Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Panic! at the registrar

Just because I've graduated from my TTT law school does not mean that I am done being screwed over by them. Au contraire.

The long and arduous quest for a reasonable temp job to put an end to my couch-sitting, laundry-doing days led me to a very nice company who provisionally offered me a job. Great! However, the job was subject to a background check. I have no idea what they want to know about my character and "mode of living," as the FCRA disclosure paperwork ominously suggested, but since I don't have any real skeletons in my closet I was not afraid. I mean, there was that time I beat the shit out of this girl in my second-grade class. My mom came to pick me up from school and apparently I had beat her into submission down on the pavement in the playground and I was mercilessly kicking her, but she totally deserved it and I'm sure any real investigator would be able to figure that out pretty quickly (as a serious ass-beating is a reasonable response to "four eyes!").

That aside, I return my library books on time, feed and brush my cats, don't steal, and am generally a law-abiding citizen. Turns out the biggest problem had nothing to do with me or anything I have ever done wrong. The investigators were having some difficulty verifying that I actually graduated from the shithouse on my resume.

Now, I have considered lying about it and saying I went to NYU or otherwise denying that I went there, but the sad fact is that I did. I'm depressed about it, but it's true - trust me, I wish it weren't. Apparently, so do they.

The investigator called them to ask for proof. They said that she had to put her request in writing and fax it in. She did. No reply. She called back. They said, oh, fax it to this number instead. She did. And? You guessed it - no reply. So she called me, and asked if I could take a photograph of my diploma and e-mail it to her.

Ooooookay. No problem. Meanwhile, time goes by, so slowly, for those who wait, as Madonna so eloquently stated. I took the bar over a month ago, am totally sick of sitting around my neighborhood waiting for someone to send me a fucking paycheck, and so I am skipping town and going to visit some friends from college for the long weekend. I am leaving tomorrow. Maybe by the time I get back, I'll have somewhere to go in the mornings besides back to sleep.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A modest proposal

Last night, my boyfriend permitted me a never-before granted luxury: we went through people's Friendster profiles and photographs and mocked them. I mean, we really got into it, he let me run my nasty mouth as much as I wanted, no censorship, no "be nice," we just laughed and laughed at the appalling scene before us. It was almost as good as looking at wedding websites.

One girl in particular always cracks me up. She posts new photographs of herself every time she goes out drinking. Everytime I log into Friendster, there are new pictures of her holding a martini glass filled with a pink liquid, wearing an expensive-yet-slutty tank top and short skirt, with her arms around either a bunch of straight-haired, orange-skinned girl-clones or guys in matching button-down shirts who use lots of hair gel. Their white teeth gleam in the light of the flash, as they smile their faces off for the camera. It's enough to make me wish that digital camera technology had been reserved for NASA and kept from the stupid, stupid public.

"Ohmygawd, it's Lara, Dara, Farrah, Sara, and Mara!" I cried as a group of girls from Long Island with ugly faces, tan skin, and hard bodies hugged each other smiling desperately. "OMG. Jared is sooooo cuuuuuute!"

All this wanton JAPpery got me thinking. Why do these people all come out just like each other? What is it about Roslyn, Bellmore, Jericho, Manhasset Hills, etc. (although New Jersey, I am looking at you too) that produces people who care about shopping, sports, status, and not much else? Well, I came to a few conclusions and I would, of course, be honored to humbly present them to you:

1. Moms, don't take your small daughters to get their nails done. No five-year-old on earth needs hot pink nail polish, and if she goes to a respectable school, they will make her take it off anyway. It's a waste of money, but even worse, it plants the wrong ideas about the world in her impressionable little head. She will see others as there to serve and admire her, and she will consider being pampered an entitlement similar to breathing air or interstate travel. Last time I checked, the Constitution does not provide for the right to "square-or-round-shape" nails. Just get a babysitter - it will cost the same as her manicure, and besides, you probably have a full-time nanny even though you don't work.

