Is this What Mansplaining Is: Non-lawyers Who Keep Telling Me What It’s Like to Be a Lawyer

Sorry to write about specific people, but it still bothers me that when I told my dad I was going to apply to law school, he said, “You know that’s competitive, right?”

No way… really? I thought it was going to be a piece of cake! Every movie I’ve ever seen makes it seem like anyone could do it.

“You know it isn’t always being in a courtroom and doing trials. There is a lot of paperwork.”

Again… really? I’m shocked!


Text conversation with new guy… who I have yet to meet, by the way…

Him: “Are you in summer break at school?”

Me: “Yep, although it’s more exhausting to me than being in school because with internships it’s more like the ordinary grind of a normal work week. There isn’t much flexibility in the schedule and it’s a lot of time sitting at a desk.”

Him: “When are you doing your internship? How much longer do you have ahead of yourself? You know that once you graduate you will have no life and will be working 70+ hours a week right?”

Me: (Blinks several times)…

Me: …

Me: …

Me: (Blinks again)…



It takes every bit of humility in me not to find the most sarcastic, biting retort and send it to him.


Funny thing… every dude I have met online tells me that he once wanted to be a lawyer, but he usually decided it was too hard either before even taking a practice test for the LSAT or just after taking one. I met one guy who did some paralegal stuff, then took the LSAT and got a low score, then gave up. The one I met who got the furthest along the law conveyor belt dropped out after his second year of law school. (All of these choices are completely valid, by the way… it’s fine not to be a lawyer. It’s not for everyone.)


So, question: why on earth do all of these dudes think they are in the right position to tell me what it will be like for me once I graduate? Plus, they always do it in this manner that’s marked by a condescending benevolence, where they act like they are doing me a favor. It’s as if I have completed two years of law school, but somehow am wearing rose colored glasses. Like I am just a precious, naive, delicate flower who needs a man with less education under his belt (and little or no legal education or work experience) to swoop in and save the day.


Is this what mansplaining is? I haven’t really got it figured out when the word mansplaining fits. It fits here, right?





End of 2L Year

Hi there!

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in here, so I thought I’d write a bit.

I’m nearing the end of my second year of law school, and I’m pretty jazzed about it – just one year left to go and then I can be a fancy lawyer!

This year, the main thing I did is I wrote my Note/substantial paper/dissertation, presented it, and submitted it for publication. I researched and wrote about situations where kids who have been removed from the home because of parental abuse are court ordered to visit their abusers. It was rewarding and enlightening work, and I’m so happy that Karen talked me into changing topics. 🙂

I also secretaried a club, represented (sort of) four clients in the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, and mentored a 1L. This summer, I will be at TUSD, doing policy work in school law, which is exciting for me, although it’s not as fancy as it sounds.

Everyone in my life right now seems to be having babies and/or getting married, which is pretty cool. Shout-outs to (forgive me for only listing mommies and brides… daddies and grooms are important too) Kira, Sis, Lori, Kendra, Laura, Melissa (not Hernandez as far as I know). Also, my nephew is getting married and having a baby, and I don’t know his lady’s name, so shout-out to them as well. It’s simultaneously nice and horrifying to be reminded that I could still get married and make babies, even though I’m getting so old. 😉

In addition to getting old, I seem to be getting fat… I injured my Achilles in November and haven’t been able to run very much since. I’ve been pretty frustrated about it, so on Saturday I was angry-icing it and gave myself wicked ice-burn… so now, in addition to being unable to run, I also can’t walk in real shoes. Way to go, Kate. Still, I’m fully committed to completing my New Year’s resolution – not weighing myself for a full year, because of Bonhoeffer. I know, that’s weird.

The dating front continues to be a thing. I have become an expert first-dater – I don’t think I’ve been turned down for a second date in years… but it’s one of those things where I’m sad-happy, because people seem to be interested in me, which is a confidence boost, but the vast majority of them are clearly not a good match for me and I’m constantly having to tell them so… sometimes more than once… sometimes having to completely ignore their repeated attempts to contact me.

