Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Verdict

Closing arguments concluded Monday, early afternoon. Opposing counsel's closing argument was jaw-dropping, not in a good way. He violated at least three evidentiary orders to which we objected, of course. But despite the judge sustaining our objections, the words had been spoken. It was sneaky and pretty much exemplary of opposing counsel's litigation tactics throughout this case.

Then we sent the jury on their way to deliberate. And they deliberated. And deliberated. And deliberated. They deliberated for so long that it was painful. We were all sent home Monday without a verdict and returned today to more waiting. We had coffee at Starbucks for three hours. Then we went to lunch. Then we walked every inch of downtown that was within the permissible ten minutes from the court house.

Finally, we were called in for the verdict. I was insanely anxious and excited at the same time. But I had also been feeling sick since noon. I felt lightheaded and slightly nauseous and had started to get a weird aching on my upper leg. I was feeling so horrible that I could barely sit at the counsel table. When the jury walked in, I wobbled as I stood for them in unison with the other counsel.

It took almost all my focus and energy to not collapse from lightheadedness during the proceedings. I wish I had been in my right mind so I could have absorbed everything better.

Bottom line: hung jury. The jury verdict needed to be unanimous. And as the judge so eloquently stated, "they are unanimously not unanimous." I whispered to my co-counsel, "what does this mean?!" She whispered back, "mistrial." So, ladies and gentlemen, guess what I will be doing in March? I will be re-trying this case! UGH!

After all that work, it's very disappointing and unsatisfying. I'd rather have the opposing party win on a minor claim than have a hung jury. Such a bummer! When the jury was dismissed and the courtroom cleared out, I was finally able to collapse on a bench in the back of the courtroom while everyone decided what to do with me. Eventually, a nice soul drove me to urgent care where, after two hours of waiting, I was told my diagnosis was "dizziness" and that I probably just needed to drink more water. Ha! I had been drinking water like a fish all week. Totally useless and a waste of my time.

I got home and began to feel worse. I developed right flank pain and increased leg aches that hurt so bad I began to cry. Then, after three hours, it just stopped. I'm suspecting some kind of minor kidney blockage (I had kidney stones with my last pregnancy and the pain was like that except x3).

Now, I'm left sitting in my bed reeling over the jury's decision. When my colleagues questioned one of the jurors he had made a comment that no one had paid attention during the entire trial so they couldn't figure out the facts. Everyone had assumed someone else was taking notes. This just pisses me off. We did all that work for nothing?!

During trial, opposing counsel had made some rude comments to the judge. At one point, opposing counsel asked a question and the judge responded with a comment that opposing counsel is getting paid the big bucks to know this stuff. Opposing counsel responded rudely, "Well, I'm sure you make more than we do." My co-counsel and I just stood there, in disbelief with our mouths wide open.

At another point, opposing counsel emailed his co-counsel to say something rude about us. He cc'ed us on the email- clearly an intended act but he acted like it was unintentional. He had done this several times leading up to trial when he wanted to get under our skin. Except this time, he accidentally cc'ed the judge as well! Unfortunately, he did not get a talking to in court the next day but we felt karma had been served nonetheless.

After all the excitement and the ups and downs and the build up (and let down) of trial, it is going to be SO hard to go back to business as usual tomorrow. Everything I've done for the past six months has been related to this case. From three summary judgment motions, several discovery motions, motions to reconsider, motions in limine, a trial brief, jury instructions, witness prep, legal memos, legal research, and other pre-trial matters; I have lived and breathed this case since February. I forgot what it is like to not work on this case.  I have no clue what I'm going to work on tomorrow!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Trials: They're Not Just For TV Attorneys

My civil trial is almost wrapped up. All the evidence and testimony has been presented. The only thing remaining is closing arguments, which will take place first thing Monday.

Leading up to this trial, I was very nervous. I was almost dreading it. I was supposed to have completed a criminal trial to help give me some experience. Unfortunately that criminal trial kept getting continued and still hasn't happened. So, I went in to Monday with equal feelings of horror, anxiety, and excitement.

