Dealing with difficulties during the holidays

It’s the holidays! Time for snow, presents, joy, and the best part of all: helping each other out and appreciating each other. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The added stress of the holidays can bring out the worst in people, instead of the best. Whether it is someone at the mall, the mall parking lot, someone at work, or the in-laws, tough situations often arise around the holidays.

It can be extremely frustrating to have to deal with one more thing when your plate is overloaded with shopping, holiday preparations, and an end-of-year crunch time work load. I know that I, for one, can easily become overwhelmed during this time of year. I especially stress myself out by trying to get the PERFECT presents for everyone, but starting on this task a wee bit too close to the deadline. Sometimes, with everything that’s going on this time of year it is hard to have the patience for difficult situations.

George C. Scott as ScroogeSo how do you deal with these difficult situations? I really like a tip from this article which recommends distancing yourself from the outcome of a situation when dealing with a difficult person. Many people, especially lawyers as mostly type-A, do-it-all type of people try to fix everything. Taking a step back and realizing that a difficult situation or person does not have anything to do directly with you helps to make the situation less stressful. The “kill them with kindness” advice is another great tip, but only if you can distance yourself from the outcome and not become upset when a difficult person does not respond in kind. But I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to remember that everyone is dealing with many of the same types of things, and just as stressed as you may be. A little empathy can go a long way.

Sure, there are some Scrooges and Grinches out there. However, I tend to think that most of these situations do not arise out of ill-will. Sometimes, for whatever reason, some people are just not going to make things easy for you. What do you do in these situations? Do you take a step back, or do you do something else? I hope that none of the readers run into these situations this season. Happy Holidays!

Public figures, private lives

Last week our attorney general’s attendance at a teen party made some big news, and his campaign seemed to struggle with an organized response. Obviously this isn’t the first time smartphones have generated controversy for a politician, so it’s too early to tell how this will affect the Gansler gubernatorial campaign. Now that the dust has settled, the lingering impression is that Gansler’s team lost control of the incident .

Doug GanslerSome have the knack to turn these situations into opportunities. After all, no one is perfect, and if you can handle a tough situation with grace and honesty,  people are often willing to forgive. Part of the challenge for Gansler was his public stance against underage drinking. Candor out of the gate would have gone a long way here.

Is it hypocritical for Gansler–as a professional–to stand against underage drinking while–as a parent–allowing his son to celebrate in an environment of underage drinking? For what it’s worth, Gansler said that in retrospect he should have done more.

While I think these incidents tell us much about the politician as a person, I do not think that they tell us how that person will do his or her job. As technology continues to blur the distinction between our private and public lives, public figures will continue to face these episodes.  Do you think that technology has eliminated a sense of privacy that our everyday lives used have, or do you think that technology is helpful by giving us a sense of greater transparency? Is the information that is more transparent due to modern technology of any use, or is it just a distraction? Does it really matter how the attorney general parents?

Being a lawyer means being the boss

When I was in law school, I remember always hearing the comment that law school teaches you the law but it does not teach you how to be a lawyer. I still hear that comment from time to time, and obviously there is truth to the statement. I mean for better or for worse, there is no class on billing hours.

Continue reading

On staying organized

highlightingOne of my biggest challenges at work is just staying organized.

Since I am still in the newbie phase at my new job, I am still in the process of developing some semblance of an organizational system. I feel like it is easy at first to organize yourself in a new job, especially when you go in with the best of intentions to stay organized. (I had big plans to stay on top of things). But once things start to get going, it can be more difficult to keep up with the organizational system you originally had planned.

I am not the person who did color-coded highlighting in law school. For me, my focus (to the extent that I can stay focused) has been on the task at hand and then I let everything else besides that task kind of just be what it will be until I’m done. While this works sometimes and can be good in a pinch when I really need to get something done, it can also leave me disorganized.

Part of the battle is just determining what organizational system will work best. It all depends upon your office and your work habits. I’ve found that I don’t need to do color coding or make labels but I do need to have some sort of method to the madness. Even a non-system system helps, as long as I have a decent idea of where things are and can communicate to my coworkers that things are good.

