January 25, 2007

The Devil’s Advocate

Posted in Blog Backlash at 8:50 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

I think some clarification may be in order.

I am a 28 year old legal assistant.  While I like my job, it isn’t something I see myself doing for the rest of my life.  Why?  Well, A) I want to grow up and be a writer and B) a psychic in New Orleans told me this isn’t what I was going to do with the rest of my life.  As such, this really isn’t a very practical time for me to settle down.  I have a lot up in the air right now and if I decide next week that I need to move to Iowa and earn my MFA in creative non-fiction, well, it just doesn’t seem fair to turn to my significant other and say “Honey, trust me, you’ll love Iowa City.”

And I like being single.  I like going out with my friends and spending obscene amounts of money on clothes and pocketbooks.  I like coming home whenever I want and flirting with whatever boys I want.  And you know what; I’m good at being single. 

Does this mean that I want to spend the rest of my life unattached?  No.  For instance, just today I was going to talk about how much I want to marry Peyton Manning.  That is until I found out he was already married and then all of this hubabaloo started. 

What I was celebrating, in this space last week, is that being single is no longer a death sentence or an all or nothing decision. 

What this most recent census represents is that women are making the choice to stay single longer.  Or just to be single, period.  Whereas before, a woman’s single status was never looked at as a choice, but as something she had to suffer through or scratch and claw her way out of, now is seen as something we choose to enjoy. 

I wanted to celebrate that the next time my mother starts to complain that I have not settled down, I no longer have just Gloria Steinem to turn to as an example of a woman that chose to be single until marriage was right for her.  Now, I have 51% of American women also making decisions based on what they want out of life (marriage is certainly not all there is right?) and not an arbitrarily determined expiration date.   

But — and this is the part I want to make really clear — I don’t think women that get married or coupled off are traitors to the cause. (That’s just it, singledom isn’t a “cause,” its just a way that some women live)  I do not think they are void of drive or ambition or common sense.  I will also not be cutting off a breast and moving in with a bunch of uni-breasted women who hunt men for purely procreational purposes; because I like boys, oh sorry, men. It’s just that those of us who don’t have someone are thrilled that we can now be okay with choosing to focus on other areas of personal and professional fulfillment, instead of always feeling we have to justify ourselves. It isn’t about “us” versus “them.” It’s about whatever makes a person happy. 

And yes Mom, I know this post (and the fact that Peyton is married) brings you no closer to grandkids, but that topic is for a whole other time. 

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January 19, 2007

Welcome to the Majority

Posted in Lessons Learned at 9:48 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Boys, feel free to flip back to ESPN.com because this post is for the ladies.

Ladies, I would like to raise a toast.  To all of you out there that put your needs and career before finding and capturing Mr. Right; to those of you who recognize it is better to be by yourself than settled with someone you can moderately stand; to those of you who said, “It’s got to get better than this.”  I salute you. 

And so does every other major media outlet this week with the announcement from the U.S. Census Bureau that for the first time ever, 51% of American women are single. 

As soon as the news broke I knew it was one of the moments where years later we would all be talking about where we were when we first learned that single women over a certain age were no longer resigned to the life of the sad lonely cat lady.  I was sitting on my couch watching the national news.  They featured a lawyer in Chicago who was divorced and in no hurry to get re-married.  They followed her story up with a 51-year-old gallery curator who  said she was having fun and not ready to settle down.  That is when the tears started to well up in my eyes.  Then they showed a collage of our new role models:  Oprah, Condi and Diane Keaton. 

For too long friends and I have complained that it is unfair that men get to be bachelors while women are just single. And, as one commentator put it, if you were over 22 years old, you are just sad.  We have been barraged with news stories claiming there is a man shortage and that women have a shelf life and the those of us who choose a career over a family were going to end up sad and lonely and depressed.   

Recently those tides have been turning.  First there was Sex in the City, then there was Demi and Ashton and now this.  We have officially arrived as an acceptable and desirable demographic and I say it is time to celebrate. 

May I suggest you all put on your hottest work-to-happy-hour outfits, gather up some single girl friends and go to happy hour at a place based on their service and ability to mix a martini, not on whether or not you will be able to mix and mingle with members of the opposite sex.  Then, after happy hour, stop at your local convenience store and pick up your favorite junk food; food you would never let a boy see you eat.  Come home, change into your most comfortable pajamas (albeit also your ugliest) sit on your couch, eat your snacks and watch your favorite guilty pleasure television. 

And when you finally do go to bed, plop yourself down right in the middle and feel free to hog all the covers.  We have earned it.

January 12, 2007

Just Say No

Posted in Lessons Learned, Office Hijinks at 10:51 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

I have a real problem saying no. No, not like that; okay, sometimes like that, but I mean, at work. And it is this very failure of mine to just say no that landed me in front of a room full of paralegals finishing their dessert, giving a speech about blogs.

