The Humble, Hopeful Lawyer

I had a wonderful, terrible moment this week.

I was sitting in the back of the courtroom, and I was struck by the achy questioning:

“What if I can’t do this? What if I’ve wasted a year and tens of thousands of dollars… what if I waste two more years and a hundred thousand dollars more… only to discover I can’t do this? What if I can’t do this? What if I can’t?”

I don’t have an academic fear. I’m not worried that I won’t be smart enough or competent enough. Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of times I don’t feel smart enough. What’s worse for me, though is knowing what it is to work a job like this.

You see, there was this eight-year-old. He is my boss’s client, and it was my job to play with him a.k.a. keep him distracted while the grown-ups talk.

He is so smart. Like SO smart. I think he should be an engineer when he grows up. He’s adorable. He’s scared. He’s shy.

And I got to play with him.

There he was, wearing a fireman’s helmet and coat, sitting on the floor with me, talking about robots.

And his life was falling apart.

He didn’t understand a lot of it, but he understood enough.

And for the first time in my life, I legit wanted to take a kid home with me and feed him cookies and adopt him.

That’s why the doubt and fear in the courtroom – it was a hearing for this kid, and even though there were a shitload of smart, caring people trying to make things better for him, his life was and is still falling apart.

It’s the lawyer’s job to be one piece of overwhelmingly complex situations – situations where things have gone very, very wrong. It’s the lawyer’s job to try to make it better.

I almost cried in court that day – for the adorable, smart, shy kid, who I wanted to take home and feed cookies… I don’t even eat cookies.

I asked my boss after the hearing how she keeps from crying in the court room. She jokingly said, “I’m a little bit dead inside.” Then, more seriously, “I guess I’m just so focused on the job that I don’t have time to think about the emotions of it.”

That was so incredibly helpful to hear.

I’ve felt so much doubt lately about whether I even really want to be a lawyer. Whether I want to work with kids. Whether I’m enough.

I used to know I was enough.

With Victim Services, I never shed a tear on-scene or even while debriefing with my team in the van.

I saw horrific things.

I went into the darkest moments, held people’s hands while they cried, helped them arrange for someone to come and pick up the body, watched hospital staff pump them full of pain meds, stood by as DCS removed their children, told them their loved one was dead.

In the courtroom that day, I wondered if I’ve just lost whatever ability I used to have to be what was needed in the moment.

I don’t know if I want to work with kids anymore.

It’s been a question for almost a year.

I see so much value in representing kids, but I also know how bad it can hurt.

Having done the teacher thing, it would be a natural progression of my career to work with kids in the law.

Also, I’m masochistic or something, so I know I’m going to end up practicing some sort of heartbreaking law – DV, sexual assault, wrongful convictions, civil rights. Only the saddest of stories for Lawyer Kate.

But kids…


It was humbling sitting in that courtroom, seeing how good my boss is at her job, how much she cares. She’s actually not dead inside at all… but I think maybe she says things like that because she wants to be dead inside.

Victim Services took an enormous amount of self-care.

You have to constantly nurture humility and hope. Humility to know you cannot fix it. No matter how hard you work, the outcome is always out of your hands. Hope that even though it’s not okay and you can’t fix it, maybe your life, your presence in a difficult moment will matter. You might make things just a little bit better for someone, somewhere.

Working with kids would be that all over again. Humility. Can’t take him home, feed him cookies, and adopt him… and even if you did, that won’t fix it. Hope that someone does take him home, feed him cookies, and adopt him, and that the little bit of time I spent playing with him made his day or someone else’s a little bit better. Hope that what I contributed to an overwhelmingly complex situation was and is enough.



Surviving 1L Semester 1

There are some really hard things about being in law school.

The level of stress I’ve felt exceeds any I’ve felt in my life. Lots of you are aware of my blood pressure issues. A few are aware of the dry heaving. I’ve had a change appetite and lost weight. My sleep patterns aren’t really a pattern at all. It’s competitive. It’s a lot of reading. It’s terrifying to be cold-called in class.

Honestly, the first semester of law school is a wad of stress that is indescribable to the uninitiated.

However, the most important thing that happened to me this semester has nothing to do with classes or rankings.

Law school has been a beautiful mechanism for reminding me who I am.

And the spirit of Mufasa fills the screen:

I have been blessed to maintain most of the relationships in my life for years if not decades. It is a true joy to have such a shared history with people and to love them as I love family. I was reminded of these enduring relationships when I went to apply for a legal fellowship for the summer, and I listed my references and how long they’ve known me. Personal reference: 17 years. Spiritual reference (it’s a Christian fellowship): 12 years. These relationships are an enormous part of who I am, and it’s lovely to be reminded.

