Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Faked It Until I Made It

I'll never be a trial lawyer, I vowed. My face turns beat red when a professor calls on me, I freeze, I invert words, I am terrified. Stick me in an office and let me be a document rat.

Of course, I then litigated cases full time, as my only job, for five years. I can't stop those reactions. They are just a biological thing, and bodies gonna body. I learned to control them, and even use them to my advantage. Terrified = I over prepare, anticipate every objection and twist and turn, and as a result, I am almost always the most prepared person in the room. I know the evidence rule that deals with your objection. I have the case law cite that supports my argument. Freeze = gives me a chance to slow down my voice, pick a good cadence, gather my thoughts, take a breath.

There's not much I can do about the red face, but I did invest in some really good grownup makeup, so there's that at least.

I got good at it. I even enjoyed litigating. There's rhythm, a beginning and an end, but the middle is more like jazz music. You can get n groove and move along with it, but it's always somewhat on the fly, changing, shifting under your feet and fingers. Just dance along and listen, you'll be fine. I enjoyed it so much that I thought, yeah, I'll never be an office lawyer now. I like this.

Of course, I got a promotion into what would have originally been my dream job--writing a legal textbook, doing a ton of research and writing, some policy work, and, ugh, presenting at conference and training attorneys, judges, other professionals, and so on.

I was bummed to leave full time litigation behind--I still keep a small docket of cases, to keep my skills sharp, but it's much smaller--but damn if it wasn't easier with a small kid who was a tiny disease vector to be mostly in the office and not be at the court's whim and mercy. I've been there four years now--writing this book, researching and writing other things, reaching out to the statewide community to teach them, starting new clinics and initiatives, doing some policy stuff. It's fun.

I still freeze. I still turn red. I still over prepare. I'm still all those things, I am still me, and that's something I don't think I appreciated while I was trying to pick a career path. You're always going to find an aspect of your job that challenges an essential part of you that you really can't change. You have to find your work around.

Law school Grace would never, ever, NEVER EVER SO MUCH NOPE imagined me doing what I am doing now. Talking on radio shows with live call-in callers? Speaking to hundreds of people about the law in one sitting? Starting up legal clinics from scratch and working nights and weekends to reach communities that are terrified for their lives and their children? Still litigating? Yeah, no. Law school Grace would have dug the book and document writing, and that's about it.

I wonder where I'll go from here, and what new workarounds I will have to find.


Anonymous said...

That is awesome!

Also, you can probably do something about the red face if you really want to. I have rosacea and one of the side effects is that my face flushes when I am emotional in any way (angry, embarrassed, frustrated...) Really not cool for a litigator. Anyway, there is medicine for that. I've used it and it works!


Grace said...

Once I am not hosting a baby, I plan to have a chat with a derm. You inspired me!

Kindra said...

Such an inspiring post, on so many levels!