Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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

Small Town Boy in the Big City

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Total Black: $22.71
Total Red: $230,281.21

Again Bank of America has walloped me with insufficient funds fees.  This time I don’t even know for sure just how.  A few days ago I received an email notice from Barnes & Noble alerting me to some difficulty processing a check card transaction.  A few months ago I purchased some items on Barnes & Noble and it slipped my mind that one of them wouldn’t be available until the Fall.  I didn’t have enough money in my checking account to cover the transaction, so I figured I’d just let the order be canceled as Barnes & Noble suggested might happen if I didn’t update my order information.  Besides, I’m in savings mode now and those items were purchased before I began this project.  A day passed and another email alert arrived reminding me once more of the inability to complete the transaction.  And again I passed on it (not that I would have had money from anywhere to pull to cover the approximately forty dollar transaction).  The next day a new alert arrives thanking me for my purchase and providing me with the tracking number.  Huh?  I checked my checking account but no pending transaction was listed.  I figured that perhaps it was some other credit card I had used that suddenly became available.  I didn’t really care to go investigating.  Today I got alerted of insufficient funds fees and saw that somehow Barnes & Noble force through the order or Bank of America authorized it despite the lack of funds in the account.  This time, I will get my money back.  I’ve printed out all of the insufficient funds fee notices for the past month and I’m walking into the branch office near my job.  As Ron Lieber of the New York Times reported that “[b]eginning Oct. 19, Bank of America will stop charging any fees for customers who overdraw their accounts by less than $10 in a single day.  It will also limit the number of overdraft fees it charges to four a day, although the bank will continue to charge a fee of $35 per overdraft.”  Unfortunately, it looks like the bank is trying to garner as much money as it can before its new policy goes into effect.

Otherwise a few good things seem to be afoot.  A reporter from the New York Law Journal contacted me for an interview about the blog, being laid-off, and my student debt.  We went back-and-forth a bit about some details.  I’m hesitant to reveal the man behind the curtain just yet.  He needs verifiable sources.  Hopefully it’ll materialize into something.  I also received an email this afternoon from Lateral Link, an attorney placement agency, about a litigation position with a law firm in Washington, D.C.  In a moment of open-mindedness, I said I was interested.  No reply just yet.  Got me wondering about going forward and what offers I’d take versus ones I wouldn’t.  I’ve said that I wouldn’t go back to corporate law firms.

I received a card in the mail today from a friend of my mother’s.  In Lent Hands I mentioned how my mother has had people praying for me and pulling for me and overall just sending well wishes my way to help lift me out of this slump.  The card I received today was another such token.  Not only did my mother’s friend send me a card to congratulate me on passing the Pennsylvania bar exam—this is a woman I’ve met perhaps once, probably at my grandmother’s funeral—but she included a check for $100 and a beautiful letter.  The letter reads:

Dear [Laid-Off Lawyer],

When we are on a journey and are driving it is important that we look ahead ot the road.  We look for road signs, traffic signals, traffic patterns, other driver’s behaviors, etc.  We have our map.  We know where we are going and we can see our direction.

Then a trailer gets in front of us .  We can not see ahead.  We go slower.  We keep going but we wish we could have that full view.

Either the trailer gets out of our way or we pass it off and then we can see our path again.

Life sometimes makes changes that are the trailer obstructing us.  With the support of others and determination, perhaps more slowly, we arrive more knowledgeable than before.

Change forces us to make change.  PA licensing may be one.

I want to commend you on your NEW accomplishment of passing the Pennsylvania boards!  On your first try yet!  It is an honor for you and your family.  Congratulations!

God be with you.

Sincerely,
[Your Mother’s Friend]

Quite understandably, her letter touched me.  I count myself grateful that those little acts of kindness still do touch me because her letter triggered thoughts and memories of home and of where I’m at today and where I was at a year ago.

I noted in The Difference a Year Makes that this week marks one year from when the law firm I worked at laid off me and quite a few other associates.  Getting laid-off really frightened me because I knew that something different was happening, that these weren’t ordinary law firm efficiency measures.  In fact, large corporate law firms, for better or for worse, were known as safe havens of a sort where people often wasted away, drowning their careers.  As Jonathan D. Glater wrote in his New York Times article, “This is not how it is supposed to work; businesses are supposed to need lawyers in good times and bad alike.”  Law firms don’t lay off.  It just didn’t happen.  But these aren’t typical times any longer.  So my fear was real that something else was at work.

I was also frightened because I hadn’t managed to save anything.  When you’ve been wined and dined by the firm, and flown first-class back and forth to Europe, had your boyfriend and mother flown over to visit you as well, had sleek black sedans driving you home at night, well . . . it can lull you into a false sense of security.  I was reminded of those aspects of firm life when Jobless Lawyer reached out to me.  In his first blog entry Rags to Riches, he (or she (not sure, gender isn’t specified)) detailed some of the wonderful, silly, and asinine perks of law firm life: tickets to sporting events, concerts, lavish lunches, the opportunity to help people through firm-supported pro bono projects.  A year later and I’ve already forgotten much of that world.

But the letter I received today in the mail reminded me of all of this and also of things simpler and nicer things than a free ride home in a black car.  It reminded me of warm, honest, and caring people for whom your success and accomplishment genuinely make them happy.  It brought back memories of small town life where people do know your name, and they care about you and your family, and want to help you out.  Life in the Big City, it seems, is for the hard and heartless.  I don’t know if I care to run that race much longer.  So, her letter also got me wondering about my pending admission to the Pennsylvania bar: what next steps, if any, await me in that direction.  I vacillate between nostalgia for this picturesque valley my mind’s eye dreams up and the reality of life back home.  Regardless of whichever direction my next steps go in, I will cherish the letter I received today.  Hopefully it will keep me humble and remind me to keep the small town boy alive wherever he lands.

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