I hate giving speeches.

The very first speech I ever gave was in the eighth grade. Ms. Reese made us all write an essay for entry into the district’s oratorical contest. The topic was overcoming a great hardship. My essay was Defeating the Stigma of Being a Middle Child. Yes, I was only 13 and that smart.

Ms. Reese, a middle child herself, loved my essay and insisted I enter the contest. I did so reluctantly, , only after she promised to coach me in public speaking. I won’t bore you with all the details of the grueling preparation — my mother helping me memorize my lines over breakfast or night- before-nerves. Just know that three minutes into the speech in front of my entire middle school and some parents, I started to cry because I thought they were all laughing at me. Mind you, I was so terrified about speaking in front of all of those people that I had completely forgotten that I had written a joke into the beginning of my speech and that they were suppose to be laughing at what I just said.

Still, not even this humiliating introduction into public speaking has prevented me from agreeing, on occasion, to get up and talk to people. Why? Because I can’t say no.

So when the committee chair of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals Marketing Committee asked me to get up at the next luncheon and say a few words about their new blog my initial instinct wasn’t one of flight. It was to shrug my shoulders and say sure.

Sure. As if I was some poised, confidant, master of ceremonies; as opposed to the neurotic, write-it-all-out-on-index-cards-including-the-places-to-pause-and-breathe-and-look-up scaredie cat that I really am. I didn’t even sleep the night before and I was still shaking for fifteen minutes after I delivered my three-minute talk. Yep. That’s right. I got this worked up about three minutes in front of 20 people.

Fortunately, Patient Paralegal was with me. She has often said to me that she is going to get me a shirt that just says “NO” across the front. Then again, she is one to talk.

Once my shaking subsided and I could cut my chicken again, I turned my ear towards the conversation Patient was having with her neighbor. I overheard her neighbor say, “Well of course you will be there, right?” Patient nodded. The woman replied, “Don’t worry, I don’t need you to do anything for it. Just show up.”

As we left the lunch, Patient and I talked about all the responsibilities she would take on between now and the time of the event. We even joked that by the actual day, she may be responsible for introducing the keynote speaker and of course giving him his reward.

I know it shouldn’t, but it gives me a great amount of solace knowing I am not the only pushover out there.

January 4, 2007

Be the First in Your Firm to Own the Amazing Law Wash

Posted in Happy Hour, Office Hijinks at 6:31 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

We lost another associate today.

Personally, I don’t think it is our firm particularly or even any one partner (cough – Mr. Scares the Pants Off of Me) specifically.  No, instead I blame television and the movies.  They make the legal industry look so suave and sophisticated and intelligent and in some cases hot.  But the cruel reality is it isn’t really any of those things; at least not litigation.

I was out with a friend for happy hour when we met this young guy.  He asked me what I did for a living and I responded, “I work with a law firm.” 

He asked what sort of law.

“Litigation,” I answered.

His reply:  “Wow, so you get to duke it out in a courtroom.  That’s hot.”

My first thought, clearly this guy is not a lawyer.  One – saying I work for a law firm is code for I am an assistant or a paralegal, but not an attorney; and two – even if I were an associate I am much too young to actually do anything in a courtroom and three – who dukes anything out anymore?  I mean, isn’t that what litigation is for? 

Suitor suffered from LA Law syndrome.  He really thought we were all young and hot, and thanks to Ally McBeal, inappropriately dressed.  That we went into courtrooms every day and always fought for the betterment of all.  He doesn’t realize that most attorneys, young and old alike, spend their days on the Internet researching, reading through discovery, or drafting highly technical and mechanical (read: boring) motions. 

However, in fairness to Suitor, when he told me he was a doctor my mind immediately filled with thoughts of ER, Grey’s Anatomy and, gasp, General Hospital. 

But back to my theory; I wonder how many of these kids are warned in law school and choose not to listen.  I imagine they go to law school thinking they will be saving the world, when most will only get to save major corporations a couple of bucks.  Law practices are ugly and leave you with a coat of grime long after you have exited the office.  And a lot of the young and naïve get weighed down and eventually suffocate under all the dirt, becoming tired, miserable partners.  Or they leave for what they hope will be cleaner pastures. 

This is why my boss, my favorite associate and I have put into development the Law Wash (patent pending). 

One part dry cleaner, one part decontamination unit, the law wash can be installed just inside the front door of any residence.  The first small chamber would be the wash; a series on six to ten high powered showerheads that would rinse away your day, right down the drain installed in the floor.   You would then step into the next room where high powered heat lamps and blowers would dry you off completely. 

We are hoping to launch this gadget in time for the 2007 holiday season.  Also coming soon, our one room model and the fully adjustable model, with settings for “easy day at the office” where you would only be misted with an antibacterial spray to the “sold your soul” mode where, using a specialize hydrochloric acid isotope, the clothes would literally be burned right off your back while causing you no physical harm.