A few weeks ago I had lunch with an attorney I admire a lot, an accomplishment man many years my senior. The way he carries himself and how he reacts to people around him is not something you see often. A quality I can't quite explain, but I call "old school". He has the type of practice I had always respected and dreamt of having one day. One where books are used for research and old furniture gives potential clients a sense of calmness and confidence. Where knowledgeable is not the same thing as cocky and effective doesn't mean loud or aggressive. A man who knows his profession, who spent his entire life developing and fine tuning his skilled. We've met to see if there's a way we could work together to have the Florida Bar educate lawyers on how to approach and deal with people with disabilities. That's the one thing- despite all of his life experiences and legal skills- that he knew nothing about. And there's a lot of other lawyers that don't know how to conduct themselves in that situation either. I don't even mean the legal standard, although the Americans with Disabilities Act is still very young, and ever changing. The recent amendments have pushed it more and more to the direction of the person with disability being the main source of information of disability and how it needs to be accommodated. But I'm talking about things even more basic, how to set up your office, how to approach your client/opposing counsel, what not to do, what to say and what not to say. You could tell, he wasn't very comfortable with the subject matter, wasn't sure what language was appropriate and kept calling disabilities "challenges". And yes, in the last 25 years tremendous progress has been made in how we look and relate to people with those needs both in the field of awareness and inclusion and it's hard to keep up. We then got to talk about issues involving accommodations. And yes again, I understand that historically it's a fairly new concept- back in the day if you couldn't do something, you couldn't do something, end of story. Nobody stopped to think how we could modify the testing circumstances (or your work place) for example in a way that would still be fair to you and to others but focus on your talent, skill or ability without modifying the substance. And while I know there's some people who adopted the "look at me, I have a disability, I deserve special treatment"- as somebody posted something on our Foundation's wall about Florida not giving enough to people with special needs- I believe it's a minority. And while it may be a thin line between "special treatment" and "reasonable accommodations" we have case law after case law of institutions shown that their not doing enough, that they're in fact discriminating. I want to make it clear that both UF and the Florida Bar have never had any problems with any of my accommodations request. As I have functional use of only one hand - I was always given a scribe and extra time, while it is the disability resource center that suggested I also got untimed bathroom breaks if I ever needed to use the restroom. It is not as clear cut and set as you might think. The LSAC- a private entity that administers a test that is the basis of admission to all American law schools, was only few investigated by the Department of Justice and put on probation, while I almost sued my city for the way their city bus handles wheelchair passengers a few years ago. And to think their ADA person is working with one of the big disability institutions- I think Center for Independent Living. Just because somebody sings off on something doesn't mean your out of the woods. As we had our lunch and he told me of the few particularly loud bar applicants unhappy with the accommodations they got or didn't get, I reserved my judgment. Years ago I was coming at the LSAC and nobody would listen. Those stories, yes they sound crazy. But if need be, the court will decide what is and what isn't reasonable. While every set of circumstances is unique I hope that he doesn't take away from it that disability accommodations are some form of special treatment. That you get it because you're loud and make demands- not because you absolutely need it. I can't speak for everyone, but I know that I worked hard for absolutely everything I accomplished. Nobody gave me anything and life threw at me plenty. Yes, there were situations that I received reasonable accommodations, did it affect the test in any other way than letting me finish it? I don't think so. It would be really hurtful if people I respected thought of those as something "I get" versus something "I need". Trust me, it's no ball. I didn't ask to be born this way. But still, even if they don't know, I can't hold it against them. It's just something that they were not educated on, not their experience, not their time.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I don't care who you are and what you're upset about. I will never understand how you can set things on fire or break windows and take home the TV's or the liquor that you see in the stores simply because you're angry. What do you expect to happen next? This is where you live. This your community. The store owners are your neighbors, they work hard to make a living. And you'll have to look them in the eye the next day. And the day after that. Do you not want them to run businesses in your area? Do you not want them to feel safe? Who'll pay for and do all the repairs and construction? Does the stolen liquor and equipment solve any problems? Does it help with the anger if you charge at a McDonald's. I was watching the TV yesterday and I saw a lot of a pointless destruction. The images from Ferguson felt like scenes from a war zone in a post-apocalyptic film. I was switching back and forth between the four new channels as they were showing the Ferguson riots, up close and live, from different angles. One of the networks was even showing us footage from two IPhones as their camera was smashed. Battlefield from the safety of my living