On Monday, I did the voir dire questions. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. Although it was a little uncomfortable throwing a volley of questions at total strangers and trying to engage them in a dialogue. I was told it went well. It all was pretty much a blur to me.

After that, I sat at the counsel table for two days paying close attention to examinations, taking notes, and suggesting follow up questions as the opposing counsel put on his case and then as my co-counsel examined their witnesses. We filed some last minute motions and had to do some last minute briefing. Although I didn't examine any witnesses for the first two and a half days, I came home completely exhausted, both mentally and physically, each night after averaging about 14 hours of consecutive work each day. By Wednesday night, I felt that same gnawing sense of exhaustion that I had felt after the bar exam. I could barely recall my middle name or focus on walking in a straight line. But still.... it was a happy, drunken sort of exhaustion.

During this whole time, I was still dreading doing my own witness examinations. I'm not much of a public speaker. When put on the spot, I get flustered easily. However, by just sitting in the courtroom all day long for the past couple days, "trial" slowly became less and less scary. (And by today, day five of trial, the edge is pretty much gone and I feel completely at-ease in a courtroom.)

Wednesday afternoon, it was finally time for me to call my first witness. Despite my prior anxiety, I felt calm and collected as I approached the podium. I didn't sweat. I didn't shake. Amazingly, I felt completely in control. I honestly did not recognize myself. Before I knew it, I had zipped through two of my four witnesses before we recessed for the end of the day. Three hours of witness examination had flown by. It had gone surprisingly well. Although my examinations weren't perfect (it's so hard not to ask leading questions when you are trying to get your witness to say something specific!), I felt that things went pretty darn good for a rookie!

The next morning, I finished with my last two witnesses and then we rested our case. As the day before, I was a little nervous until I stood at the podium. Then I went into full lawyer mode and focused solely on the task at hand. By the end of our case, I kept thinking, "That's it? That's what I was so afraid of?" Driving home that night, knowing my part of the trial was mostly done, I felt an overwhelming relief and an inflated sense of pride and confidence. "I DID it. I guess I CAN do this whole trial lawyer stuff after all!"

Then I got to come home, take off my suit and panty hose, and collapse on the couch. It was pretty much the cherry on top of one of my best and favorite days as a lawyer. Not only was this week-long trial my most educational and enlightening experience as a lawyer, it has been by far my most rewarding and my favorite.

A couple things I'm reflecting on about trial:
  • Judges are people too. And if you get a good judge, he/she will be very open about the fact that she/he is imperfect.
  • For examining witnesses: the best thing you can do is be overly prepared. Create a thorough outline but be prepared to depart from that outline. You just never know what your witness will say and you just never know what facts are the most critical to stress until you get to trial and hear the arguments from the other side.
  • You MUST revise your cross examination to reflect/address what happens on direct exam. You can't always just read your script. I feel like the opposing counsel did not do this and they looked silly by asking questions that became irrelevant based upon what my witnesses said on direct.
  • Treat direct examinations as a dialogue. Tell a story through your witness. Try to make it seem as natural as possible. Don't just treat it like an interrogation- unless you have a hostile witness. Help the jury get lost in the story so that they almost forget they are in a court room. A bored jury is not a good thing!
  • Professionalism is important. You don't have to be a jerk to win your case. Being an effective advocate for your client does NOT require you to act like a douche bag (ESPECIALLY TO THE JUDGE!!!). Wow, the stories I could tell! Maybe some day.
  • Read the jury. During testimony, keep an eye on the jury. See how receptive they are to what they are hearing. It's hard to read some people but it's easy to tell when your jury is falling asleep.
  • Have fun. Making it all the way to trial is not common in civil litigation (unless maybe you do insurance defense). The last time my co-counsel was in trial was seven years ago. If you have the opportunity to go to trial, take full advantage and appreciate every little thing.
  • Trial is the best way to become comfortable in the court room. It also completely changes your perspective on everything that happens in the pre-trial phases of litigation.
  • Be strategic! File motions to dismiss claims or exclude witnesses/evidence if it becomes clear the witnesses lack foundation or the evidence does not support a specific claim/defense. Motion drafting does not necessarily end when trial begins.
  • Working with co-counsel has been amazing. Trying a case with someone can be an incredible bonding experience. Working with my small team has been one of my favorite parts of the trial.
For me, trial was an amazing experience. Without a doubt, it has made me a better lawyer and a more confident person. This trial has been the absolute highlight of my career so far and I think I will be hard-pressed to beat this as one of my favorite experiences as an attorney. All that pretty much goes to show that scary experiences and challenges beyond one's comfort zone are not only important, but critical, in the practice of law. They are the best way to grow and tone lawyer skills. Whenever you feel that a task is beyond your comfort zone, that's the best reason to accept and embrace it (horror, anxiety, ulcers, and all).