At this very moment, there is a text sitting on my phone from a nice guy who I rejected, but he has now contacted me again. Before you get worked up trying to get me to respond to him… he has lost 180 lbs, and wants to lose another 180, which isn’t a big deal except that he can’t talk about anything except the weight loss. Also, our first date was a Sabino Canyon road hike, which he wanted to do because he’s been hiking all the time in an attempt to train for a ten-mile summit challenge. Even so, he got blisters and hiked at the glacial pace of a decrepit snail. I tried to tell him we didn’t need to do the full 7.whatever miles, but he insisted we finish. On the one hand, who really cares? I don’t even really like hiking very much. On the other hand, if he’s going to do athletic sorts of things with me, he’s gonna have to keep up or let me run ahead and meet him at the finish line, and he doesn’t seem capable to either of those options. Also, he lives in Sierra Vista. Also, he lives with his mom, her friend, and his grandmother. Also, his date with me was his first, first date. Ever. Also, he kept asking me to give him constructive criticism while on our date. Also, he texts non-stop.

And, finally, I’ve saved the best news of the year for last… how could I possibly beat such an excellent first date story, you ask?

Drum roll, please…


I actually don’t love having the internets at home, but I hit a point where I just hate being at school so much that I’d rather fork out the dough and be able to write memos while wearing pjs and drinking snooty organic cashew milk lattes.

I also have Netflix, and I think I’ve decided to keep it. I was on the fence about it. I got the 30-day free trial, and maybe I see the $8/month value in it… I hate that they keep advertising their NETFLIX ORIGINAL crap to me. Also, most of the shows I actually like are CBS ones and unavailable via Netflix. Plus, I’m having issues getting the CBS app thing onto my XBOX 360, but I’m not buying an XBOX ONE until they come out with another console that’s newer and fancier. But, hey, Making a Murderer was pretty legit (thanks, Lori) and since I haven’t had tv or internet access since it was provided via dial-up and cable in my parents’ house, there are a few shows I’ve intended to watch over the years that the library was unable to provide. Although, I have to say… it’s silly that I still have to go to the library for The Expanse, The Last Ship, and Game of Thrones.


Law school is so good for me.

I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else ever say something like that. I’ve heard them talk about the aches and pains. About whether school prepared them for the Bar and for actual lawyering. But I’ve never heard anyone say that it was a good thing on a personal level. That it helped them grow as a human being.

It’s been doing that for me.


It takes almost no time for new people in my life to recognize I struggle to ask for help. They usually diagnose me with a pride issue, assuming that I just hate to admit I can’t do everything, but it’s actually a really different thing than that. There’s probably pride in it, but the fears that play in my head when I know I need to ask for help aren’t people finding out I’m finite and human. It’s more like: “Ahhhh! He’s going to hate me for taking up his time! She’ll say yes to be polite, but secretly resent me forever. Ahhhhh!”

I’m making light of it, but it’s actually a paralyzing thing for me. I often would rather miss out on an opportunity than run the risk of having someone feel irritated by my presence.

This year, I’m writing my substantial paper (a.k.a. note). It’s pretty much the same thing as a dissertation. It’s a 30-35 page paper required for graduation and for various certifications (there is a certification for Juvenile and Family Law, for instance) . Also, for students who write for a law journal, there is the chance of being published.

I feel a little bit overjoyed and even giddy about it for a lot of reasons. My topic is something I’m truly passionate about. It’s a complex issue that combines constitutional law with juvenile and family law, plus I get to delve into the psychology of domestic violence. Academia is not over-saturated with articles on the topic, so it may be publishable. Also, I love to write.

For my note, I have an assigned student editor from the journal I’m on and I was required to find a faculty member willing to supervise me. My editor is delightful and super helpful, but…

Problem: I would rather have my fingernails torn off one by one than risk causing a professor to feel irritation.

