Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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

Archive for September 2009

A Time For Everything

with one comment

Total Black: $68.68
Total Red: $230,649.18

The sun is just stretching its arms and rubbing its eyes as I sit to write today’s entry.  Breaking the late night posting schedule will take some discipline and getting used to.  But it must start sometime.  So, why not today? Keep reading . . .

Debtor’s Revolt

leave a comment »

Total Black: $66.62
Total Red: $230,649.18

Dealbreaker, a self-dubbed Wall Street tabloid, posted an article today titled “Bank of America Making Great Strides in Customer Satisfaction.”  It included a YouTube vlog by Ann Minch wherein she took Bank of America to task for its “usury and plunder.”  Minch claimed that Bank of America “jacked” her interest rate up to thirty percent despite having good credit and being under the limit.  In her vlog, Minch calls for a debtor’s revolt.  I’m all for it.  In What is This, Sarcasm? and On and On and On, I expressed my own frustration at Bank of America’s voodoo accounting practices.  The practices of personal banking and credit lenders have really gotten out of control.  Minch’s vlog and a comment posting a link to a newspaper article both show glimmers of hope that the banks are getting the message. Keep reading . . .

Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom

leave a comment »

Total Black: $75.67
Total Red: $230,649.18

I started writing a bit of today’s entry from the temp job, typing it in a word document shrunk to about two inches by two inches, neatly disguised as a box on CNN’s website.  Not that it would have mattered since the document reviewing software had frozen up on us and we were left with nothing to do.  But I didn’t want my true identity discovered.  Overall, I’m actually enjoying this experience.  Perhaps it’s odd, but so far the contract attorney work seems fun.  Well . . . I take that back.  The people seem fun.  Correction: some of the people are fun.  And that makes the work tolerable.  We’ve got an interesting mix of people and the law firm is really welcoming and laid-back.  That said though, a senior associate insisted that we’re not here to just “chill and bill.”  And that’s a valid point.  As attorneys we all have ethical obligations to uphold. Keep reading . . .

Fiftieth Post

leave a comment »

Total Black: $111.42
Total Red: $230,649.18

Not sure how total red jumped $2,305.97 in one day.  That’s a bit odd and disturbing if accurate.  Not even Bank of America could come up with that many fees.  I hope that’s some error in Bank of America’s My Portfolio software.

As I was walking home from the temp job this evening, I started thinking that perhaps I could use upcoming milestone posts as marker points where I take the temperature of my progress with this project.  I figured that every fifty or so posts would work.  Then I sat down to write today’s entry I noticed that it’s already my fiftieth.  So it is.  Regular readers of the blog know that on the tenth of each month I give my financial report; Day of Assessment and Second Day of Assessment chronicled that progress already.  So I figure that instead I’ll use these quinquagenary markers to gauge my personal feelings about the blog. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 27, 2009 at 22:15

Coding My Cat

leave a comment »

Total Black: $211.10
Total Red: $228,343.21

For the most part, temp or contract attorneys spend their days reading through other people’s emails, documents, reports, and so on, determining whether that document is relevant or responsive to someone’s request and, if so, figuring out which categories or codes, as established by the law firm whose matter it is, to apply to that document on the doc review software. It’s mundane and thankless work. But it’s necessary and must be done. This temp job I’m now on is for a corporate transaction, an acquisition, not a lawsuit, so there’s a strict deadline by when we have to be finished, otherwise the deal falls apart and then someone sues someone else for damages. Not good. While an associate at the law firm, I reviewed documents for litigation but I’ve never reviewed for a corporate transaction. It’s turning out to be a slightly different approach because you want to be as conservative as possible in deciding whether someone’s email musings are “responsive” enough to warrant turning the document over to the government. The Department of Justice has antitrust concerns about the proposed transaction. It’s interesting though and I’m excited about the opportunity. As an associate you didn’t really get to see the good stuff, like the office affairs, the emailed jokes, the risque pictures, and so forth, because the contract attorneys cleared out that type of irrelevant materials. So, I’m liking being on the frontlines for a change. But you need stamina to keep up.  Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 26, 2009 at 23:10

