What they don’t teach you in law school

Every day when I wake up, I have to remind myself how blessed I am. Approximately 1/3 of the population has a college degree. There are about 1 million active, licensed attorneys and the US had a population of 316.1 million people as of 2013. I am part of an extremely elite profession that encompasses a mere 0.003% of the population. given that I am female and African-American, my status makes me somewhat exceptional.

So when I wake up and start applying for jobs on Craigslist in my bathrobe, thinking of those things reminds me that I’m not a failure.

I also make myself remember why I got into this line of work: to help people. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I can solve a problem for someone. But it’s not as easy all that. There’s rules of procedure, courtroom etiquette (aka trying not to piss off a nitpicky old judge), research, depositions, brief writing, motion pleading, etc, etc, etc. Most of which you only scratch the surface of in law school. Solo practice is hugely intimidating. Doubly so when you’re a minority and know that everything you do is scrutinized even more. Triply so when you’re new in town and don’t know the lay of the land. I went to a CLE today and everyone was saying you need to basically stalk the courthouse and pick up pro bono work (which ostensibly leads to paying case referrals if you do a good job), or just hand out business cards and pick up a random client. Sounds great in theory. But:

1. Malpractice suits are a real and present danger. Westlaw subscriptions are expensive. I have access to Fastcase through the bar association but it only lets me see Texas cases. Thus, I mostly stick to editing and drafting contracts because the law because the law tends to be easier to find and less variable across jurisdictions.

2. Who’s going to help me learn how to present a hearing, or conduct a trial? The procedural manuals tell you a lot, and so does courtroom observation. But it’s not the same as having someone to walk you through it and fill in the gaps. Clearly the judge isn’t going to do it, so…

3. Where I am supposed to meet my clients? I don’t have office space or money to rent it. I suppose we could conference at the courthouse but that raises issues with breaking privilege and confidentiality since it’s a public space. Same thing with a random coffeehouse.

I could go on….Let’s not even get into all the money I have to spend on gas and parking- I live 30 minutes away from the courthouse and there’s no such thing as free parking in Houston. Working for free costs more than just your time, contrary to what people believe.

I went to a seminar today for new lawyers and the privilege disgusted me at times. Then there was a very awkward session where a retired lawyer went on a rant about the lack of respect for authority- in my opinion, a dig at the national unrest stemming from Ferguson but I could be reading too far into it. When he started talking about professional attorney, he basically stared me (and my fluffy twist-out) down. It was pretty apparent because there were only four other attendees, all sitting to the left of me and more directly in his line of sight. It really rubbed me the wrong way. Why is it that natural hair is only professional when it’s braided or bunned and essentially, tamed? My hair grows out instead of down. What of it? And although you think I just rolled out of bed and achieved this afro, in point of fact I spend a few hours each week maintain it and several minutes every morning coaxing it into its current shape. The microaggressions are real out in these streets.

I don’t really have a point to this post. Except to say that there’s a lot they don’t teach you in law school. And life can be much more unfair than you thought. But there’s always hope. I’m going to make it, one way or another.


“I’ve been workin’ this grave shift/ and I ain’t made sh*t/ I wish I could, buy me a spaceship and fly. . .”- Kanye West


I spent my New Year’s Day working. Although the store wasn’t that busy, I clocked out feeling drained. Retail/customer service work is light on pay and heavy on emotional labor. Smiling and being pleasant even though the person in front of you is all but calling you an idiot. Swallowing a snarky reply when the voice on the other end of the line is serving up attitude because they don’t like the answer you gave them. It’s hard. Bad enough that I’m working way too hard for the minimum wage I’m getting, and that I haven’t yet found a position that in any way utilizes my natural talents or the skills I developed through 7 years of postsecondary schooling. Nope, I’ve got to put up with being belittled and pretend that it’s okay. Not to mention that people treat the store ten times worse than they would treat their home. The kinds of trash that people leave and where they leave it is horrifying. (Pro tip: If you didn’t know already, make sure you wash your new lingerie before wearing it if it isn’t in a sealed package. You can thank me later.)

