposing counsel's office for the deposition, and then hailed a cab from their front step to race to the airport when it was over. There wasn't time to miss them, and the surreal feeling of the whole one-night trip left me feeling like time wasn't actually passing, so there was nothing to miss. But I am extremely happy to be back to them early- it was a judgment call at 4 p.m. yesterday: race to the airport to get in after midnight and be exhausted today because I can't sleep on planes, or spend a leisurely afternoon and evening exploring Seattle and take my original flight which landed in Austin at 5:40 p.m. today. I think I would have enjoyed the afternoon and the on-the-client dinner by the water, but by nightfall I would have felt guilty that I wasn't on my way home and by then I really would have been missing the kids. There needs to be more flight options between AUS and SEA. Well, there just needs to be better flight options to/from AUS period. Travel is the only time I realize I live in a small city.
I've had a few realizations in my last few days of working and traveling so much. One, I love cities. Really, really love them. There was a moment when I stood on the 10th floor balcony at opposing counsel's office (complete with patio furniture, an outdoor kitchen, garden, and putting green; if we move to Seattle, I'm totally applying for a job there and the head of their litigation section already said he'd hire me at the depo, though it's possible he was kidding, I should have gotten it on the record), staring at the streets below and the water just 100 yards away- I decided, we have to move. Not today and not this year, but I have to live somewhere else. I loved living in Chicago for those 3 years, and while I do love Austin and will miss it, I'm not ready to be in Texas for the rest of my life. And not just because the soul-sucking heat is crushing my spirit (though it is), but because there is so much else to see and experience and I don't want to have lived in one state for 98% of my life. But with my family here, and JP and my jobs here, neither of which have any possibility of a transfer, there's nothing to make us go. I didn't talk about it here at the time, but JP made it to the 3rd round of his dream job with Boeing in Seattle back in March of this year. If he'd have gotten it, we would have moved, and a part of me was truly sad when the opportunity didn't work out, even as another part of me was relieved because I really do love Austin and we have a great life here. My new goal is to search out opportunities over the next few years and not let complacency make decisions for me.
My other realization is that I like this, what I'm doing. I don't love the travel, but I don't hate it, and this is a highly unusual month for me. It's exciting to be in the case strategy meetings, the preparation, and the depos themselves. It's also hard and stressful as hell, but it's fun and I'm nowhere near ready to leave this yet. Being a mid-level associate has been much harder than I anticipated. I now know what I'm doing (for some stuff anyway) and that feels good, but the responsibility is much greater, and the client contact, while nice, adds another level of stress and need for constant availability. But I like it. My little family of two working parents has figured out a new rhythm, mostly by adding a new player- a very part-time nanny who picks the kids up from daycare early 3 afternoons a week and brings them home. JP and I still get home at the same time, and we all still eat dinner together and everything else, but I no longer worry about racing out the door at the exact last minute before daycare close and I no longer feel like the kids have too long a day there. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, they're home at 4:00 with Miss Natalie and when JP and I get home at 6 or 6:30, the dogs are fed, the daycare stuff is put away, and dinner is in the oven (a tray from the Casserole Queens, or one I made over the weekend). She started two weeks ago and I can barely describe the difference it's made- I'll try in another blog post, later. The point of this one is to say, everything is good. This month will end and I will have gained invaluable experience and client/partner exposure through it. My kids are wonderful- happy, healthy, safe, secure, and loved. I don't get enough sleep, I don't exercise, and I don't have any hobbies, but I have a job I enjoy that challenges and occasionally scares me and a husband who has the same and is the happier for it. I'll still have days where I'll worry about our schedule and where our careers are going (and whether we want them to go there), and days where I'll decide in that moment, this isn't worth it and I want more hours at home and Claire is getting too big too fast and I need to stop it -- I'll write about those days too.
But this morning I hugged my little ones as JP took them to daycare, looked around our home with bleary eyes, and just felt happy that we've built this, JP and me- this family and home and life. I'm proud of it, and that's where I am right now.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I was thrilled to wake up with him, thrilled to see the kids when they came in our room, but decidedly NOT thrilled to be back in this nonsense:
While in Palo Alto and its FABULOUS 65-degree weather (I actually found it reassuring that cities exist in the US where you can sit outside for lunch in August; spend too much time in Texas and you start thinking the whole US is scorched earth), I had dinner with a longtime reader. She's been reading my blog since 2007 and somewhere along the way we became facebook friends and now we're both BigLaw lawyers who can recognize each other on the street! I love that! One second after our hello hug (she held out her hand, but though I decry much of my Texas heritage, I'm a hugger), she cried out, "you have a Texas accent! I never pictured you with an accent!". Two seconds after that we took turns talking (well, we tried, there was a lot of talking at the same time too) non-stop for the next 90 minutes over a delicious dinner at Evvia. CZ, it was so great to meet you and the next time I have a "what the hell am I doing and why am I doing it" moment I hope I have someone as simultaneously sympathetic and "eh, it's all going to be fine" to talk it out with. Preferably while eating ridiculously good Greek food on a pretty street in a small downtown on a cool August evening.