It really wouldn’t be out of the question for a professor to be irritated with note supervision. After all, the nature of the relationship is such that I (an inexperienced lawyer-in-training) will be writing about something I am in the process of learning, and which the professor should know like the back of her hand. It’s a time-consuming endeavor of reading each draft I write, correcting legal and writing errors and making sure I write something worthy of transforming me into Kathryn James, J.D. (or, if I’m real fancy, Esq.). If I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, suck at legal writing/legal research, am lazy, or simply get off on the wrong track, the supervising professor is supposed to guide me back into the realm of competence.

It can be a great collaborative experience, OR it can be the intellectual equivalent of Student climbing into a potato sack and asking professor to drag her carcass from one edge of the desert to the next.

I really wanted to work with my favorite professor. She used to be the dean of the whole law school. She brings so much to the table in every discussion. She is smart and kind. She approaches the law with an admirable intellect tempered by empathy. She sees and articulates both sides of the issue.

She is pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I want to be just like her someday.

When I started thinking about asking her to supervise me, though, all I could imagine was how much she would grow to hate me for asking her to drag my carcass across the desert. I also assumed that all the fancy students who are in the top of the class would be asking her to supervise their notes and she wouldn’t have time for me. I also assumed that because my topic isn’t fully in her area of expertise, she would tell me to ask someone else.

And yet… I forced myself to ask.

Within minutes of sending my email, I received a response: Yes, but also consider talking to ______ and _______. They can help keep you on-track on areas outside of my expertise, but I would love to work with you.

Woohoo! She said yes!

I felt extreme terror at having to ask two more professors (neither of whom had taught me previously) for their time, but I did it, they said yes, and all seemed to be on-track.

My first real deadline was a couple of weeks ago – the first ten pages were due.

I felt like I hadn’t worked nearly hard enough. I felt inadequate… lazy, even. My paper was probably embarrassing. Laughable. I just hadn’t the knowledge and wisdom to realize it yet.

When I submitted my pages,* I assumed they would be returned to me bleeding of edits and feedback.

And yet…

“Your first ten pages are beautifully written. I usually provide students with sentence-level edits even at this early stage in the process, but I don’t have any for you. You really are a good writer.”

I nearly missed out on receiving one of the greatest compliments of my life… for fear of asking for help.

*I finished up my ten pages while sitting upstairs in a small town coffee shop called Appalachian Java. That day was the first day of my fall break, and I told my mom that I would need about 4 hours of study time that day. 8 ish hours later, I finally submitted my ten pages, having not eaten at all that day and having subjected my mom to a full day of sitting nearby, wondering when I would finish.

I Seem Not to Be Crazy… Yet…

I’m super afraid to say it because I don’t want to jinx it, but maybe school is going well.

2L is a really strange thing. You see, I barely feel like I’ve got a handle on anything. I walk around worrying that my blood pressure is going to get out of control again. I worry about meal prep and stocking my locker and the fridge at school. I worry about deadlines and meetings. Yoga.  Friendships. Church. I worry about technology. Basically, I’m a wad of worry and worry is what law school has been for me.

And yet… 1Ls ask me how to do things.

It’s such an abrupt shift from feeling like, “Okay… I’ve survived the first year. I’m one third of the way done and I haven’t lost my mind just yet…” to having others come to me as if I have a wealth of experience and wisdom that will aid them on their journeys.

For the record, I don’t know how to do things. I’m still just trying to get by.

Even so, school seems to be falling into place and running smoothly. I dropped a class after a minor intervention from a couple of friends who pointed out that I may have been a little too ambitious with my schedule. Besides that minor hiccup, I’m really enjoying things.

Most of my time is spent on Wrongful Convictions stuff. I’m in the clinic and have been assigned to a client whose story really matters to me. Another chunk of my time is spent on normal classes, my favorite of which is First Amendment. Journal work takes up the rest of my time, and after making a change to the topic I’m writing about, I’m pretty happy with my choice to do a journal. I was a little concerned that it would be too much. I’m also on the board of Pride Law, which I’m sort of inadequate for… I haven’t spent much time at all really learning the things that should probably be prerequisites for such a board position, but I’m learning, and the other board members are letting me learn.

