Don’t always have lunch at your desk

John Cord’s lunch-at-your-desk proposition is an important one to embrace. As he says, the most efficient way to have lunch during the workday is to make it at home and eat it at your desk. Although I like a good PB&J on occasion, I myself like to make a big pot of soup or chili on Sunday and bring it to lunch three to four days a week. It’s beyond easy, healthy and inexpensive.

That said, you’ve got to leave your desk for lunch sometimes. And not just so you can stretch your legs.

You need to meet up with law school classmates, attend a lunch event, take a client or potential client out or just break bread with your colleagues.

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I’m out of the office

This post at The Juggle brought to the surface an issue to which I hadn’t previously given much thought, but should have.

What are you trying to communicate in your out-of-office message? First, the basics: (1) For how long will you be out? (2) Will you have e-mail/voice mail access? (3) Who does someone call if they have an urgent matter? All of those items should be in your message. I suspect there won’t be much disagreement there.

But what about the less concrete information — where are you and what are you doing? Is that your caller’s business? Do you care to share that? I understand those folks who don’t like to include this information, but I also see some usefulness in communicating this.

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A two-week vacation: Yay or nay?

Do you take a one week summer vacation or a more extended one? I’m considering doing two weeks next year and I have been thinking about how that interacts with work commitments.

For the past few years, we’ve rented a house for one week right on the Delaware Bay. By the time we really get settled in and start to relax, it is just about Wednesday. And we leave on Saturday.  So we’ve been thinking about getting away for two weeks next year.

This year, I probably billed about five hours total over the course of the week-long vacation — pretty good, I think (from the vantage of trying to spend as much time as possible with my family).  I monitored a number of things, but I ignored (or at least held off a substantive response to) a lot of non-urgent e-mails.  Being gone just a week allows you to hold people at bay until you get back. But I know that a two-week hiatus does not.

If we do end up taking two weeks, I assume that I won’t be able to avoid most standing conference calls and I would probably have to do a few half-day stints of working (if not more).

So, which is better? Taking one week and REALLY escaping from work? Or taking two weeks and still being required to have a decent level of connectivity?

Maternity work clothes 101

This blog post in The Juggle made me recall fondly my days of wearing maternity clothes. Ok, not so much. I’ve been through two pregnancies while working and lived through just about every season while having to wear those dreaded maternity work clothes.

In regular work attire, I’m jealous of the (non-maternity) clothes my stay-at-home mom friends get to wear during the week: shorts, workout clothes, sweats, tank tops. Oh, and flip flops. How I love me some flip flops. But nothing is worse than having to put together a maternity work ensemble. Really, nothing.

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My one and only court appearance

When I was a young associate, the opportunity to represent an even younger art student in a pro bono case against her landlord presented itself. The landlord was withholding her security deposit alleging that she had caused damage to the apartment. She was living month to month and desperately needed that money returned (and hadn’t done the alleged damage). I met with her multiple times. I studied the Real Property Code. We prepared a photo presentation. I consulted our litigators. I reviewed the rules of evidence. I prepared my arguments. And then we showed up in court. District Court (you can stop laughing now).

I was so nervous, I virtually developed an ulcer. Seriously. Presenting the case was torture for me. Even if the landlord was pro se. I had an inkling in law school that these situations made me nervous, but I really had no idea to what extent. At the end of the day, my client was awarded the return of her security deposit, and she was thrilled, to say the least. I’ve never forgotten the pain of that morning, but the “win” did certainly provide me with a great degree of satisfaction (plus, my client painted me a really cool painting that I still have hanging up to this day).

The biggest lesson I took from the situation: Get outside your comfort zone. I’ve never represented anyone in court since, but (even though this was many moons ago) I’m certain it set the groundwork for much of my future public speaking. I don’t consider myself a particularly great public speaker, but at least I have, over the years, gained the ability to remain calm before and during. And it’s good to avoid ulcers.

Perhaps an even more important lesson: Pro bono is important for you, too. Of course, its most important role is to help clients who otherwise can’t afford to hire a lawyer. But the secondary consequence may be just as compelling – it’s rewarding, challenging (perhaps not in the ways you think it would be!) and can make you a better lawyer.

And she’s funny to boot

Elena Kagan is funny.

At least “funnier” – compared with the other nominees I’ve seen grilled by the members of the Senate. If you have spent a little time watching the coverage of the hearings, I am sure you have seen some of the lighter exchanges I’m referring to.

Funny stuff aside, I’m still not certain that there is much substance to these (or any of the other recent) Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Even after going through law school and practicing law for almost 10 years (meaning, I understand most of what they are talking about), it generally sounds like a lot of “blah, blah, blah” to me.

Other than the humorous exchanges, Kagan, like most other recent nominees, pretty much says exactly what you expect her to. I’m paraphrasing here: I’ll listen deeply to all parties and the other Justices. I’ll (most of the time) follow precedent. I will abide by the rule of law. I’ll have to get my hair done more often.

Wait, what? Yeah, she said that, when asked about increased television appearances for the justices.

I’m apparently not alone in this view. This Newsweek article explains that prior to Brown v. Board of Education, confirmation hearings didn’t include the nominee at all because politicians thought it unthinkable to ask a Supreme Court nominee how she (OK, back then, he) would vote on a matter, let alone for the nominee to answer any such question.

While the “asking” piece of that has changed, the “answering” piece certainly hasn’t. In fact, based on her own prior statements, as described in this CBS News article, Kagan would probably agree with me.

What I’ve taken away from the hearings is that Elena Kagan is scary smart. And funny. Which perhaps is best evidenced in this clip. I’m pretty sure this sealed the deal for her. At least with me it did.