room. A friend came by last night as we were about to pick something on Netflix and as the Ferguson coverage was still on he said, "We should just watch this, it looks like a movie". The video was horrifying. And all I could think of is what in the world can ever be accomplished through something like that. How will the city, the neighborhood, the business owners and the people ever recover. How can they just get up and wipe the dust off? Was the damage done so severe that they can never recover from it and nothing would be as it once once. The ruins and the destruction will serve as a silent reminder for days, weeks maybe months. Maybe shame some people into thinking. This is your town, this is where you live and now you also live with the end result and the consequences. We live in a nation of laws. We have a process. If we don't like the process or we don't think it's fair, we change it. But we all operate within a system. We have rules, procedures and protections that give us an alternative to what we saw on the street yesterday. Do we really want to live in a world where we battle it out for survival and we air our grievances and frustrations by simply doing and taking whatever we feel at the moment? Where the physical strength trumps any other consideration, where "I want", "I need" and "I feel" are enough of a justification to do whatever a person desires? The thing about a system is this. A lot of times there will be those unhappy with what the System does even if the System gets it right. And sometimes of course the System will get it wrong. I don't want to deal with the underlying issue to much. A Grand Jury was asked to look into the evidence of the shooting and it was within its right to return whatever decision it did. It was obvious that many people were only interested in having the policeman punished regardless of the strength of the evidence, they wanted a particular result, irrespective of the legal process behind it. I doubt that these individuals would be happy even if the case went to trial if the jury didn't return the verdict thy expected. And as criminal juries deal with a legal standard that is very difficult to overcome and work with evidence and not emotions or beliefs the case wouldn't have been very difficult to prosecute. I'm not a huge fan of instituting legal proceedings just to make some people happy or to create a particular impression or to get a message to the community out. This is not what the law should be doing. A lot of issues are fascinating about this case, but the legal aspect is the least interesting. It's amazing how some people became so strongly personally invested in this story about a boy they've never met and an event they could not have possibly witnessed to form strong convictions about something they see on TV. Many projected their own experiences with prejudice onto this, because truth be told, we can reasonably reconstruct the chain of events, but none of us were there, we don't "know" what happened. Knowing something is different from believing, rationalizing, speculating or explaining away. It was interesting to me to see Al Sharpton talk about it as if he saw it with his own two eyes. I know that there's a history of distrust between racial minorities and police, well founded and documented. But we got to believe in the strength of the evidence, in the forensic science, in the testimony that is credible and not excluded in the law of physics. A lot of people were not interested in the rationale. They only wanted to vent by charging at the nearest McDonald's. Isn't interesting how some internalized this story, a story of a stranger so much, that they feel they need to unleash their anger on other people and their property? As if somebody offended their relative or a best friend. But it's someone they only read about or saw on TV and based on understanding they formed based on the media. And it matters to them. Perhaps it's the sign of the digital age. News networks, internet flooding us with stories on a 24 hour cycle. Often playing on emotions when there are no new legitimate developments. You hear about them you talk about them, you watch them on your big screen TV. At one point they become more than stories, they become real people. And that bring up human emotions. Anger. Frustration. I guess it's not more out of the ordinary as people invested in the lives of One Direction, Taylor Swift or Katharine McPhee, where fans stand up for them, attack them, cry for them as if there was a chance to have them over for tea. I know I have my own life. People in it have enough problems without me looking for more across state lines. I volunteer in the community, I run a non profit and I try to do the right thing: by being kind considerate and helpful.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
It's simple: American immigration system is broken and has been for the longest while. I don't think I could be called a " liberal" by any stretch of imagination except for on social issues and still I say changes are long overdue. President Barack Obama made headlines over the last few days by deciding on an executive action that will suspend some deportations and alter in one way or another the position of some who are here without a lawful status. While I take an issue with how he has done it, the scale of the move and the Constitutional implications the one thing I feel it may accomplish is forcing us towards a real debate on who gets to stay and how. Yes, apparently they were working on it for nine months and yes, it seems political I hesitate when it comes to using the word "illegal" as it's both not a term found in the language of the statutes and also while I find that while what a person does and their position might be illegal, calling a human being that just sounds inappropriate. A status is something you acquire. You may go out of it sometimes, be out of status between fillings and it's even fine to be without one while still in the country if you had one before for a limited time.
