Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Archive for August 2009

Keeping My Brother

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Total Black: $221.46
Total Red: $228,519.06

The other day a commenter posted a reply to one of my entries and asked how extensive your duty is to your brother.  That has to be one of the core questions of any society.  I don’t know that we’ve ever answered it.  But then again even neither did God.

The question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” comes from a translation of Chapter 4, Verse 9 of the Book of Genesis.  Different translations render the same word as “guardian” or even “babysitter”; regardless of word choice, the import of the question remains.  Cain had just killed his brother, Abel, thereby committing the first homicide.  Sometime later God asks Cain where Abel is.  Cain responds: How should I know?  Am I my brother’s keeper?  God doesn’t answer Cain’s question.  Instead He asks Cain what he has done, remarking that Abel’s blood cried out to Him.  God then punishes Cain, cursing him to a life of wandering.  Cain pleads with God that his sentence would effectively mean death, that others would kill him as he wandered.  So God puts a mark on Cain, a warning to others that they would suffer punishment sevenfold if they harmed Cain.  Cain then begets the rest of the human race. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

August 31, 2009 at 23:54

Vacancies Vacanies Every Where . . .

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Total Black: $237.20
Total Red: $228,519.06

Significant drop in total black.  I bought food.  Yesterday’s post about my Bob Barker daydream probably spurred me on to go to the grocery store and buy some.  But that’s ok.

I noted in previous entries that I receive daily emails from USAjobs.gov and Idealist.org.  So, I went trolling the depths of USAJobs.gov again earlier today.  I applied for a position with the Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division in Washington D.C. and with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.  One thing that I’ve noticed though is that there aren’t many positions available at my level.  The bulk of the positions advertised require upwards of five or more years of experience.  Where did all those people go in order to create these vacancies?  And why are these vacancies mostly at that middle level?  Did everyone flee . . . er . . . leave the federal agencies once President Obama took office?  It’s the same in the non-profit sector too.  Did Obama’s election clear house at the non-profits? Keep reading . . .

Change to Spare?

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Total Black: $406.64
Total Red: $228,519.06

In a prior entry, The Lowly Penny, I wrote about my own struggles to unclench my hand.  Unfortunately, despite quite a few opportunities, I still haven’t given anything to people I pass on the street.  In fact, at one point last week, the only money I had was $2.50 in my pocket from one of the participants of the bookclubs I organize when she paid her RSVP fee in cash moments earlier.  As I walked home with that money in my pocket, I wrestled with giving it away versus getting something to eat to hold me over until the morning when unemployment money came through.  I don’t know which is more embarrassing, that I kept the $2.50 or that I used most of it to purchase an instant noodle dish for dinner.  I must have stood in Duane Reade for about fifteen minutes thinking through all the variables of the items I could afford.  A box of pasta for $1.99 would supply at least three meals, but I’d have to eat it plain because I didn’t have any sauces, oil, or even butter to dress it up.  A can of tuna fish for $2.09 would’ve worked, but it was tuna in oil and I don’t really care for that type.  Tuna in water cost more than I could afford.  I debated the chicken-flavored Ramen noodle six-pack for $2.49 because that would have provided at least three meals (I usually double-up on the Ramen noodle packs because they’re small portions).  But I decided not to chance it because I was unsure if New York charges tax on food and I didn’t want the embarrassment of having to give it back because I didn’t have enough on me.  None of the credit cards had room to cover the few cents extra it might have cost.  I had to laugh though as I stood there comparing prices.  I had this image of myself on The Price Is Right deciding whether the actual retail price was higher or lower than the price being displayed on the can of stew or box of mac & cheese in front of me.  I knew the answer, I explained to Bob Barker, because of that low point in my life in Duane Reade figuring out what I could afford to buy. Keep reading . . .

If You Find Yourself in a Hole

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Total Black: $453.01
Total Red: $228,517.33

Just realized that total black never includes any cash in hand.  I suppose that’s ok since I rarely carry cash (even when I have money).  Another update: I interviewed today for an art sales position.  It’s a temporary gig tied to an exhibit here in Manhattan.  The hook: all the sellers have been displaced somehow by the Great Recession.  Check out the website: www.recessionartsale.com Great idea.  You’ll be sure to hear if I get selected. Keep reading . . .

