Virtual office New York attorney, Vivian Sobers, shares another day in the life of a solo attorney and talks about legal infidelity.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I have a confession. I am cheating on my husband.
Don’t worry. He’s okay with it.
In fact, he tells me I should continue my infidelity.
It’s not what you think. It’s not another man.
I am cheating on him with my law practice. It’s legal infidelity.
When you are a hard working solo attorney, the lines between relationships sometimes get really blurry. Not in the Robin Thicke kind of way (Insert Marvin Gaye sample here). But in the kind of way where personal and professional become one in the same.
A while ago, I wrote about what a day in the life of a solo attorney is like. On this Valentine’s Day, I am going to share another day in my adulterous lifestyle. I am sure most of you can relate to the organized chaos.
Wake up. I do not want to be waking up at this hour. No one relishes seeing the number 5 followed by AM. My brain seems to have decided to punish me this week.
I have lost the battle with my brain. It’s like a new born child. When it decides its ready, you have to capitulate and give in to its’ demands.
Coffee. Need. Coffee. Now.
The worst part is that the coffee isn’t even bitter. Here we go.
Mentally start preparing for my day. Did I put gas in the car last night?
Sitting Indian-style on the couch. Laptop on. Nina Simone softly playing. Sinnerman is the perfect “let’s get going song”.
Start going over case documents for a hearing I have to appear for this morning. It’s in Richmond County, Staten Island. I tend to look at what I am given when I first receive it and then refresh my memory the morning of the appearance. Time to refresh.
Day dream a little bit. Look out the window to see what snow accumulation I am going to have to deal with. This winter has been ridiculous. And, the snow has made my days longer. As a litigator, I am always running from court to court. You have to budget extra time when the weather is bad. And time is something that solo attorneys always seem to be in short supply of
It looks bad outside. Maybe they will cancel the appearance. It would save me some time. But I know if they do, it will inevitably be rescheduled for an even busier day in my life. Legal karma. I mean, look at our career choice. Would a sane person choose to work this hard?
Thinking about my case theory. Pacing the living room. I like to walk around when I think. I also talk to myself a lot. I swear I am not crazy. Well, at least not committable crazy. All solos are somewhat crazy.
2nd cup of coffee. Stomach growls. Guess I should eat something. Spy a banana on the counter. Sure, the brown spots signify that it has seen better days, but it’s not “banana bread” brown. It will have to do.
Realized I just wasted a half hour watching New York 1. I think I would be a good traffic reporter.
Back to the case.
Eureka Moment! It’s like a light bulb went off in my head. I can’t believe I was missing something so simple. I tend to overanalyze simple things. I look for deeper meaning in casual statements. Sometimes, you have to take a step back and get out of your own way.
Come to the decision that I need to share this new sense of case law clarity with the only person who I know will listen to me. Well, since we are married, he has to listen to me. For better or for worse, right?
For him, it’s now “for worse,” because I have decided he has to wake up to hear my discovery. Dammit, he should be awake anyway. The pending sunrise inspires a certain type of loneliness. It’s also my favorite time of the day.
It is mine. No calls. No emails. The predawn silence is pregnant with peace and anxiety simultaneously.
Wake up Owie. He had no choice in this matter. I felt bad after seeing the sheer look of panic in his eyes. He lurched forward stammering and stuttering for 6 seconds before getting out: “What happened? Are you okay?”
I explain to him that I am more than just okay, I had a breakthrough. Unfortunately, he did not seem as impressed as I thought he should have been in his befuddled state of temporary awareness. He just shook his head and rolled over. Lucky bastard. The idea of going back to bed seems as luxurious as caviar and champagne, and just as out of reach.
Shower. Brush Teeth. Hum music. I am surprisingly chipper for such a dreary day. I am sure it will fade.
Put on my “power suit”. Don’t judge me. We all have power suits. I also have decided it is lucky. Yes I know it is irrational. But, when it comes to court, I take every “advantage” I can, regardless of its rationality.
Last look in the mirror. I must say, I look like a lawyer. Kind of proud of that.
Get the car. I have a 9:30 AM appearance in Richmond County, Staten Island. The roads are bad. The driver’s on bad roads are worse. It’s almost as if winter weather turns New Yorkers into lawless vigilantes. I anticipate this and leave early and cautiously.
Of course there is traffic on the BQE.
Ruminate on the sorry state of morning drive radio. I don’t know anyone who has a natural morning radio voice. Begin to wonder how long these morning zoo keepers had to work on perfecting their “radio voice.”
Traffic. Getting restless. You know you have been in a car too long when your normally comfortable driver’s seat starts to bother you. How do cab drivers sit in the same seat all day? I respect them much more in this moment.
Park. Walk into court a little early. Do some casual networking.
There are a lot of people on the case I am doing, so it seems there is a long wait. Find a wooden bench and start going through emails. I use court downtime to get the rote, mundane emails and business organization stuff out of the way. Pull out my iPad and start making a list of things that need to do today.
Begin conferencing the case.
I tried to remember what happened in the preceding 25 minutes. I know I got the result I wanted, but I don’t remember how. I black out when I go into court. My body and mind go into auto-pilot and I allow myself to give in. It’s weird how this always happens. I can recall moments, thoughts, slivers of a truncated experience, but never a full narrative of events.
