I am both revolted and thrilled at being a lawyer.
There are times I am confident I chose the right profession. Instead of saying I’m a project manager or I do consulting work for a computer software company (yawn/bore/snooze), I get to say I’m an attorney. That means I’m smart. Tough. It stands for something. I get to wear heels and I’m not easily threatened. I look forward to a good adversary and can hold my own in a swearing match. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t settle an entire case once for $500 and a ream of copy paper.
My heels are not from Neiman’s. I got them at TJ Maxx with the size 10 sticker still firmly implanted on the inside of the heel. I don’t read the Wall Street Journal, although I used to subscribe and marvel at those dot-art pictures, flipping through it to find a movie review or a piece on sea lions. But all I found were boring articles on the economy. Then I realized it’s called the Wall Street Freaking Journal and such articles are actually important to some (boring lame uninspired) people. I dropped my subscription.
In my free time, instead of going to the theatre or golfing, I get online to check out what Angelina Jolie wore to the Oscars. I like to search for hidden treasure at Goodwill and think of all the recipes I can make that contain pumpkin. In law school, I went on a hunt for antique mayonnaise jars the day before my Taxation of Estates final. My study group just shook their head as if I went on some trek in the Amazon. “What?” I said as I unscrewed a rusty lid and stuck my nose inside to see if the jar still smelled.
There is just something about law that’s flat-out boring. A few months ago, I sat all day long in a freezing cold conference room staring at presentations about healthcare reform. The speakers were just giddy about the subject matter and pranced about the podium rubbing their hands together with glee, espousing their opinions on section 501(r) and whether the government would come out with new regulations and – oh hell. I was focusing on some lady’s hair and didn’t keep track of the rest. I was impressed with their enthusiasm, though. All top-of-their-class with great hair and Washington internships. I can imagine them all conversing at a dinner party, giggling and drinking Bordeaux. I worked for Representative Williams! Really I did! I have an ornament to prove it! Congressional Aide I was! Bloody hell!
I kept pretending to take a call so I could step outside into the lobby. I gave men around me that why can’t my office just leave me alone, already? look while I pressed my phone to my ear like I couldn’t hear and eased out of the room. We were across the street from the capital; it’s not like we were in Somalia with questionable cell phone reception. In reality, I was calling my secretary to tell her that I was dangerously close to letting my bar card expire and having a go at a juggling career. I wondered if she had eaten lunch. Did she have a sandwich? Was there rain in the forecast? Did she say she had ham? After the fifth call, my secretary told me to get off the phone and go back in.
“You’re starting to become annoying,” she said.
I trudged in and plunked down in my chair, opening spam emails to pass the time. Did you know Frontgate was having a bedding sale and The Body Shop offered free shipping? Fascinating! I was so bored I texted everyone I knew with little random statements, such as “sitting at a CLE!” or “you having a good day?” or “I’d like to slit my wrists because I chose the most boring career on the planet and perhaps I should re-evaluate my life here on earth and buy nicer shoes.” But everyone else was busy or distracted or annoyed and didn’t respond. I sat there rubbing my temples and smiling at the man next to me who said this was one of the best conferences yet. “Oh yes,” I said. “So informative. Did you know about those relaxed jurisdictional rules? Insane!” We all giggled and adjusted our glasses and looked back at the speaker. I tried to not focus on his freakishly thick hair, but let’s face it. My focus was helplessly lost.
All the folks that talk at these conferences are from big mega-firms. They eat and breathe this stuff. They wouldn’t think of pondering whether strawberry and fig go together for the purposes of making jam or whether they should make seventeen hand-made birthday party invitations for a five-year-old. Maybe I did choose the wrong career. Maybe I missed my calling.
But then, I go back to work the next day, with a night full of rest and a mug full of strong coffee. I listen to the methodical voices on NPR and inch up north through rush hour traffic. When I get to the office, I have four voicemails from people who need my advice. I have emails from folks who care what I think, who want me to help them answer their questions. Edit their letters. Review their contracts. Ease their minds. No one cares about my shoes, although today I am rockin Ann Klein Leopard-print peek-a-boos.
I laugh when someone tells me they will sue, because I know they are lying and instead simply forgot to take their bipolar meds. I have a head that’s bursting with knowledge about causation and limits of liability and risk. I am a professional, and can go head-to-head with others because I’ve earned the right. Then, at that very moment, I know I’m meant to be an attorney. Those speakers are dull because they choose to be dull. I celebrate Wednesdays and send out quotes from Joan Rivers via email and shop for old jars. And if I need something from the conference, I can always look through the powerpoint slides. I suppose that, despite hating legal conferences, I like what I do. After all, when someone says they’ll have their lawyer call me, I get a tingly feeling in my stomach. “Go ahead,” I say through a crooked grin. “I welcome the call.”
Here’s to being a lawyer. Go ahead. Sue me.