This week I’m celebrating my first trial in New York and the ridiculousness of life (and legal careers.) In case you can’t tell, that gray thing on my head is a shark fin hat. I’ve been chasing my husband across the country for the past four years. This has meant a few too many bar exams and a lot of career-related angst.
We landed in Charleston, South Carolina, in quite possibly the worst legal market in America in the middle of the Great Recession; I was fresh out of law school, without a job. Every day, I drug myself out of bed, looked myself in the mirror and said, “You are a shark!” This was 75% wishful thinking on may part. I mean, when you are depressed out of your mind and looking at an absolutely impossible situation, you have to tell yourself something. I then ironed my suit and headed out to another lawyering event I didn’t want to go to, where I was sure to meet a bunch of want-to-be lawyers like myself, hustling for jobs that didn’t exist, and a lot of veteran attorneys, hustling for business that didn’t exist. We would sit around being charming and pretending we had it all together, all knowing that we most certainly did not. It was ridiculous. But I learned how to hustle.
Fast forward a couple of years, where did I find myself but New Jersey. Up until Charleston, I’d spent most of my life in the Midwest and California. If moving to the South was disorienting, moving from the South to New Jersey was BEYOND disorienting. After about a month of living in Jersey City, I was using “y’all” and “yeah, yeah, yeah” in the same sentence with a VERY confused South Carolina-New Jersey Midwestern accent.
A new state meant new bar exams and more job hunting–in New York City. The legal market was better, a lot better. However, the thought of switching from small town networking to big city mode was daunting. More importantly, I didn’t have a clue what to make of Northerners. I felt everyone was yelling at me ALL the time (even when I knew they were being nice), and don’t even get me started on the horns. I didn’t have the first clue how to blend in here. Whenever I would start getting down about my job prospects, my dad would stop me on the phone and say, “Come on, you’re Dorothy from Kansas! They’ll love you.” We joked about making it in a world of New York City legal sharks. I told my dad he needed to buy me a particular Far Side calendar for my office (reimagined above.)
Well, I just conducted my first trial in New York this past week. My boss told me I did a good job. Since he doesn’t hand out compliments often, I’m accepting this one. One thing’s for sure, though: I’ve still got those ruby reds. Minutes after my boss’s compliment, my legal secretaries came around the corner with my dictation machine. They couldn’t even stand up straight for all of the laughter. Apparently, I’d butchered the pronunciation of the name of a local town, Poughkeepsie. “POW-keep-sy!” one of them said with an exaggerated, yet surprisingly accurate Oklahoma accent. The other doubled over laughing. She gathered herself and said, “Do not let them hear you say that in court. Actually, on second thought, maybe they’ll find it endearing.”