Observant little ...

I don't understand the answer, but I may have some ideas on the question...

So, what do you know?

"More than I did on Monday", is the answer. Having just spent the last two days in a conference/training on the government's buck, so it should be.

I'm not sure that anything I learnt is actually that useful in my current job, but some of the speakers were very interesting, including a District Court judge, and a local uni lecturer. Some of the presentations were completely outside my area of expertise, and I do like to learn new things. For example, I learnt that it's not a good idea to sit at a small table at lunch. If you sit at a large table, you might look like a nigel for a little while, but complete strangers are more likely to join you and that way you actually meet people at the conference. I got 10 business cards in two days - not bad for a girl who didn't have any to give back (I did promise to email them as soon as I got back to the office with my details though).

But what I really learnt, or maybe re-learnt, was how lucky I am to be out of private practice. From my networking conversations and observations:-

1. I was the one person that everyone else wanted to meet - I'm a government lawyer, so not in competition with them, and I'm in a section of government that they thing might be useful... despite the fact that I'd be more likely to be against their clients than for them in any dispute.

2. I was one of the few that didn't immediately check their messages or call in to the office during each break. Many also ducked out in between presentations to do the same thing.

3. I knew, and had either appeared before or briefed, the keynote speakers. This meant that I could walk up to them during the breaks and have an intelligent conversation with them and look important. I'm not actually important of course, because I'm only a government lawyer. ;o)

4. One lawyer I met had to list her hobbies for a presentation. Her reaction? I don't have any, I work 14 hours a day and spend the weekend either working, doing housework, or with my husband when he's not away. Occasionally I try to grow plants, but they mostly die because I don't have time to water them.

5. Another lawyer I met is actually required to do her masters while she is with her firm. It's a condition of her employment. Her firm pays the fees, but if she leaves them before she completes it (or, I think within one year of doing so?), she has to pay them back. So they retain a hold over her to ensure that she stays there for the next 3 or 4 years at least. I always said that you couldn't pay me to go back to uni, but I guess if I was at that firm...

6. And a third had to miss the only presentation he was actually interested in because he had to go back to the office (an hour's drive away) on the first afternoon because the partner looking after his files decided he couldn't write a letter. He was back again the next day because the same partner said that he was not to waste the firm's money by not attending the full 2 day conference. So he sat through a day and a half of stuff he wasn't interested in for the sake of one presentation that he didn't even get to see.

There were more, the solicitor who has to bill 8 hours a day, the firm that requires all of it's professional staff to start at 7:30am regardless of what time they finish, the associate who still doesn't run his own files, but they all added up to the same thing - there may be frustrations where I am now, but I can't see myself returning to private practice... EVER!

In other news...

I really like the new navbar - I chose black because it fits in best with my background. I nearly chose silver because it matches my toolbar for IE and is easily ignored, but figured I'd do the thing which will work best on most computers. Aren't I a nice person?

I had dinner with the Nymph, her boy (D) and her flatmate (sounds like a foreign film) on Tuesday night. We had Tibetan (on my recommendation) and ended up with extra food because D knew the restaurant owners or something. Gotta love that! Poor D though - we spent most of the night talking about guys and their foibles and our "types". I'm a little concerned - I think D might be thinking of setting me up with one of his friends. Not that I particularly mind that, I'm just worried D doesn't know me well enough to be able to "fix me up" and that I'll rock on up to something with him and the Nymph and there'll be this guy there that I'm supposed to hang out with for the rest of the night. I don't mind blind dates, but I do like to have a little warning about them, and these two aren't real great on the "warning" side of things! Ah well, they'll learn after the first time! ;o)

I had my 2nd review at the gym last night. I'm not very happy. My weight hasn't changed at all, my measurements are about the same, except that I've lost about 5cm off my waist & upper hips and put on a couple of cms in my lower thigh. The part about my waist is not terribly exciting, I'd kind of figured that out by the fact that all of my jeans and work pants now sit lower on my hips. My waist is little to begin with, so this just makes my wardrobe choices even more difficult. I'm disappointed that my weight hasn't gone down, but the fitness instructor said that's normal because muscle weighs more than fat and I've put on a lot of muscle. And it's exactly that that I'm not really happy with. I put on muscle easily, especially on my legs. I've made this clear every time they've changed my weights/reps, but I've still managed to get this massive jutty-out muscle happening above my knee. Anyway, I've talked to the instructor about it and she's changed a couple of my weights and the way I do them so that I'm using my butt muscles more than my leg muscles. This will hopefully solve the problem.

And on a completely different note, I recently came across this entry in Notes from the (Legal) Underground. What I find disturbing is:-

(a) My briefcase does have all the "stuff" from Part I (but my calculator is on my mobile phone and my digital camera is because I like to take weird, arty photos of things I see, not accident sites).

(b) I not only got the "graduation" briefcase (in my case, one which was bought when I started my articles), it has been thrown around long enough that it now fits the perfect briefcase in Part II. I also have a trial case (a pilot's case) which is large, scuffed and, when full, prompts Australian men to offer to carry it for me (yep, it's that heavy). I managed to inherit it when one of the other lawyers in my section got himself a new fancy one with wheels and pockets, so the scuff marks aren't even all mine.

