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Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

I spent last Friday in a divorce mediation.  The marriage spanned two decades; the parties have 5 kids.  By my client’s account, it was not a happy marriage, and the miracle was that it had not ended sooner.  broken heart

The agreement we mediated was about as good as it gets in terms of being a statutorily equitable split.  My client WANTS to get divorced, but she’s still very upset about the whole thing.  It’s just not really fair, even if it’s equitable. And Why?

Because it will never BE “fair.” Because she did not get married to get divorced.  Because she has 5 kids who are heartbroken and disillusioned and upset about the situation their parents are in.  Because she had planned on a Future, that didn’t include getting divorced, that may have included kids’ graduations from high school and weddings and grandkids, with all the traditions you see in an intact family.  Because at one time, she had a Dream of what life as a married person would look like.

And that Dream is dead, not to be resuscitated. No divorce settlement will ever be able to make all the pain ok or right or fix it.  Getting divorced Hurts.  Bad.  Even when it really NEEDS to happen.  Getting divorced is like running head-on into a wall.  Boom.  Turn around.  Start over.  Somehow.  And a lot of times that “starting over” is from less than Scratch.  Like, no retirement left, no job experience, kids and expenses but not enough income to pay for everything AND maintain any kind of actual life.

You’ve gotta take some time to grieve after a divorce…Maybe a long time.  Because getting divorced is the ULTIMATE break up. And we all know breaking up is hard to do.

They say time and mercy heal all wounds.  The challenge is surviving the passage of time, ya’ll.  So be gentle with your divorcing and newly divorced friends.  It’s a pretty horrific thing they’re going through.

From the FB Archives: April 16, 2013

Is it really about what we do with it?

Life is not perfect; I think we all know that.  I’ve had a rough couple of days.  I was up working until 11:00 last night (Yeah! E-filing! Damn YOU!!!! E-filing!!!)  I woke up with the knowledge that I had another full day, but at least my first “You must wear clothes and look presentable” appointment wasn’t until 11 a.m.  Before that, I got an email from a client thanking me profusely for the teeny tiny itty bitty thing I had done for him, and a phone call from an older lady who has called me no less than a dozen times in the past 3 months, thanking me for helping her.  I did precious little for her; I just answered the phone when she called.

This afternoon I had two new client consultations.  Not difficult stuff.  One may become a new client; one can probably handle things on her own.  The first one was distraught….Have ya’ll noticed I’m a big fat cry baby?  I try really hard not to cry with my clients, but damn it!  I suck at that…

I had other work that I did, work that pays, work that will hopefully protect my client from BigLaw’s nasty allegations come next Monday when I have to be in SLC at 9:00a.m. for a hearing.  I hope I did enough.  I hate responding to BigLaw’s filings.  They really suck.  But then there is this Woman, my client, with a child.  And I am again emotionally sucked into it without even wanting to be.

I have gotten better.  I don’t cry with all of them anymore.  I can pat their shoulders, squeeze a hand, and give them reassurance, while telling them what to expect.  I can walk away, relieved that they can’t afford a lawyer because I just KNOW they would turn into Super Needy client who runs out of money and becomes the most demanding at that point.

I had some personal distress this week as well.  And this morning, as I was sunk in the Lows of that, I had the Highs of my client and this old lady telling me that I am definitely OK.

It’s a weird place to live, my head….My therapist thinks I’m great.  He doesn’t have to deal with my neurosis….

carrying-too-much

Like the poor jackass pictured above, it’s possible I was carrying a little too much…

From the FB Archives: April 2, 2013

*Things got better for a minute, so I could take a deep breath…and then they tanked again after this.  Such is life.  And I AM in a much better place now.

2 April 2013

The Miracle of the Passage of Time

I signed a new client today, with the accompanying retainer payment, and got payments from a couple of other existing clients on their monthly bills.  And as I was getting in my car to go to the bank to deposit them, I could not help but reflect back.  Not too long ago, every new client with new retainer money, every payment from a client on work I’d done for them, was a miracle–a sudden, miraculous gift from heaven, that swooped in at the last second and saved me from imminent financial ruin.  There were a lot of financial miracles back not too long ago.  The man I did not know who paid for my gas when my credit card (unbeknownst to me) was expired and declined after I’d put $20 worth in my car.  The large Christmas present from my grandma that paid my child support and a couple of bills.  The money stuffed in my purse from my aunt that bought gas money to get home to see my kids.  The rent paid from across the waters by my big brother, coincidentally on HIS birthday.  And every time a check came in from a client, it was like some of the weight that threatened to crush me continually was lifted, if just for a little tiny bit of time.