Positive Thinking

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Total Black: $524.93
Total Red: $228,517.33

I spoke with my mother tonight.  She wanted to know whether I’ve decided anything yet regarding the rapidly-approaching October deadline when my lease ends.  I hinted in a prior post, Mothers, that I might have to return home and move back in with my mother if something doesn’t come through soon here in Manhattan.  It would be ruinous to renew my lease at $2,000 / month and invite potential liability particularly without a secured source of income.  But it also seems potentially disastrous to return home to Scranton where there’d clearly be fewer job opportunities.  My mother’s advice was to pray.  As I listened, I started wondering whether prayer and positive thinking were similar.  I mean, isn’t prayer, that surgery goes well, for example, or that a job comes though—isn’t that sort of a way of thinking positively about the situation?  Clearly positive thinking puts you in the driver’s seat while prayer does not, but fundamentally they seem more alike than different.  My mother assured me that plenty of people were praying for me that things would work out soon.  I joked of the old adage that when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.  “Well,” I said, “if so, He needs to spray some windex on that window because I can’t see out.”  She didn’t laugh. Keep reading . . .

Getting There From Here

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Total Black: $527.71
Total Red: $228,464.16

Total black is up because unemployment check came through.  That cash infusion occurs every Wednesday, as long as I remember to register for it by the preceding Sunday.  PayPal money from eBay laptop sale was released, so I’ll have access to that soon.  Now to decide whether to pay the rent, the utility bill, the cell phone bill, the credit card bills, or the student loan bills.  Or buy food.  That’s running pretty low. Keep reading . . .

Slow Going

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Total Black: $175.62
Total Red: $228,464.16

Had a brief but short-lived drop in total red this morning.  For the past few days, my bank’s software hasn’t been updating account information from SallieMae.  This morning I decided to get it working.  When I did, my total red dropped by roughly $4,000.  “Woo-hoo,” I thought!  “Progress!”  See, back in 2008, I used a portion of the firm’s severance package to pay off one of my smaller private loans—approximately $1,200.  I needed some feeling of accomplishment, so rather than splurge on needless goods, in a moment of clarity, I opted to pay off a debt.  (Starting this blog was a similar moment.  Sadly most of my life they’ve been rare.)  So earlier this morning I thought perhaps this whole time some software error hadn’t updated the bank’s number to reflect that loan as paid in full.  Alas, no such luck.  Turned out that only two of the three remaining private loans were showing.  So I deleted the account and re-added it.  That time it took.  Back at roughly $228K total debt. Keep reading . . .

Not Much To Say

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Total Black: $174.99
Total Red: $228,413.23

I hate to disappoint my captive audience, but I don’t have much to say today.  Just an okay day.  I emailed this morning about the art salesperson opportunity.  Looks interesting.  I need to follow-up on it tomorrow.  Offered to be part of some medical research group.  I have to follow up on that too.  Blog is taking off as well.  Traffic is steadily increasing.  Guess that’s about it for now.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

August 24, 2009 at 23:16

危 機 ≠ Opportunity

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Total Black: $343.42
Total Red: $228,413.23

Earlier today I caught myself repeating an often heard adage that the Chinese word for crisis is formed from characters for danger and opportunity.  Thus every crisis brings with it opportunity.  I had been speaking with a guy from one of the bookclubs I organize and strayed too far afield into my personal situation. Keep reading . . .

Buy Me a Beer?

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Total Black: $310.07
Total Red: $228,363.23

Beer

So . . . you wanna buy me a beer?  How about it?  You choose: domestic or import, tap or bottle.  I’ll be sure to toast your good health as I drink it down. Go ahead.  Click on the glass.  You know you want to.
Keep reading . . .

Res Ipsa Loquitur

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Total Black: $168.03
Total Red: $228,153.42

Earlier today I reached out to colleagues at my former law firm.  I had a quick question to ask related to corporate practice regarding the work I’m doing for my colleague.  I practiced in litigation while at the firm, so I’m only vaguely familiar with corporate filings, securities documents, balance sheets, and the like.  Six out of seven people I telephoned didn’t answer.  Large law firm associates in New York frequently get cold calls from recruiters and headhunters looking to make money facilitating a lateral move to another law firm.  So, associates where I worked often didn’t pick up calls from external telephone numbers we didn’t recognize.  It was different, and annoying, being on the other side of that telephone line today.  I did get to speak with three associates though.  One picked up; the other two called me back.  Two of the three seemed really irritated by my question.  (It regarded dates on amended documents: use original or amended date; pretty basic.)  Within roughly ninety seconds of the call both said they had to go and practically hung up before I could say thanks and good-bye.  I assume some urgent email or telephone call came in. Keep reading . . .

