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.

 

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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

ASU

University North Carolina Charlotte

Wake Forest

Duke

Boston College

Baylor

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?

 

Accidental Wisdom


I accidentally said something wise at work.

Co-worker Elaine had asked me about Ragnar because her husband and some of his friends were getting a team together and she wasn’t sure if she should run or not, and I have a bunch of Ragnar stickers on my car.

Of course, I told her Ragnar is the best. I told her that it’s my favorite race, and that she is totally capable of running it. I told her that people run in costume and there’s a unique camaraderie in the van. I told her it’s a chance to feel like a kid again.

Still, Elaine was worried about her pace. Evidently her husband’s friends are cops and are pretty competitive. They didn’t love that she runs like an 11-minute pace. In our conversation about pace, she was saying that she just didn’t think she would ever get faster, and I said, “Pace is really just dependent on how uncomfortable you’re willing to be. You can get faster; it just might not be worth the discomfort.”

Of course discomfort is not the only factor. If I’d lose 20 lbs, it’d be a lot easier for me to run faster, but the variable that’s always a factor is discomfort.

I am a firm believer that anyone can run Ragnar, anyone can run a half marathon, and anyone can run a full marathon. The question isn’t whether a person can do it. The question is whether a person is willing to do it. The question is how uncomfortable a person is willing to be, because running a marathon is really uncomfortable for a really long time.

Elaine recently quoted me back to myself, saying that she actually thinks about discomfort every time she runs now. She thinks about how if she’ll just be a little more uncomfortable, she’ll also be a little faster.

It’s really cool to hear that it helped her. Even though I didn’t intend to be particularly awesome or helpful in that moment, what I said to Elaine has actually been really helpful to me in studying for the LSAT.

The LSAT is an obnoxious test. And I’m beginning to believe that taking it is a lot lot running a personal best on race day. It’s not just about getting up to the distance; it’s also about being efficient. It’s about pacing and constant forward motion.

I scored my first 160 on a practice test several weeks ago, which was awesome. 160 is the median score U of A accepts, and it’s at the lower end of the range where they offer merit-based scholarships. It was also my goal score, so I got to adjust my goal up, which is always such a confidence-booster. But it took a lot of discomfort to get to that 160. It took a lot of sitting at sbucks, reading and practicing a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with law school. I’ve done practice questions about giraffes, race cars, evolution, public parks, furniture, bread deliveries, tropical fish, computers, drilling fluids, choreography… you name it, I’ve studied it. Some of the questions are about literature, which always makes me happy, but the vast majority of my preparation has been reading about crap that really irritates me.

Also, it would have been easy to score 160, then stop worrying and studying. And yet, here I am, at sbucks, getting ready to work through my third thousand-plus page book, in the hopes that reading about the history of model airplanes will provide significant compensation in a few months. Discomfort now, for comfort in the future.

That’s what running is like. The more uncomfortable I’m willing to be, the better I will likely perform on race-day.