In sum: I LOVE TRIALS. I hope I get a new one soon!

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Day Down!

I wish, wish, wish I could talk about my trial. I just finished day one and it has been an incredible, informative, amazing, and challenging experience. I got to do voir dire (questioning the jury to help in the jury selection process), which is so much more challenging than it seems.

My boss (female) asked that we wear panty hose to court, just to err on the side of caution. I usually only wear it in the winter when I'm cold and never when I'm largely pregnant. I forgot to stop and buy maternity panty hose so I was stuck trying to squeeze into my regular sheer black tights. OMG. I didn't have adequate circulation for ten hours. I think there is going to be a permanent mark on my belly from where the band dug into my skin.

30 weeks. A ridiculous sight:



Coming home and taking off my tights and my suit was the most amazing feeling EVER. Now, after a ten hour day, I get to unwind and do nothing trial related for an hour before I have to dive back into preparing for tomorrow. I forgot how much work this is! My brain feels like a large puddle of goo from all the thinking and strategizing and analyzing it has done all day. It's true what they say: your brain is a muscle! Wait, do people say that?

And now I must don a cloak of silence and not talk about my exciting trial adventures. But take note, they are VERY EXCITING!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Kids-Chores-Work Omelette

After today, I seriously need a weekend from my weekend.

This morning Jacob asked if we could go to our favorite breakfast place, The Pancake House. My husband wasn't interested but when I realized I wouldn't have much quality time with the boys this week (trial!), I decided it might be a good idea. So I took the boys on a mommy-son breakfast date.


We colored the kid's menu. We played tic-tac-toe. I coaxed Ryan off the floor five times. I stopped Jacob from drinking approximately 15 half-n-half shots. I picked up a pancake that Ryan threw into the booth next door. I mediated about a dozen fights, one involving Ryan shooting a rubber band in Jacob's face (no idea where that came from). I finished a cup of coffee, picked all the berries off the kids' face pancakes (seriously? the berries are the best part!). So...overall, it was a successful (although not relaxing, by any means) breakfast.

After breakfast we went to Target for Jacob's first back-to-school shopping experience. And my first one in probably 10 years. There is nothing more excited or elating than brand new school supplies! Ahh, the memories! I splurged a little and let Jacob pick out a new Ninja Turtle backpack and matching lunchbox. Then I was a softy and, after several puppy-dog-eyed-glances and sad pace pouts, let Ryan have a Ninja Turtle lunchbox as well. It was a fun experience...until we got to the checkout and I saw the price tag for everything...YIKES. I did also buy groceries and clothes for both kids (including Jacob's uniform outfits), so I guess I didn't make out too badly.


We got home at noon and the rest of the day was a huge whirlwind of chores. I sterilized and scrubbed the boys' mattresses (they smelled like pee- ew!), washed all their bedding and dirty clothes and ended up doing four loads of laundry in total. I haven't even done MY laundry yet, ugh.

Then I logged into my computer and hammered out two hours of work. Not uninterrupted, of course. I finished a motion for directed verdict (yay, trial!) while mediating several fights over toys, issuing time-out warrants, preparing lunches and snacks, switching my four loads of laundry from the washer to the drier, and cleaning up after the kids.

