Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Legalese and Spouses

The problem with being a lawyer is that most people (non-lawyers) don't understand what you do. My dad is a lawyer. Whenever I showed any curiosity in his career or had to interview him for "career day" I left the conversation feeling more confused than ever. "I have no idea what my dad does," I thought to myself. Why couldn't my daddy just be a firefighter or a teacher or a doctor?

When I was in lawschool, the parents of the children I babysat always seemed so impressed. "Our babysitter is going to be a lawyer," I heard them brag on one or two occassions. I remember feeling very important. Then one day, a little girl that I babysat for asked me, "What is a lawyer?" The four year old had a very clear picture of what her daddy (a doctor) did at work, "he makes people feel better!" I tried to explain to the four year old the excitement and challenges of litigation and representing people who have been sued. It didn't quite translate into child-speak.

"When people are in car accidents, they have doctors to help them get better and tow trucks to tow their cars and lawyers to help them....um...to protect their....uhhhhh.....to help make sure people don't take all their money."

"Oh, like the police? Where's your gun? Do you have a badge? Have you been to JAIL?"

When you really boil it down, being a lawyer is a very abstract concept. Lawyers get paid to use their brains, think up ideas and arguments, and talk in a language that only the Courts understand. So yeah. That's what I do all day. Think, argue, and interpret.

The other night, I went to happy hour with my boss, his wife, and a mediator. When my boss' wife joined us she asked, "How did your summary judgment hearing go? Did you win your argument about circumstantial evidence? Did you file your motion in limine?"

My eyes bugged straight out of my head. My mouth might have hinged open, like a robot with a malfunctioning jaw. I looked like I had just seen a cat drive a car down a highway. My boss' spouse is one of Them. She's a non-lawyer. How is she conversing so easily about summary judgment motions and circumstanital evidence and motions in limine? I was thoroughly impressed.

My husband likes to talk to me about his work. And I always try my best to sound interested and give the appropriate amount of good feedback and praises. But I have been increasingly frustrated by his lack of ability to know what the heck I do all day. When I try to tell him about a really great ruling we got on a motion, his eyes kind of glaze over. After I explain how excited I am to have found an important case to use in a motion, he turns back to his computer and lets out closed-mouth "huh" sound (oddly, it's the same sound that he often gives me when I ask him if he likes what I made for dinner).

So, I kind of stopped telling him about my day or talking to him about my cases. He has also stopped asking. I've reached the point where I've given up hope of having someone at home to talk to about my days at work. It's a bit isolating and it's very frustrating. Especially when I have an uncontrollable urge to vent about something crazy opposing counsel did or an achievement that we accomplished.

I never wanted to marry a lawyer but I do miss the companionship of someone who can related to my work experiences. I guess this is where a network of lawyer friends come in handy. Maybe someday I will have time for a social life. But honestly, as lame as it sounds, I really like the company of my children right now (which is a good thing because it's often the only company outside of work that I get to enjoy). I never worry about them not laughing at my jokes (all I have to do is throw a fart sound in at the end). Or judging me when I have seconds of cake. Or thinking that I am weird when I throw all caution to the wind and act like a child. I will be so sad when they suddenly become too cool to hang out with mom. Darn, then I will have to go out and find some real friends.


  1. If you think it's hard to explain what a litigator does, just imagine the glazed eyes when I try to explain what a corporate attorney does. My spouse doesn't (and has never) even pretend to listen to my work talk--he literally puts his fingers in his ear and says "blah blah blah". Ha! Can't say I blame him though...complex contract provisions are pretty dull.

  2. Alice - HA!

    My husband used to listen, but yeah I get the eyes glazed look. To be fair, my eyes glaze when he talks about his workout. And lord, can he go on and on about his workout. Crossfit is a cult. So, we continue to yammer while the other one's eyes glaze and we call it communication :-)

    1. OMG too funny! So true, they should make a meme. Spousal Communication: yammering at each other's glazed eyes.

  3. Regarding the "too cool to hang out with mom," time--there may actually be a plus to that period of your lives. My daughter does not want to hear about what I am studying (although she does care about how my day at school went). But, she is in AP History and has been studying landmark Supreme Court cases. It is fun to be able to talk with her about those because her class is providing us with common ground from which to start the conversation. Plus, I am really good at quizzing her as she studies for an upcoming test.

    She is awesome as a jury when I want to practice opening statements, directs, and closing arguments. She enjoys it, and she actually looks at me with pride when we are done. She also has useful constructive criticism.

    Plus, we both love watching and reading the news and talking politics. Law-related discussions develop then too and she is more interested, again because we are starting from a common point in our conversation.

    She did not want to hear about my externship days last summer, which was kind of isolating, like you said. She has also told me quite definitely that she will never go to law school. But, I love those moments when we do get on the same wavelength about the law, even if it is just for a moment.

    Hopefully, you will have moments like those as your boys get older too. Maybe, wanting to be part of the fun will even entice your husband to invest a little more interst.

    Your boss' wife is a remarkable person. I hope he knows that.

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living

  4. I'm a lawyer married to a lawyer, and it is great. The whole back-to-back law school experience (yes, we went one after another) was not so awesome (it was like being in law school for 6 years!). We work in totally different areas of the law, but yeah, he gets it when I explain something exceedingly technical or law dorky and gets why I'm so excited about it. And vice versa. Which is funny, because when people hear we're both lawyers, they think that must be really awful. Like we're both really boring, or argue a lot.

  5. Yeah, I have lawyer dream world: married to lawyer in totally unrelated opposite field of law. He gets it, but has nothing to do with it. Perfect.

    When he was just an engineer, I always had to hear about the gears, etc. My eyes glazed. Now I have 3 words for you: Attorney Client Privilege. I LOVE IT.