Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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

Archive for December 2009

Be It Resolved

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Total Black: $953.75
Total Red: $230,715.3

In consideration of the end of the year two-thousand-and-nine; and because this blog has brought untold rewards, insights, and guidance to myself and possibly some of its readers; and since the eve of a new year has for ages been a time to set a new course and renew one’s commitment to future goals and dreams; witnesseth, then, by these remarks, that it is, and shall be, hereby, RESOLVED, that: Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 31, 2009 at 22:14

Hot Toxic Love

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Total Black: $277.67
Total Red: $230,715.35

Ushering at The Toxic Avenger Musical tonight got me thinking again about relationships and finances and whether it’s responsible to get involved with someone while in this financial state.  I touched on this a while back in A Time For Everything.  Well, once again I have a suitor seeking my hand.  The Adonis I spoke of in Jollification has been in touch and has expressed interest.  And I’ve expressed interest in getting to know the Drunk Texter I wrote of there as well.  Adonis and I are scheduled to get dinner on Sunday evening.  But while listening to the ballad from the Toxic Avenger Musical, Hot Toxic Love, during the show tonight, it got me thinking even more about affairs of the heart in general and how money affects them. Keep reading . . .

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December 30, 2009 at 23:29

Yet Another Update On Efforts

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Total Black: $279.58
Total Red: $230,715.35

I thought I’d take today to give an update on efforts.  I’m at a stand-still.  I suspect it’s because of the nature of the past few jobs I’ve had.  It is a bit befuddling to be running so long and hard, then realize you’re on a treadmill and the horizon hasn’t gotten any closer.  So far since starting this project, I’ve worked as an art seller and now an usher at at theatre, in addition to working at three contract attorney positions.  Each lasted just long enough for me to get things under control and then stopped abruptly.  But clearly my numbers aren’t moving much yet.  So, what’s been the problem? Keep reading . . .

Creature of the Night

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Total Black: $344.48
Total Red: $230,715.35

I awoke this morning with a feeling of unnameable dread from the night before.  I had certainly had enough to drink.  Nothing near the amount consumed in A Day Without a Post, but enough to keep my engine running until 5am.  I hinted in And More Jollification at some of my late night activities.  I opted to post part two separately both because the events of last night technically occurred today and because they go to a deeper financial confession I’ve not yet made.   Keep reading . . .

And More Jollification

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Total Black: $684.48
Total Red: $230,715.35

Once again I went out last night with people from the theatre gig.  I jumped at the chance.  This time one of the four guys I spoke of in Jollification didn’t come out again last night.  That meant we were only four and without a wingwoman, if you will.  Only three of the guys were the same.   That slightly changed the vibe I suspect.  I went out hoping for a repeat of the time I spoke of in Jollification, but that didn’t really happen. Keep reading . . .

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December 27, 2009 at 23:20

Jollification

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Total Black: $948.31
Total Red: $230,715.35

Today I had my first experience working for tips.  No, not atop a bar somewhere in Chelsea.  I worked coat check today at the theatre.  Given that it was the day after Christmas, and that I worked it from roughly 6pm until 11pm, I made about fifty dollars.  Not bad for a first time, I figured.  Here’s the catch though.  I ended up spending it all going out later that night.  So my question: what can tip money count as?  We don’t earn a reduced wage for shifts that may include tips.  So, I can just cut myself a break and dismiss it as just money I didn’t have four hours earlier and thus pretend that I worked some other shift where I wouldn’t have earned tips.  Or I can kick myself for having blown that money on booze. Keep reading . . .