I'm not as personally involved in this issue as you may think- My path to citizenship ends early next year after 5 years on a green card - with the filing of the form N-400. I've been to hell and back to get where I am, it was not a quick and stress free process. And for the longest time we didn't know that we'd be successful, although I've never broken the law or entered the country without authorization. I came in on a student visa for law school. There's two points that I wanted to make. The media seem to frame immigration as an issue of migrant Mexican workers facing deportation. I think those who came in like me, always following the rules, subject to a lot of restrictions, have it much worse. Until I become an American, if I move I have to report it to DHS within ten days. They need to know where I live at all times. And it's been so long, I can hardly remember what port of entry I came through last time. I must carry my green card on my person at all times. And talk to any international student center official at any school. The amounts on restrictions, paperwork and requirements on those who came in to study only increased in the last ten years. My friends who deal with foreign students often vent to me with frustration about how the government is forcing some limiting interpretations of rules that never existed before. If you study here, you work hard, you're in the system, you're in the plain sight, you're transparent- it only gets harder on you. I'm sorry- but I keep hearing that you can come here or be here already, get in the back of the line and file for something- as an argument that pops up on a lot of the debate shows. And I want to know- who do they think can file for and what? In order to be eligible for a green card you need to qualify for a set of unique conditions like- you got married to an American, or somebody offered you a job and the quota for an H1B visa wasn't yet filled and your employer got in, or your skills are so high end, rare and unique and your workplace is so determined on having you that they are willing to go through 9 months of the labor certification process to show that isn't anybody else they could hire in your place. When I say the system is broken I'm less concerned about people who have low skills and jumped the border, because you could make an argument that they know what they're signing up for (although I understand humanitarian considerations, that everyone wants to make a living and offer its family security. I say that the system is broken because it doesn't offer a lot of reasonable paths to citizenship to people regardless of whether you're here legally or not. The system is geared towards not letting them stay - even if they are educated in high end professions and lived here for 10 years. Commentators seem to think that there's a lot of readily available waivers that you can go in and just pick one. That is not the case. And I chuckle quite a bit when I see a person who migrated with their parents decades ago under a different law and in a limited circumstance sounding off on an opinion show as if everyone could do the same today. Well they can't. And as with any fillings you have officers hidden behind their numbers deciding whether someone meets some other restrictive criteria, often in very arbitrary fashion. For the most part, from what I've seen unless you're the best of the best you don't get to be here and the Government has no interest in keeping you although American schools gave you skills that the could use here. For the waivers that we do have there's not that many that apply, and famously the one that we've attempted to try on me evolved from an obscure case about a New York Department of Transportation looking to hire someone for its system. This is what they work with to decide people's future. Their needs to be comprehensive reform that accomplishes two things: Attracts people with advanced degrees to stay in the country instead of forcing them out. And in the age of global economy, electronic media and ever present outsourcing companies should be allowed more leeway in hiring whoever they wish and be able to bring workers here. Employees may be more interchangeable when it comes to purely physical labor like picking tomatoes, but when it comes to jobs based on creativity, communication, thinking and interaction, a business owner should be able to decide who can forward his mission best without being bogged down by a paper intensive process with the odds stacked against him. For example: if I'd like to hire a Creative Director from France I want to be able to do so on the strength of his or hers portfolio even though he or she while good hasn't been featured in the Louvre or was peer reviewed in 17 publications. I definitely wouldn't want to wait a year to be able to offer an accomplished European marketer a job and be in turn forced to get a graphic designer from Interlachen. Another thing: H1b Visas: the work visas that most employers (unlike say universities that are exempt from quotas) that are hard to get because there's only so many of them, tie the workers to their jobs for many years. They don't have an option to look for better positions or ask for better compensation and in fact keep the wages down, because the companies know that workers hoping to become permanent residents are in a bit of a bind.