I’ve never been a nightmare customer. My parents taught me to acknowledge and respect everyone, even the guy mopping the floors. When I shop, I leave the things I don’t want at the fitting room or back on their proper rack. I throw away my trash and if I have a question, I ask politely because I know that whatever problems I’m dealing with have nothing to do with the person in front of me. So of course I was shocked at the complete and utter disregard that I experience daily. I used to feel a bit miffed when a salsesperson wasn’t appropriately cheerful, or got impatient with me when I asked for help but now I get it. 8 out 10 customers you encounter are helpless at best (asking you for the price without bothering to check the tag, walking through the department they’re looking for to ask you where it is), and a complete a-hole at worst. It’s discouraging. I really want to quit, but I’m holding out for what few post-holiday hours I’m getting because I’m not sure how many I will get doing taxes. I’m only on the schedule for 12 hours my first week, and I haven’t been scheduled past that but I think it’s incomplete. I have an office meeting on Saturday so I plan to find out then. If I can get at least 30 hours a week I’ll have some breathing room.

I hadn’t applied to any jobs since I started the retail gig. I honestly didn’t have time since I was so busy. But things are slowing down and I’ve put in several new applications this week, including a non-profit position much like the one I almost obtained in Atlanta back in the spring. Fingers crossed. It’s only about $30k/yr, but so much more advantageous to my career, in addition to being personally fulfilled. Big bro says things are going to turn around for me and Tex in 2014. I hope he’s right. It’s getting harder to be optimistic but I haven’t given up hope. I know that I’m meant for better things, if I can just hang on through the storm.

“So I’mma live hard, I’mma dream big/ Cause in the end, homie I’m just tryna live good” – Ryan Leslie

Holding Pattern

I’m feeling a bit out of sorts today. I’ve been chugging along on faith and optimism for the past month, but every so often it starts to flag and I struggle to remind myself that this is just a phase. I know that “comparison is the thief of happiness” but I’m not so much envious as wistful. There’s no one common denominator between my friends who are employed and those who aren’t. We all went to school and graduated, we all networked, we all had internships. It just seems to be more about luck of the draw.

Job applications are currently the bane of my existence. I feel like I’m an outdated model– the only things I’m an “expert” in are history (there’s no lack of social studies teachers) and law (these days, you’ve got to be licensed to do something as menial as document review). I’m a Renaissance woman who can do a lot of things with above average competence, but nobody wants that anymore. If you have to be trained, you’re out of the resume pool. Tex is actually back in Atlanta today, interviewing for two different positions at the same company. It would be highly ironic if we ended up moving back there and I’d miss Whataburger (lol) but I’m definitely rooting for him to succeed. I got a part-time job with a tax preparation firm, but I’d imagine they have some openings back in Georgia so I could transfer. Even if I couldn’t, I’m not making nearly enough to justify staying here if Tex gets the offer.

Today I interviewed for an office assistant position–shockingly, I hadn’t been screened out. I say that because I created a dumbed down resume that omits my law school experience precisely for applying to jobs that I would otherwise be overqualified for. However, I realized that I had accidentally sent in my real resume to this listing. After introducing myself the guy asked, “Why are you here?” and I couldn’t bring myself to lie. I was upfront about the fact that I simply need work, and have no problem doing administrative tasks. I actually enjoy keeping things organized and helping people out.* I figured that honesty couldn’t hurt since he already knew I was ridiculously overqualified. Surprisingly, he said he understood and even more, that he liked me. He told me he had several more interviews to conduct,  and asked would it be okay for him to forward my resume to some of his business friends in the event he decided I wasn’t the best fit. Of course, I said yes. I don’t expect to get that job, and I won’t be mad if I don’t. But it was nice to have a moment of authenticity and compassion, and to be seen as a person instead of Candidate #56.