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December 26, 2009 at 23:11

It Is A Wonderful Life

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Total Black: $948.31
Total Red: $230,660.74

While waiting to leave for Christmas mass last night, the family had the television going, mostly for background. Flipping through the channels, I came across the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and paused.  I’ve always loved that film.  It’s lessons are timeless. The scene I stumbled upon was quite timely to the events of today.  George Bailey was teasing the captive Mary Hatch who had dodged into a nearby shrub for cover when her rob accidentally came loose and fell to the ground.  Just as George is about to pounce, in a manner of speaking, on his captive prey, a car pulls up to tell him that his father had had a stroke.  He hops in the car and rides away, leaving Mary to her robe.  The next scene presents George Bailey stepping into his father’s shoes as he helps wind up his father’s business.  The board of the Bailey Building & Loan, seated around a long table, are debating the necessity of continuing the business and discussing it’s efficacy when George takes on the film’s antagonist, Mr. Potter.  Potter decries George’s father as a miserable businessman and suggests the board shut down the Building & Loan because of it’s meager profits.  George, at first agreeing with Potter about his father’s business acumen, comes to see the need for an alternative to Potter and the banking institutions he controls. For the rabble who do the bulk of the working and eating and living and dying, they need a humane resource to turn to.  Someplace where more than their bottom lines and bank accounts will be factored into the equation. George finally sees this and is presented with the chance to continue his father’s struggle on behalf of the salt of the earth whom Potter decries.  Of course, Bailey accepts.  And in so doing he commits the rest of his life to that course.  Only by the end of the film does he receive a return on his investments, in spades actually, when all those “garlic eaters” Potter dismissed rush to Bailey’s aid.

Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 25, 2009 at 23:11

Bah! Humbug!

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Total Black: $975.92
Total Red: $230,660.74

As I’m walking back into my apartment this afternoon, I heard the final few rings of the telephone and the answering machine turn on. A staff person from the attorney temporary staffing agency I’d been working for these past few months was leaving me a message telling me that the project I had been working on at Harris Beach PLLC on Wall Street was over effective immediately. The firm’s current advertisement hook is “Lawyers you’ll swear by. Not at.” How funny. Real professional too. Well, I had a few choice words for those attorneys today, that’s for sure. It’s unconscionable to call someone on Christmas Eve, when the law firm is actually closed, to tell them that their job is over effective immediately. Great timing. Wonderful way to usher in the Christmas holiday. Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry, right? It couldn’t wait until Sunday evening or even Monday morning? Keep reading . . .

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December 24, 2009 at 12:45

Secret Santas

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Total Black: $6.70
Total Red: $230,660.74

It’s nearly Christmas.  The time when gift-giving abounds and generosity’s cup runneth over.  At the temp job yesterday, I bought twenty dollars worth of $2 scratch-off tickets, ten a piece, for my two fellow contract attorneys.  They were pleasantly surprised.  One had never bought or received an instant lottery ticket.  He won ten dollars.  The other won seven.  Nothing extravagant, but a nice gesture.  Of course one possible downside to such unexpected giving is that people may feel obligated to give something to you in turn.  Today one attorney bought me a coffee at Starbucks while the other bought Starbucks gift cards for me and the other attorney.  I was happy to receive their gifts, but I just they purchased them out of a desire to give and not a feeling of obligation.  That’s why I understand the urge to give quietly and anonymously. Keep reading . . .

Semicolon And

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Total Black: -$28.87
Total Red: $230,428.32

I spent a few hours over the weekend helping my colleague again. Yes, the same colleague who has not yet paid me for work done in August and who seems to trigger multiple comments. I guess I’m a sucker for helping people in need. But in his defense, I don’t think he’s billed the company yet for our hours, so it’s not that he’s holding out on me. He’s received an offer from the government office we both worked pro bono at so he needs to finish up his consulting work as quickly as possible. You can’t work as a government attorney and have clients on the side. Keep reading . . .

A Cold Blustery Walk Home

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Total Black: $63.30
Total Red: $230,428.32

As I walked to the subway this morning, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in hand, I remembered that my subway card was per use and not unlimited monthly.  Last week, when it ran out, I thought I’d save a bit and buy per ride instead of the monthly pass because of the days I’d lose this month over the holidays.  Not a smart idea as I forgot that I was running low on rides on the card and I spent the few remaining dollars I had on that damn cup of coffee.  I had enough to get me to work on time, but nothing to get me back home. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 21, 2009 at 23:04

Helping Others

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Total Black: $63.02
Total Red: $230,428.32