I’m also overwhelmed with how supportive the people in my life have been. Like all of my life decisions, attending law school was abrupt and without much explanation. I was hit with a divine whisper and that was the end of the conversation. I consulted exactly two people before signing up to take the LSAT, and had they told me not to do it, I probably would have done it anyway.

And yet, they’ve been there for me. I did not once consider the amount of support and understanding I would need from the people in my life to get through law school. I have that luxury, because they are there for me even when I don’t ask them to be. No one in my life has guilted me when I’ve canceled plans because I needed to study, and I’ve canceled a lot of plans. They’ve listened to me obsess about my blood pressure. They’ve counseled me. They’ve put up with my constant and inept legal analysis of everyday life. They’ve encouraged and been patient in ways I’m not sure I have ever or will ever reciprocate.

I don’t deserve any of you.

Alongside that, I’ve met so many amazing people in school, and they’ve reminded me of certain things about myself that I’ve forgotten or that I’ve refused to believe.

People at school seem to like me. They tell me that I’m nice, open-minded, stylish (who knew?), and that I’m a good student. They laugh at my jokes and don’t make me feel like an idiot when I do stupid things. They send me encouraging text messages when my crazy is about to overtake me, and they help me celebrate my birthday.

My conception of myself so often fills in the blanks with the worst things people have ever said about me: stubborn, conceited, too busy with tasks to spend time with others, judgmental… it’s so easy to believe.

Thank you to all of my classmates who remind me that I’m okay. I pray that as my weird quirks become more visible to you, you’ll continue to like me anyways.

And let’s all lift a glass to surviving 1L Semester 2! 🙂





The LSAT, Moving, and Applying to Law School

Before taking the LSAT, I wrote a post about how stressed I was. And I was really stressed. I wrote about the weight of each and every test question, and how my overall score would be impacted by the questions on which I guessed. I whined and worried. I tried to joke about it, but I really was losing my mind.

In real life (not the interwebs), people would ask me how I was feeling and if I was ready, and I would tell them I was stressed, and they would basically try to persuade me that I shouldn’t be stressed, which made me more stressed. Also, I think there’s something to be said for each person having a process of preparation, and mine happens to involve stress… so it’s possible that my stress helped prepare me and helped improve my score, so eff all of the people who kept trying to talk me out of stressing.

Result of my stress: I actually ended up scoring higher on the LSAT than I had ever scored on any of my practice tests. Basically, my score was good enough that I should have no trouble getting in to any law school that is not Ivy League. Also, it means that I should receive some scholarship money.


You’d think I’d feel pretty awesome, but I’m actually stressed again.

I am now having all of my info sent to a credential assembly service, which is stressful to me. I am also taking more steps towards selling my house. I am also trying to figure out where I actually want to apply, which impacts when I should sell my house…

All of this is frustrating and, well, stressful to me…

Not having the internet at home or a printer at Starbucks, I end up having about 42 extra steps for each piece of paper I need someone to send to the credential assembly service, because I’ll go to Sbucks to use the internet, only to realize that I have to print something, which requires that I also go to the library. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it bothers me. It bothers me that I have to ask a ton of people to send a ton of things somewhere for me, and then I have to wait for them to do it. It bother me that I’m not sure how to make decisions about where to apply. Pretty much every step of this process bothers me.

For undergrad, I only applied to U of A, because I knew that’s where I would go. I knew I’d be accepted. I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else, and I didn’t feel the need to have backups.

Now that I’m all growed up, I feel I should follow the advice of the experts, who think I should apply to something like 25 schools. Now, realistically, I’m definitely not doing that. I might apply to 8 schools, but it seems like a big, stupid waste of time and stress, because I really don’t intend to move. Applying to Boston College might satisfy some part of me that thinks it would be an adventure to move to Boston, but if I received a full-ride from both Boston College and U of A (which isn’t going to happen, but I’m just saying…), then I would stay in Arizona. Still, I feel obligated to think about all of the places I’m applying, just in case it might be a good idea to move, even though I really don’t want to move.

So, for your perusal, here’s the list of places I may apply… or I may only apply to the U of A again. We’ll see.

U of A


University North Carolina Charlotte

Wake Forest


Boston College


University of Oregon (or perhaps it’s Oregon State? I can never remember … the one in Eugene)


I expect I’ll be accepted to all of those except Duke. How do I even consider so many different possibilities? How do I even think about moving to another state, where I would live without Steve and Lori, my church, Victim Services, and basic knowledge of the city? How do I even think about living in the snow? There’s nothing worse than snow. I’m completely open to going somewhere for a few years, if it’s definitely temporary, but everything I’ve read says I should go to law school in the place where I intend to practice law. Moving to Boston for three years would be cool, but for the rest of my life possibly? I don’t know about that. There’s too much pressure on this one decision.

