Category Archives: WAHM

Making it up as I go along…

It’s the motto of my life, apparently.

As a parent I find myself making it up as I go along all the time, but I didn’t expect that to be my career experience as well. It turns out though, having one’s own practice means making it up as you go along!

I have a license that permits to take any case I choose, so long as I am able to devote enough time to understand it and advocate accordingly. So far I have had zer0 cases in my primary field of study, children’s advocacy, and two in my secondary, environmental law. The rest of the substantial stack of work on my desk are in areas I didn’t focus on. I spend a lot of time on my faithful steed (my mac) riding the internet in search of knowledge for Wills, Divorce, Custody and Guardianship arrangements, and now Grant writing. I also spend a lot of time emailing the people I know who focus on those fields and peppering them with questions. (I need to come up with some awesome thank you gifts for these mentors of mine).

So here I sit, in a quiet house, searching Google for grants and tips on grant writing, and following the rabbit hole down into the various depths of government grant sites. It strikes me that blogging may have better prepared me for Google searches than law school did, as I can think of no one better to travel deeper into these various sites than a blogger who can lose three hours to following a comment string. Maybe they should devise a professional blogging degree.

Many hats…

I have many hats, they vary in size and color, and I toss them on whenever I need them the most.

Today I donned my housewife hat and raced out the door to procure juice, cheese, coffee and the all important vaccum bag. Sadly, the bag in question was not present at my local shoppery, so I had to steal one from my mother. (Who happily owns the same vaccum I do. Always buy your mother’s vaccum for this reason.) Then I raced back to the house to host a playdate for Otter, Monkey, and their friend L, who is Otter’s age.

As soon as I got home I donned my housekeeper hat and made the coffee, vaccumed the house, did the dishes and prepared a late breakfast. Then I tossed on my teacher/daycare provider hat and rearranged the furniture so the children had room to roam and created centers with the kid’s toys so their little minds had many places to visit and grow. Once the kids were all happily playing between the sandbox and the living room under the supervision of my darling Monkey, I headed into the office for some lawyering.

I crammed the lawyer hat onto my head and researched the historic range of the Jaguarundi on Google. I added what I found to my complaint, along with some language direct from the Fish and Wildlife Service about how important a recovery plan would be to the conservation of that species. (Yay!) My research was interrupted by the sounds of cold children wishing to be let in and the realization that the freshly vaccumed floor was about to be turned into a beach.

I quickly grabbed by mommy hat and shuffled three very sandy kids into the house and into the shower. Once de-sanded I deposited them in front of a movie and plopped my chef’s hat onto my head. I made lunch out of cheese, crackers, grapes, bagels, and muffins. I served lunch up with Disney’s Robin Hood and raced back into the office to create a comprehensive yet friendly engagement letter for my new client. I shook my head internally as I added phrases like “Client hereby grants Attorney a lien on any and all claims…” and “severability in the event of partial invalidity.”

My designer/marketing hat came on while I redesigned my logo and ordered stickers for envelopes and invoicing. Then I tossed back on the mommy hat to pick up the scattered toy centers and help a now limping Monkey recover from her poor furniture climbing choice.

Obviously I once again located the blogger hat that slid behind my desk weeks ago and decided to at least try it on, if only for a moment, before once again tossing the housekeeper hat on to empty the trash and sweep the sand off the floor.

“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.