Friday, October 28, 2005

"This was your decision."

OK - this will be a short entry, but I just had to write it.
Last night before class, a friend and I were teasing each other about hearing from our partners unsypathetic variations of the phrase, "This was your decision." Both of us have supportive partners, but let's face it, being with a law student is no easy task. As I have mentioned before, our families bear additional burdens due to our student status, so it's not unreasonable that they sometimes have little sympathy for our self-imposed stress, lack of sleep, workload..etc.

As we were talking, a classmate starts laughing and says, "Oh my gosh, I hear that all the time!"

He says he was a wonderfully supportive wife. We all do - and part of that support seems to be reminding us that it was our choice to go to law school :)

I suspect only other law students will find this entry amusing.

(To my partner: I love you, honey!)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

There must be a paper due......
because here I am writing a blog instead of going over the paper that I must hand in tonight. I think it is really close to being done. It is our second legal memo. We've been working on it for about a month and it's gotten to the point that I've read it so many times it no longer makes sense. Our prof. once used the phrase "total abomination" to describe the only reason a paper would be handed back to completely rewrite. While I don't think my paper quite fits that description, those words echo in my head and are much easier to understand than my discussion about a landowner's possible breach of duty to a juvenile delinquent who got hurt trying to destroy his property.

Funny how we all get hung up on certain parts of an assignment, sometimes to the exclusion of actually completing the assignment correctly. Recently much of our class handed in a less than complete assignment because they'd been so focused on one aspect of it that they did not hear the instructions about the full assignment. Our prof. took some of the blame and gave them an extension, but I find that the error is analogous to the entire paper - ha - and even life!

It is so easy to get hung up on an area we are having trouble with, or that is especially time-consuming, that we neglect the other pieces to the detriment of the whole. Guess that gets us right back to that "balance" message again......all parts of our life need attention, or the "whole" will suffer. We must make time for family, friends, fun, spirituality, eating right, sleeping (what is that??), while maintaining our law school career, and for many of us, a job or existing career. Big question - when? In my 8 weeks of wisdom of balancing all of this, my best answer at this point, is it doesn't all happen all the time, or even every week, but I think it can be "rotated in." One Saturday, you meet with friends for dinner, the next go to a movie with your partner, grab an hour on Sunday to read a book or watch some tv, take a few minutes to IM a friend every couple days. It's not life like it used to be, but it's still life!

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Stolen Weekend!
We had the best weekend - a totally spontaneous trip to the beach!

My Friday night legal writing class had been canceled, and I decided that my family needed to spend time with me more than I needed to go to my 7:00pm Civ Pro class (for just one night). We were all looking forward to our first Friday night together in 7 weeks. We'd probably grab a pizza and just enjoy our few extra hours together. It was a gorgeous day. Three people over the course of it told me they were heading to the coast for the weekend. As I pulled into our driveway at 3:00pm Friday afternoon I thought - WE could go to the coast, too. It was crazy. It would be expensive. It would be fun!

I raced into the house. All were napping except the dogs. I called the hotel we stayed in this summer. They had a room available. I couldn't book yet, as I'd not talked to my partner. I'd call back shortly. Soon, I peaked into the bedroom and saw my partner was awake.

"Wanna do something totally fun and irrresponsible?"
"Wanna go to the beach for the weekend?"

We NEVER do anything this spontaneously - not before kids, and certainly not since. This normally would be WAY out of my partner's comfort zone. Not this time :)

Within 40 minutes of that conversation, we were packed and heading for the coast! Our son was really excited when he awoke from his nap to find us packing. He asked about every 10 minutes for the 2-hour drive how long it would be until we were at the beach. (2 hours there due to traffic - made it home in 90 minutes!)

Saturday was a wonderful, gorgeous, warm, fun day. We played, we all got along, no big conflicts or meltdowns. For more details and pictures - see my partner's blog.

We headed back fairly early Sunday morning so I could spend the afternoon doing the homework that I'd normally have done on Saturday. We decided that next time I should take my books and study late into the night. I personally think NOT studying was much more rejuvenating!

I already have two sets of notes for the CivPro class I missed, and though I know I can't make a habit out of it, I really believe this "stolen time" was exactly what our family needed this weekend.

Chalk one up for my attempt at "striking a balance" that we hear so much about.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What’s an evening student to do? Most of us work all day, go to school at night and the remainder of our time is spent trying to balance homework and family. Still, there are certain realities of law school and ultimate employment, and those realities have to do with our academic career beyond the grades. Books (and advisors, I presume, though I’ve not had time to talk to one) tell us that we need to get on a law review, go to seminars, volunteer for student groups or pro bono work. I personally am inundated with email every day with extracurricular options to gain useful advice from and schmooze with top attorneys, authors, judges, career experts, and others that will help me not only make a career decision, but perhaps assist in the invaluable process of networking. I would love to participate in at least half of these things. Pro bono work, of course! Work on a law review, sure! Those would be great experiences and would be super on a resume, but the reality is, there are four days a week that I already don’t see one of my kids. When exactly do I fit anything else in, and if I don’t, how do I compete with the (mostly day) students who have had plenty of time filling their time with useful law-related activities?