Tex and I have agreed that applying for jobs all too often feels like selling yourself, except there’s no money on the counter when you leave an interview. Chasing down a customer? Dressing the part? Check. Pulling out your best tricks in hopes of eventually getting paid? Check. Psychologically, the process would be easier if you at least got a rejection email. Instead, you get really pumped up about any listing that even seems like a slight fit for you, craft an amazing cover letter and anxiously wait to hear back…until you forget you even applied because you do that every week. I really feel for Tex because unlike me, he’s had probably 20 interviews, all with different companies, since he got laid off. You’d think that at the point where you put on a suit and go talk to a human being they’d at least give you an idea of why you didn’t get picked, but that’s not the case. It’s always about the “right fit”. Why does fit matter if I can do the job? With the exception of domestic workers, who are around your home, children and personal belongings, the perfect personality shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not as if you’re going to have work with that person for the next 20 years. That kind of career longevity is reserved for the big companies, and even their retention rates haven been steadily falling. Job hopping is fast becoming the rule and not the exception.

Ah, well. Just wanted to get some things off my chest. Trouble doesn’t last always, and it’s a beautiful day for a walk around the neighborhood.


*I could have been a librarian in a past life. Actually, I seriously considered getting a Master’s in Library Science. Except the idea of 2 extra years of school to learn the Dewey Decimal system when I already knew the local library like the back of my hand seemed silly.

Something Old, Something New

I’M MARRIED!!!!!!!



The big kiss


The cake was beautiful AND delicious!



I’m not much for flowers but I looooved this bouquet.


A good luck kiss from mommy


The wedding was fantastic. Everything went off without a hitch.  My dad owns a car service, so I had a driver to take  me & the bridesmaids from our hotel room to the venue. It was quite the VIP experience! My hair & makeup were just what I wanted–glamorous with a nod to the classic but still unmistakably me. Almost all of my closest friends were there, and true to her word Maya made the trip down from NYC. We had so much fun! I will remember it forever. Not to mention that my dad and my father-in-law are becoming fast friends. I think they found a kindred spirit with whom they could a) brag or complain about their children and b) share deep thoughts about being black male professionals. It’s nothing short of hilarious!

My life is completely changed now, and not just because I’m married. The fact is that mere weeks after I graduated and moved in with Tex, he got laid off. We made it through the end of the summer with our savings, help from his parents and his unemployment. But in three months, nothing had panned out for either of us as far as salaried work so we decided the smart thing to do would be to move back to Houston with his parents, and save the rest of his unemployment money until we got back on our feet. I’m not going to lie, part of me felt defeated. We did all the right things and seemingly none of them mattered. But now I’m feeling hopeful again. Tex has some more job leads and I have some things in the works too. It looks like we’re going to make it.

Life in Texas is pretty good, aside from the heat. Fortunately we only have a few more weeks of oppressive summer weather before things cool off for a while, and hopefully by this time next year I’ll be acclimated to it. My mother-in-law is a faithful exerciser, which is motivating me to strive for the same. I’ve inherited Tex’s friends so I do have a small social life, and I’m looking to get back into music by joining a community orchestra soon. I miss my viola, and playing in concert–the way that every player brings the song to life and you’re surrounded by music. It’s even cooler to play the harmony to me, because often my part makes no sense on its own. It taught me how to listen to what under and behind the melody and appreciate that in music, as in life, it is sometimes the random or subtle contributions that make a huge difference.

I certainly miss being down the street from my siblings, but homesickness hasn’t really kicked in. I feel refreshed here, like there’s no limits on my life. I have no history here so anything is possible. I would say I’m surprised that I like it so much but the truth is, I’ve been feeling stifled in Atlanta for a long time. My family and some of closest friends are there but aside from that, I was just bored and frustrated. Atlanta is beautiful and unique in that it is truly an integrated city; despite the lingering legacy of slavery black people can and do run sh*t. It’s not hard to find a black lawyer, doctor, or politician. We’re at the top, the bottom and the middle class. But still, there’s no unity of purpose and socially, people can be very calculating. It’s all about status. The Old Boys Club has nothing on the exclusivity of some of my black educated peers. To sum it up: in a general sense, I’ve never felt like I belonged in Atlanta. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in.

Everything happens for a reason, and I’m okay with my current circumstances because deep down in my spirit I know that God is moving. Maybe He knew that in order to keep us from falling into complacency and a life lived by default, He’d have to throw all our plans into disarray. I’ve just got to let Him work, and be faithful. Right now we’re 25 with no kids and no mortgage, nothing to keep us from uprooting our lives at a moment’s notice, so I choose to consider it an adventure. I think we’re where we need to be, and because of that, we’ll be okay.

