I realize I haven't spent much time on this blog talking about how I spend my days. I mean, of course you all know by now about my early morning runs, my daily commute into Manhattan, and my addiction to TV. and you know that I'm a lawyer, but I haven't written a whole lot about my actual job. About what I do when I get to my office and sit at my desk.
Last week, as happens about four times a year, my office mailman arrived with a stack of new tax codes and regulations. These are the kinds of books that need frequent updating - you wouldn't want to dig into hours of tax research only to discover that you were using outdated codes. So when I got back to my office after a meeting, one of my chairs looked like that.
As as I sat down and started to work on a project, my gaze kept falling on that chair. And it occurred to me that anyone who walked into my office and saw those books would assume that my practice is dry, boring, and monotonous because, tax codes.
But the truth is, it is anything but.
I can't really remember a time that I didn't want to be a lawyer. I'm not sure why I decided on the law, since no one in my immediate family really practices law, but once I settled on it I never wavered. I charted my course through college with an eye towards law school, took the LSATs, filled out all the applications, and the August after I graduated, I moved into a dorm in New York City and law school began.
But even though I knew it was the law I wanted, I wasn't sure what kind. I spent my first year taking the courses that all first year students took. And even though I loved the learning - and even the studying - I wasn't wild about the subjects. Civil procedure bored me, I found contracts impossible to understand, and criminal law and constitutional law probably would have been interesting if the professors hadn't been so incredibly awful. The only classes that I really loved were legal writing and Torts. And since there is no practice called "legal writing," and I had no aspirations to put my face on a billboard advertising class action lawsuits for medical malpractice, I found myself at a bit of a loss.
And my grades reflected it. I didn't do badly my first year, but I didn't do well enough to be of any interest to the big firms that swarm law school campuses every fall to interview new second year students. And the truth is, that was fine with me. I knew that whatever path I took would be a little unconventional, and maybe a little more complicated, but I didn't mind. Complexity has never scared me.
But at the beginning of my second year, something happened. On the second day of school I found myself sitting in a class called Wills, Trusts & Estates. I registered for it because everyone said it was good for the bar exam. Most of the class was third year students who were far closer to the bar exam than I was, but the class fit into my schedule and I figured I might as well get started on those "good for the bar" classes while I had the time.
And I am forever grateful for whatever twist of fate put me in that class that most law students put off until their third year. Because I loved it, and I understood it in that deep and complex way that means whatever you are studying is right and good. It didn't hurt that the professor was fabulous - the best I had in my three years. But for the first time since law school began, I felt like maybe I had found my calling.
I ended the semester with an A+ - my first ever - and a meeting with that excellent professor who helped me chart my course for the next three semesters. During the eighteen months that followed I took classes in advanced estate planning, income tax, estate tax, family law, and various other related subjects - A's all around. And I had an internship in the trusts & estates group of one of New York's massive law firms helping the two partners with complex estate planning for some serious high net worth clients - and I was really good at it.
My career since I graduated almost five years ago has taken some interesting turns, mostly due to graduating in 2008, just a few months before the entire economy imploded, but a year and a half ago I returned to that massive law firm that gave me my first internship, this time as a full time lawyer. One of their associates was leaving the firm, and the partner I worked for during law school tracked me down and recruited me back here.
And staring at that pile of tax codes on my chair, I found myself thinking about what it is about this practice I like so much, and why pouring through those books isn't boring for me.
It's because of the stories.
In my work, my clients are people. They are men and women with kids, and parents, and relatives, and stories. I don't work for faceless companies, or defend big businesses in court. I work for families. I sit with them, and I listen to their tales, and I help them plan their estates in a way that makes their lives just a little bit easier. I work for CEOs, family business owners, stay-at-home moms and dads, authors, artists, and, one time, a 93 year old Holocaust survivor with a story I wish I could tell, because it is breathtaking. We are there for them through births, deaths, marriages and divorces. We help them through the best and the worst of what life throws their way, and, just maybe, help lighten the load a bit.
Because I love to write stories, I love to listen to stories, and I get to do that each and every day.
There are times that I dream about writing full time. About sitting at home with my keyboard and my thoughts, and devoting all of my energy to the books that I know are in my head somewhere. But right now, that is not meant to be.
I have come to understand and appreciate that this life of mine is the one I was meant to have. That the series of steps that got me here were not an accident, but rather were fated somehow.
Right now, I am meant to be here. Here at my desk, surrounded by tax codes, listening to stories, writing stories, practicing law, practicing life.
And I am happy.