I know… 1st world problems, eh?


How Am I so Effing Slow?

I am looking into the possibility of going to law school in 2017 or 2018.

What I have discovered is that I may not have much trouble getting in… but the trouble will come with the paying for it. Although I am prepared to sell my house, quit my job, and take out loans, I’m really not going to feel comfortable going for it unless I can get about half of it paid for by scholarships.

How does one get a scholarship to attend law school, you ask? Well, the best chance of getting one large scholarship is scoring really high on the LSAT. Of course I will look into other avenues for scholarships, but I actually am a very good taker of tests, so I thought I’d start with the LSAT. Since the LSAT is required of me just to get in and I’d probably want to take it by December, if not September, I thought I should get on that. Also, taking the LSAT is a nice, noncommittal step I can take to gauge whether this is a terrible idea or not.

I took a diagnostic test yesterday. And I did not do terribly. I scored average for all takers of the LSAT, so I certainly would need to do better if I want to both get into law school and receive moneys.

There are some very specific things I struggled with, though.

  1. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to test people for 180 minutes? That’s a horribly long time to sit still and think, and I don’t have the stamina I used to have. I will need to take a lot of practice tests to get myself used to sitting for that long.
  2. I need to think significantly faster. There were 102 questions on the test, and I didn’t even get to 12 of them. I also got something like 8 questions wrong towards the ends of the sections, because I felt rushed. That alone is the difference between full ride and no financial help at all.
  3. I bombed one particular section. Basically, they give you a list of 6-8 items and tell you those items must be sorted into 2-3 columns with 6 or so rules about how you can do it. Ex: Adam, Brian, Charles, Derek, Ed, Fred, and Greg all go to the bar and purchase beers. The bar’s best sellers are Shocktop, Blue Moon, and Red Stripe, so the guys each try one of those. Each guy only drinks one beer. Brian and Ed choose the same beer. Adam and Greg choose different beers. Derek chooses Red Stripe. Two of the guys drink Blue Moon… and then they ask you 6 ish questions about which item falls into which column. I took what can only be described as a glacial pace at this. It wasn’t the I couldn’t answer the questions; it was that it took me twice as long as they gave me to answer each of these, so I ended up guessing quite a lot. I think my biggest problem was that I hadn’t seen a question like that in more than a decade, so I had to build a framework for each scenario and how to answer it, rather than just knowing what I needed to do to figure it out.
  4. Even on the reading comprehension section, I was pretty slow and didn’t finish, because they gave you like six ish really dense paragraphs to read… when I say really dense, I mean that it was the equivalent of reading Shakespeare. The sentence structures were out of control. The diction was out of control. The content was often specific to a field in which I had zero experience. And then, they would ask six questions, each of which took up about half a page, because they were wordy and ridiculous, as well. There were twenty four questions in this section, to be answered in 35 minutes. I didn’t finish.

So… what I’ve discovered is that I am smart enough to do this… but if I don’t hurry the hell up, I disqualify myself from scholarships just by not answering enough questions.


With the decision of whether to go to law school or not, I’ve tried talking to people about it in advance, because I’ve been described as impulsive, and because I want to be better about including others in the major life decisions I make… and what I’ve discovered is that there were very good reasons I did things without consulting others in the past – not the least of which being that so many people have been completely unreasonable in their responses.

So, here’s the deal:

Why am I thinking about doing this?

That’s a great question. I think this might be a perfect fit for me, or as close to a perfect fit as can actually exist. I think I might be good at practicing law, and I think I might find fulfillment in it.

Also, I hate wondering if I’ve wasted my life, and I think I might wonder if I don’t give this an honest effort.

Also, it hit me like a whisper from the Holy Spirit that I should do this. I’m not saying God definitely told me I should do this. He didn’t… but I think He may have pointed me in this direction, and I try to listen well when I think God is whispering to me.

Isn’t law school competitive and difficult?

That’s an insulting question. Are you implying that I’m not capable of succeeding in law school, or that I’m daunted by challenges? Are you implying that I shouldn’t attempt it because it difficult? Do you genuinely believe I don’t know that law school is competitive and difficult and you’re telling me something new?

Please don’t ask me a question like this.

Do I know what it’s like to try to get rid of student loan debt?