The problem with immigration is simple: it's growing bigger and bigger, more and more complex with more and more regulation. It's hardly user friendly, people, lives and corporations are stuck in the process and many immigration lawyers (and lawyers in general, but it's even less clear cut here) offer you their best "theory of the case" based on their understanding which may or may not be successful. The anonymous officers have a lot of power interpreting the facts and the rules as a daily routine without giving you as little as a name, it's harder more painful and longer than it needs to be. There needs to be a clear process that allows businesses get access to a pool of the world's elite. Otherwise they can just outsource or even move elsewhere. People need to know their fate so they can focus on their futures and settle on a life somewhere. Being afraid to open the mailbox for many years is probably not the lifestyle that anyone imagined especially if they've done nothing wrong. And there needs to be more understanding- of why this system doesn't keep up with the times and the needs and that being a Democrat or with the GOP has nothing to do with it.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
My mother must be psychic. A month ago she insisted she'd sent me a winter coat. I wasn't sold on it, since-you know- I live in Florida. We don't get Winters, we don't get seasons. Most of the time it's moderately warm too hot, either raining or humid. Thinking of a proper thicker jacket is a bit of an abstract for me. It's something that is probably nice to have but in the back of my closet. And then you need a place to store it. The extent that I buy warmer clothing usually comes down to grabbing a random sweatshirt at whatever store I'm at if I happen to leave the house without a sweater. My mom however remembered how chill it was that December when she visited for m my graduation. And it's the strangest thong- if it gets cooler, it does so for a day or two and then it's hot as if nothing ever happened. But last week it got cold at night and not that pleasant during the day. This week isn't much better. To those familiar with centigrade, it's -4 tonight, up to +10 during the day. Not very warm at all. Not very Florida. It doesn't make you get out and do anything either. I had to go into my closet for one of my age old Gators sweatshirts and still I could put on more stuff At home my air conditioning is off as I hold off on turning on the heating. That was one of the things I loved as a kid. Getting into a warm bed with the bedroom window open. No matter how cold it was out, I couldn't sleep with the window closed and quite enjoyed being comfy under the covers with a bit of a cool breeze on my face. During the long months at the rehabilitation ward at a hospital in Warsaw I would do this routine, practically every night, when I would slide off the bed, crawl to climb up the chair, to then get on the table and open the door. Sometimes I would miss and land of the floor. Or I would get caught by one of the nurses while climbing up. I was afraid they would yell at me for acting up, being disobedient instead of trying to sleep, so I'd lie that I fell out of the bed. It usually ended all discussions and left me alone. But it didn't go unnoticed. At some point they started to put the bed railings up for me. For some reason I needed that little bit of a window, however small opened, so I could feel the cooler air. Otherwise I couldn't breathe. The air felt stale and it was almost like I was suffocating. Funny thing- since I moved to America, with the fans and A/C on I can't remember the last time I opened a window here. So now it's a bit cooler outside. And I don't mind. It's a change. It gives a bit more of that Holiday feeling in the air and I have a legitimate excuse to want a cup of warm mocha or latte Sure, it's a bit of hassle for me getting ready, having to put the extra layers, but it's temporary. And back home I've done it for years. Floridians on the other hand are not used to cool weather and a lot of people panic with the slightest freeze warning especially if they have plants of animals. I overheard a conversation this week, I can't remember if it was on a bus or at Starbucks, the two places at which you can recently find me, when one of two friends complained to the other that he owns only two sweatshirts as he moved here from Miami. And I thought to myself, they should see my closet.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Kim Kardashian, a celebrity that is famous for something, but nobody really knows what it is, decided to break the internet with her naked pictures and an appropriate hashtag. Some were outraged, I just rolled my eyes. She then received plenty of ridicule for the move and her photos were transformed into what seems like an infinite number of memes (another overused word). I haven't seen such an out-pour of creative use of Photoshop online since Miley Cyrus was twerking on the MTV stage. Others were in turn outraged st the outrage saying that poking fun at Kardashian is anything from sexism, misogyny to a violation of the First Amendment (and "freedom of speech" is the most overused and misunderstood legal term- yet a lot of people like to throw it in, relevant or not). Kardashian was then compared to some male musicians being shirtless, most notably Nick Jonas who don't appear to get that much backlash. And to clarify- I'm not a fan of neither. But it's obvious to me that somebody who is a musician, an actor, has some body of work whether I enjoy it or not, some other claim to fame besides being notoriously naked is allowed to even do something classless from time to time, because he or she has something else to fall back on. Ms Kardashian career, my friends tell me, stems from a sex tape that as some rumors have it her mother may have or haven't been instrumental in production and distribution of. Her body, her looks, her image being her main commodity. And there's nothing really wrong with that- although if you