On and On and On

with 2 comments

Total Black: $333.44
Total Red: $228,252.66

Seems it never ends.  Pay came through today.  About $740.  Roughly $250 was taken in fees.  And today Bank of America tacked on another fee.  Now the bank is charging me for withdrawing money from the ATM.  It held that withdrawal until a larger transaction posted, which pulled my account under.  Obviously the cash was available otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to withdraw it.  If the bank does not return these charges, I swear I will drag it to small claims court for like $90 in insufficient funds fees.  Given the amount of money banks have taken from the taxpayers in bailouts it’s beyond hypocritical that they slam us for going into the red, in my case for less than twenty-four hours. Keep reading . . .

Alone, Yet Not Alone

leave a comment »

Total Black: -$304.86
Total Red: $228,252.66

As I predicted in yesterday’s post, Doing That Hustle, Bank of America has walloped me once again with multiple insufficient funds fees.  Some are clearly my fault.  Others are not.  But . . . I say, “Oh well.”  I get paid tomorrow, so once they’ve been “reimbursed” I’ll call the bank to get some reimbursement myself and fight a few of their fees.  One example: I transferred $40 from my checking account to my savings account.  Bank of America charged me a fee for that transaction because, once they rearranged subsequent transactions, it brought my balance further under.  Clearly I had the money in the account or I couldn’t have transferred it, so I don’t understand how a bank gets to charge you a $35 fee for moving $40 of your own funds.  They’ll hear from me on that one for sure.   Keep reading . . .

Doing That Hustle

leave a comment »

Total Black: $40.32
Total Red: $228,013.71

So today was my first day as a true contract attorney.  And now I know why the temp attorney world is seen the way it is.  We had an orientation yesterday at the firm and not more than ten seconds after the associate left the room were the temp attorneys chatting, talking, laughing, and doing everything but looking through the material we were asked to review.  I felt like I was back in fifth grade when the teacher would step out of the room.  I was practically expecting one of the associates to reach a hand in and flick the lights on and off to tell us to be quiet.  Even in grade school I was the one who wanted to sit quietly and do my work.  Of course, not everyone goofed off.  But many did.  Today we started reviewing the documents.  Let’s hope I don’t scar my tongue from biting it throughout the next two months or so.  Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 23, 2009 at 23:23

Debt Most Physical

leave a comment »

Total Black: $115.56
Total Red: $228,013.71

CNN’s Jennie Brag ran a story today called “Digging Out From $80,000 in Debt” about a woman, Dawn Warfield, in Saratoga Springs, New York who has been crippled by her debt from seventeen credit cards.  And I thought four credit cards and $27,000 in debt is a lot.  Warfield observed that “when you have a lot of debt, it’s not just financial, but it’s emotional, you know, even physical . . . .  You think about it all the time.”  It’s true.  In prior posts like Positive Energy, Feelings and Finances, and An Emotional Enema I touched on the emotional and social strains caused by my debt, but for some reason I’ve been reluctant to address the physical aspects of it.  I danced around it in Getting Out of the Quicksand but didn’t really dive right in.  I guess it’s time. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 22, 2009 at 22:20

An Emotional Enema

leave a comment »

Total Black: $207.25
Total Red: $228,013.71

It’s true.

Tonight was the opening of the Recession Art Sale.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t promoted very well, so there wasn’t much turn out.  Of course, I think that’s because the “soft opening” (or preview—as I called it) was on Thursday night and no one really made two “openings” clear to everyone.  Nevertheless, turn-out isn’t wholly the focus, selling the art is.  And we’ve received some great reviews already on the exhibit.  The Artpoint‘s Philip Clark called the show “a wonderful new collection of intriguing and eye-stopping works in all media.”  On another blog, Karen 5.0, Karen Witczak found the event “very warm and inviting, with a distinct energy.”  Only better reviews to come. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 21, 2009 at 23:33

Giving to Give or Giving to Get?

leave a comment »