This might be a good question to ask me once I have my LSAT scores, have applied and been accepted, and have been denied scholarships. My slowness to decide on the right choice may be detrimental to me when test-taking, but I think it’s probably wise to take time on each step of this real-life decision, rather than racing ahead 5 years to the day when I’ll have to pay off student loan debt. I’d prefer to figure out whether I’m capable to getting this completely paid for before I give up because it’s so expensive… it may actually cost me nothing to do this. We won’t know until I apply.

Also, I don’t believe money should necessarily deter me, even if I don’t get any financial help with this. The value of seeking and eventually finding my niche isn’t really measurable, and if it were measurable, I suspect it would be worth more than $80,000.

Where are you going to live?

I don’t know. I haven’t even applied yet. There are three schools I’m currently considering applying to… so I don’t even know which city I’ll be in IF I get into any or all of the schools to which I’m planning to apply. Slow the hell down.

What if it doesn’t work out? What if I get there and it’s too hard or I don’t even get accepted?

…then it doesn’t work out. It’s okay to try things and fail. I’m not going to be crushed because I tried something hard and it didn’t work out. I won’t be crushed if I don’t get accepted. I may even just reapply again a year later. Who cares? Trying and failing costs me exactly $208 and a knock to my pride at this point. It’s succeeding that’s costly. A better question would be, “What if it works out?”



Will You Ever Go Back to Teaching?

It’s been a year since I gave up teaching, and it seems like the question is coming up more and more frequently of whether I’ll go back or not; it’s actually a silly question to me. You may as well ask me if I’ll ever go back to Mongolia… the answer is, “Maybe… I don’t know. I don’t have any plans to go back, but if the right opportunity came along, it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.”

Even though I can’t say whether I’ll ever go back, I can tell you that I REALLY miss the teachers. It’s difficult to explain how unique and wonderful teachers are. Working in an office lands me with a lot of people who are under-educated and poorly-informed, whereas with teaching I’d grown accustomed to being the young one, who various colleagues described as “winningly naive” and “precious.” I was surrounded by Master’s degrees and most everyone had decades more experience and disillusionment than I had. Now, I’m surrounded by people who haven’t read books or traveled the world or experienced true stress. It bothers me in an elitest, snobbish way, but it also just bothers me that conversations about politics, poverty, religion, etc… are so completely devoid of true understanding and empathy. The head and the heart find no more elegant blending than exists inside the classroom. And I miss that.

I don’t actually miss the students very much. I know… you all think that I ought to be all melty inside over the special snowflakes I got to teach, but those of you who think that have not tried to get 35 teenagers to sit quietly and read. All normal classroom irritants aside, I will say that the one thing that pushes me over the edge of Why-the-hell-would-I-miss-those-jerks-?- is the amount of time I spent in my last two years of teaching fighting phones. The classroom drastically changed during my 7 years. Drastically. Being in a room with 35 kids isn’t the same as it was when I started, so what I miss is kids pre-Smart Phone, because they were human beings, albeit confused, awkward, arrogant, human beings, but they made eye-contact and enjoyed interacting with others. That sort of student was almost completely extinct when I quit.

I actually don’t miss the vacations. I get asked about that one a lot. Having a Fall break is nice, but being able to pee whenever the hell I want, is priceless… always having an hour for lunch… being able to walk outside whenever I’m tired of sitting… all more valuable than getting summers off. Teaching is like trying to cut 2 mins/mile off of your fastest training pace for race day, then not running at all for several weeks, then trying to cut another 3 mins/per mile off of an uphill marathon. The pace of my life outside of education is leisurely. I don’t even feel like I need a vacation with all of the time that currently exists throughout my workday – not even exaggerating.

I REALLY miss talking about books and how to write. I miss showing kids how to do things and helping them feel like reading is okay. I miss helping them find a confidence in their ability to offer something to their peers, teachers, parents, etc… in writing. I loved helping kids understand the difference between analysis and synthesis. I miss advising them on how to respect and communicate well with people they don’t like. In short, I miss teaching, coaching, and mentoring.

I REALLY don’t miss being responsible for, evaluated on, and expected to master the skill of controlling outcomes that are completely outside of my control. Working in an office has calmed my life in ways you can’t possibly understand until you’ve been graded on whether or not a kid who doesn’t speak English is able to pass a test in English, even though he’s only attended 20 days out of the last 50 days of school, and prior to that, he lived in another country… even though he never even learned to read and write in his native language. Since leaving education, I sleep better, drink far less alcohol, exercise more, and feel at ease. Not only is the pace of education unsustainable, but the expectations are impossible. At my current job, I am evaluated on punctuality, dress code, and the completion of tasks. Not to get too far into the money thing, but I also make the same amount of $ as I made teaching.

Will I ever go back?