(c) While my trial case doesn't have evidence of my secret other life (I keep that in a locked box at home *g*) like the others in Part III, it often contains original evidence that I'm transporting to trial or hearing in another part of the state, so it's always my carry-on for planes. My clothes, toiletteries etc go on the plane so I'd be relatively screwed if it was lost (particularly in country towns where nothing is open outside of court hours), but at least I could send Counsel along to court with the right documents while I gave the credit card a beating as the doors open on the nearest department store.

(d) But most disturbingly, I could probably actually complete part IV and tell you which briefcase will match the occasion. I'm a girl, it's an accessory - you do the math!

/self justification

Listening to: Radiohead - Live Warrington UK tent show 9/00 (another bootleg from Alex)


Blogger The Uncivil Litigator said...

Interesting post re your observations of private versus gov't practice. Granted we live in different countries, but let's not forget that not ALL private practice even remotely resembles what you describe in this post. Nor is government always ideal: I listen to my wife's gripes every day when she returns from her government lawyer job, and as of today, I assure you that I have a much higher level of job satisfaction than she does and wouldn't trade my position with anyone.

3:12 pm  
Blogger OLS said...

Very true - what I neglected to mention was that all of the lawyers I spoke to (with the exception of No.6) were in big law firms. No.6 was with a small country-style firm, hence why he was expected to hot-foot it back when his partner proved useless.

I gather that some government lawyers find it frustrating that they do a lot of work on a policy which doesn't end up being used. I don't tend to find that really bothers me much - they still pay me and they still think I'm wonderful and that's all I need. ;o)

Also, I'm not in the DPP (Dept of Public Prosecutions) where I have to deal with victims of crime or such. So in many ways, my clients are easier to deal with than the client I had in the private sector.

It also helps that I've had fantastic bosses since I've joined the public service - I find that that always makes a big difference. But the perks of being on the Public Service Award are just so much better than the working conditions anywhere else that I suspect I'd be happy here even if I didn't have a fantastic boss.


3:24 pm  
Blogger OLS said...

Forgot to say before - I think the major difference is that the public service in Australia is mostly apolitical - we don't have to worry about elected officials interfering in the day to day running of the department like the US system of government (if the TV is anything to go by, that seems to be a constant problem in America).

For example, we don't have elected DA's (just one political Attorney General for each state and one federal one) and the prosecutors can mostly run their cases without political interference.

Maybe sarni can add to this, having an extensive knowledge of both law and politics as she does...


3:29 pm  
Blogger verbs said...

Having once worked in various private practice accounting firms, the life of a lawyer sounds not much different. Do solicitors have to complete timesheets? I still have nightmares about being behind, more than three years after leaving the profession. I used to get home after work and analyse every six minutes of my life.

12:25 am  
Blogger The Uncivil Litigator said...

But even your distinction of small versus big firms depends on your definition of "big". Does a 50-lawyer firm count as big? 100? I work in a firm that's in the 75-100 range, and it's definitely a counter-example to the nightmare scenarios you speak of.

My wife is a prosecutor. Yes, the big cheese at the top of the food chain where she works is an elected official, but he's got about 300 to 400 lawyers working underneath him in all kinds of divisions and departments. Election politics don't really touch the professional lives of most of them, because matters within the District Attorney's jurisdiction that become high profile are rare, and handled at the highest levels anyway. But still, I gotta admit, it must make a difference at some level and it would be nice to work for a prosecutor's office without having to worry about overt political influences.

Our federal system works that way, by the way. Federal crimes are prosecuted by a U.S. Attorney who is not elected by the people.

12:39 am  
Blogger OLS said...

verbs: yeah, we have to do timesheets as well. Like you, I had to account for every 6 minutes when I was in private practise and had to have 6 billable hours per day when I was with a big firm - not a big ask in comparison to other firms, but considering I had little to no secretarial backup, a huge amount of my day seemed to disappear on little admin duties. In my Department, I used to have to keep a timesheet which just showed what I'd worked on during the day in 15 minute increments and it didn't matter if the whole day was written off to admin. Now I'm in policy I don't have to account for my day at all.

UCL: it's always interesting to hear about US law in the real world. I think we get a bit of a skewed perception of it here because we only hear about the big cases in the news or see it on TV imported from the US (like Law & Order). As for "big" vs "little", there is a general rule of thumb that big is 1st or 2nd tier firms here. 1st tier firms are the national firms - they usually have a couple of hundred lawyers in each office and maybe a thousand over all. 2nd tier firms usually have 50 to 100 lawyers, with maybe 300 people all up, and don't have offices in other states, but may have affiliations with other state-only firms. Anything below that is generally considered small. So it sounds like your firm would be "big" by Australian standards, but not 1st tier.

Unfortunately, I haven't come across any "big" firms here that don't work their junior lawyers to death. Even those that are happy there (which is not many in my group of friends) admit that they have no life. Most of my friends/contacts want to move across to a government job but either can't find one in their area because they've become too highly specialised, or have financial obligations that mean they can't take the lower government salary at present.

I've just finished reading an article which talks about how we (Australians) are working longer hours and overtime is becoming more common. Perhaps this isn't such a phenomenen in the US, but it's really only been the generation between me and my parents which has seen this in Australia. We used to be able to set our watches by the time my Dad would come home and he was in a professional industry. The fact that I think a 10 hour day is quite reasonable is beyond my parents - they think that's overtime, I think it's normal. But if I have to work over 12 hours a day, I get cranky!

Perhaps it's in this atmosphere that I think the demands of private practice are too hard. I want to be a lawyer, not a businessman. And that's easier to do in government.


1:50 pm  

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