2. Dads, don't only bond with your sons over football. There are other ways for men to relate to one another, and some of them actually involve thinking and/or talking. Just because you are sitting next to each other on the couch does not mean that anything meaningful is happening. Instead, the little boy will grow up unhealthily attached to statistics and the memories of certain awesome games, and he will use this to bond with his friends. Then they will mimic what you did, and they will have game night parties, in which they will yell at the TV, ignore the girls who are there solely to bring them beer, chips, and have their asses slapped - just like their mom when they were kids!

3. Don't teach your kids that their religion only means going to "temple" on High Holidays, eating Chinese food on Christmas, saying "oy vey!" and knowing how to shop. There are over 5,000 beautiful years of history and tradition that came before Long Island, and they can maybe teach you a thing or two about how to raise children. For example, that a girl going out drunk and practically naked in the hope of attracting guys is not such a good idea. Just a thought.

4. There are more than 4 acceptable professions for guys. Nowhere is it written that thou shalt become a doctor, lawyer, banker, or accountant. And ladies, don't become a teacher if you have no desire to impart knowledge to the next generation and you are just waiting to get married. Giving them a dissertation on how you blow-dry your hair on a day when you don't feel like teaching, while fascinating, is not what their parents pay tuition for (see, e.g. my 11th grade precal teacher).

5. I'd go off on sororities here, but I'm sure somewhere in the world there are one or two that might build character, friendships, and networking possibilities. Suffice it to say that none of the sororities at my school fit that description, unless you count merciless hazing, belittling, and name-calling as friendship. Just because you are standing in a row wearing matching t-shirts snapping your fingers and singing songs about how close you are doesn't make you close, or even friends.

That's enough vitriol for now, yes?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Optimism

One day, this whole legal thing will come easily. One day, I'll have a real job, that I can wake up in the morning, get dressed, brush my hair, and take the subway to. I'll pick up a nice cup of coffee on the way, maybe from Dunkin' Donuts, and sip it on the way, trying not to spill it on my suit. I'll probably fail but I'll be wearing a black suit so it won't show too much. I'll swipe my ID card upon entering my office building, say "Good morning" to the security people (whom I will know by name), and I'll head upstairs to my office. I'll have my own office, or maybe one that I share, but it will be a real office, not a desk in a hallway. It will have my name printed outside on a piece of metal, not written on a piece of paper.

So far it hasn't happened. As the people from better law schools, or who had better grades, or whose parents are big clients get ready to go to start their jobs at firms, I'm still sitting on my ass doing nothing all day. This week I did my own laundry for the first time in two years and three months. This is for two reasons: I've got nothing but time, and I'm slowly running out of money. Make that quickly running out of money. You know things have reached an impasse when I am so bored I will go do my own laundry in a laundromat when it is 90 degrees out.

I've never been able to do things the conventional way. I've always gotten what I want, but it's always come in a non-traditional manner. I went to a private high school, but only after the public one wanted to throw me out. I graduated from a very highly-ranked university, but only after transferring there from an extremely unorthodox institution of "higher learning" (more like a how-late-can-you-sleep-before-you-wake-and-bake contest). And I did get my legal dream job, it just happens to not start until January - and that's assuming I passed the bar, which, as you may recall, I for one am not assuming. So I have all this free time. Which means I need a temp job.

Finding a temp job has been another exercise in banging my head against the wall. Who knew that there would be next to no market for my services? I don't have any legal experience that would get me a job as a temporary attorney, and I don't have any paralegal experience that would get me a high-paying job as a paralegal. I've never heard of most of the programs they want the paralegals to use, and although given I've known paralegals and I can't imagine they are that difficult to learn, no experience means no job. I can't even find a job as a legal secretary. I couldn't even work at Banana Republic because the last time I worked in a clothing store I was 15.

