Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guest Interview with a...... Lawyer??

I know there are a lot of people who read this blog who aren't physicians or are at least considering other professions. Therefore, as a little change of pace, in this post we will be hearing from a friend of mine who is a working mother and also a LAWYER. (A mother in law, so to speak. Heh.)

Lindsey is the mother of three girls ages 3, 1.5, and 4 months. She's also a full-time attorney licensed in two states, manages a 25-person department, and has been married four years to her college sweetheart. Her loves include sci-fi, pretty shoes, red wine, and anything princess-related. She's tired pretty much constantly, but still finds time to screw around on the internet. Her blog can be found at High Heeled Mom.

Anyway, I had a few questions for Lindsey about what it's like to be a mother/lawyer:

I've spent most of the last ten years being jealous of lawyers because you go to school for only three years, then you graduate and make a billion dollars right out of school, whereas doctors have to do a grueling, low paying residency after med school. Am I right to be jealous? Tell me something awful happens when you graduate law school that is equivalent to residency.

HAHAHAHAHA. Not nearly as many of us make a zillion dollars right out as you think. Only the ones who go to big firms in big cities make what one might categorize as a zillion. And they work eighty-hour weeks, much like residents. The vast majority of us who come out and get a job at all (these days, it's not something you can count on) start in a medium or small firm, or in public service. Your average city attorney in my area, right out of law school probably starts at 45K. No lie.

That said, yes, you're right to be jealous. My sister is a doctor finishing her residency this spring and med school plus residency took way longer, was much more expensive, and seemed much more grueling than law school. We have the bar exam, which we whine about plenty, but you have boards.

I think becoming a lawyer is a walk in the park compared to becoming a doctor, and I'm shocked we're so often compared.

If you had to do a Lawyer Demo for your three year old's class (like I recently did a Doctor Demo), what would you do? No fair if you break out balloon animals.

I absolutely have no answer for this question. There is nothing I do whatsoever that a 3-year-old would find interesting. Oh, wait- the girls do like trying on my shoes, and I wear neat shoes. I'd do a "Dress Like a Lawyer" program for kids.

You have three kids three and under, and work full time. When people say to you things like "I don't know how you do it," does that make you happy or irritated? By the way, I don't know how you do it.

A bit of both. (And yes, I hear it CONSTANTLY). Happy that people find me impressive, but irritated for two reasons:

1) Usually when people say this, they aren't actually interested in how I do it, they're just sort of goggling at me like I'm a freak to want to. (Um, I don't get a choice at this point.) If they actually want to know how I do it, that's why I'm blogging.

2) I'm not impressive. The receptionist at my office who makes half my salary, has six sons between 8 and 18, , recently got divorced, and still manages to be so incredibly gorgeous that I wish I were a lesbian... SHE is impressive.

This is something that really bothers me: I've been reading a lot of chick lit lately, and there are tons of strong female protagonists who are lawyers, but none who are doctors. Doctors are allowed to solve medical mysteries, but apparently not get engaged to the wrong guy and then get lured away by another guy who initially seems like a jerk yet is ruggedly sexy. What's up with that? Why do lawyers get all the romance?

We dress better. Courtrooms are dramatic without actually being scary (as in, people rarely die). Your average chick lit reader understands what we do, or thinks she does... there are a lot of armchair lawyers out there, while doctors seem more "above it all". And one of the defining moments of chick lit came in 1997... when David E. Kelley brought us a sassy, unlucky-in-love, short-skirted, sexually active young lawyer forced to find her way through a series of dramedic misadventures featuring:

a sassy, black best friend, and a slutty, ditzy best friend
a hot, blonde rival (and later another hot, blonde rival when she won over the first hot, blonde rival)
a handsome ex married to the hot, blonde rival
a quirky, endearing fellow "drawn" to our heroine
and eventually Robert Downey, Jr.

And every one of these chick lit archetypal folks? You guessed it. LAWYERS. (Well, except for the slutty one, who was a paralegal). No wonder we're classics in the genre.

How do you divide the childcare responsibilities between you and your husband? Also, and more importantly, who makes more money? I bet it's you. Does that drive him nuts?

He gets off work earlier, picks the girls up, and brings them home, where they run rampant late-afternoon energy over him for about two-three hours until I show up. They're basically mine from then on, except when I take a bath or shower. On the weekend, we do almost everything in a group, with my focus more on the baby and his more on the older girls. Works out pretty well, especially as he doesn't really "get" babies.

He's a network security engineer and makes significantly more. Drives me nuts. I feel like I should make more. I'd LOVE to make more! (Would that drive him nuts? Not sure. Don't care. He likes money, so he'd probably get over it. Will cross that bridge when I come to it.)

