2

There is no success without preparation

Trial college went from 7:30am-7pm today, with nary a break in between. Boy am I tired. And I still have homework.

20130105-193535.jpg

We focused on opening statements today. I do not like doing openings. I don’t care much for closings either, but openings are my absolute least favorite part of a trial. I’m very much an action/reaction, question/answer, challenge/solution kind of person, and openings are so one sided. It’s a speech, but it’s a speech that you have to make a totally disinterested panel of jurors interested in. It’s super super hard.

Since work has been very busy, I did not do the reading ahead of time and did not prepare my opening ahead of time. I thought “oh heck, it’s a CLE. Who prepares for a CLE?” It’s no defense, but I wasn’t the only one. Out of my class of 8, it was noticeable that only two people prepared ahead of time. And you know what the result of this was? Six less than stellar opening statements.

I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I was cocky. I was sitting in the chair thinking “oh heck, I’ll wing it. It’ll be great. I know how to do trials.” But you know what, that’s not true. I’ll do great if I prepare. And I didn’t prepare, so my opening was bad. I’m glad for the lesson. I needed to be cut down to size. Overconfidence does not win trials. Being prepared wins trials.

The instructor (a distinguished Virginia Circuit Court Judge) remarked that my opening sounded more like an appellate brief than an opening statement. He was completely right. Big words and complex sentence structures doesn’t win over juries. I need to remember my audience.

I’ve learned helpful lessons today. Though I fell flat on my face in my opening, I am proud that I did not get defensive and try to justify my performance. I listed to the instructor’s comments and realized Yes. He’s right. I did it wrong. He’s telling me I did it wrong because he is trying to help me.

I did it wrong today, but I’ll do it right tomorrow. And even if I do it right tomorrow, I still need to listen closely, because there is so much more to learn.

20130105-193542.jpg

1

Snowy Pittsburgh

When the snow starts falling in Pittsburgh, this California girl prefers to stay indoors until Springtime breaks. The snow started yesterday, and I was thrilled that I had already arranged to have the day off. The roads were still snow covered today, and as I lazily awoke and stumbled about the house, I considered staying home today as well. After all, it would be a slow day and everything I needed to do, I could do from home.

Then Baby Beez woke up. In rare form.

20121227-204400.jpg

Yet another blurry picture, because this kid never sits still. Here she is breaking in her new cowgirl boots with a little boogie. She was bolting around the house. Suddenly, grown up time in the office sounded perfect.

20121227-204410.jpg

Coffee and privilege logs and pleadings. And I got to pick the music.

2

NaBloPoMo Day 7: Chillin out Maxin’ Relaxin all Cool

What is the best way to relax after a hard day?

lolcatbaddayI’m easy to please.  All I ask for relaxing is to just do something (or nothing) that is not work.  Usually this takes the form of ordering a pizza for dinner and hanging out on the couch with my family and the TV on.  Or maybe it means coffee and magazines.  But it usually is just some form of me sitting around.  On really bad days, I’m sitting around with a glass of wine.

In an ideal world, I’d say that after a hard day, I relax by going for a run or some other athletic activity, but in all honesty after most days I’m too beat to do much else than just sit there.  Since getting a Kindle, I have been reading every single night before bed.  This means both that I have read nearly 40 “fun” books this year alone, but also that I manage to slow my mind down enough that I can sleep through the night.

Hanging out with my family does make me feel a million percent better when I’ve had a bad day.  I spend my days doing work that is hard.  Law is complex and uncertain and confusing.  Sometimes (often) the practice of law feels like I’m picking my way through landmines.  And the stress is even more exacerbated because you are responsible for solving someone else’s problems.  So if you set off one of those landmines, you’ve blown it for both you and them.  (If it’s not already painfully obvious, this hasn’t been a great week.)

You know what’s not hard? Parenting.  People say parenting is hard, but it’s not.  It is very frustrating and very exhausting and full of unwinnable battles, but it is not hard.  And hanging out with my kid after a hard day makes me feel a little better, because it’s pretty darn hard to truly screw up this parenting thing.

Also, ice cream.