ask me I like my celebrities to have at ounce of a talent, interests and something to say. Antics are fine as long as they are in addition to something not the main focus. I hear the word "classless" tossed around in the Kardashian/Jonas comparison and while I think class is in the eye of the beholder, I think context is crucial here. Is the image artistic? Does it serve any other purpose but say "Look at me, I'm naked"? I have to say I do feel a bit odd seeing Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton in the same space and generating the same kind of interest as my beloved actors and musicians. (But then I would like to see people cherished for their intellect and spirit and the content of their character). Although I do hear that Ms /Hilton is now a DJ and has a career to focus on. Make no mistake- it's Kim Kardashian who built a name for herself on her looks and body and she's very smart maintaining the interest. She took a gamble marketing herself in a certain way and for the most part it has paid off. The backlash is a natural outcome of what you put out there, especially if you intend to push buttons and provoke. Yes, there are historically different stereotypes associated with male and female nudity in popular culture. Many male musicians take their shirts off to perpetuate the image of a "badass rocker" while some female artist have deliberately used sexuality to both stir up controversy and make people think. While some of Madonna's material may have been explicit as she literally took her clothes off for "Erotica" and the "Sex" book she had a purpose, a message and an agenda behind it, and she talked about it extensively. She wanted to bring attention to the perception of women that can be either smart and creative or sensual and sexual but never both. She did it in addition to her popularity in music. She didn't need to make a name for herself and if anything, she hurt her sales with her antics. At the same time, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Steven Tyler perform shirtless all the time but it's not intended to have a sexual context or arouse anybody. If anything the male equivalent of the female nude breasts in media is full frontal nudity. And you don't see that, not from Nick Jonas, not from Adam Levine.
Some people are concerned that Kardashian is a mother. While I'd certainly be in shock having discovered my mother posed for Playboy, it's silly to assume that celebrity kids are raised like the rest of us. That they are not brought up to be smart about the media and manipulate popular culture in an effortless way. If the celebrities have their own way of life, what they value, how they act and what they pursue, why should we assume that it tones down when they become parents? And maybe, just maybe the kids are better off having the skillset more fitted for their world.
As soon as you start criticizing this actor or that starlet you hear about their "Freedom of speech". What people don't understand is that the First Amendment is sole about the government, what it can and cannot regulate or simply can they shut you up. It doesn't mean that you have the absolute right to say everything everywhere and even if you can- that you should. It doesn't mean that you're immune to criticism, that people have to listen to you and if they do that they must agree. And I'm a big supporter of the idea of sometimes keeping my mouth shot before I say something I cannot take back and will regret.
Kim Kardashian is interesting to me from one aspect- because my initial reaction was that she was back to her old tricks- I want to see what happens when she gets older. Will she still be pushing her brand of sexuality on us when Photoshop can no longer help her. Madonna said that when she ages she'll just use her mind. I'm curious to see if Kim Kardashian will do something entirely different, use her mind or maybe she'll open a very important debate on the perception of aging and human sexuality. For that I hope she can push the envelope where many others before her gave up.
Friday, November 14, 2014
Picture this: I was coming home from a meeting this Tuesday when I decided to stop by Starbucks. They were doing some kind of Two-for-1 Christmas drink promotion so the line was really long. A lot of people in a crowded room, everyone on their phones hardly seeing what's in front of them. I was just presenting our new Foundation materials and I thought it went pretty well. I decided I can wait and reward myself with a pumpkin spice latte. I was focusing on finding something in my manpurse when a man headed for the door with a cup of coffee in his hand walked right into me, Physically tried to get through me, never looking at me. I can't say that ever happened to me before, I've had people tripping over my lap when they were on their phones but never anything quite like this. It was as if he tried to body slam me, then he tripped and hit me on the head with his body weight. I couldn't tell if he was drunk or just in shock. I know I was. I wanted to air my frustration, yell some profanities at him, how dare he invade my private space, how dare he not look down. Invading my private space like I wasn't there. He asked me if I was OK but I was mad. And I wasn't quite sure if I wasn't injured. He just fell on me and I felt like I walked into a wall. It took me a second to figure out that nothing was broken. And I really wanted to tell him what an a-hole he was. I'm a person! But then through all the anger, frustration and shifting emotions all I could get out was "You should really watch where you're going!" when all I wanted to do is say something intelligent and poignant something to make him think about what happened, what he's done, how I felt, and how he doesn't even have a clue. "You're right, I should"- he responded and that I was not expecting. I was anticipating some cocky dismissive reaction that would allow me to vent further. And I think I could have easily yelled at him for five minutes and he would have just taken it. Instead that was all of it and we just parted our ways. I wasn't happy with my reaction. Nothing that I could say could have undone this anyway and it's not like I wanted him to be haunted by this experience. I also didn't want him to take the heat from all the other instances that the world ignored me or something happened and I could have let them have it and didn't say anything. Although I will say I was mostly frustrated with him and no one else. It's painful when a heavy man falls on your head and I don't want to make excuses for him. It it is tiring to always take the high road and be the understanding one. But that's not what this was about. Yes, my chair was pretty low was he wasn't looking where he was going. He saw an opening. And then he ruined my day. But by letting him get to me I made it even worse not for him, but for me.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