 

I marveled today that I am not in that place anymore–that place of wrath and tears, beyond which looms but the horror of the shade, to quote William Earnest Henley, in that poem I love, Invictus.  There is still significant struggle, but it’s no longer for the basic necessities of life.  I have enough to keep consistently afloat every month, without the cellphone company calling and threatening to disconnect if I don’t pay immediately.  And today I am grateful, and marvel at the miracle of the passage of time.  I used to really like that quote, “It will all be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end,” but I had a hard time feeling it.  I’m starting to feel it.  Thank God for that.

take-a-deep-breath

From the Archives: FB Notes September 25, 2012

*It’s always odd to look back to the same dates from years ago…Some things have gotten easier; some, not so much.  My number of moves since my divorce is up to 15… but hopefully I’m where I’ll stay for at least the next 5 years or so.

Wouldn’t Want To Get Too Comfortable…

In the first year I was divorced, I moved 3 times and held 3 different jobs (2 at the same time, then a new job altogether).  Not trying to be flaky, just trying to hold it together financially, so that I wasn’t always being strangled, get into housing that worked with my kids (when I had them), and trying to work my work so I could still see my kids ever.  In the second year, I moved twice and worked a regular job, a bunch of temp jobs, and finally a regular job again.  In the third year, I moved again, this time to Laramie to law school.  I moved back to my parents that next summer, then into a different place in Laramie in the fall; to Yellowstone the next summer, then back in the fall; to Utah and in with friends while I studied for/took the bar exam the next summer, then to my aunt’s after that, then to the house I’m in now.

 

All told, I moved 13 times in the first 5 years after my divorce.  I worked at least that many different jobs, and drove nearly 200,000 miles so that I could see my kids on a regular basis through all this.  Since moving back to Utah in 2010,  I’ve worked for 5 different law firms/attorneys…some with better luck than others.  My most recent, Feller & Wendt, was really great.  And then it was really stressful.  And then they cut me loose.

 

That was a week ago.  Today I went into the office to do the whole “wrap up” thing with business with them.  They are truly leaving me better than they found me.  They cut me loose because they don’t want to do domestic law AT ALL, not even in their peripherals, so I am taking all but the most horrible of the domestic cases (less than a half dozen) lock, stock and barrel–all monies due and owing to date become mine, and all monies earned going forward are mine.  100%.  Which is a helluva deal.  But they wanted me to lease my office from them for more than I can afford, and it’s 15 minutes away from the courthouse, and 20 minutes from my house, and all in the wrong direction from the locations of all of my out-of-valley cases (better than half of them).  Not really worth it to pay more than I can afford for space that doesn’t really work for me.

 

So I’m taking my practice back home.  Which is good and bad.  Good because I go back to being able to work in my jammies ;).  Bad because I am ALWAYS at work, and I have no place to bring clients or meet new consultations.  I have to do my own billing/accounting, etc., again, which I hate.  And I am again alone.  No one to commiserate with/to, no one to bounce ideas off of.  I hate that too.

 

What I LOVE is the autonomy.  No one breathing down my neck.  No one telling me when I have to be in the office.  I have other obligations in life that are NOT work related, that are really more important, and now I can be, again, more available to those people who matter most to me:  My boys.  But still;  I only lasted 9 months.  It’s extremely disappointing.  I was so looking forward to being a Real Lawyer, in a Real Firm, for a Really Long Time.  It seems in my life, nothing stays the same for longer than a few months.  Which is why I say it’s a good thing I am so damn flexible.

 

flexibljuggling

This, but without the smiling…

I’m gonna cry about this for a little while, because I’m so tired and so not wanting to move my office/make another major transition on top of **The Face issues, but whaddaya gonna do? Suck it up and move on, that’s what.

 

Finally, a quote I saw on a mug several years ago (and ended up buying):  “Just when the caterpillar thought it was the end of the world, it turned into a butterfly.” (anonymous)  Am I a butterfly yet???

**“The Face” issues–I got a staph infection in my face, which turned into a nightmare, all at the same time as this was happening.

From the FB Archives–November 1, 2012

*Another one from the archives…More about how a Nice Girl Like Me Ended up Being a Lawyer, and what happened next…

1 November 2012 ·

What I do for a living…

I’m exhausted today.  I practice family law, and to me that means that I am meeting people who are in one of the worst times of their lives, and doing what I can to comfort, advocate for, and provide a dose of reality to, my clients.  I see myself almost as a Mother to these grown people, who are not related to me.  Probably not good for my mental health.  The Dalai Lama has a book about about loving others, and he advises thinking of yourself as the Other’s mother in terms of how you feel toward them.  While I don’t think he meant that I should make myself crazy by “mothering” my clients, there is wisdom in having that attitude about those we come in contact with daily.

I had been thinking about this Mothering thing I do, and how I really need to NOT do that, today especially, because I am so very tired.  I have problem solved, comforted, hand held, buoyed up, and advocated today, and it’s wearing the hell out of me.  At 3p.m. I was thinking it was time to curl up on the floor and let all of the Others’ problems sort themselves out.  I shouldn’t do this.  I shouldn’t take all this on myself.  I shouldn’t.  And what if I didn’t?

Edgar A. Guest wrote a lot of poems that are viewed by many to be trite, or cliche, but there is this one….It’s called Myself:

Myself

by Edgar A. Guest

I have to live with myself and so

I want to be fit for myself to know,

I want to be able as days go by,

To look at myself straight in the eye.