0

NaBloPoMo Day 4: Lead? Follow? Or Collaborate

Do you feel most comfortable being a leader, a follower, or a collaborator?

leader1

For me, it is completely dependent on the circumstances.  If the task at hand is one that I’m familiar with, I’d prefer to lead, because I know what needs to be done and how to do it.  If it is a task I am not so familiar with, or if I’m working with a group of people who like to schedule lots of meetings to talk about the things that need to be done (instead of actually doing those things), then I suppose I fall in the “follower” category, except I’d prefer to call it the “legwork” category.  I am not interested in holding meetings to talk.  If something is actually going to be accomplished in a meeting, that is fine, but meetings for their own sake are not my style.  I’d rather everyone else sit and chat and get out of the way, while I get the work done.

Admittedly, I’m not very good at being a “collaborator.”  I can work fine in a team, but prefer that responsibilities are clearly deliniated, and responsibility is very clearly allocated.  When I had group or team projects at school, I frequently chose to work with the kids that I knew would not contribute at all.  I got a talking-to by the teachers a couple of times, because I’d do all the work and others would coast based on my efforts.  To me, I so dreaded the uncertainty of unclear division of labor and having to wonder whether the others would actually do what they said they’d do, that I would rather pick a group where I had to do all the work myself because at least the division of labor would be certain.  That is neither the most effective nor the most mature way to work on a “team,” but I think it serves well to illustrate how important clear deliniation of responsibilities are to me.

I love that at my work, the structure of most assignments is 1 partner/1 associate.  While we work together on developing ideas and strategy, the tasks themselves are fairly clearly distributed.  I don’t think the leader/follower/collaborator paradigm works well to describe the dynamic.  I suppose technically the partner is the “leader” and the associate the “follower,” but associates are encouraged to speak up, share their thoughts, and challenge things they find problematic, so it’s not a true leader/follower dynamic.  It’s also not quite a “collaborator” paradigm, because each person has specific tasks that they complete independently.  The structure of this working format fits my personality well.  I love that I know what my tasks are and what is expected of me.  I especially love that, at times when I have uncertainty about the parameters of what I’m supposed to be doing, I work with people who are completely open to me being frank and saying “I need more guidance, I’m not sure what you are asking me to do.”

0

NaBloPoMo day 3: Being a “Pro”

What do you consider yourself a “pro” at?

zebra-social-media-expertI’ve spent years thinking that it is presumptuous to declare yourself a “pro” at anything, and that instead it is up to others to identify and announce your expertise.  So I sat back quietly, waiting for someone to call me up and tell me how much they want me to give a presentation about all these things that I know.  THIS IS NOT HOW THE WORLD WORKS.  People don’t know what you know unless you tell them.  Declaring yourself a “pro” at anything of course must be preceded by a lot of elbow grease, patience, and really gaining the expertise in your claimed area.  Then you tell people what you know about by writing about it, and helping people out whenever you can when they have a question of your area, and writing some more, and reaching out to the world and offering your expertise.  I’ve had to put my squeamishness over being presumptuous aside.  You won’t be recognized as an expert until you are an expert, and you show the world that you are an expert.

I’m a pro in two things:

1. Allegheny County local civil procedure. I rock the socks off this county’s local practice (bookmark this page because you will never see that phrase again).  My first 3 years in practice were spent at a small firm.  This was simultaneously the most stressful experience in the history of the universe, and also the absolute best thing for my career and comfort/familiarity with local practice.  When you work for a small firm, you are thrown RIGHT into the fire.  It’s not “sink or swim” because sinking is not an option.  Even though you are just barely a lawyer, you still are a lawyer, and you are representing people and their rights and interests.  Failure is not an option.  So you figure things out, sometimes you do things right, rarely do things turn out to be actually wrong, and almost all the time you get by with doing things not-quite-right-but-close-enough-that-it-gets-the-job-done-and-everything-turns-out-ok.

I’m lucky to practice in a county that is incredibly forgiving with local practice.  If something is not-quite-right, the court will still hear it.  And after thousands of hours of getting it almost-right, you start getting it actually right more and more often, and you go from wading in a fog to actually knowing how to do stuff. And that’s where I am now.  I know how to do stuff.

2. Blogging and law (but not Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog).  Holy cow, I’ve been blogging nearly eight years now.  And I’ve gone from a blogging college student to a blogging law student to a blogging lawyer.  And now my practice also incorporates the intersection between law and social media.  That intersection is staggeringly broad. It’s like saying “I am an expert in the internet.” It is so broad it is virtually meaningless.  My expertise is more specifically in defamation issues and discovery issues (i.e. when and in what circumstances can your social media content get dragged into a lawsuit).  I’m working on an article/presentation about social media defamation issues right now that I’m really excited about, details to come as it progresses!!