I really need to go to bed, so here's bullets of other highlights and tidbits from the last 3 days:
- Highlight: drinking a half bottle of red wine on my Palo Alto hotel terrace on Monday early evening. I don't really like business travel, I'd rather be with my family in my crazy calm house, but that 60 minutes with my laptop, work, wine, and a cool breeze was lovely.
- Highlight: meeting with a law school friend on my way to the airport on Tuesday. She transferred after 1L year, so it had been forever and it was so great to see her! As it turns out, I know a lot of people in Silicon Valley. If I could take my house with me, I'd move there in a heartbeat.
- Lowlight: staring down the rabbit hole. Lately I've been tired enough (and JP has been working enough, and liking working enough) to contemplate what it might be like to not work this much. For the first time it occurred to me that we might not always NEED me in this job. I wouldn't have to be married to my blackberry, I wouldn't have to lose sleep over emails, I could spend more time with the kids, I could find hobbies! It's dangerous. It's not helping. I'll try to write about it soon.
- Tidbit: I read a blog post of a high school friend who just had twin baby boys. The pictures of the newborns all swaddled, the parents meeting them, the big sister touching their tiny feet-- I cried. Like a lot. And then I texted JP to tell him we were having another baby immediately. He lol'd back and I've since returned to reason, but man, just when I think I've made a decision on that front I change my mind again.
- Tidbit: today I responded to emails from opposing counsel and our damages expert while laying on a table getting a brazilian bikini wax. I kind of want to include that story in my year-end self evaluation- shows my dedication right? Or the first step in a complete breakdown of work-life boundaries. Either way, it's good for the firm!
Monday, August 1, 2011
As it turns out, I needed to fly to San Jose/Palo Alto tonight rather than tomorrow morning. So here I am, in a very nice hotel room, absolutely exhausted because of plane delays, and finding it very strange to think that I woke up in my childhood bedroom in Houston this morning. To update on the last few days.
Friday, JP was home with a feverish Biscuit. A feverish Biscuit who demanded much attention from everyone in the house, especially her brother, who had a very hard time with the "don't touch Claire because she's sick" rule.
The touching captured below is really our fault since we failed to cancel the nighttime wrestling match, but it's the best part of Landon's day. JP is somewhere under there too.
Our little hot potato woke up Saturday morning with another 102.8 fever, so while JP was swimming, I was at urgent care with both kids. For the millionth time I thanked God that Landon is so well behaved because Claire would not tolerate even the tiniest sliver of air between us and my two arms were occupied with my clingy little honey badger and the signing of all the paperwork.
As it turns out, Claire is teething. Teething with a side of possible ear infection, so we have some Amoxicillin to make us all feel like we're fixing something. Thirty minutes later, we were piled in the car for Houston. Even though I had a million things to do and the Bear was officially sickish, I knew my parents could handle babysitting a teething baby and my shoes REALLY needed to be worn. So off we went.
My favorite part of the whole drive is when we turn in to my old neighborhood. And not just because both kids are tired of the car at the end of hour 3 (actually, this time they were both perfect- Landon has finally decided he likes movies and Claire slept for 2.75 hours), but because it is unbelievably soothing to drive around a street you've circled one million times and find everything has remained the same in your absence. The houses look exactly the same, their lawns freshly mowed, their inhabitants surprisingly consistent. My parents have lived in their cute Victorian house for 23 years and it is going to break my heart whenever it isn't "home" anymore.
Upon arriving, Landon immediately charged upstairs to bring down the "vintage" Fisher Price Little People my siblings and I loved so much. He took the boats swimming (or "swimming") and when I went to tuck him in after JP and I returned from the reunion, I found the whole lighthouse in his bed carefully tucked under his arm.
And then there was Prom. I mean the Reunion. It was quite a bit like prom- fancy dress, date, forced pictures outside by the rose bushes.
But quite a bit different as well. For one, my date was 6 inches taller, allowing the deployment of 4.5" heels. I was 4 sizes smaller and paid for my dress with my own money. And alcohol was officially allowed (though some people still can't handle it). Also, the party was at Minute Maid Park, which was Enron Field back in our day.
Though my dad still can't take a picture without chopping off the feet or capturing odd facial expressions! (JP made me crop the one below, but at least you can see my "I have 30 seconds and a rubber band to do my hair" hair.)
It was a good time and I'm glad we went. It was amazing to see how many people looked the exact same... and how many people looked very different. It was 3 hours of deja vu- I'd be talking to someone and suddenly remember that it had been 10 years since we'd spoken last. Several people remembered I had planned to go to medical school, and many were surprised to hear I was a lawyer with two kids (I think the lawyering was far less surprising than the 2 kids). Because we never moved once I started Kindergarten, there were plenty of people there I'd known since we were both 5 -- only 1 year older than Landon!
And now I'm in Palo Alto, in weather I would describe as downright chilly compared to the high of 106 we had in Austin today. I already miss JP and the kids (so much), and am already cursing the logistics of working remotely- otherwise, this weather might just make me stay forever! I went for a short walk down University Avenue and saw all these enthusiastic people talking in cafes. After getting my "but it's so late! who eats after 9 on a Sunday?!" thoughts out of the way, I immediately wondered which one was inventing the next facebook- and then wondered if they needed a lawyer.