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The Attorney at Large’s Guide to Practicing Law: Volume I

The Attorney at Large has been a steady presence on my working-mom-lawyer blogroll for a while. Although she has traded in her traditional law practice for writing/editing/parenting, her observations in The Attorney at Large’s Guide to Practicing Law: Volume I are dead on.

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This is a helpful read for any newly-minted attorney.  I read the whole book in about 2 hours.  It was quick and light to read. The AAL has plenty of helpful insights about client relations and professionalism.  Although the first couple rocky years of practice are (finally) a memory for me, I would have been extremely comforted in knowing I was not alone in feeling lost, overwhelmed and stressed.

The AAL’s tips on professionalism were extremely helpful.  She wisely guides the reader through the often tricky balance between client’s expectations of assertiveness, zealous advocacy on behalf of your client and courtesies towards opposing counsel whom you’ll be working with time and time again.  That’s something you really have to learn through experience, but some helpful pointers may have made that road a little less bumpy along the way.

The book is even priced with starving new lawyers in mind, you can download it for $2.99, or if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for free from the Kindle Lending Library.

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Some Sunday Sunshine

The gray gray sky, every single day. It’s too much. I need some sunshine. I’ve been turning my desk lamp on at work and that has helped a little, but I think I need to just go for it and buy one of those full-spectrum SAD lights that I’ve had my eye on for the last few years, but have never had the heart to plunk the cash down for.

The tipping point for me joining Weight Watchers and steeling my resolve to get to the darn gym was because a few months back, I hit an all time low with energy. It was like I was riding from coffee to coffee, just to keep myself functional.  I was getting enough sleep at night, but I wasn’t feeling rested in the day.  I knew that it would not get any better until I changed my habits.  I’ve still been fatigued, the short days and lack of sunlight do not help.  Yesterday, finally, I had a breakthrough!  I had energy! I was excited to get to the gym, and once there, I hopped on the treadmill and ran a whole 30 minutes!  The last time I ran was probably in October, and even then the longest stretch was about 12 minutes.  But yesterday, a whole 30 minutes! Victory!

I had a successful week at Weight Watchers, and I’m getting excited to hit my 10% goal in a few weeks and go SHOPPING!  I don’t have any specific ideas yet, but how cute are these:

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Mr. Beez says that no way no how do I need any more shoes, but how fun would it be to have some sunny kicks to up my energy at the gym?

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I’ve been grateful that work has been at the manageable end of the crazy-spectrum lately which has given me the flexibility and opportunity to focus on my health and well being.  I realized yesterday that March is going to be full-speed-ahead.  I’ve got an article, a significant brief,  a trial and a conference presentation all on my plate.  Feast or famine, folks. But I think that I am finally feeling refreshed from this somewhat quieter time, and I’m excited and ready to take on all these tasks.

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Trial Day. Better Luck Next Time.

I didn’t post yesterday because I finally reached that point of tiredness where I was too tired for blogging. For me, that’s a big tired.

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Today we had our trial. I lost. I’m not happy about that. I had learned my lesson from day 1 of trial college. I prepared hard for this trial. I worked hard. I practiced. I even took it upon myself to pick to be responsible for the parts of trial that are the most challenging for me (opening, direct exams) and took on those tasks.

The judge who was assigned to my trial had very positive things to say about my partner and I. In fact, the only criticism she had of our our trial performance was that I was a little late with one objection. We put on a darn good trial. But we lost. I guess you just have that sometimes, but it’s extra frustrating when you are being taught and putting into action skills specifically designed to be persuasive (even when the facts are not great), and then you don’t manage to win over 5 brooding high school kids.

I’m definitely glad I went to trial college. I learned so much. The teacher’s pet in me loved hearing that I was on the right track, and even that I had a good handle on several “advanced” trial skills. The eternal student in me loved hearing the constructive criticisms, so I know where I need to work harder and grow more. My only regret in addition to not winning the trial) is that trial does not come up all too frequently, so it will probably be a while before I can put these skills into real life practice. Now it’s back to the real world, back to the writing and thinking, and back to the assignments that have piled up in my absence.