Someday, be it in January or later, I will get my job. I will have a title, I will get a paycheck, and I will not watch "Full House" during the day. After all, things will be different and better in the future. My favorite verse from my favorite psalm, which is said after eating on Shabbat, is:

הזעים בדמעה, ברנה יקצרו

which means, approximately, "those who sow tears will reap joy." Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

In the meantime, Stephanie and Michelle are babysitting a pig, and it's running loose in the Tanner home, so I'd better get back to it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Here I go again, on my own

I've complained about my father to people before, and I think sometimes those who are not quite in the know would suspect that I am somehow exaggerating. Children of divorces often retain hostility towards the parent who was "in the wrong," if they're not busy blaming themselves, that is. Such children also go around forming inappropriate relationships, having trust issues and deep emotional scarring only evident after thousands of dollars spent in therapy.

Well, somehow I have risen above much of this. And the anger I feel towards my father? Has nothing to do with the divorce. Not anymore, anyway. Here is a totally typical example of the way he operates:

During law school, I have been on my father's health insurance. About two months before graduation, I called my father to ask him whether my coverage would be affected. He said confidently, "No, you're covered until your next birthday." Okay, great! I can go about my business as usual.

On the day of graduation, my father and I rode the subway to the ceremony together. On the way, he casually mentioned, "Now that I think about it, it occurs to me that your medical coverage will be okay, but your visual and dental will probably end now that you're graduating."

"Really!" I exclaimed. "Funny you should tell me that now, since I asked you about this stuff two months ago and you said I was fine until my next birthday. Weird!"

"Yes. Well, it's just occurred to me," he said.

"So when do you think my dental will end? I have a toothache and I was actually planning on going to the dentist this week."

"Today. It'll end today. I think."

"You think," I repeated. "Well, will you find out and get back to me please?"

"Yes. Sure."

Three times that month, I called him to ask what the deal was since my tooth was really hurting. The first two times he said, "I just have to get through to the insurance rep, give me some time." The third time, in a why-me tone, he said, "I will get back to you."

Fine! Hint taken. I got back to studying for the bar and hoped he would be true to his word.

Nope.

Two weeks before the bar, I got a voicemail. "Hello, it's your father. I am going overseas for three weeks with [dumb wife] and [her spoiled child]. Best of luck on the bar!"

Wow. Not only had he not called me once in the previous month to wish me luck on the bar, he skipped the country without ever finding out what the deal with my insurance was. I was so angry I drafted a hostile email to him, but decided against sending it at the last minute.

When he got back, I spoke to him and told him how much it really hurt me that he had totally abdicated responsibility for my health. I had made it clear to him that I was in pain, and he couldn't be bothered to place a phone call. He replied that he had actually called to find out before he left, but he had forgotten to tell me that he learned that my insurance had ended the day I graduated.

"You forgot to call me? Don't you think that was information I might have liked to have? Don't you think that call was at least as important as the call to the insurance company?"

"Yes, well, my memory's not what it used to be."

"That's why people start writing themselves notes. You know, like, 'Pick up dry cleaning,' 'Call daughter about her health insurance.' People then put those notes in places they will see them, like maybe on their enormous plasma TVs."

Later that week, I had to go meet up with him for his birthday. I looked around for the meanest birthday card I could find, and regretted that Hallmark doesn't make one saying "Happy Birthday! You suck." But I did find the next best thing: a card that said, "Now that you're getting old, you may find yourself needing to write notes!" On the inside of the card were post-it notes saying things like, "Flush," and "Clothes go in the dryer, food goes in the refrigerator."

Upon receiving the card, he visibly turned pale. I knew I had got him. And I felt guilty but I also felt great.

Three days later, he called me and said, "Let me read to you from my policyholders manual." He then read me a perfectly straightforward clause which stated that I am covered until 3 months after fulfilling my graduation requirements.

He had this information the whole time. He just never got around to looking it up until I zinged him with a birthday card.