Total Black: $286.43
Total Red: $227,843.18

I passed a woman today who clearly was homeless.  I was walking over to the gallery for the Recession Art Sale.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything on me as I had given the four dollars in cash I had on me the day before as a donation to St. John the Divine while visiting the church with my mother and sister.  But what caught my attention was my attitude about wanting to give her money.  In past blog entries like A Minor Triumph and What is This, Sarcasm? I discussed my struggles and difficulties with homelessness and panhandlers generally.  So it surprised me today that I was so willing to dole out cash.  Then I caught myself.  I wasn’t interested in giving money to this woman because I knew she was in need.  Instead, it would have provided me an opportunity to feel better about myself because I was in a position to give. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 20, 2009 at 22:40

Lent Hands

with one comment

Total Black: $348.90
Total Red: $227,843.18

My mother and sister visited earlier today.  Since my father passed from cancer a few years ago, we’ve made it an annual event to get together around his birthday.  While we were having brunch, the state of my finances came up.  My sister is usually the one to broach the topic.  In the spirit of this blog, I came clean about my total debt load to my family.  My mother already knew the state of my financial affairs.  My sister as well but, based upon her reaction, she wasn’t aware of how much I owed.  It felt good to just unload this weight off my shoulders.  The danger, however, is that your release can become another’s weapon.  Exercise caution.  Today my sister didn’t use my debt against me.  But she has in the past.  Instead, I learned—from my mother—that people back home are taking different measures to help me out.  Made me feel really . . . weird. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 19, 2009 at 23:20

Pay Day

with one comment

Total Black: $367.92
Total Red: $227,843.18

I got paid today.  My first paycheck of 2009.  And I earned less than when on unemployment.  Too funny, no?  But I only worked two days last week, so that’s not exactly fair to spin it that way.  It does have a dash of irony to it though.

One of the most unexpected effects of getting paid has been this overwhelming urge to spend.  Perhaps it’s a typical reaction akin to that of a malnourished person attempting to gorge himself with food.  All day long I had this antsy feeling that I needed to go buy something or treat myself.  A massage pulled me the most.  So too a nice dinner.  A couple of beers at the bar.  A book or two.  But for this project, I don’t think I would have held back.  And it was quite unnerving to feel this urgency come upon me suddenly . . . and from nowhere.  Got me wondering. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 18, 2009 at 23:06

Updates on Efforts

leave a comment »

Total Black: $142.17
Total Red: $227,804.18

Quick status updates:  the Recession Art Sale opened today with a great preview event.  I suppose technically it’ll “open” on Monday once again.  Amazing work being exhibited.  I’ve often wondered where the Picassos and El Grecos of today are.  I met many of them tonight.  If you’re interested, ask for the only lawyer art seller in the show.  I can hook you up with some beautiful pieces that will only increase in value.

Temp job is winding down.  But another one might be starting up next week.  That one would go for roughly six weeks and pay $40 an hour for approximately ten to twelve hours a day for six days a week.  That could net roughly $17,000 if I worked the maximum amount.  That right there is two student loans paid off.  Or like three credit card bills.  Or tax bills (which the IRS would prefer).  Gotta get the position first though.  And it’ll be tough squeezing in time for the art sale. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 17, 2009 at 23:40

New Normal

leave a comment »

Total Black: $123.38
Total Red: $227,804.18

Just a bit ago I watched CNBC’s special Banking on Geithner, a town hall with Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.  I’d never heard him speak before tonight and I must admit I found myself growing more and more impressed and confident in his abilities.  And just at the end he sealed the deal.  In the last question of the town hall Geithner was asked what he understood the oft-bandied about term “new normal” to mean.  As he sees it, our new normal will be a world where people worry less about what they make and more about what they’re doing.  New normal would embrace a new ethic of responsibility in business community.  We’d live in a world where banks ask themselves what they owe country.  Where do I find this wonderful, magical world? Keep reading . . .