If around lunchtime you walk by the corner of Wall Street and Water Street in downtown New York, you’ll probably see an older woman begging for change.  She’s hard to miss, especially for the guys, because you’ll probably hear “Hey handsome.  Got some change to spare.” or maybe “Hey beautiful, could you buy me a cup of coffee?”  Let’s just say she’s a bit forward in her panhandling tactics.  Initially, I avoided her, especially since she’s somewhat of a mainstay on that corner.  —I just realized the irony of my own thoughts: that after a few days of begging for change she should have been off that corner by now.  I’m nearly five months into my project and I’ve barely made a dent in my debt.  If I were dependent upon the kindness of strangers, I certainly wouldn’t have made any progress. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 20, 2009 at 23:08

Let It Snow

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Total Black: $63.02
Total Red: $230,297.15

It snowed today in New York.  It started with a few flurries, then increased to a steady fall before it turned into a blinding blizzard.  This afternoon a friend in Florida emailed to ask if we had any snow yet in New York.  He mentioned that snow had already started accumulated in Washington, D.C.  We went to law school together so his email reminded me of the fun times we had playing in the snow just before exams.  Yes, we played.  Grown men throwing snowballs and chasing each other.  It’s funny how magical snow can be. Keep reading . . .

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December 19, 2009 at 23:26

COBRA Con

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Total Black: $67.13
Total Red: $230,258.15

A few days back I received a notice from my former law firm that COBRA payments for health insurance will be increasing.  Currently I pay $199.61 a month for medical and dental health insurance coverage through Aetna.  I didn’t opt in to the firm’s coverage until February 2009, once the Stimulus Package had been approved and passed, because it provided a significant subsidy for people who had been laid-off or were still unemployed.  Without that subsidy health care coverage would have been approximately $536.00 a month.  I doubted that I could afford it, especially when New York pays only $405.00 a week in unemployment benefits.  Now the subsidy has expired and I’m facing that question again.  The Stimulus Package funds only authorized nine months of subsidization.  Nine!  Congress decided to debate health care coverage and pass a health care bill, while not bothering to addressing the risk many will face by losing the coverage they have if the subsidies aren’t extended. Keep reading . . .

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December 18, 2009 at 23:39

You’re Gonna Die

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Total Black: $543.54
Total Red: $230,467.77

On the train to work today, I had music on my iPhone on shuffle when a great song (if you can call it that), “You’re Gonna Die” by William Shatner, came on.  The song is hilarious, catchy, and actually quite aurally diverse with many subtle background shout-outs, odd sounds, and other noises.  But what brings the biggest smile to my face is the song’s overall message.  Guess what?  You’re going to die. Bet you forgot, eh?   Not something we think about very often.  But it’s the only sure thing in life.  Everything ends.

Sometimes, it seems, we do forget.  We get so wound up in our own lives—in our debt and our dramas, our aches and pains, our joys and pleasures.  The slightest affront sets us off.  The lost job has us in tears.  The wedding plans have us in knots.  The grades have us doubting our career path.  Why?  As the saying goes, you can’t take it with you.  And if we live once, it certainly does not make sense spending the bulk of it in worry or despair. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 17, 2009 at 23:46

Consulting My Paycheck

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Total Black: $66.71
Total Red: $230,428.77

Another contract attorney and I got to talking today about legal consulting work.  He told me about a friend of his who suggested he help out a third person who had been having difficulty collecting on a promissory note.  This third person had loaned ten thousand dollars to another person, who also happened to be an attorney, and he was not paying and now wasn’t even returning her calls.  Upon hearing from his friend about this woman’s matter, he didn’t feel particularly adept in handling it so he passed along the name of another attorney she might call, also a friend of his.  Sometime later he met up with that friend and asked about the outcome of the woman’s debt collection efforts.  His attorney friend told him that there was nothing he could do to help the woman because the promissory note she had was usurious.  She put in a 10% interest rate.  And if a lawyer had tried to collect on the note, my co-worker’s attorney friend informed him, that lawyer would have been subject to sanction by the court for attempting to collect on a usurious debt—akin to loan-sharking.  What makes this story so noteworthy?  My co-worker and I would have never thought to even consider the interest rate.  Ten percent didn’t seem all that high to me given that credit cards can legally charge up to 30% on your purchases.  His story represented to me the dangers accompanying legal consulting work. Keep reading . . .