I don’t want to stand with the setting sun

And hate myself for the things I’ve done.

 

I don’t want to hide on a closet shelf

A lot of secrets about myself,

And fool myself as I come and go

Into thinking that nobody else will know

What kind of man I really am;

I don’t want to dress myself in sham.

 

I want to go with my head erect,

I want to deserve all men’s respect

And in this struggle for fame and pelf

I want to be able to like myself.

I don’t want to look at myself and know

That I am a bluster and empty show.

 

I cannot hide myself from me;

I can see what others can never see;

I know what others can never know,

I cannot fool myself, and so

Whatever happens, I want to be

Self-respecting and conscience free.

 

I had a client, at the end of a very long and stressful mediation, who snapped at opposing counsel, “How do you sleep at night??”  The attorney looked at her and without a break said, “The same way your attorney sleeps at night.”  She looked at me, and I looked at her, and I said, “Sleeping pills.”  The brain won’t shut down and leave these clients alone at night, when they are not paying me to worry about them….

So until I find out a way to separate myself from my clients and STILL respect myself, I will continue, on what may be a self-destructive path, for the sake of liking myself.

maninthemirror

If you don’t like who you see, might be a good time to change it…

May 8, 2013–from the FB archives

*Another from the archives…

It really is the little things

I got this email today, from a woman I’ve never met….Subject line said “Thank you”

“Found your blog this evening, as I was searching for the garnishment limits for ORS.  Really appreciate the article on what has ORS done for you lately.  In February, got a judgment signed for almost $6000 in back child support, child care and medical expenses, am researching why ORS only increased the ex’s garnishment by $100/month (over and above child support of $455), when he makes around $4000+/month.  Guessing he somehow has them not considering his commission pay, which is the bulk of the income, since it is a commission job with the security of a small base.

Anyway, I am enjoying the other articles on your blog as well.  Thank you for getting it, for completely getting it!!  Thank you for the reminders of different ways to approach things with the ex.  Your writing style is wonderful!
Just thank you, needed this little bit of support just now,

(signed….)”

It’s been a really tough month.  I have honestly and seriously looked at NOT doing this thing I do.  And then I get little bits like this out of the blue, and I have to sit back, take a deep breath, and remember that I CAN do good, that I DO make a difference to people, and I AM worthwhile and useful.

And I do hope that it doesn’t always hurt so much to be Useful.

Appreciated

…even for lawyers 😉

Privacy Issues in Domestic Cases…Who’s Seeing What?

Justice v. Privacy

Balancing judicial efficiency with your privacy…

When you think about it, a domestic law court case has a LOT of personal information in it.  Tax returns or paystubs to support a child support calculation.  Full names of people.  Their addresses and phone numbers (if they’re representing themselves).  The kids’ names.  Social security numbers.  All of this stuff could be used in identity theft or to commit fraud.  So how is this info protected?

In families cases, as of April 2012, ALL of the documents with the exception of the final order are considered private.  The rule regarding this is in the Utah Code of Judicial Administration.  Down starting at Rule 4-202.01 it starts talking about records classifications (private, public, or sealed) and who has access to them. Private records can only be given to people who were either a person involved as a party in the case or their current attorney, essentially.  So as soon as your family law case is filed is classed as private record.

Except the final order.  I can go online and pull up ANY final order in ANY Utah family case I want at ANY time.  Or I could go into the court house and submit a request to the court clerk.  This is where keeping information sufficiently vague is important for that whole protection from fraud thing.  So this is how you should put information into a document, if you MUST, that will protect it from fraudsters:

Rule 4-202.09 Miscellaneous 

(9)(C) If the following non-public information is required in a public record, only the designated information shall be included:

(9)(C)(i) social security number: last four digits;

(9)(C)(ii) financial or other account number: last four digits;

(9)(C)(iii) driver’s license number: state of issuance and last four digits;

(9)(C)(iv) address of a non-party: city, state and zip code;

(9)(C)(v) email address or phone number of a non-party: omit; and

(9)(C)(vi) minor’s name: initials.

In domestic cases, truly, for the sake of maintaining the kids’ privacy in the publicly accessible final decree, use your kids’ initials to refer to them.  Some lawyers don’t do that.  You make sure that YOUR lawyer does, or that you do it yourself.  Also–DO NOT FILE PRIVATE INFORMATION AS AN ATTACHMENT TO YOUR PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE ORDER.  For example, information you have to supply in the Required Child Support Location Information form is highly sensitive–Drivers license numbers, social security numbers of the parties AND the kids, birthdates, addresses, addresses of employers…Not stuff you want floating around the internet. File that as a separate document, not as an attachment or an exhibit to the final Order.

Just things to remember.  Your case IS private.  But just make sure you’re not throwing a lot of info out there willy-nilly that will turn up in the publicly available final order…No need to let it all hang out, folks.

All Hang Out

…because letting it all hang out probably isn’t something you wanna do..

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