“It’s always darkest” or “In the clutches of a panic attack”…

Johnny, You can do it…. says Jaime Escalante to his students at Garfield High. I hear him repeating his favorite phrase in my ear each time I try to build this thing I intend to call a practice. Practice is a good word for it, I feel as though I am in rehearsal for my professional life, instead of in it. It would feel different if I wasn’t making it up as I went along, but instead was being told what to do. Damn it, I should have just gotten a job.

This is so incredibly hard, and there is no guarantee at all that all this hard work will result in money. (Though really, I would love to have some money, it’s nice to be able to buy things, pay bills, visit family from time to time.)

I have had great success in the long term, high risk/high reward side of my business. My one environmental client will give me as much work as I can handle and then some. Of course, I only get paid for that work as part of the damages portion of a settlement or winning lawsuit, so I can’t count on that money to pay my monthly bills for at least another year. (Try telling that to your creditors, “just one more year guys and I will be all set!”)

So, to balance out my business and pay those bills I have been building a “bread and butter” side to the practice. To begin with it was children’s advocacy. I have been working with the Office of the Child’s representative (OCR) for over six months now to get added to the contract for state pay cases. This would insure a modest, but consistent income I could use to pay those pesky monthly’s while I build my environmental empire. (Yes, I am queen of the nigh extinct creatures, the polluted waters, and the wasted resources.) Things were going along great until the OCR met with a huge budget crisis in the new economy and stopped hiring new attorneys. Including me.

So… no bread and butter there.

Then I thought I could get a job working with the various legal temp agencies doing document review. It pays even less than the kids work, but it’s still good money. So down I went to interview with two very nice women who are very interested in getting me work. Unfortunately, all the clients they have who are okay with me representing my own clients in my off hours require me to work Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week. The clients they have that will work with my schedule and let me work 30 hours on a M, W, F, schedule require me to take no additional clients.

So… no bread and butter there.

I sometimes panic, thinking I was a fool to believe I could work in the law, raise my children, and earn some money. It would seem the odds are stacked against me making one out of three of those things work. Either I can take everything on speculation and have no guaranteed income (a situation my creditors dislike heartily), or I can work for pay but only full time, or I can raise my kids and work at Taco Bell (Starbucks is likely way too popular for me to even try in this economy, I am sure there are hundreds of CEO’s trying to land jobs as Barista’s.)

I have reached out to a mentor of mine for advice and help, and he is noodling on the problem, so I am hopeful. However, I could use a little you can do it these days, there are so many indications that maybe I can’t. This business is the riskiest thing I have ever done. I would like to believe it is going to take off and get me flying, but there is a inside me saying I will land, Splat, flat on my face.

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Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar….

Happy Valentines Day!!

For the first year in a really long time Lee and I actually went out to dinner without the kids on the Hallmark day of love. We ate some delicious Indian food (Lamb Korma and Lamb Masala, veggie samosa, and garlic naan.) We drank an entire bottle of Eschelon Pinot Noir, we sipped chai.

Best of all, we spoke. We paid attention to each other, has lots to say to each other, and truly enjoyed ourselves. (Thank you for babysitting Mar!! We appreciate it.)

Lee got me a book called Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar. It’s an examination of philosophy through jokes. It’s really interesting, it discusses metaphysics, logic, ethics, religion, and more. Here are a few of the jokes they use to express these ideas…

Teleology (Aristotle: everything has a telos, an inner goal it is meant to attain)-

Mrs. Goldstien was walking down the street with her two grandchildren. A friend stopped to ask her how old they were. She replied “The doctor is five and the lawyer is seven.”

Rationalism (The belief that reason takes precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge.)-

The optimist says “The glass is half full.”

The pessimist says “The glass is half empty.”

The rationalist says “The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”

The Monte Carlo Fallacy (The mistaken belief that the roulette wheel has a better chance of stopping on red the 7th time after six prior black landings. Sadly, it’s the same 50/50 chance each time.)

If you are getting on a commercial airliner, for safety’s sake take a bomb with you… because the overwhelming odds are there won’t be two guys on the same plane with a bomb.

Pragmatism (We choose our truth by what difference it will make in practice) –

A woman reports her husband’s disappearance to the police. They ask her for a description and she says “He’s six feet, three inches tall, well-built, with thick curly hair.” Her friend says’ “What are you talking about? Your husband is five feet four, bald, and has a huge belly!” The woman answers “Who wants that one back?”.

So far the book is one of the more interesting ways I have studied philosophical ideas. I can’t wait for my brother to come into town so I can share a night of beer and bad jokes, this time geared towards discussing philosophy!

Tag teamed…

The kids, oft referred to as stinkers, have been tag teaming me this week.

Otter, though normally perfectly happy to nap between 1 and 3, has refused to nap earlier than 3:00, thereby guaranteeing that I have not one second of time to myself between the hours of 7 am and 8 pm, as his sister gets home at 3:00. His later naptime has the additional benefit of delaying his bedtime until about 10 p.m., thereby guaranteeing that I have not one second of time to myself between the hours of 8 pm and 10 pm. Basically, I get no break at all until it’s time to go to bed.