Spectacles and Spectators

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Total Black: $65.07
Total Red: $230,428.77

I referenced back in Schadenfreude a comment left by a reader, accusing me of preferring to make a spectacle of myself instead of just switching apartments and moving to Queens, as he suggested.  That comment and others to my post Moving Out . . . or Up? got me thinking about commenters in general and why we take time out of our day to comment.  And why it is that the negative commenter weighs in more often than the rest of the spectators out there.  Keep reading . . .

Nine to Five

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Total Black: $65.42
Total Red: $230,428.97

No, not a Dolly Parton gig (but I’ve provided the song anyway for your listening enjoyment!). 

Just the routine I’m writing about here.  It’s been keeping me busy, as the commenters noted.  They beat me to this post, if you will, as I’m actually writing this two days after posting my financials.  My work schedule has been hectic lately and it got me thinking a bit about work schedules, past and present.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a nine to five job before now.  I’ve worked as a paperboy, a dishwasher, a supermarket cashier, a sales clerk, a telemarketer (both cold-calling and catalog orders), a high school teacher while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, a teacher’s aid and a research assistant, and a law firm associate.  Since starting this project I can ad art seller, contract attorney, and theatre usher to that list.  None of those jobs had me working a set nine to five shift, until now.  I think that explains a little why I was unhappy at the law firm.  My entire working life has been sporadic and without routine.  But now I’m finding that incorporating other gigs into my routine really fills a hole I never noticed was there. Keep reading . . .

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December 14, 2009 at 22:23

Counting Your Blessings

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Total Black: $65.02
Total Red: $230,428.97

My mother and sister came out to the city for their annual Christmas-time visit.  We had breakfast and then walked around Times Square a bit.  Toys-R-Us made it on our itinerary.  My mother wanted to ride the ferris wheel.  There we were, three grown adults waiting to get on the ride.  I wanted to get the Scooby-Doo Mystery Van to ride in.   My sister quipped that she hoped we’d get the My Little Pony car.  We lucked out with Monopoly: something gender neutral.  The ride was actually a nice time.   My mother never rode on rides with us as children.  She never cared for them.

Just before riding the ferris wheel we saw the Broadway musical Irving Berlin’s White ChristmasI had suggested they see a show at the theatre where I’ve been ushering.  But my mother wanted to see a holiday show. Typically in years past we saw the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, partly because it’s a decent show but mostly because it was very close to the office of my former law firm.  After  two years in a row we tired of it, however.  Last year we saw the Chinese New Year show instead—after the holidays, of course.  But this year the only holiday show we knew of was White Christmas. Keep reading . . .

Schadenfreude

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Total Black: $65.20
Total Red: $230,428.97

Another night ushering at Avenue Q.  I had been thinking a bit about a comment received earlier today.  The commenter criticized me for making “a spectacle of myself” and suggested I either leave the country or remain in debt till I die.

At least he or she left a suggestion!  Not sure though how fleeing the country, presumably to Canada as another of her or his comments had suggested, will solve my debt problems.  Running away might be a quick fix, but I’d be left homeless in a foreign country.  I couldn’t practice law there.  I’d have to work illegally.  I’m sure there’s some sort of treaty in place between Canada and the United States regarding debt absconders.  But besides all that, there’s the more practical question of how I’d even get to Canada with the little bit of money I have. Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 12, 2009 at 23:30

Hay & Hokum

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Total Black: $65.20
Total Red: $230,481.61

I picked up a copy of a free local newspaper today: The New York Press.  I’m not sure why because I don’t read free newspapers.  I guess I find them slightly suspect.  Is their news reporting being slanted by their advertisers?  Then again—aren’t all newspapers affected by whomever pays them?  But I digress.  An article in the newspaper caught my eye, “What the Hay?” by Ethan Epstein.  The article begins: “It was a crisp Sunday morning in September when people began to file into the Javits Center for a dose of hope.  The ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ seminar is just the sort of optimistic approach these 2,000 women and men—mostly women—needed.  And it almost seemed possible since personal finance superstar Suze Orman was there to shore up the more dubious self-help nostrums.”  How could I resist reading that article.  Read the rest of this entry »

Fifth Day of Accounting

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December 10th and my fifth day of accounting.