Are female lawyers, especially those with kids, catty toward each other? (Like female doctors are, especially me. Meow!)

No, actually! My best friend at the firm is the other young female lawyer with a young child. She and I are sort of united against everyone else, because I think we get what it's like to have non-office priorities in a way no one else at the firm does. We both leave at 5. Female lawyers in general get along, I think, because it's such an old boy's club, especially in the South.

What would there be to be catty about?

Your three year old child wants a lollipop and dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes (TOTALLY hypothetical question, ahem). Use your lawyer skills of persuasion to convince her to wait. In your answer, you may address the child by my daughter's name.

Miss Melly, you may not have a lollipop (or as Christina would call it, "MY CANDY!")
Yes, I see you shouting.
No, I don't care that you're shouting.
Would you like a cup of water?
Yes, I hear that you want candy.
No, you may not have it.
Wow. It looks uncomfortable laying there on the floor.
Have you noticed how oddly loud this room has gotten recently?
[and similar, for fifteen minutes]
Okay, dinner ready.

It may seem I'm being facetious, but this really is what I'd do with Melly, and this is how I deal with conflicts at work with other lawyers. I don't go head-to-head very often in my sort of practice, but it does happen, and this is what I do... I just sit there (usually on the phone) and politely state the obvious and refuse to budge, until the other person either gets tired or bored.

I also have been known to compare my style of lawyering to an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where Flats the Fish wants to kick SpongeBob's butt. He hits him- and his fist sinks right in, and SpongeBob giggles. He hits him again, and the same thing happens. He then proceeds to follow SpongeBob around for hours, trying to beat the crap out of him, and everything bounces right off SpongeBob, and SpongeBob is unfailingly pleasant. Eventually, Flats passes out from sheer exhaustion.

That's how I lawyer, and parent.

Lindsey has also interviewed me on her blog about being a doctor/mom. See the corresponding interview at High Heeled Mom.


  1. Love the lawyer interview! I'm a former legal secretary (fled for more peaceful waters as the office manager of an architectural firm), but the field and practice fascinate me. I keep considering going back to school, and law and medicine are the two fields I flip-flop between.

    On the doctors-as-romance-heroines front, the first in Lynn Viehl's Darkyn books features a doctor as the female protagonist, and she continues to play a major role throughout the series.

    I'm a huge reading nerd. I can probably come up with more if pressed.

  2. Great interview.

    And it's true. Lawyers do dress better. My entire wardrobe consists of two pair of dress pants, for my dreaded clinic days, jeans for getting to work, twenty sets of scrubs, and three white coats. Not exactly Sex in the City.

  3. Is this the same high-heeled mom that commented on my blog? Wow. She seems really cool. I think I just upped my cool factor 10 points having a blog comment by her.

    And I checked out her blog. Not only is she cool, but way more tech savvy than me.

    I own exactly two pairs of high heels. One black, one brown. I can't wear them very often, because I am so uncoordinated I trip a lot. I have a dazzlingly dizzy array of flats, however. You should see the Frye ones I bought this weekend - black with silver diamond-shaped studs. I am the QUEEN of flats.

    Fizzy is your friend SpongeBob, or Flats? I think my role as a doctor and mom can be interchangeable. I like to think I am SpongeBob, but I'll bet on the outside sometimes I look like Flats.

  4. She IS cool.

    And fortunately for me, Spongebob is not one of the shows that I'm subjected to watching ad nauseum.

  5. Gizabeth, I'm Spongebob. The punches just sort of bounce off me until the other person gets tired, as the County Attorney of Fairfax found out today. I think he might hate me.

    And I just bought a seriously awesome pair of flats, pink sparkles to match my daughter's, but I sort of trip over my own feet when wearing them!

  6. Fizzy, you're gonna love SpongeBob. Way better than toddler TV. Intelligent, and funny. I know lots of people wish they could ban it, but I'm on the other side. I like to develop a crude sense of humor and pathos at a young age. The world is scary. SpongeBob will help them deal with it.

  7. Thanks so much for this post! I'm a longtime lurker and J.D.-holder, who decided midway through law school I wanted to be a doctor. I'm taking prereqs now, and it's really rare to see the two career paths directly compared by people who know what they're talking about. Useful and informative, as always- you guys are awesome!

  8. Awesome guest post! I love the lollipop answer - I think I may have to try a little more of that approach with my 15 month old. And now - another blog to love!

  9. oh this is GOLD! I am a lawyer with five kids, now a med student and just over a year away from my MD. And the exchange with melly on the kitchen floor? HHM, on this matter we are twins!


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