One thing that I’ve started to do (and am really, really going to try to keep up) is taking a few minutes each day, whether between tasks or when I’m having trouble on a project, to organize myself. It’s made life a lot easier so far, and helps me feel less stressed. (It also really helps with keeping track of time for the dreaded timesheets.)

There’s a lot of benefits to staying organized, such as helping you concentrate and reduce stress. It can even help if you have to suddenly take a day off.

In theory, being organized can help prevent those unnecessary calls from the office on your precious days off. It is so much easier for co-workers to figure out questions they would have asked you if you were in the office if you are organized. It also makes it easier for them to pick up the slack if need be while you’re gone.

Do you take time every day to organize yourself, or is it a challenge for you, too?

Nerves, again

Edvard Munch "The Scream"I took my first deposition Tuesday. I have been to numerous depositions and sat in on depositions before but I have never asked any questions of the witnesses, let alone take an entire deposition myself. Needless to say, I was a huge bag of nerves.

But I prepared the best I could and even looked up some tips. I found this article helped me a lot and I identified with a lot of what the author discusses, such as “owning the deposition.”

Still, I was very nervous, the type of nervous you get when you can’t even sleep the night before. But I powered through my first deposition and felt pretty good about it. I had several depositions to take yesterday, but surviving the first one was a big step in my mind. Going into the next few I was able to relax a little bit but my heart was still pounding. I was fortunate to have great opposing counsel but I was still hyper-aware of everything, including the breaths and note-taking of the other attorney.

I don’t know if my anxiety helped or hurt. I’ve heard the stories about how nervousness is a good thing and that even very experienced professionals get nervous and that nervousness often equates with caring and doing a good job. I agree with this to an extent, but to be honest I really hope that some of my nervousness goes away as I become more experienced. After today I can’t imagine how anxious I will feel before my first trial.

To the more experienced Generation JDers: do you still get nervous at depositions and in court? Do you think it helps or hurts your performance? Is there a “right” amount of nervousness?

You should write a book about it

Juror B-37As you have probably heard, juror “B-37″ in the George Zimmerman trial was going to write a book about her experiences during the trial. However, due to public outrage, much of which was voiced via Twitter, Juror B-37 has decided not to go forward with the book.

Having recently — and proudly — served on a jury (and always been very interested in anything relating to jurors and the jury) I’ve thought a lot about jurors writing books. In this particular case, I think that, at the very least, Juror B-37 did not think her announcement through when she decided to make it immediately after the close of trial. This kind of announcement so close to the end of trial about such a sensitive topic was in poor taste.

That said, I think it’s OK for jurors to write books. While many trials, particularly criminal trials, deal with extremely sensitive events and affect the outcome of individual’s lives, these trials are still open to the public. Many, like the Zimmerman trial, are broadcast on TV. While a juror would be able to offer readers insight into the jury deliberation process of a particular case, that’s really the only original subject matter the book would have. That and the juror’s individual thoughts.

All of the issues are framed during the trial, so if you’ve been following the trial you should have a good idea about what the jury deliberations will involve. A person watching the trial on TV or sitting in the courtroom could choose to write a book on a trial if they really wanted to and add in their opinions formed while watching the case.

Of course, in many instances it would certainly be interesting to see what exactly the deciding factor was in a case that led the jury chose the verdict it did. But I don’t know if I would choose to read a book for this reason.

Finally, while there are sometimes cash advances offered to individuals to entice them to write certain books, writing a popular book is an extremely hard task. There’s no guarantee that the book will sell. If the books does sell, then there arises the ethical issue of profiting off of someone else’s devastation. (Or, if the book doesn’t sell, at least trying to.) But, as I said before, if someone chooses to read a book by a juror, it would probably be because they want to get an insight into that individual’s thought process and the deliberations, not because they want a recap of the events leading up to the trial.

Jurors in other highly publicized and emotional cases have written books. For example, seven jurors in the Scott Peterson trial joined together to write a book about their experiences.

What do you think? Are you OK with jurors publishing books about their experiences? Should there be more rules about this subject?

(Photo: Juror B-37 talks to CNN’s Anderson Cooper)