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Trial College Brain Mush

As the days of trial college roll on, I become less and less capable of forming coherent thoughts in the evening time.  I’m so darn tired, my thoughts turn to mush.  Tonight after dinner, I somehow found myself in a shopping center, and blasted through $200 on pants and celebrity magazines.

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MINE! ALL MINE!

We only have one lecture session left, then it’s trial prep and TRIAL. We’re trying a personal injury/insurance coverage dispute. The topic gave me a shot of courage, it is right in my wheelhouse. Now if only we could try this case according to Allegheny County rules, then I’d be golden.

I feel like I’ve made big steps in just 3 days.  On day one, I was a little sheepish and afraid to ask the wrong question, or afraid I’d look foolish by saying the wrong thing.  But now that I’ve been up in front of the class several times, I’m feeling more comfortable.  I’m not so worried about saying the wrong thing.  I’m ready to say something and see if it works.  I’m lucky to be in a great class. We’re all 4-7 years in, we have similar trial experience, and there are no gunners (or, if there is a gunner, it’s probably me, but I’m trying to keep that obnoxiousness in check).

Opening statements were the most difficult part of the class for me, and I wish we had a chance to do them again in a classroom setting.  I guess I’ll just have to study up, take a deep breath, and get ready to open on trial day.  Wish me luck! (and wish me sanity!)

Esteemed counsel shocks and thrills the jury with her brilliant argument!

Esteemed counsel shocks and thrills the jury with her brilliant argument!

Unrelated: (maybe?) I keep trying to make a joke about how someone here is totally Ignatius J. Reilly.  Apparently I am THE ONLY PERSON AT TRIAL COLLEGE who has read a Confederacy of Dunces.  More book nerds at trial college, plz.  At least I think I’m funny.

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The theme of the day is THEME THEME THEME!

We’ve focused on the importance of THEME today. Every question you ask, every statement you make at trial must have one purpose: Advancing your theme. And never detracting from it. I do think that I did well with the content and organization of my direct examination. I tried to weed out everything extraneous and get down to brass tacks. My outline consisted of the three points I needed to make, and I made them. I just wish that once I got the feedback, I had an opportunity to try again, so that I could put those comments into practice.

This time I DID prepare. I even volunteered to go first. I was sure I was going to nail it. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t do poorly, but I had trouble controlling my witness, and a few stylistic problems. A lot of the feedback from instructors dealt with very specific word choices, and its hard to make those very specific, fine decisions when you are also specifically trying to question the witness from only a basic outline (instead of reading questions).

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This is a picture of the dinner bells because I couldn’t think of anything else, and because I think it’s funny that they have dinner bells here.

There are two components of trial preparation that we do not have the benefit of, and which make trial college challenging: (1) by the time a case gets to trial, you already have all the facts down cold, because you’ve been working on it for so dang long, and (2) you have more opportunity to practice and practice and practice the components of trial and get feedback on them. The second issue could be remedied in this setting, with keeping a quick pace to instructor feedback, and having the participants each perform examinations of the same witness before the class multiple times. The first one, I guess, would have been addressed if I read and read and read and read the course packet before getting to the CLE, but seeing as (like with most young lawyers) I was spending my time doing work before I got here, it didn’t leave any time to prepare for a CLE. So that’s that.

Terence MacCarthy gave an amazing talk on cross-examination today. His talk is everything a talk should be– he was hilarious, engaging, knowledgeable and challenging. I spend all day reading law, so I don’t usually read law books for fun, but now I absolutely have to read his book on cross examination.

Dinner conversation eased to a halt several times tonight. It wasn’t an awkward halt or an unfriendly halt, just a darn tired halt.   I miss my family, but I am also loving having grown up time. I’m about to go downstairs and work out. Then tonight I’m going to read in bed, and probably fall asleep with all the lights on because that’s how I do.