Then I got to put away all the laundry and make all the beds and tidy all the rooms and direct the kids in the cleaning of ALL THE TOYS (no small feat). Then prepare dinner (during which I spilled boiling butter all over my belly and nearly melted into a puddle on the kitchen floor). Then serve dinner. Then clean the dishes. My stretching abdomen muscles started acting up during all of this so while I was working I was holding my belly up and wincing in pain. I feel like such a wuss, but simple every day tasks (anything that involved bending over) take so much effort when you are 30 weeks pregnant.

The boys playing "dress up"


Now, we're getting the kids ready for bed and I'm hoping to rest for a minute or two before I have to hit the computer again.

In other news, tomorrow is the first day of a big civil employment law trial that I am co-chairing. The trial is in federal court and I'm both thrilled beyond measure and dying from anxiety at the same time. We had a pre-trial conference last week and just sitting in the big fancy, marble courtroom in front of a Ninth Circuit judge started to make me feel giddy. I've been tasked with voir dire tomorrow and after that, I won't have much of a role (other than jotting and passing notes) until Wednesday and Thursday when I'll be examining my five witnesses.

Holy moley, I'm so excited. I still can't believe my boss and colleagues have entrusted me with such big tasks for this trial. In my experience in private practice, most associates don't get much trial experience because the partners like to take all the fun and glory. So the fact that I'm a fourth year (and just a temporary employee at that!) who is co-chairing a big deal trial in federal court means a whole lot to me and I totally appreciate the opportunity that my bosses are giving me. I just hope I don't royally screw up and lose the case for us- which is actually a possibility if I bomb my witness examinations! YIKES!

I can't wait until next week, when my part of the trial is over and I can coast through, not just the rest of the trial but the rest of my work assignments until baby gets here. It will be SUCH a relief and I'll be able to really enjoy the rest of the summer, stress free. Well, until the next big case comes along. Hopefully when that happens, I will be a permanent employee (fingers crossed!).

I've helped prepare for several trials in my short legal career. I've just never been that involved in the actual trial part (except for a minor role examining one witness in a small personal injury case). This whole process has really solidified my passion for litigation. I'm actually worried that when the trial is over, I'll experience a huge letdown and become really bored with my day to day legal work. I love the rush and strategy of litigation. When I applied to lawschool I NEVER imagined in a million years that I'd be a trial attorney (much less enjoying being a trial attorney), I can seriously see (after more experience) myself doing just trials and trial consulting for the rest of my professional career.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WTF?!

My former boss is a 60+ year old man. He is married but has no kids. He's frequently inappropriate. I didn't realize just how inappropriate he was until I started working for someone else.

You know, someone who doesn't ask me casually whether I've tried illicit drugs. Someone who, when we are out to lunch, doesn't ask me if I think the waitress is hot. Someone who would never ask whether I've ever made out with another woman.

Anyway, I thought I was used to his behavior. But after several months of no contact, I get this string of text messages:

Him: "Hey, I'm in trial with that client who things you're hot. You should send us a baby belly photo."

Ew.

Me: "Good luck with the trial."

Him: "So when are you sending that belly photo?"

Ignore. Five days later...

Him: "Where is that f****** baby belly photo?!"

I'm not just grossed out, I'm genuinely offended. Maybe pregnancy is making me soft.

At work yesterday, I overheard a male coworker complain to another coworker about the fact that two of the attorneys in our office will be out on maternity leave at the same time. This male coworker is also 60+. He is single. He has no kids.

Him: "So when they both go on maternity leave, we'll probably have to take over their work. That's going to be a pain. Two attorneys out at the same time! How long is maternity leave anyway? Two weeks? ...What? Three MONTHS? Why the hell do they need three months?!"

Wow. Just wow. It never surprises me that office policies are not more family friendly. Because people like HIM have absolutely no clue about what it takes to make/have/raise/care for a newborn/infant/toddler/child. And sadly, people like HIM are most likely to be the ones in charge.