I honestly don’t know. I loved that profession, and it shat all over me. And yet, I have an affection for it. My love of the classroom will probably always be a part of me, but I’m not sure I’m willing to entrust myself to it again. I spent my 20s on education – studying it in college, and then laboring in its field. It wasn’t a waste of time or lost time. I just want to spend my 30s on something else. Maybe I’ll go back to the classroom in my 40s. Maybe I’ll even teach overseas before that. All I can say is that it would be a waste for me to go back right now, and I can’t imagine anything worse than feeling like I’ve wasted the life I’ve been given.

The Teacher Nightmare

As I was signing up for my 401 K last week, the rep. whose job it was to convince us to sign up and then help us do it was asking me about teaching, and he implied that teachers have it great because they get summers off. I very quickly let him know that he’s really really mistaken, although I don’t think he fully understood why…

Well, I got together with some teacher friends for a beer tasting over the weekend. They talked about teacher things and people that were a significant part of my life, but I have to admit, it all seemed pretty distant. It’s been about 8 months since I’ve been in the classroom.

And yet… I had a teacher nightmare that night.

In the nightmare, I was teaching at a middle school in one of those places that only makes sense in dream. There were apple trees all over the school; it was sort of like what I pictured the Amity compound to be like in Insurgent by Veronica Roth. The school didn’t have climate control, and there were at least a few other commonalities to the school where I taught in Mongolia. I had a class of maybe 15 kids, and they were all really cute.

Then, for no reason at all, someone released something like 10 tigers onto campus, and I grabbed one little girl’s hand and dragged her to safety, but I don’t know what happened to any of the other kids. And I felt sooooo guilty, because I’d abandoned them to save myself and this one little girl. She and I were hiding in a cleaning closet when I woke up.

That’s what being a teacher is like – probably not for everyone, but for me. Also, I’m sure the job took its toll on others in other ways. Regardless, I had that sort of nightmare for the last week of every break and the first week back for 7 years. We’re talking last week of Summer and first week back, Fall break and first week back, Winter break and first week back, Spring break and first week back…. I spent something like 8 weeks of my life having nightmares about my job. That’s almost exactly the length of Summer vacation.

Also, that’s not including any of the many catalysts for nightmares during the normal weeks of school. I had one student who would tell her mother she was in my classroom studying at 6:30 pm on Friday nights. I’d come in Monday morning, and her mother would have left me a voicemail asking if her kid was with me. I called her and told her the kid was lying, but for weeks, I’d come in to a red light on my phone signifying that the kid had done it again. I had a ton of anxiety over that one, and it only got sorted out when the kid was picked up by the cops, running away from home. Again, she’d told her mother she was studying in my classroom. Forget the common sense fact that no teacher stays until 6:30 on Friday… we load up our grading and take it home with us… If I was going to work over the weekend, it sure as hell was going to be while lounging on the couch with a glass of wine.

Now, it’d be one thing if I was the type who was prone to nightmares or anxiety. But I’m really not. I haven’t had a single nightmare connected to my new job. Not one.

So, 401 K rep – all I can tell you is that if you like dreaming about kids being eaten by tigers, and being thrust into the middle of someone else’s meltdowns… go for it. Teaching is the job for you!


Who Knew I’m Such a Terrible Interviewee???

While working for Aflac, I’m continuing to look for something a bit more permanent and better suited to my talents and desires.

I’ve had a ton of interviews, but very few job offers and no job offers that seem like good places for me to settle in. And it’s totally not them; it’s me.

I hate interviewing, because I’ve spent my entire life trying not to be arrogant. With softball, school, writing, etc… I was always trying to pretend that I didn’t believe I was awesome. Now, all of those attempts at fake humility are coming back around to bite me.

I am an incredibly organized, literate person. And yet, I can’t seem to communicate that in interviews because I feel the need to tell people that, well, yes, I’m organized, but…

Why can’t I just tell them that I’m organized? I put the damn silverware into the dishwasher in such a way that my roommate and her parents commented on it. I separate the forks, spoons, knives, and specialty items into their own sections.

It’s actually funny because I think what I’m struggling to overcome is something I studied in a linguistics class in college: hedges. These are words and phrases that don’t carry any meaning, but get inserted into sentences to soften them. Women use more hedges than men use, because they want to maintain a softer persona and the workplace is one of the most unfortunate places for hedges to come out because they make an otherwise competent person seem less competent.

I can’t seem to get myself to stop using hedges in interviews. Rather than saying I’m well-organized and providing examples of my organization, I say that, “Yes, organization is sort of one of my strengths.” Saying it that way makes it sound like it actually isn’t one of my strengths. I know that, and yet, I’m still sort of using hedges in the middle of trying to convince employers that I know what I’m doing.