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July 2009 Archives

July 5, 2009

Believing In The Face of Reasonable Doubt, Part II

The 2009 New Year brought many reasons for optimism— that Barack Obama was president and George Bush was not— were two important ones. But by February, I was hoping that something inside me had changed. I knew when I registered for my third attempt at the bar that I couldn’t keep doing things the same way. And hiring a tutor, which I did for the second attempt, obviously wasn’t the change I needed. My problem was not that I didn’t know the material and the solution wasn’t external. The obstacles were all in my head and what had to change was my mind.

One of the first things I did to alter my disposition was register to work on the election campaign in Pennsylvania. I wanted to participate in history and I needed to concentrate on something else for a while. You could say I went there to also keep my hope alive. I spoke to people about the need for change and tried to make them believe it was possible. When I returned home I proceeded to have a serious talk with the hostile and often damaging voices in my head. There were many voices and of course the loudest was the most negative. They were hard to quiet and impossible to lose. Not even meditation could keep them out. I later realized that the answer to the voices wasn’t how to get rid of them, but choosing which one to listen to.

I had that epiphany before the inauguration. The energy inside me shifted and everything changed. In meditation I would sit and listen to all the voices and smile as if I were at a board meeting with my trusted advisors. I would decide what course of action to take and which to avoid completely. It soon became clear to my more pessimistic self that choosing to be optimistic was the way to go. Then “all of me” started working together and worked hard on keeping the faith.

By the beginning of February I was in a whole new and remarkably more comfortable study routine. Everything was different— what I studied, where and most importantly, how. I no longer thought about not being able to find a job and was grateful that I could continue to study without one. And, I no longer felt like Sisyphus every time I sat down to study. I remembered why I wanted to be a lawyer and that I loved the art of the law. The “learning” now was a new and exciting process. I was amazed at how much clearer some previously obtuse concepts became— although the stupefying rule against perpetuities remains a mystery to me even now.

Reuniting with my hope and confidence and bringing together my heart and mind was often a conquest of will, but it would have been an impossible task for me to accomplish by myself. Fortunately I didn’t have to. My partner has strong arms and broad shoulders and an incredible capacity to hear and understand me. One of my best friends spent an entire weekend with me in a sort of dialectical Zen boot camp, and he called me every night for two weeks before the exam. Two friends offered me money and another offered to cook for me. And my dog would come and sit next to me whenever she felt I was tense— she was next to me all the time. When I went into to take the exam at the end of February I felt prepared, I felt the confident vibes of everyone who believed in me and I knew I couldn’t fail.

It was Cinco de Mayo and the message read, “Dear Candidate: The State Board of Law Examiners congratulates you on passing the New York State bar examination held on February 24–25, 2009.” It was very surreal. My eyes scanned the screen a few times but I didn’t move. I had fantasized about that moment, how I would feel, how I would react. I saw myself scream and pump my fists in the air victoriously like Lebron James after a half court three-point jump shot with one second on the clock at the NBA championship. Or, I would scream, rip my shirt off and slide on my knees like Brandi Chastain after winning the Women’s World Cup. It would defiantly be an ESPN Top 10 moment, I was sure. But it wasn’t. I sat silently and motionless for a few minutes, and in an almost robotic fashion, I rose from my desk, drove to my partner’s office, gave her the news and returned home. Then I took my dog for a long walk.

July 9, 2009

Is Surviving the New Success?

When I completed law school and drove across the threshold of my second career last year lawyers and Hummers were not in great demand. In 2008, I basically operated on hope and fumes— no money and no employment prospects. Still, I was hopeful that by the time I passed the bar, my skills, experience and exceptional gas mileage would be sought after. Well, I passed the bar and still haven’t found a job and I think there may be more Hummers working than lawyers.

I remember something one of my friends told me when I graduated, “Once you pass the bar you will never have to worry ... there are no unemployed or hungry lawyers.” He is one of my best friends and is a partner in a successful immigration practice in PA. He was also hired by a top Boston law firm straight out of law school ten years ago and he doesn’t eat much. Now what I hear often is that I should think about “alternative careers.” Good grief. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been walking through the desert in a dust storm for five years and finally arrived at an oasis only to have the camels greet me with a hand shake (hoof shake?) and tell me it’s time to hurry along.

In addition to sheer frustration, in either getting no responses to my resumes or being told I am over qualified, on some rare but noted occasions I just feel resentful of my status among the “learned professionals” and I envy the “non-professionals” — workers not traditionally considered “successful.” With all due respect and at the risk of sounding like a most obnoxious snob, there is a sort of “freedom” that comes with being an “unskilled worker.” It is not as difficult to move from one job to another, generally less is required for lifestyle maintenance — assuming the standard of living is usually less than that of a “skilled” worker, student loans are usually less of an issue and there is just generally less social pressure. Of course, a lot of other assumptions would be necessary to support the absurd proposition that higher education can be an obstacle to success. But these days when the “professionals” are just trying to survive, sometimes that’s just what it feels like to me.