A few days ago a link to a blog on the American Bar Association website made it to my mailbox. Female lawyer organizations were rejoicing and taking credit for cancellation of NBC's dramedy, "Bad Judge". As I read it, I thought it spoke volumes- not about the show itself, but about the legal profession. I've seen the show a few times. It's on my DVR on "I get to it when I get to it" basis and I will not particularly miss it when it's gone and neither will the American public. If a freshman show continues to perform under 1.00 share in the 18-49 demographic you know it's in trouble. "Bad Judge" continued to redefine what is the new acceptable low for a network as forgiving and desperate for a hit as NBC. I'm surprised that it wasn't not only cancelled but yanked off the air weeks ago. The network kept it on, not because it hoped it would recover, but primarily because there wasn't any suitable replacement. Every single ratings website I know of announced it as certain to be cancelled. It's all about ratings, not about how offensive someone might find the content. So, what about the content? Yes, the show was titled "Bad Judge". Yes, she was rude and crude, had a fake handicapped parking pass, gave the finger to the press in the pilot. And I know that judges in particular need to conduct themselves in a certain manner in and out of courtroom, but this was a comedy not a documentary. The point was to show her as a flawed character. In the same vein there was "Bad Santa", "Bad Grandpa", "Bad Teacher" (both a cancelled TV show and a movie). And despite the title, if the protesters bothered to watch a little beyond the opening titles they'd see that while the main character is a disaster when it comes to her private life and how she conducts herself she is anything but a bad judge. She's unorthodox and creative, she cuts through the red tape to give people in her courtroom a fair shake. And I really wonder if the same groups protesting "Bad Judge" were as outspoken about "Ally McBeal" that portrayed a young semi-successful female attorney as a person forever frustrated by her single status, pinning for a married colleague, clumsy, having delusional visions of her injuring opposing attorneys and dancing babies who only finds fulfillment in motherhood as she leaves her firm and moves away. While "Bad Judge" is no "Ally"- her antics humanize the legal profession. She is more approachable than other judges on the show (and some judges I know). She spends most of her time with her bailiff and never once lets him feel like she's better than him because their differences in power. I've always perceived the legal community as a bit elitist to say the least, as if taking an oath makes us better people.
And I don't know about flawed judges- but I've met attorneys and law students with some pretty significant flaws. Quite frankly, in America your general education ends with your college degree. Law school isn't something that will give you plenty of opportunities to learn about the world. What you know coming in about history, geography, sociology is pretty much what you have to build on on the flipside. Law school teaches you a unique set of skills, but it doesn't widen your horizons. I've seen plenty of now former classmates make often narrow minded or bigoted comments with conviction in class because they were never exposed to a different perspective. A lack of experience, a lack of education. I highly doubt that three years of legal training and a multiple choice test has the potential of transforming them into different people. What's the harm in presenting lawyers on TV as living, breathing human beings as anybody else down the street? Of course the network is to blame. When will the stations learn that launching a show with quasi-controversial title like "Cougar Town" or the show based on the book "Good Christian Bitches" just gives the debuting series one more problem to overcome, especially if content compared to the title is tame? Bottom line: As I met with one of my former professors who had been practicing law for decades longer than I had I realized how different what we do today must be to what being a lawyer meant thirty, twenty, even 15 years ago. Today professional rules in a state where I practice still put more and more restriction and regulation on lawyers. I guess the thought behind it is we are still the chosen profession and people look up to us. And I feel that's a little self involved. Especially since we live in the times of internet, when an unhappy client can target and go after an attorney with all his might. When people ask me if I recommend going to law school I point to all my friends that do anything but law. I think the nature of the profession is changing. I doubt it will ever have as much prestige as it used to. When you ask around, you hear that the job market is bad, but then that's what I was told on my graduation day in 2009. It's hard to predict where it's going, but I don't think there's any going back. I don't think the community is ready for any change. I for one don't think that I'm in any way, shape and form better as a person because I practice law.