This would upset me less if he acted like this when his dad was in town, instead of saving it all up for me when daddy is far far away.

Three whales, two sharks, and a Coelacanth walk into my practice…

along with a sea turtle, a small wild kitty, and a few other critters.

Nope, it’s not a bad bar joke, it’s the long list of new cases I agreed to take from my wonderful environmental mentor.

A few days before the interview from hell I emailed my mentor and told him I needed help figuring out how to build a practice in environmental law, as I was fairly certain I didn’t want to work outside the home. I explained I was interviewing for a position with the D.A., and was really excited about what I could learn from her, but was doubtful that it was the right time to leave the kids in so much non parental care, and was feeling incredibly anxious about working that many hours so far away.

I asked him how realistic it was to build a practice that focused on environmental law about 20 hours or so a week. I offered him pie in exchange for advice. (Homemade pie could conquer the world if used correctly). My pie got me a wonderful meal with one of my favorite people, a discussion of the various issues facing an environmental practice, and an action plan, along with 8 or 9 solid cases with different timings, and an offer to create my own work in the future and accept more work as it come down the line.

I will have to do some rainmaking, though not in the traditional sense. I will have to file some petitions (without pay) in order to set in motion some of the actions I will later be filing suit on. However, the work is solid, and my client has too much to handle on their own and few attorneys to take it on such a speculative basis. It appears I will be able to fill my platter with all sort of fun creatures. Even better, these cases have a variety of issues to them, so I will not be focusing on only one thing time and time again. I have some critical habitat issues, some recovery issues, and some listing issues to argue. One case even touches on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which cracks me up every time I see the traffic on Downing stopped for the Canadian Geese. I will even be able to potentially pick up some Clean Water Act permitting work, which would correlate nicely with my Water Law class and open me up to a whole new area of law.

Additionally, I got a call on my private child and family investigator practice. It would appear that I may have a case coming to me that way too!

The wheels are turning and the clients are coming in! It may be possible to do this “work from home” gig after all! I have to say I like the jeans and teva crowd a lot more than the vibe I got from the interview, it’s nice to work from home in my jammies, my favorite coffee really nearby. I am blessed to have a plethora of mentors interested in guiding me and advising me, so I can call on them for issues I face with each aspect of the various legal arena’s I am operating in.

So, now I am off to finish organizing my office space, and getting ready to work in earnest. I am going to be very busy, very soon.

Wills in the gothic style…

One of the things my Trusts and Estates professor told us was to embrace the ceremony behind the execution of a will, and never forget it should be a special event, filled with pomp and circumstance, regardless of how many wills you have created. After all, it is rare for a person get more than one or two done in their lifetime, so it’s a unique experience for your client, even if  it is bread and butter for you.

Which got me thinking I should use some nice paper, get some special envelopes made for the storage, etc.

Then my mother suggested that I offer wills in a gothic style, to appeal to those friends of mine in the Goth community.

I think this would be so much fun! Imagine the possible textures and colors you could work with! Imagine wax seals on the envelopes! How cool would it be to have an entire set of legal documents designed to appeal to the lifestyle of your client instead of making them use the same old template everyone else uses? After all, it’s not as if the court will toss the Will out because it’s on parchment paper and has a neat font at the top, so long as the requirements for validity are met, design is simply the fun part!

Just when you thought it was safe to reenter the workforce…

I have spent the past week now with a baby who has suffered fevers of between 102 and 104, and now lesions in his mouth making it nigh impossible to eat or drink much. I have not been sleeping well, eating well, or moving far from the couch. My arms haven’t been empty for more than a few minutes for seven days. He is  back to sleeping with us at night. I haven’t opened a case file or researched a legal topic in over a week. On the upside, I am watching the entire first season of House.

Thank god I don’t have a job to get fired from due to all the work I would be missing.

This week has really driven home my realization that a full time + job at this juncture would be a mistake, especially one with a two hour daily commute.

Added to that realization is my husband being assigned to another client, and once again having to travel a fair portion of the time. Someone has to be home to handle the perpetually sick children and increasing “tumble fur” issues, not to mention all the boundary setting and arguing that comes with a seven year old. (She never agrees to anything, aruges the fine points of everything we say, and simply chooses to act “with malice aforethought” a good portion of the time.)

One of us has to be here to do this, or at least have a job that allows us to take time off. Lee can’t really do that, and I can’t if I am supposed to be in court all the time.

These epiphany’s seem to come to me after traumatic events. That interview was so negative, it took me very little time to feel relieved that I saw that nature of that office before I made choices that would have committed me to full time child care and an inflexible schedule.

This week I finish the office, order my new computer, and get the ball running on advertising and announcement for my practice. At least I won’t fire me for taking sick days.