So, ladies and gentlemen who are still reading, this is why I am anti-dad. This is why I know that whatever I do, I'm doing it on my own and without his help. No exaggeration.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Freaking on a jet plane

I had the dubious good fortune to fly last Thursday morning, you know, the morning they discovered the terrorist plot to blow up ten planes originating in the United Kingdom. My flight was early in the morning, meaning they had not yet determined what their policies about liquids, gels, and other newly invidious substances should be. The policy at curbside check-in forbade liquids, aerosol, gels and so on. No problem, I just threw such items in my suitcase I was checking and went in to wait in - no joke - the longest security line I had ever seen. It was pandemonium in there, no order or sense of security, but I will say that the usually sleepy TSA agents had fully woken up and were busy barking orders at anyone and everyone.

By the time those TSA agents were barking at me, they had changed policy from curbside. Any and all makeup had to go. That included not only the liquids I had relocated into my checked bags but also all powders and solids left in my carry on. That meant that my compact and two lipsticks had to go into a giant clear plastic garbage bag, roughly translating into $50 down the toilet. It was so sad. This is America, damn it, and I was not prepared for this. I'm no civil libertarian, especially when my own ass is concerned, but throwing away lipstick seemed to be un-American. It made me realize the little freedoms we take for granted and how quickly they can disappear. This feeling was really driven home when the Dunkin Donuts coffee I purchased prior to boarding also had to be sacrificed to the plastic bag graveyard of fun.

Ordinarily I am not a nervous air passenger. I carry my hot pink foam pillow proudly and I fall asleep pretty much as soon as I sit down. I've never been particularly concerned about my plane crashing or being blown up, since the odds are much better that I might die in a car accident (another reason I don't drive). But this time, it felt different. Something about giving up my possessions and my coffee made me feel how very real the threat to our way of life is, and gave it an immediacy I don't usually find. When we took off, I was really scared. Maybe I'm bitter, maybe I'm a bit of a pessimist, but let's face it, I am not ready to die and certainly not ready to die at the hands of some lunatic freaks as part of their plans to get to their seventy-something virgins and glorious martyrs' posters in Tehran. The flight was otherwise uneventful, although I will say it was jarring to watch the "TERROR IN THE SKIES" headlines on the news while I myself was airborne. But the terror, for the first time, was really there. It wasn't just me, either, because for the first time since late 2001, the entire plane exploded in applause when we landed without mishap.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Things I Wish I Had Known (The First of A Series)

After some discussion with my friend Mike over at Barely Legal, I made a list of things I wish I had known before going to law school. The list began to grow and grow, and branched out into categories. Now, I know that a lot of law bloggers are putting out books on law school (see, e.g., Kick Law School in the Nuts, forthcoming), and I'm sure theirs would all be better than mine if I ever wrote one. Which I'm not going to. I don't claim to be some kind of expert any more than any other law student who lived through it. I don't have all the answers, and honestly, I don't even have all the questions.

But what I do have, unfortunately, is a big ol' dirty, steaming pile of regrets and things I wish I had known and done differently. I also have all the time in the world these days to sit on my ass and think about how things might have been. So with no further ado, here is the first in a series of Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Went to Law School.

Part I. ADMISSIONS
1. Where you go to college doesn't matter (unless you're shooting for a top 5 school). So go someplace fun for college, or wherever you get the most amount of scholarship money, or wherever your parents will pay for you to attend. Don't go someplace expensive that is known for having a low curve and boring, antisocial students (U Chicago and friends, I'm looking at you).

2. Your LSAT is the only thing that really matters (again, unless you're shooting for a top 5 school, or unless you have seriously crappy grades - below a 3.2). Study for your LSAT like you have never studied for anything before - maybe even take a couple months off and concentrate solely on it. Because as I learned the hard way, in admissions, it is the only thing that matters.

3. Some things that won't matter, despite your feelings that they should (and despite your college's law school counselor's insistence that they do):
* Your course selection does not matter. Don't think that just because you did a minor in a hard subject and got mediocre grades, they will notice that you did something that was difficult for you and persevered. Sure, it reflects an admirable character trait. You stuck it out - good for you. I hope your mom is proud, because they don't care at all. Take the easy A classes.
* Your major doesn't matter (unless you majored in hard sciences or engineering and are interested in patents). One might think that it would matter that you majored in a relatively difficult subject, say, econ as opposed to poli sci. Nope! The poli sci major with the slightly higher GPA is getting in over you.
* Your grades. They matter more than your course selection or major, because the GPA is reported in US News. But let's face it: you probably already have pretty good grades. Most people applying to law school do. Thus it really comes down, as I said, to the LSAT score. If you have very bad grades, then your LSAT is even more important for you than it is for everyone out there with a 3.6.