Just because I got the result I wanted does not mean I can leave. I have to wait for the judge to sign the order. More legal downtime. Talk with some people. Check e-mail. Hand out business cards. Shakes hands. Kiss babies. You know how it goes.
The judge has finally signed the court order.
11: 41 AM
Literally run to the municipal parking lot where I parked the car. The meter was going to expire. Do you know how hard it is to run through the snow and ice in high heels? Guys have it easy.
Begin the commute to the home office. It is going to be a bear. Traffic is always bad at this time of the day from Staten Island. As a control freak, knowing that you have no choice other than to relinquish control to nonsensical traffic patterns is really hard. Mentally prepare myself to avoid the inevitable road rage. I promised myself I would not yell at someone who cannot hear me through a closed window at 65 MPH.
Break my promise. Oops. I employed very colorful language after being abruptly cut off by huge white van without windows. (I always think vans without windows have an abducted child in them. I guess I am a fatalist.)
Arrive home feeling wiped out and exhausted. I wish I lived in a country that required mid-afternoon naps. The Spanish know what they are doing.
Decide to take a lunch break. I find that if I do not actually leave the office (my house) I go crazy. Working from home requires so much discipline. Yes, its economical option to paying for a full-time office rental, but sometimes I really have to force myself to do things. It is very easy to find the comfortable nook in my couch and watch some tv. I always tell myself it will only be a 15 minute break. Only 15 minutes. Three episodes of Scandal later, I find myself working late into the night to make up the time.
Go to my neighborhood diner. Zone out. I literally scarf down a huge salad. I think I chewed twice during the entire time. Taking a break is important. Even if the mediocrity of the salad that inspired the break is a foregone, overpriced conclusion. Just an aside: when did it become socially appropriate to put huge chunks of unpeeled carrot in a salad? Thank god my local diner is not a “pay by the weight” place.
Head back to “the office”. Have tons of research and preparation to do.
Answer a call from an unknown number. It’s funny how as a solo attorney I engage in behavior my non-lawyer self would never have done. I used to never answer unknown numbers. I always thought they were sketchy.
Now, every audible ring has the potential to be a high value case. I answer every phone call. But, I am still surprised that my most frequent caller is a Google recording. No, I don’t want your adwords or to update my business address. Thanks though. Clever trick using different numbers to achieve your goal.
The call is from a publicist!
I just got booked for a commentary spot on CNN Espanol. I am going to be on world wide television.
Still in disbelief. I am going to be on TV. They are going to do my hair and make-up. (I know that sounds vain, but do you know how much that costs?)
Call my husband. He appreciated this phone call more than his morning wake-up call.
Call my office colleagues. I need advice. I am literally scheduled for tomorrow.
Dance around my apartment. If someone were videotaping my moves, the video would go viral, but for the wrong reasons.
Panic has set in. I am going to be on live tv. It is going to be broadcast across all Latin American countries. Shout out to my Venezuelan relatives!
Realize that I cannot freak out about this anymore. I actually have work to do.
Decide against working at the desk. I opt to work in the bedroom.
Have to make the bed. Seriously?!?
Start writing a motion.
Move to the couch. I find it helps to move around my apartment when I have to do a lot of work. This way, it doesn’t feel so monotonous. I get bored easily, which is why I prefer to be in court. You can’t get bored when you don’t know what is going to be thrown at you.
Have a mini-breakdown, because I forgot to go to the post-office. Throw on a coat so I can run there.
Of course it is snowing. I hope I make it in time.
I have all the forms filled out, so I just have to wait in line.
There went another $92.00. How can the post-office be almost bankrupt when attorneys like me single-handedly subsidize it? Seriously, I feel like my life is one big green delivery confirmation receipt. You know?
Back to the motion.
My husband arrives home. I have moved back to the bedroom.
I am rambling to him about my CNN appearance tomorrow. I am freaking out.
There is nothing better than the smell of garlic hitting hot oil. I add this to the already sweating onions. You can criticize my dancing. It’s much harder to criticize my cooking. Nothing fancy, just simple, effective, delicious.
Open a bottle of red wine. Every time I hear a cork pop, and smell food cooking, it reminds me of lyrics I once heard:
A knife, a fork, a bottle, a cork …
That’s the way we spell New York.
It’s everyday sounds like the gasp for air a wine bottle makes when its conjoined twin, the cork, is removed from its body that inspire unconscious peripheral song lyric recollections like these. These tangential associations only emerge only after long days, only emerge after schlepping around in the once beautiful snow, only emerge after you resign yourself to the truth that the sound of phone ring is now equivalent to the sound of a slot machine pay out. This is what makes the simplicity of the sound and smell of raw garlic hitting hot oil so fundamentally satisfying.
If New York is spelled with a knife, fork, bottle and a cork, then I don’t want to use spell check. Even if I have to for my legal documents.
My name is Vivian Sobers. I am Young, Hungry and grateful you have read over 2000 words that comprise a day in my life. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, I am committed to replicating my success for many years to come.
Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.