Very early in my legal career while practicing law in Jamaica, a client kept me on my toes with a criminal law matter. In one instance, it was clear I had not been given any written instructions about a matter and that client was getting increasingly agitated. A very senior lawyer sitting beside me passed me a note that simply said, “Get that in writing. You must always protect yourself.”
“Today, I have to make an impact in front of the judge,” the Venezuelan asylum-seeker told me at the tent court in Brownsville, Texas. This was just a few minutes before his hearing in front of the immigration judge who would be appearing remotely on a monitor inside the tent court.
I talk to a lot of attorneys who are suffering from stress and anxiety. They feel victimized, lost or unappreciated. Most of their lives are spent trying to impress their superiors or their clients with their talent and knowledge. They are depressed because they have often been told that the secrets to success don’t work.
How do you take your own deposition? When I was struggling with my retirement strategy, I took a self-deposition to prioritize my goals and find out what I wanted to do next. Through this process of self-interrogation, I discovered the answer was to retire in stages.
I started writing law review articles in mid-career, after many years of publishing academic articles in STEM journals. Arriving to academic law with an outsider’s perspective (my PhD is in engineering; I have a faculty appointment at UCLA in both engineering and law), I was surprised to learn that law is an exception among academic disciplines in relation to authorship of scholarly works. In most other disciplines, it is routine—and in fact expected—for faculty to co-author scholarly publications with graduate students.
It dawned on me that although the law is indeed a jealous mistress, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story famously said, it also is flexible, and retirement doesn’t have to be abrupt. After much consideration, I realized I didn’t have to quit the law “cold turkey.” In fact, lawyers can retire in stages, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
During lunch on my first day as a first-year associate at a large international law firm almost 15 years ago, one of the partners in my practice group gave me one of the bluntest pieces of career advice I’ve received: “No one cares more about your career than you do.”
There is always going to be the "just one question" potential client who makes initial contact with you. Often, they may not paint the whole story for you, and you in turn may give advice on incomplete facts. In essence, you may well find yourself in a dilemma.
During my first year of law school, I wanted to get involved in disability advocacy with other students and lawyers, primarily as it related to neurodiversity. Before law school, I was pretty entrenched in the autism advocacy scene: I spoke at my first conference when I was 13, wrote a book that was published while I was still in high school and had another book come out while I was in college.
In January 2011, I presided over a jury trial in which a 14-year-old child was sexually assaulted and brutally killed by a neighbor who left her body in a trash bag in a field. Daily, I was completely overwhelmed by what I was seeing and hearing and by the stressors of managing the proceedings.