Sure, I already have a job in an area at least somewhat related to law. Holding down that job, maybe even excelling at it, while going to school will say something about the kind of person I am. OK, good. My grades will count for a lot, as I understand it. (I went to The Evergreen State College where we did not have grades, so this concept eludes me.) That I can work on, but being a first year and having very little idea of what exams will really be like, this area makes me nervous. (I know, join the club.)
What is the real expectation? Do they (you know, “Them”) expect that evening students compete in the same way as day students? How do employers evaluate one experience versus another? I guess that’s what it all comes down to – our experiences are just different. I’d love to be having the non-working or part-time working day-student experience, but that’s not the reality of my life. Maybe I can sneak in a bit of pro bono work or contribute something extracurricular here and there over the next four years (yes, evening is a 4-year program). If I do not, will it be the cause of my law career never even getting off the ground? Probably not, but I guess I should talk to an advisor about low time commitment projects that help build experience and resumes!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Appreciating the simple things:
Yesterday we spent a good part of the day doing fall clean-up in our back yard, and I have to say, it was quite enjoyable. The weather was cool and cloudy, but not rainy. My son and I started by letting the air and small bit of water out of his pool while we looked for bugs (mostly drowned spiders) and slugs. That was soon followed by playing with the worms that were found under the pool when we lifted it from the location it had been in all summer. Our boy managed to pick up his first large worm, usually preferring that I do it for him. It was a proud moment J

My partner and I stashed as many outdoor toys into the tree house/shed that we could, trimmed dead branches and even cleaned out the garage a bit, which we had to do to make room for the battery-powered Barbie car that had been in the backyard. It was nice working together, appreciating the joy my son was feeling on his bug and worm hunt, and seeing the results of our hard work. Our baby girl was out with us in her activity saucer for a little bit, but being confined, she was not enjoying herself nearly as much as she thinks she would have if we’d let her crawl around (and attempt to put every bit of nature she could in her mouth). Well, next year, I’m sure she’ll be out with the rest of us, dragging sticks around and playing with worms.

I did not manage to work on the legal memo outline that is due Tuesday unless pondering the fictional Mr. Potter’s possible breach of duty to infant trespassers while I was in the shower counts. I’m finding just how much time and thought must go into legal writing projects, and like all of my writing, I want this to be good, so naturally, I am procrastinating as much as possible. I seem to operate under the belief that the Great Gods of Writing will infuse my brain with wisdom and clarity if I let the project simmer long enough. It’s always worked before. We’ll see how that method works out for me now!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why didn't I listen to my mother?
She told me when I was 18 that I should be a lawyer. I laughed and said something flip about not wanting to spend my life defending criminals. Too bad my viewpoint was so narrow then. If I had gone to law school when I was just out of college, I wouldn't be dealing with nearly the challenges I have now. Plus, maybe Mom would have been paying my way!

Now, it's 21 years later, I have a wife, 2 small children and a full time job. Four nights a week I only see my son for about an hour of the day, very late at night. I see my wife only slightly more than that, after the boy is asleep. I generally don't see my daughter awake at all those four nights. Two other days a week, I do homework until about 3:30, and then the evening is devoted to family time. The family misses me. My wife is going crazy being on duty all day and into the night. I miss them, too, and sometimes it's hard, keeping up the energy, doing the commute, handling the homework, doing the work work and most of it on not enough sleep. Still, as my wife points out, it was my choice and I am doing something I want to be doing. It was not her choice to become a single mom four nights a week and have her weekend cut down to one day.

From within me, I know I can handle this all and feel that I am doing the right thing. Overall I am happy with my life and with my decision to go to law school. Sure, there will be hard times, but life is full of challenges. When I broaden my perspective though, I get into those incredibly dangerous "shoulds". Should I be doing this to my family? I am missing out on so much of my kids' lives, not being the supportive partner my wife expected, and just generally am not there. The "for the greater good" argument is that someday this will all be worth it. By the time my kids are really involved in school activities or sports, I will be able to be around. In theory, I will be making more money to support my family (that is, as long as the job pays enough - I'll have those damn student loans to pay back). I'll be a shining example to my kids that we are all lifelong learners. I'll hopefully be doing good work in the world. I'll hopefully be happy in my career. Also, I will have gone to law school. Let's face it, there is something intrinsicly cool about that. Granted, the coolness does not outweight the $130K of student loans, but it is a nice perk :)Should I be doing this?

Please God (Goddess, Higher Power), let this all be worth it.