Debt, By Any Other Name

leave a comment »

Total Black: $137.54
Total Red: $227,685.50

Today at the temp gig, I got to talking with another contract attorney about the life of solo practitioners.  I touched on that option in a prior post, Hang a Shingle.  Seems like a brave new world out there.  Nearly everyone I know is starting a firm.  I’ve been asked to join one myself.  Oddly enough, I might even have a client of my own soon since my old law firm reached out to me about a case I worked on while at the firm.  I might need to take over as counsel of record.  Details still need to be worked out though.  One area that my quasi-officemate suggested I consider is loan modification and debt collection.  Naturally, I held my tongue.  I wasn’t about to come clean to a stranger about my financial woes.  Well, at least not without the cloak of internet anonymity.  And I’m glad I did because what she had to say about former clients and their financial habits was less than flattering.  She chatted at length about irresponsible clients who had lived beyond their means, leasing cars they couldn’t afford, mortgaging houses they couldn’t pay for.  She even commented about one client’s $500 grocery bill and claimed—incredulously—that they needed to put their kids on a diet because there’s no way they could possible need to eat that much food in a week.  She even pulled out the dreaded “welfare mom” analogy, albeit only to debunk that myth as being at the root of all our financial troubles.  Instead, as she summed it up, it’s solidly middle class people just living beyond their means.  Maybe.  But, as always, it’s not that simple. Keep reading . . .

Benefits They Call Them

leave a comment »

Total Black: $136.66
Total Red: $227,685.50

Unemployment benefits are a funny thing.  Until a few moments ago, I thought we paid for unemployment through payroll taxes.  We don’t.  According to the New York State Department of Labor, “Unemployment insurance is temporary income for eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and who are ready, willing, and able to work.  You must have sufficient work and wages in covered employment.  In New York State, the money for unemployment insurance benefits comes from taxes paid by employers.  No deductions are ever made from a worker’s paycheck for unemployment insurance.”  Here I thought unemployment benefits were like social security disability benefits, and just as Binder & Binder reminded me, I needn’t feel ashamed to claim them because I’ve earned them.  Alas, it’s not true. Keep reading . . .

Day of Rest

leave a comment »

Total Black: $159.27
Total Red: $227,634.27

No change.  Spent the day on the couch.  Needed the rest.  Will have a question for the doctor managing the medical experiment though.  One of the reported side-effects is an upper-respiratory system infection.  Curious.  I start taking the pills.  Two days later, I’m down with a cold.  Possibly a coincidence.  Or not.  I don’t know how a pill can cause an infection, or even mimic one, but I’ll be sure to report it.

I hope to feel better by tomorrow morning.  For now it’s back to my Thera-Flu.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 13, 2009 at 23:07

Still Down & Out

leave a comment »

Total Black: $159.27
Total Red: $227,634.27

Cold still has me under the weather.  Interesting footnote to that comment: I noticed that an upper-respiratory infection is one of the side-effects listed for this experimental drug I’m testing out.  Curious, no?  One bit of good news: total red has come down a bit because the IRS updated my balance due.  I owe about $1,000 less on 2007 taxes than I thought.  I guess the IRS updated their records.

Till tomorrow’s post, by when I hope this cold is gone.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 12, 2009 at 22:48

Feeling Fall Approach

leave a comment »

Total Black: $411.44
Total Red: $228,477.37

I dislike Fall the most of the four seasons.  I know how beautiful the changing leaves are, and how delicious the harvest foods.  And I do appreciate them both.  But for me the Fall always brings negative memories: the end of summer, having to go back to school, shorter days.  And for me it usually meant a Fall cold.  Got one again this year.  Being down and out with this cold sucks.  I’m keeping my commitment to post daily, even if today’s post is nothing much.

Job’s alright.  Side-effects from experimental meds have subsided somewhat.  Otherwise, not much to report.  I’ll give the muses rest again tonight.  Hopefully I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 11, 2009 at 23:27

Second Day of Accounting

leave a comment »

It’s the 10th.  My day of accounting.  Here’s this month’s breakdown:

Total Black: $462.36

Here’s the Breakdown:

Primary Checking: $347.14
Secondary Checking $0.00
Savings $0.00
PayPal Account (Personal): $4.62
PayPal Account (Blog): $48.25
Amazon Payments Account $0.74
Mutual Funds Account: $61.61

FICO Score 565

Total Red: $228,312.70

Here’s the breakdown:

Credit Card Debt

MasterCard     $5,700.00
Visa     $8,005.65
Visa     $5,413.38
American Express $2,448.00
Raymour & Flanagan Credit Line $5,698.98

Student Loan Debt

Federal Stafford Loans: $94,504.20
Private Student Loans: $33,986.57

Back Taxes

IRS (2007): $2,230.60
IRS (2008): $27,478.73
NY State (2008): $2,846.59

Other Loans

My mother: $40,000 (+ $8,000 she’s carrying on one of her credit cards–not added into total red).