When I Grow Up

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Total Black: $187.65
Total Red: $228,153.42

Good news: total black went up.  Bad news: total red went up too.  Getting there though.  Just the climb is starting to ache a bit.

One of the organizations I’m involved with, the New York Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society, had it’s annual planning meeting tonight.  Just before the meeting, I got to talking with a woman I met at the same meeting last year.  She is also unemployed.  After the meeting I got to talking with someone I hadn’t met before.  She is employed.  The first woman and I spoke about our frustration with our job searches.  She chronicled all the reasons why she shouldn’t take temporary positions, including no opportunity for skill development.  Catch though she’s not developing anything by doing nothing.  The second woman and I spoke about of frustrations about not working in an area we’re passionate about.  As we spoke, she shared her frustrations with her meaningless law firm work and expressed ambivalence about another job offer that she received.  Funny.  Only just now did I get the irony in her talking with someone who’s out of work about the frustrations in determining whether to take a different job or keep the one she has.  But I suppose it’s not fair to reduce her confusion to a quip.  The position the second woman is debating is overseas, in India where she comes from.  And the advantage, she explained, is that her family is fairly well-known and that would significantly enhance her career.  Doors would open for her.  But law school debt could block her way.  And she struggles with swapping one corporate position for another, and possibly giving up any chance to “make a difference” like you can in America.  She joked that she needed to find a rich husband so she could work for Amnesty International and not worry about how much she’d earn.  It seems a sign of the times that we all could talk at length about our career angst.  A fairly typical conversation too.  The irony that we have careers to gripe about does not escape me. Keep reading . . .

Just Another Day

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Total Black: $233.98
Total Red: $228,020.61

Racing against the clock again.  Not a good day today.  Not sure why either.  Just feeling down.  Drained.  Maybe I’ll discover my male “menstrual cycle” if I indicate down days in these blogs.  A pattern might emerge.  Updates on the money-raising front: the Quasi-Roommate might stop by tomorrow to check out the apartment and discuss the possible two-night arrangement I discussed in a previous entry.  No confirmation on that yet though.  I did get confirmation earlier today though for participating in a Wall Street Journal marketing survey group.  About a week ago I received a pretty random email inviting me to participate in a research focus group, and in return for two hours of time, participants get $200 in cash.  Umm…yeah…I said “sign me up.”  That’s a one-off source (at least for now—the marketing representative said they’d put me in the system for any additional groups I match).

Monthly payment to the IRS was due yesterday.  Don’t have the money or credit to make the payment.  The number of calls from credit card companies increased today.  Still working on those tasks for my colleague.  Difficulty with working for people you’re friendly with is broaching the subject of payment.  It was the last topic we discussed and we didn’t discuss when he would pay me. Getting really worried about this month’s finances.  Rent is $2,000 / month.  It’s a lot, but not for Manhattan.  Obviously the number above show that I can’t pay the rent yet.  But I still have until the 1st of the month.  Despite all that, I read somewhere that thinking positive takes effort.  It’s not something that just happens, but is, instead, a practice or mind-set.   So this blog (and your comments) helps keep that at the forefront of my thoughts.
Keep reading . . .

A Day in the Life

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Total Black: $33.16
Total Red: $227,972.40

We’re back.  And we’re live.  Well . . . at least in the internet sense.  Daily posts now show up in google searches.

When I was first laid-off in mid-October, I was in the middle of moving apartments.  That move took me long into November, partly because I inherited a very troubling and irksome problem with the new apartment that had to be dealt with immediately. A bit of background, and further to yesterday’s post, throughout much of 2008, a sense of foreboding slowly started rising within me.  We just were not busy at the firm.  And people started to “go missing” without explanation. One day while at the gym, at Silver Sneakers no less (an aerobics class for older people), my mother just happened to start chatting with another lady all about my job security concerns.  By random (or not?) chance, that lady had a daughter who worked at one of the local DA’s offices in the New York area.  Naturally, I was unbelievably irritated at my mother’s loose lips.  But she insisted that I had to meet this woman lest I make a fool of out of her. So around August 2008, I reached out to that contact.  Turned out, the daughter is an important person at the office and just happens to be the person who coordinates pro bono attorneys. Keep reading . . .