In other news, I’m dating someone and I feel like I learn things every day about what it can be to partner up. I didn’t know how stabilizing it can be… to check in each day… to hold hands (I love holding hands)…  to have someone text to make sure I got home okay… someone who tells me it’s okay… who listens and is on my side… who fills me with peace and calm…

I’ve seen a lot of the volatility of relationships and I struggle to trust that my person and I aren’t that… that it’s possible for us to make each other better and build each other up, rather than tearing each other down.


In other life update headlines:

Kate to Visit Family Over Fall Break: Moose’s First Flight

Semester Starts Amid Accusations of Sexual Harassment*

Learn to Drink in Moderation: Believe it or Not, Moderation is Possible

Hanging with Noam Chomsky: Campus Speech Event


And that’s all, folks! Take care of yourself and drop me a line when you get a chance. 🙂


*This one blew my mind a little bit, and you should ask me about it in person… it’s a story.


Law School Can Change a Man

“Hey – law school can change a man.”

A couple of the lawyers in my office were doing a Sorkin – style walk and talk and I caught that one last, grave comment. The lawyer who said it was being both serious and absurd, and it made me smile.

I am done with my internship. I learned so much. I met really great people. I did work that matters. I’m not any closer to figuring out if I want to do that kind of work in the future. It was almost exactly what I thought it would be, and I think I could do it and be okay, but I’m not sure if I really want that to be my daily life… crack-addicted babies, tiny, broken bones, and 5 year olds with PTSD. We’ll see…

My last day on the job was Thursday. Yesterday was a nice day to rest and recover. I also have something like three weeks between now and when I go back to school.

I should feel pretty great about that. Woohoo! Three weeks, right? But I hate myself a little bit today, because fear and dread hit me the second I woke up, and three weeks seemed oh-so-very short.

I go back to school in three weeks.

“Law school can change a man,” is really an absurd thing to say, because it’s an implicit comparison between school and war.

I spent the summer working on legit scary situations, where death and injury are real things…

And all I can think in light of that is that I’m such a spoiled, rich moron for feeling scared to go back to school. I’m so ridiculous…

“I’m signed up for too many credits…”

“Why did I agree to do x/y/z?”

“How am I going to keep myself from dry-heaving?”

“Can I do this for two more years?”

I fluctuate between self-loathing and self-pity.

Last year was so hard.

So hard.

Before I fell to pieces last year, I honestly thought I was pretty decent at self-care.

Now, I feel like I should  stop by the Crisis Response Center and fill out some paperwork so they’ll know who I am and what’s wrong with me when I turn up in mid-November resembling Gollum in pigment, body composition, and style.

Of course it will be okay. I know that.

Also, I love law school. I hope and pray that the friendships I’ve gained from school will be lifelong, because I really love the people. They are so smart. They care about the world and they haven’t given up on their dreams. It’s so rare for adults to still believe that justice can be achieved and that it’s worth fighting for. Of course there is also a certain permeating cynicism that’s unavoidable, but it’s paired with a crusading beautiful idealism. I get to spend my days reading and talking policy, justice, politics, textual interpretation.

I honestly can’t put into words how much I love school.

Just a few weeks ago, I actually had the thought, “I’m ready to go back to school now. I miss school.”

I wish that could be today’s thought.

Today, I want to continue my internship in perpetuity. I could just keep writing the easy parts of appellate briefs. Keep researching and writing memos. Keep being helpful, but ultimately not responsible. Keep being able to sleep and feel normal and not be a lunatic.

In three weeks, I’m going to go back to school and it’s going to be fine.

I’m not going to go crazy.

It’s nothing like war.

Law school is listening, reading, writing, and learning.

Law school is a stressor, but I can totally do this.

I can totally do it.

Can’t I…?

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! 🙂