Total Black: $65.10

Here’s the Breakdown:

Primary Checking: $0.00
Secondary Checking: $0.00
Savings: $0.00
PayPal Account (Personal): $0.71
PayPal Account (Blog): $0.00
Amazon Payments Account: $0.00
Mutual Funds Account: $64.30

FICO Score 497 [to be updated]

Total Red: $230,322.41

Here’s the breakdown:

Credit Card Debt

MasterCard: $5,637.00
Visa: $8,133.82
Visa: $5,605.17
American Express: $2,402.17
Raymour & Flanagan Credit Line: $6,010.35

Student Loan Debt

Federal Stafford Loans: $96,810.17
Private Student Loans: $33,518.49

Back Taxes

IRS (2007): $1,280.08
IRS (2008): $27,952.00
NY State (2008): $0.00

Other Loans

My mother: $42,973.16

Total black is nil, but that’s mostly because I sent nearly everything to credit cards as well as a payment to the IRS.  I realized this morning that I haven’t been counting cash on hand in my numbers.  So, I suppose total black would be up by about forty dollars to account for the cash in my wallet.  I withdrew the remaining amount yesterday evening so that I’d use cash for the next few days.  I saw a bit of the Suze Orman Show the other day.  She’s pushing a Back to Cash movement.  I’ve been dancing around that issue for some time if only to avoid debit card insufficient fund fees.  So, I decided to commit myself to using cash for six months—the longest amount of time her site allows.  Here’s hoping I can keep my promise. Keep reading . . .

Boycott BigLaw

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Total Black: $66.11
Total Red: $230,859.71

I’ve been thinking over the past few days about large corporate law firms.  About some of the changes that have already occurred—like attorney layoffs (read: firings) or deferrals (read: delayed firings).  Blogs like Above the Law and Law Shucks have detailed the dramas and charted the cuts.  According to Law Shucks, a website tracking law-firm layoffs, including both associates and staff, law firms have laid-off over 14,000 people since January 2008.  This, in an industry where layoffs were never public, always shame-ridden, and sometimes career-ending.  Nevertheless, once the tides began to turn, associates were the first kicked to the curb. Then came staff layoffs. Then more associate layoffs and staff layoffs until finally firms thought up the Great Procrastination, punting the issue altogether by deferring associates and providing stipends all along hoping the economy rebounds in the meantime or the associates decide not to return.  And now, to add insult to injury, one law firm, DLA Piper, has decided to restructure how its associates earn their salaries—not their bonuses—but their salaries.  According to Above the Law, starting in 2010, roughly 10-15% of an associate’s salary will be withheld and made contingent upon partner satisfaction with associate performance.  When do we say enough is enough? Keep reading . . .

To Be Determined

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Total Black: $63.69
Total Red: $230,859.71

Visit any doctor’s office and you’ll find mounds and mounds of magazines.  US.  People.  Reader’s Digest.  I never understood why Reader’s Digest.  Who reads that any longer?  And typically among those stacks you’ll find one or two “serious” magazines, typically Newsweek or Time.  The last time I visited the doctor for the medical experiment, mentioned back in Another Update on Efforts, the cover of Time from September 21, 1999 caught my eye.  It read: “Out of Work in America: Why double-digit unemployment may be here to stay—and how to live with it.”  Not an attractive prospect.  I didn’t have time to read the article because my medical experiment visits are always rushed from room to room and examiner to examiner.  But I also didn’t want to leave behind that information.  So I swiped the magazine.  Keep reading . . .

Why?

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Total Black: $65.23
Total Red: $230,820.71

One word.  Probably one of the most frequently uttered.  In any language.  It’s also one of the most powerful, most demanding, and most accusatory words in human language.  Not to mention the most despairing.  It’s the word uttered in utter stupefaction when something unfair happens.  It’s the scream of a mother holding her lifeless child in her hands.  It’s the weeping plea of a jilted lover.  The demanding jab of an inquisitive student.  It’s also one question I haven’t yet asked myself.

Cue Seal, People Asking Why  Keep reading . . .

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 7, 2009 at 23:55