My husband has seen me go through three pregnancies. He's seen me experience labor, an emergency C-section, a planned C-section, and post-partum stuff. And yet, it frequently crosses me mind and becomes clear to me that even HE doesn't quite understand everything.

Pregnancy and birth is not something you can understand as an observer. It's an intense, constant, physical, and emotional experience that can only fully be understood when you actually experience it yourself. It's a common thing (duh, procreation), but when you actually stop to think about it, it's insane. It's mind boggling. It's miraculous. It's down-right ridiculous and so not very pretty. For an experience that is so common and such an inherent part of the human race, it's also extremely personal, unique, mystifying, and also misunderstood by about half the world's population (men).

And while I'm not opposed to sending belly photos. I AM opposed to sending them to men who are former bosses, with whom I rarely ever communicate, who have no kids of their own, and who demand belly photos aggressively and through explicit language. Seriously, why does he want a photo of my belly so badly? What is he going to do with it? WTF!

Monday, August 11, 2014

More On Names/Hurry Up But Slow It Down

Thanks for all the name suggestions. I really liked so many of them. Several of them I liked but we can't use because they are already in use in our family or for other reasons.

Here are the names (in no particular order) you all suggested that I've added to my "maybe" list:

Daniel
Bradley
Edward
Owen
Miles
Ethan
Luke/Lucas
Benjamin
Max
 
While I like Benjamin and Max, I would kind of prefer a two-syllable name. I've looked at a list of names for which Max is a nickname and I'm not really a fan of any of them. And the more I ruminate over Max, the less I like it. But I have that problem with every single name.
 
At first, I don't like a name at all. Then it kind of grows on me. Then I love it. Then I hate it. Two days ago, I was sold on Owen. The next it was Bradley. But now I just kind of feel "meh" about them both. (I still haven't asked my husband what he thinks of them so it could be a lost cause anyway).  It's a strange phenomenon that I've never had with my previous boys. Maybe because this is likely my last. No pressure or anything!
 
Also, I hate being pregnant. So, so much. I hate absolutely everything about it. There is not one single thing I enjoy- except for the fact that it ends. I hate being uncomfortable 24/7. I hate being large and cumbersome. I hate being gawked at like a freak of nature. I hate the unsolicited attention and stupid questions (No, it's my third. No, it's a boy. No, you can't touch my tummy.) I hate not being able to sleep on my tummy. I hate that it takes five minutes to roll over or get out of bed. I hate all the stupid doctor appointments. I hate maternity clothes (with a passion!).  I dislike feeling the baby kick. (I like it for the knowledge that he is still alive but other than that, it feels creepy and painful and weird). I hate C-sections. I hate giving blood. I hate feeling like my bones are being kicked and constantly rubbed up against.  
 
Nearly 30 weeks. I already feel like my frame cannot withstand the mass of bones poking and rolling around inside. My poor baby must be so smooshed!
 
 
UGH! Make it end! And you guys, I'm only 29 weeks (almost 30). I still have over 9 weeks to go. Imagine how horrible I will feel by THEN. For the record, as much as I hate being pregnant, I'm a pretty damn good sport. I rarely complain. After work, after kids are picked up, after dinner is made, after kids are in bed, after dishes are done, I go straight for my bed and just lay there. I do my shit then check out for the rest of the night. As hard as it is to be a working mom, it's like uber hard to be a working, pregnant mom.
 
Lately, I've had this horrible pain on the side of my tummy. It feels like muscle tissue slowly being ripped apart. I had it with my second baby and it's returned this time around in the exact same spot with more intensity. It's not just painful, it's nearly excruciating. It starts a couple hours into my morning and continues all day long. Every time I stand, roll over, touch it, rest something on it, laugh, cough, or run, I can feel the muscles tearing apart. Basically, it hurts until I lay down and take any weight/pressure off my belly. I've never met anyone else who has had this pain. I'm beginning to think I'm defective.
 