Mothers

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Total Black: $38.60
Total Red: $227,972.40

Not much to write today.  I’m furiously typing to get in under the radar.  It’s nearly Monday as I write, which would mean a day without a post, if time did run out.  That can’t happen–not this early in the game.

So, before I even started my day, my mother called to tell me about an ad for temporary attorney work that a friend of hers spotted in the classified section of the Scranton newspaper.  I made some excuse to end the call.  Yes, it’s sweet and thoughtful and all that other fluff that we feed each other because we don’t want to offend the karma spirits or come across as ungrateful or disrespectful.  But my mother’s friends should not be looking through classified ads for jobs for me.  Has it gotten that bad?  Probably not.  I’d swear that my mother rents those flying banner ads that trail behind airplanes: “MY SON GOT LAID-OFF”  I don’t understand why everyone knows this.  Yes, I see the irony in that I’m pretty much putting up my own electronic flying banner through this blog.  But I’ve not shared my identity.  At least not yet anyway. Keep reading . . .

Hang a Shingle

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Total Black: $28.61
Total Red: $227,952.40
 

No windfall just yet, but getting there.  In my efforts to think outside the box and come up with different sources of income, I offered to help a colleague with the consulting work he does on the side.  Soon after getting laid-off in October 2008, I started working pro bono for one of the local prosecutor’s offices.  Another attorney started soon after me also as a pro bono attorney.  I bowed out in June so I could study for the Pennsylvania bar exam.  Getting licensed in Pennsylvania, assuming I passed, would be a safety-net in the hopefully unlikely event I had to move back in with my mother; can’t practice law without being licensed.  Anyway, this colleague and I kinda got to know each other since we had a few things in common: both working for free, both lived in Europe for a few years, both a bit older than most of the other attorneys we worked with.  And we’ve kept in sporadic contact since I left.  Earlier this week he called to ask a question; we got to talking and he mentioned how overwhelmed he’s been lately with full-time pro bono work and all the consulting work he does on the side.  I’ve got job hunting to do, but I offered to help out, figuring he’d just want a proofreader, a fresh set of eyes.  He said if he did, he’d let me know.  Yesterday he called: he needs much more than a proofreader and will pay me $1,500 for the work.  That’s almost one month’s rent.  Pretty cool.  As we discussed the work he needed help with, we touched on his growing anxiety and frustration about not knowing what he’s doing, or whether he’s doing it correctly, or what will happen once these one-off tasks are completed.  (Two of his “clients” aren’t even paying him because they’re his friends’ companies.)  More on all this in a bit. Keep reading . . .

The Lowly Penny

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Total Black: $29.02
Total Red: $227,913.40

I’ve stopped noting daily gains / losses; not much of any just yet.  Scrolling down through previous posts will show that and the breakdown on the 10th of each month will too.  Total black now includes twenty dollars invested in some mutual funds with American Funds.  I figure I should do that each week.  Savings have to start somehow.  Plus I gained a cent overnight.  Hey, that’s one penny closer to getting out of debt.  And it got me thinking all about the lowly penny.  Penny Keep reading . . .

Never Been Further Apart

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Total Black: $137.25
Total Red: $228,156.40

Well, at least that check was cashed, so I can stop counting that $500 in cash on-hand.  It went to pay tax advice from back in December.  And the advice was to stop paying my bills, let everything go into collection, and survive off the severance from the firm.  Great advice!  Isn’t that what people tend to do anyway?  Isn’t that’s why they seek professional / strategic advice because they don’t want to continue down that path?  Oh . . . how fitting . . . as I type . . . there it is . . . the first call of the day from the credit card companies.  I’m not even past 30-days late—on any of them—but it seems they’ve now started calling as soon as you miss a payment.  (I’m one of those few who still have a land-line number and cell phone number; maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want those companies calling me on my cell!)  Of course, they don’t leave a message.

It’s funny that for some time now the sound of the telephone ringing makes me bristle.  More often than not, I don’t even look to see who’s calling.  I know it won’t be someone calling to chat.  So too opening the mailbox.  I can’t recall the last time I received a piece of mail that wasn’t a bill or a statement or a notice of some sort.  And it’s starting to get that way with email as well.  Funny, isn’t it?  Many of our channels of communication are now sources of stress not joy.  Starting this blog put me in contact recently with a few people with whom I’d fallen out of touch.  And it got me thinking about “keeping in touch” and what it means today, especially given my current situation. Keep reading . . .