Building your dream life

Life after law school actually hasn’t been a disaster. I was starting to get pretty bummed; I had started applying to secretary and paralegal positions just to get some money coming in and fill the gap on my resume. One day last month I went on Idealist.org to peruse the listings and came across one for an internship at a local nonprofit. The application deadline was in 2 days, and it only paid a $100/wk stipend. However, it was for a programs and development intern to do grant research and help with the administration of the organizations monthly and annual outreach events and projects. In short, it was exactly what I was looking for! So I went to the interview, and despite being late to an interview for the first time ever in life* they picked me! And two other interns as well.

But I love it! I have several projects planned out for the duration. I’ll get to do some grant research and writing and I’m being trained to run orientations for our mentoring program, as well as career workshops.  I haven’t done very much with these so far because two huge annual events are back to back this year and it’s been all hands on deck. What really struck me is that every day I’m excited to come to work. I’m never watching the clock waiting for 5pm to come, even when I’m doing grunt work like sorting office supplies or putting together charity auction packets. I’m energized in a way that I never felt during my judicial externship or my time interning at the legal aid clinic. I love the people, I love the work and I really hope that this leads to a full-time position here or at a similar organization.

This week, all my law school friends will be taking the bar, and they’re excited about becoming Esquires and formally entering the profession. Me? I’m not in a hurry to take the bar. I originally planned to take it in February 2014, but may have to defer until July due to financial issues (that ish ain’t cheap, y’all, and we’ve still got wedding stuff to pay on top of regular bills). I still plan to go ahead and do it just as a safety net. But even though mediation and family law would be a career I could live with, it’s not the one I really want. What I want is do nonprofit management and public policy. People have asked me, can’t you do both? But the reality is that law is something that’s really hard to do just “on the side”. Even something as simple as a will for a regular working class family could take 40 billable hours to finish–that’s a whole full time week on just one case. Bottom line for me is that I’m just happier not doing law, and I’m okay with that. The world doesn’t need another unhappy lawyer.





*It was in an area I’ve never driven to, I made two wrong turns and then got caught at every. single. light. I called in once I knew I wouldn’t make it though.

Out of Sync

I feel like I’m destined to live my life in reverse order of everyone else.

I’ve been a big fan of astrology since I was younger. I put no stock in horoscopes–I believe that psychics exists but I don’t believe that anyone can predict a person’s day to day life based on his or her sign. When I was 11 or 12, I got a mini astrology book for my birthday. I’m a Capricorn, and most of the personality traits fit me perfectly. But none of that is what I’ve remembered from that book.

Sixth grade was a terrible year for me. I was being teased mercilessly at school, to the point where I spent the last two months of the year doing my work from home. I ended up attending a private school for the next two years–I learned that sometimes, just walking away from a bad situation is the best thing you can do for yourself. But I digress. Needless to say, I was feeling alienated from my peers. I just didn’t get why I was being singled out. Sure I loved school, and I cared about doing well–but I also liked *NSync, and playing with makeup, going to the movies, and all the other typical middle school pursuits. The little astrology book said something to this effect: Capricorn ages in reverse. As others grow more settled in their ways, Capricorn becomes more youthful and carefree. Capricorns truly come into their own in the second part of life.

Those lines stopped me cold. Finally, an explanation! Maybe it wasn’t my fault that I had trouble relating to kids my age–I was just ahead of my time. That stayed buried in the recesses of my memory until recently. I find myself branching out and wanting to do many of the things that I didn’t before, and taking life less seriously. My classmates agonize over class rank while I think “Eh, it’s just a grade.” I’ve never seen the appeal in parties but I want to go to a lounge for my  next birthday. But it goes the other way too. Most folks start dating & sexing in high school and don’t get married until they’re approaching 30. I started dating at age 18, and am engaged at 23 to the same guy I’ve been dating since I was 20. It seems that while everyone else is starting to care more and more about what other people think, I’m starting to care less and less.

This is purely anecdotal, of course. But I still feel like I’m destined to swim upstream.