All the horribles aside, I am so excited to meet this baby. I feel like it's taken until baby number three to fully comprehend just what it means to make a person. Watching my two older boys grow from babies into wonderful unique people and recognizing just how fully and deeply I am enamored with them, I can finally appreciate to the fullest extent just how amazing it is to make a person. I'm so excited to meet this baby and to add another person to our family. Moreso than I ever was with my other two kids. I think this may have something to do with being less worried anxious about medical procedures and actually having a baby and more focused on the actual baby himself.
 
In this regard, I can't wait for October to get here. I'm obsessively checking my calendar to see just how much closer I am to October and checking and rechecking my countdown app and figuring out all the different countdown configurations- how many days, how many weeks, how many doctor appointments, how many paychecks, until baby gets here. I don't think I've ever been this excited for anything in my life.
 
But I'm stuck in a weird dichotomy. As much as I can't wait for pregnancy to end and my baby to get here, I look at my other children and just BEG time to slow down. Jacob will start kindergarten in a matter of weeks and those precious, pre-school years with him will be over for good. Ryan is just the king of my heart and I hate to see him grow out of whatever toddler-hood he still has and transform into a big kid like his brother.
 
Drinking pool water from his shoe.
 
 
I want to freeze my kids just how they are so I can always remember how sweet and crazy and hectic they are. Ryan loves to give me kisses. He will randomly start kissing me everywhere, but he always announces where he will kiss me first. "I kiss your ear." Kiss. "I kiss your hair." Kiss. "I kiss your hand." Kiss.....etc. After each kiss, he makes eye contact and giggles at his little game. I love being showered with his love. 
 
Every night, Ryan wakes up in the middle of the night and comes into our room. I let him sleep on the floor next to my bed. He has a permanent little nest set up there. He will frequently wake up at random times in the night and ask to hold my hand. It's so freaking sweet and I almost don't mind the numbness and loss of circulation as my arm twists into all kinds of contortions in order to reach his soft, little hand.
 
Sleeping like a baby.
 
 
For all the things he does that totally drive me nuts, he is perfect. And I don't want him to change. My heart breaks with each passing day because I know he is one day closer to big-boyhood. Not that I should be too sad because as Jacob has shown me, big-boyhood is pretty awesome. Watching Jacob learn to spell and sound out words and count to a hundred and ride a two-wheeler and build Legos sets exactly according to the instructions and add numbers, has been amazing. These are all little accomplishments in the grand scheme of things, but watching your kid master a new task, no matter how small, is nothing short of amazing.
 
Cool dudes.
 
 
Jacob's so caring and sympathetic. I see him genuinely care for other people and act on those feelings. The other day he was playing the board game Sorry with my mom and her friend. They had gone through several rounds without anyone scoring a 1 or a 2 to get out of "home base." When Jacob finally got a 1 card, he kindly offered it to my mom's friend because he saw that she had been getting frustrated.
 
I'm so thankful he has developed these characteristics. I feel like awareness/caring for others and their feelings is something you can't really learn when you are an adult. I'm just so dang proud of him and I hope I adequately show him that in the hectic hustle and bustle of each day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Help Name My Baby!

In light of the fact that our baby is nameless, I'm hoping to get some inspiration from...well, anywhere. I would love name suggestions, pretty pretty please!

I tend to like strong and traditional names. I prefer to avoid trends, the rebel in me does not want to be viewed as a bandwaggoner. However, I will give up this principle for a name i really love. And I'm not a fan of unusual, modern names. I like old fashion, timeless names but nothing too commonplace- no Matthews! (I sacrificed this rule for my first born). I have a list of names I love.....but I just feel like I'm overlooking one.

For reference, my other boys' full names are :


Jacob Jessie
Ryan Henry*

*I feel like this name is so awesome that coming up with this name will be the pinnacle of our parenting career...and I'm having a hard time finding one as awesome. 


Other names I like (not too crazy about though I could live with) that have been vetoed:

Logan
Ethan
Jonathan
Eric
Lawrence
Mitchell
Roman