Some progress, albeit slow.  Last month my FICO score was 562.  It went up by three points.  My total debt seems to have done down a lot since August 10th.  I think that was a mistake in my math.  There hasn’t really been any significant movement on either black or red since I started this blog.  Curious.  Two additions to total red: I’ve added in a PayPal account for blog donations.  As I noted in Getting Out of the Quicksand, I’m not touching those funds until there’s enough to pay off a bill (or until time on the project runs out).  The other addition is a mutual fund account I started reinvesting with.  Savings have to start somewhere.  Daily posts of total red include some amount, here roughly $60, that isn’t accessible but gets tailed on the plus side of the equation. Keep reading . . .

Good News & Bad

with 3 comments

Total Black: $114.17
Total Red: $228,312.40

Today’s post is short.  Just not up for writing.  Got good news and bad.  Both are keeping me from writing in depth.

Good news: I got a job!  It’s a temporary attorney position.  Only scheduled to last a week or so.  But it’s better than not working.  It starts 10am tomorrow morning, so I need to get a good-night’s sleep.  I didn’t get back home until nearly 10pm tonight, so I don’t have time tonight to channel the muses.

Bad news:  Me and the medical experiment drug are not getting along well.  Last night was the first night taking it.  Horrible.  Awake all night.  Elevated body temperature.  Stiff, achy muscles.  Felt like I was coming down off LSD.  I go back to the doctor on Tuesday.  If it doesn’t improve, I’m bailing on the experiment.  Forty dollars a week is not worth this much disruption.  I just took today’s pills and I can already feel it screwing with my head, so I also don’t have the clarity to channel the muses tonight.

Till tomorrow’s post.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 9, 2009 at 23:47

Getting Out of the Quicksand

with one comment

Total Black: $119.60
Total Red: $228,312.40

Total black today includes my first blog donation!  I suppose that, even when you open your hand to let others help you, you’re not always prepared to receive it.  When I read the donation notification email, it unleashed an odd array of feelings.  I felt humbled, humiliated, proud, and excited.  Kind of wasn’t expecting those emotions.  But thank you!  You know who you are. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 8, 2009 at 22:02

Laborious Labor Day

leave a comment »

Total Black: $75.45
Total Red: $228,312.40

Just a year ago, Dalton Conley penned a New York Times op-ed piece titled “Rich Man’s Burden.”  He noted that, in an era of Blackberries and internet, Labor Day meant very little for white-collar Americans.  “[I]t is now the rich,” he wrote, “who are the most stressed out and the most likely to be working the most.  Perhaps for the first time since we’ve kept track of such things, higher-income folks work more hours than lower-wage earners do.”  What a difference a year makes. Keep reading . . .

Shames Most Financial

leave a comment »

Total Black: $75.45
Total Red: $228,312.40

Got about five pages further in Suze Orman’s The Courage to Be Rich this evening when I had to stop and think about what I had just read.  Orman relates the story of one of her clients, Mark, who recalled an experience from his childhood.  While on a school outing one day, Mark and some classmates had lunch with their minister at a restaurant.  They all sat down to enjoy hamburgers and fries and cokes with straws.  Once the meal ended, everyone put money on the table for their food.  Mark didn’t.  Instead he cried because his parents hadn’t given him any money.  I suppose he hadn’t realized before ordering that he’d have to pay eventually.  Orman tells us that years later Mark is still ashamed of that experience and still atones for it by picking up the tab or making sure others know he has money.  I suspect that if ever he found himself in a situation where he didn’t have enough money on hand he’d probably feel like a nine year-old boy again. Keep reading . . .