July 16, 2009

Searching for a Job and Finding Friends

Sending out resumes, especially cover letters, in response to an ad or online posting has become nothing short of professional masochism. It is an exercise in futility yielding only frustration and fury. I still do it, but not as much as I used to.

Now I spend a lot more time talking to people online and in person. Since I graduated from law school, I have come to realize that one of the most important skills a new attorney needs is not so much the ability to draft a document—in practice much of that is just cutting and pasting— the ability to “network” is far more essential. But until a few months ago, I really didn’t understand what that meant exactly. It does not mean engaging in online and offline resume blitzing, advertising yourself on Craigslist, or even going door to door with Halloween candy and business cards— that method results in more askance looks than job offers, especially if you are dressed like Alberto Gonzales.

The first and last time I advertised myself on Craigslist as a new attorney awaiting admission to the bar, my only response was from a gentleman in need of assistance, pro bono. The email was about two pages long and detailed a sordid history of his personal life that culminated in his then current state of pending eviction. Despite my explaining that I could not yet practice law and needed a job where I would be paid, he insisted that I had the skills and karma he needed. I referred him to a friend who is a practicing therapist and I began learning how to network.

I initiated my guerrilla networking campaign with a page on Linkedin— a professional online network through which I launched an appeal for “actual connections.” I indicated that I was interested in meeting other attorneys in the NYC area for the purpose of networking and socializing and I made it clear that I was not interested in simply increasing the number of my contacts. I then began to attend various legal functions— discussions, social events, etc., and I informed all my friends that I am open and interested in meeting and talking to anyone who either has or knows of a position that may be of interest to me. And, I am also blogging. I still haven’t found a job but the search to date has resulted in among other things, an invitation to the Hamptons this summer, my newly formed “potluck legal network” consisting of six attorneys so far, and most significantly, a group of new friends.

July 22, 2009

Networking On A Dog Day Afternoon

Every time I leave my apartment these days I take my business cards and the attitude that everyone I meet is potentially my new boss, business partner, co/worker or connection. My dog has also become a big part of my guerrilla networking campaign. In addition to being a great judge of character, she is my biggest fan and most ardent supporter. She is also the most beautiful thing in the world and a magnet for positive energy and great people— I met some of my best friends because of her. Whenever we go out she immediately begins offering free hugs and kisses to anyone she senses is a possible contact for me— pretty much everyone we meet. None of my other friends do that. Granted, my dog is no fool, she knows that organic pet food is not cheap and kibble manufactured in China is just not an option!

I am even trying to be less obviously annoyed when complete strangers touch and pet my pal without permission. These days that discourteous behavior is an opportunity for those fellow dog lovers to also help her maintain the comfortable lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. For example, in the past when the rude people tried to pet her without asking, I used to look at them like I would bite and sometimes, I growled. Now, I try to smile and say something like, “it’s polite to ask first.” Then, while they are in puppy heaven, I ask if they live in the neighborhood etc... and slip in that I am an attorney looking for a job, “do you have any leads perchance?”

Most people are pretty cool and say something appropriate, others feel guilty and won’t leave until they give me a name or website to check out. A few folks get really weird and the weirdness ranges from a sudden onset of laryngitis to cynophobia. Fortunately my dog has a great sense of people, especially me— she really feels me and she will usually ignore the real freaks. One day for instance, a couple of very rude guys started heckling and calling at her/us from several yards away, knowing that if she went to them, I would be dragged over too. I was insulted and peeved at these imbeciles and I didn’t want to have to stop my dog from pulling me over there. I didn’t have to. She turned around her agile, 80 lb frame and started barking and growling at them— it was as though they had summoned the hound of hell. I was thrilled. I calmed her down while simultaneously praising her for being so wonderfully astute and she got a big treat when we returned home.

On another less eventful afternoon stroll, we chatted and played with a security guard in the neighborhood who was standing outside his building smoking. He actually asked for my card because he had assumed I was a professional dog walker— he always sees me walking a dog in the middle of the day— and someone in his office building was looking for one. Well since his employer is Goldman Sachs, I gave him my card and explained that I was actually a new attorney looking for a job. He wasn’t aware of any legal positions, but suggested that all things considered, I should really consider dog walking.

July 23, 2009


The first meeting of the Potluck Legal Network— attorneys meeting monthly to network, socialize and discuss current legal events— will be held in Manhattan on Tues. Aug. 18th @7:00 PM. There are 6 participants so far and we are still accepting new members (up to a maximum of 13). If you are interested, please contact me directly at:



About July 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Reasonable Doubt in July 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2009 is the previous archive.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.