Out of the Box

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Total Black: $901.25 ($500 of which is still for an un-cashed check)
Total Red: $228.069.39

We don’t fall deeply into debt solely on our own.  We have gentle encouragement all along the way—from our peers and their pressure, from the Joneses and their upkeep, from the television and its ads. At this time last year, I couldn’t have been more in the box than if Charlotte Perkins Gillman herself plastered me to the walls. I was earning $160,000 a year working for one of the largest law firms, and one of the most prestigious law firms, in the world.  I was laid-off after only two years with the firm and with more debt than when I started and it just keeps growing.  In retrospect, I, like many others in my shoes, just assumed there’d be a few more good years at the firm before the curtain fell on that stage of our careers.  But what good is retrospect when dealing with times like these?  Not many have seen such times, and frankly a lot of us still aren’t acting like things are that bad—when Starbucks goes under, you’ll know we hit the iceberg!  But I suppose that’s a conversation for another day.

Today—all the creative ways I’ve come up with so far to start thinking outside the box and diversify and increase income streams.
Keep reading . . .

Just Your Average Joe?

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So, at the outset, here are today’s stats:

Total black: $513.94 ($500 of which is sitting in a separate checking account for an un-cashed check)
Total red: $227,392.05

Black change: -$8.51 change
Red change: unknown

My bank provides software that shows your net worth, based, of course, on the accounts you link to it.  So, going forward, I’m just going to use that number each day to represent my total debt load.  I must note, however, that that number does not include approximately $8,000 my mother is carrying on a credit card I borrowed.  Add that into the number above and you get closer to the approximately $235k quoted yesterday.  Another point: the total red includes the $40,000 I borrowed from my mother, but since it came from a line of credit taken on her home, the monthly fees and charges added won’t be reflected.  Getting an exact number would require my mother giving me the account numbers, then setting up online banking profiles, and syncing my bank with those other sites.  I’ll broach the subject with her, but for now, we’re just going to use the number provided by my bank’s net worth software.  And, at this rate, what’s a couple thou’ difference anyway, eh?

As for today’s blog.  Well . . . morning has clearly past.  Breakfast and then a telephone call with someone who wasn’t looking for me (odd serendipity, or just plain weird, given that the voice mail came through the day after initiating this blog.  I’ll post more on that  at a later date if it materializes into something.  But why average Joe?  Am I an average Joe?  I suppose a bit of the back-story is need here. Keep reading . . .

Day of Accounting

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Well . . . breakfast is complete.  The tea steeped and drunk already.  (And I’m about to start the coffee . . . generally don’t like coffee upon waking.)  And yet no blog.  But for good reason.

I began to blog, but then remembered that I needed my credit score and all the financial data first.  That took a bit of time and purchasing (having to pay for credit reports and scores annoys me).  So, now I begin again.  But first . . . an initial digression about the date (as the telephone just interrupted me), then another digression about money. Keep reading . . .

In Medias Res

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While the beginning is a very good place to start, here it doesn’t seem to fit somehow.  My back-story is long and can be told another day.  And besides…no one’s seen this yet.  So really I’m just writing for myself right now.  But yes . . . this is my first ever blog entry.  So, expediting the formalities, here’s the main adjectives that one might employ in describing me: Male / 33 years-old / White / Gay / Adopted / Gemini / Lawyer / raised Byzantine Catholic / Penn State alum / Howard alum . . . and, of course, Laid-Off.  But I suppose the blog title already aptly notes that.

At the outset, I must confess that I just saw Julie & Julia yesterday.  I was probably the only person in the theatre who got stressed out by that movie.  And it stuck with me, so I started examining the origins of that gnawing feeling.  That prompted this.

In a sense, I am Julie: my apartment overflows with piles of partially-read books stacked for later, stacks of newspapers waiting for one of these days, days gone by with bills lying opened but unpaid, opened boxes not yet put away.  Let’s just say I have a bit of trouble finishing what I start.  But cluttered is not dirty.  I am a bit of a clean freak, that much I know, especially upon returning to my apartment after two weeks with a renter staying there.  I’ve heard a stereotype of  New Yorkers that they come across stylish, fashionable, and a cut-above-the-rest, but yet their apartments are nasty, dirty, and gross.  But I digress (and more on the renter later).  At any rate, since I’m great at starting things, I figured I’d start this blog.  And here’s what it’ll take to finish it. Keep reading . . .