Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Practice

Via the wonder that is Facebook, I've recently reconnected with many of my former classmates from law school. Some of them, I haven't seen or spoken with since the day we graduated, over eight years ago. Many of them have had successful careers in law. Some have already abandoned the field, burnt out and fed up with it. And a couple, like me, never really entered it fully to begin with.

Aidan was born three days after I graduated. The rest, as they say, is history. I had intentions of taking the bar exam a few times, but something it seems, always came up. We talked about moving to Oregon for a while, and I was set to take the Oregon bar. But then those plans to move fizzled out. We moved to Colorado, and since then I haven't thought much about practicing law.

I had some great experiences in law school and met some wonderful people. But I also learned that I was pretty sure that I didn't want to really ever be a lawyer. At least not in the usual sense of the word. Part of it I loved, but a larger part I didn't. The realities of working as an attorney aren't compatible with my life now anyway. I won't work the hours with the kids. It just isn't going to happen. Particularly with Tom working in the public accounting field, I can't. I won't. The kids need at least one parent present in their lives, and for three months out of the year, I'm pretty much it. They come first.

I did a lot of pro bono work in law school. I joke that if there was a way to get paid for pro bono work, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Helping the people who needed it most. Those who had legitimate legal issues, but couldn't afford to pay someone to represent them. Primarily, I worked for the AIDS clinic. All my clients there were at least HIV+, if not diagnosed with full blown AIDS. And, to be eligible for our services, they had to meet income requirements. I helped dispute social security eligibility. I filed restraining orders. I fought evictions. Life or death issues. Important things.

I wrote a lot of wills. The most memorable was for a young man, dying of AIDS. He was only 22 years old, and he was scared. He didn't have a thing to his name. He didn't own anything. He was on public assistance, lying in a Medicaid paid-for hospital bed. I brought him the will, what there was of it anyway, on the afternoon that he died. Tears of the deepest gratitude were his gift to me. Though he didn't have much, he wanted to know that he had done all he could to tie up loose ends. And I made that possible.

I helped a man in his 30's change his name. His family had disowned him when he came out of the closet as a teenager, and he hated being connected to them in name only. You wouldn't think that something as simple as a name change could alter a person's entire outlook on life. But I assure you that it can.

These are the clients that I remember the most. That I truly feel like I helped.

Maybe someday I will practice law again. Maybe someday I will tackle the bar exam. Maybe someday I will find myself explaining a lengthy absence from a career that never really began. Maybe someday I will find someone who will take a chance and hire a woman who is a mother before she is a lawyer. Maybe someday. Right now though, my family needs me more.

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