4. Many people will tell you to go to the school where you get the most money to minimize your debt. This can be good advice, but isn't always. If you get into a top-tier school with excellent employment data, but no scholarship, and a second-tier school with so-so employment data and a sizeable scholarship, your choice will have to depend on a couple of factors.
* You need to have a pretty good idea of what you want to do after law school. How is that possible, you ask? Well, oftentimes it isn't possible. But if you have always wanted to help the poor and you are pretty sure you can parlay your Peace Corps experience into a Legal Aid job, go with the scholarship. But if you are soulless and, like me, wanted to go to a big firm, make sure you go to that top-tier school. A scholarship is nice and all, but at second-tier schools, you're not getting a big firm job unless you are in the top 10% (see below). In fact, any firm job at all that pays more than government can be very hard to find from many second-tier schools.
* You also need to know what GPA is required to maintain your scholarship. It may be higher than you think, and it will often be easier to lose than you could ever imagine. I know a ton of people who came in with full scholarships, having gotten into better schools, and lost them after first year, sometimes by a matter of hundredths of a point. They will take it away from you and you will end up going into debt anyway - and have no good job prospects. And just because you sailed above a 3.5 at all times in college with little effort does NOT mean that you can keep a 3.2 in law school. Grades are often arbitrary. Smart people lose scholarships every year. It could happen to you.

Monday, August 07, 2006

$3 and two initials

It's been some time since the bar and I am now bored. I have been sitting around, catching up on my sleep and television, playing with the cats, and cooking up a storm (three words: lemon ginger sorbet - email me if you want the recipe). It's great, but I am quickly running out of money and becoming sluggish. So last week I decided the time had come to go for it and apply for a temp job.

I sent in my resume to a legal temp firm with a good reputation that advertised hourly rates of up to $75 on their website. Not bad, right? They called me to schedule an interview, and last Friday I went in. First, I wasn't totally clear as to why a temp firm had to interview me. They have my resume, it's not like I'm going to have to work hand in hand with them, but whatever. I guess they just want to make sure that I'm not a raging sociopath, which I don't really think I am.

Last Friday was about 400 degrees, but since it was a legal job, I figured I'd better put on the legal interview outfit. That meant a wool suit, a nice shirt, stockings, and some conservative heels. I sweated the whole way to the subway, and the whole time waiting for the subway, and the whole way to the place, but these are the breaks. I'm almost a lawyer now and lawyers have to look cool in suits even if it is record-breakingly hot outside.

Of course, the lady who interviewed me was not wearing a suit. She was wearing a tank top and a denim skirt. She looked a lot more comfortable than I was, but I'm sure she appreciated the effort (ha). I laid out my situation for her, and told her that I have a job lined up for the future, and I just need to make some money in the meantime. She was fine with that, but asked questions I found disturbing, such as, "Are you willing to work weekends? Nights? And are you aware that you won't be doing legal stuff, really?"

I don't particularly want to work late or weekends, but if that's what it takes, that's what I'll do. However, I learned that as a temp, I am to be considered a "J.D. Paralegal." Now, I knew going in that this would be boring stuff - document review, sorting, filing, who knows what other horrors they can find for me to do. But to call me a paralegal? I was a paralegal before I wasted over a hundred large on law school. I also made $15 an hour, whereas she told me I could expect to make no more than $19 or $20 now.

So that's where law school got me. Instead of just being a "paralegal" I get to be a "J.D. paralegal" and make $4 an hour (taking into account inflation, let's say $3) more than I did before aging prematurely and going into massive debt.

Awesome!
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