Yes, I try to be responsible and build a reputation for myself, but it has more to do with wanting to be a good person and the way I was raised than what I do. In a way we are all flawed, "Bad Judge" has them more than most people, but if you ask me having no sense of humor is one of the biggest flaws there is.
And as a sidenote: A funny story: I stuck with law at least in part thanks to Ally McBeal. In my first year studying it back in Warsaw I've met plenty of people who were humorless and focused on getting an early start at having a career of their dream that it was that they could see. Despite being very young they already felt burnt out to me. I think it was my third semester when "Ally" premiered on Polish TV. She was funny, impulsive, motivated and smart. Although a fictional character and miles and miles away- something about her life and how she carried herself, although I'd laugh off her crazy antics today back then was really appealing to me. The ways of an American lawyer showed me that I can have interests and hobbies and be eccentric, that I don't have to be just one think or another but whatever I choose and however I make it work. Back then I wanted to do a lot of things in life and I felt I didn't need to compromise and have a profession define me. I didn't know it yet, but seven years later I would move to America, get my LLM and then my JD and get admitted to law practice in Florida and DC. And I give some credit to American TV shows that shaped my teenage mind. Series that featured strong, commanding lawyers that knew how to move, structure a case and deliver strong closing arguments, but at the same time were very, very human.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Today I woke up with an all too familiar stomach ache. A food poisoning? A flu? Whatever the answer was I could tell it was not going to be a good day. And the week was going so well. I've had a few meetings with potential sponsors and partners for my nonprofit, fleshed out new projects that I want to focused on. Always dressed up and always on time. And then Thursday came. You know that feeling when it's not only your stomach, but you have no energy, your eyes feel puffy and something comes over you that makes you feel tired. A nap would be nice, but you figured no amount of sleep can take it away. It's not that kind of "tired". It's giving in to disease that wants you stuck at home tired. On Friday I have two meetings and I might pick up a potential client for my occasional law practice. It keeps me sharp to do what I was actually trained in and I'm excited. I have to say, that Linked In has given us a lot of offers from volunteers from their respective professional fields that want to work with us. Lately I get about three submissions a day. And that's good- after taking out those who in fact want to get paid right away despite what the ads say, those that never respond period, those who have a change of heart and those who outright decline, those who never really read it and those that simply don't qualify, we have a good group to choose from. That's what we'll be doing Saturday and that's when my work week ends. But today it's Thursday. The feeling of being so sleepy that if I just closed my eyes I'd doze off in the most awkward position to wake up not a bit more rested was with me all day. That's the one thing I miss about being a kid. How your life gets put on hold when you're sick or not feel well. I'd love nothing more than slide under a blanket, couch and remote optional and sleep till the next morning. But I have those things called commitments. My life is not waiting for me and if I don't do the things I aim for I miss out and hurt myself. Nobody's making me chicken soup- don't know if I'd be able to hold it down anyway- and I've tried not to eat most of the day. Being an adult is a balancing act between can I miss it/reschedule it and "is it too ridiculous for me to even try to be outside. I waited an hour and with no further symptoms I went on with the rest of the day as schedule. Towards the evening I decided to eat a sandwich with fries and when everything appeared to be fine I decided to reward myself with a free screening of an upcoming movie on campus. I'm still tired, my eyes look swollen and I'm not really in the mood for anything, even getting to type up this post feels like a challenge. But I did take some chicken nuggets home, I might watch an episode or two of Friends before taking a good well deserved 12 hour nap. I'm really excited about Friday.
Monday, November 3, 2014
There's a video going viral with a woman walking around Manhattan for ten hours that reports on the male reactions she gets as she passes. All of them are perceived as harassment, although I'd say that some are simply rude, not more than that- which is not the same thing while a few such as wishing her good morning or walking closely saying hello are borderline polite. I guess the reasoning is that a stranger shouldn't try to start a conversation if she doesn't want to be engaged and don't look for eye contact in New York unless you have bad intentions. You don't walk closely to someone, compliment their attire and truth be told most, but not all of the scenes had an obvious underlining context. I thought of this video as I boarded the bus today. A middle aged man, slightly deaf and supplementing himself with sign language was engaging every single person that boarded the bus. "Good morning", "Are you having a good day?" "How was your Halloween?"- some of his lines felt like they came out of a conversations book for people learning English. "How are you, Batman?"- he said to a man wearing the superhero shirt. Some people didn't want to be engaged or just didn't noticed that he was talking to them listening to music in their headphones, but he didn't get discouraged. He wanted to talk about the weather (it was sunny but we had a cold front), the weekend, the plans, he was asking about their names and where everybody lived. "How's the family?" he queried a young man he just met and we heard all about his relatives in Ohio and how he's torn between transferring to a college in Central Florida and an University in Texas. Most people, although a little puzzled at first to hear all those questions from a stranger, moved a conversation along. Some had a hard time understanding him but he was patient yet persistent. And he pointed to his ears showing us which one is bad and which one was better. And I couldn't help thinking, that if we were in New York, LA, or one of those other high-pate high-population, don't-look-at-me places he would have been pepper sprayed by someone who felt he was too close, to loud or too persistent. I guess we do have a different mentality here in North Central Florida. We nod, we say hi to people we've never met. We comment on people's wardrobe, not in a rude, objectifying way, but if there's something funny or unusual or eyecatching about someone's attire we say it- respectfully but we do. I always like to tell the story of how my mom, her first week in Florida, had an encounter with a few young girls that stopped to compliment her dress. She turned to me thinking it was her English or something she didn't get, because who does a thing like that. I always start a conversation on buses, bunches, in waiting lines and the more someone's detached and uncomfortable, the bigger the challenge to turn the mood around. Sex (or objectifying anyone) is the last thing on my mind and I guess people don't see it like that because that's not what I put out there. I guess it's a matter of perspective- where you live, what you're used to and how you react to people. I choose not to be constantly suspicious of everyone's anterior motives and be constantly offended, locked and mentally distant in my own little zone. Yes, some people are stupid, but it's not good to only see or expect the worse from everyone. Besides, 10 hours of walking is what? Two months of everyday commuting's worth in real life? I'd say I'm surprised there isn't much more material for a city this big
Saturday, November 1, 2014
For the last two or three weeks I was mostly stuck in my apartment. Days went by as I sat down and got plenty of work out of the way. There were days that I didn't get to go outside. There are only twenty four hours in the day. And I don't mind eating hot pockets a few days in the row as long as it's leading somewhere. My microwave was put to work over the last few days than in the last twelve years (and I had developed quite a liking for the frozen phili stake). I'm excited and I'm motivated. It's weird, because I've been trying hard to get m Foundation off the ground and so far failed to make a dent. But we were making a lot of business planning lately. Putting together pages and pages of presentations in a way that really sets apart and clarifies our mission. We've developed new project ideas. Instead of stopping, developed smaller steps, attainable goals, but a part of a bigger perspective. And instead of everybody looking on to me, as to what I want to do and how I have creative people by my side now that tell me what we should do instead and how to get there. No disrespect to people that have been with us before, came and went- their contributions are extremely appreciated, but I feel now we are kicking into a higher gear. And I learn new things- I do a lot more from all those different and strange areas and I'm more excited now about the possibilities that arise. We're developing a new strategy, new exciting materials. I was in meetings last week, I'm in meetings tomorrow, next week and the week after. My Creative team is really making me think outside the box and come up with proposals giving me courage to do things I never realistically considered before. The creative juices are flowing and I've been feeling liberated and unstuck. You know that feeling when you pour a lot of energy into something and you get to cross it off the list? I feel we are all on the same page now and we know what we're doing. We've been recruiting a recruiter and a few project managers, because we have actual projects for them to manage. I'd say I'm pumped, because for the first time in a while I feel like instead of just talking about all the things we'll do we are actually doing them. The biggest casualty of this is of course this blog. I didn't have the time, I didn't have the energy and I didn't really have the inspiration. As I don't go out and I don't interact, things don't really happen to me as much and I doubt anyone would be interested in my thoughts on microwaving a pastry. For the last few days the most interactions I had was with my DVR and espresso maker. But it's just calm before the storm. I assure you, we're going places.