So, I'm an attorney. I recently read an article on Slate or Cracked or something that said that only pretentious lawyers call themselves "attorneys." This is wrong. A lawyer is someone who has attended, and preferably graduated, law school An attorney is someone who has also passed the Bar and is licensed to practice in their state. Accordingly, I am an attorney. Incidentally, I'm also a lawyer. But I am never pretentious. (Well, maybe sometimes.)
I recently started a new job with a well-respected and talented trial lawyer. The difference between a trial lawyer and a litigator is that, as the name suggests, trial lawyers go to trial. A lot. I read somewhere that only 2% of all civil cases brought actually go to trial. I think my new boss must have an inordinate share of that 2%, because we have three trials in the next year alone. That is INSANE.
Because you know what trial is like? I didn't until a few weeks ago. It's a lot. It's long, hard hours, on very little sleep, combing through masses of documents, ordering shitty lunch to be delivered to the courthouse, going back to work at 6 p.m. and not getting out until 12 a.m. or later. It's Starbucks, and high heels, and adrenaline, and being fascinated by what must seem to others as the most uninteresting shit ever spoken or read. It's trusting 6 people with the outcome of your case that you spent years and years working on. It's hope, and faith, and the shadowy fears of crushing defeat. It's objections, and "your honors"s, and hating your opponents even though you don't really hate them, they're just pissing you off by doing their job. It's bailiffs and clerks, and trying to figure out how to get that memo that you wrote at 1 a.m. printed out at the courthouse when you don't have a printer. It's surprisingly emotional - not in a bad way - because there's a room full of people who care deeply about the outcome. It's consoling clients and explaining that, when the other side moved for mistrial that was actually a good thing! Because it means that they're scared. It's texting your staff back at the office or sending frantic emails, "WHY ISN'T OUR WITNESS HERE YET?!" It's getting a process server to serve subpoenas on the opposing parties because they're lawyers won't accept service (assholes). It's never seeing the sun, or your husband. It's creeping into the house after dark, and creeping back out again before light. It's too much caffeine, and yet not nearly enough, and hard wooden chairs, and jumping up every five seconds to root through 900+ exhibits to find that one email. It's letting go. It's dotting all your i's and crossing all your t's and saying a thousand prayers that your story, your case, is coming across exactly how it should. It's staring into the eyes, (and hopefully the souls?) of the jurors and watching emotion pass over their faces. It's guesswork. It's giving it your all, when you're running on fumes. It's aging five years in two weeks. It's realizing that we could lose, we could actually lose. It's blowing off your friends and family. It's a food desert. It's never wanting to see another Jimmy Johns sandwich ever again please God. It's exhausting, and thrilling, and terrifying, with moments of supernatural calm.
And I loved (nearly) every second of it.
But now it's done, and the past week has been kind of hard. I'm totally suffering from PTDD: Post-Trial Depressive Disorder. What do I do with myself now? Everything seems so boring and pointless. We were fighting for our lives over the last few weeks. I had a client who I believe in, whose story I wanted told, for whom I desperately wanted justice. I had foes who were easy to hate, because they were just awful. I had a jury who I loved. We seriously had the best jury. They were intelligent and engaged. They became friends with one another! Actual friends! That does not happen. And now? Day in day out, none of that rush of excitement, none of that single-minded, good-God-how-am-I-going-to-get-all-of-this-shit-done focus. Of course, it's nice to get more than 4 hours of sleep. I'm happy about that. It's nice to get home by 7 p.m. and actually make dinner. It's nice to see my husband, I kind of forgot who he was. It's nice to not have to wear heels for 12 hours a day. But it was exciting.
I had no idea I would love it as much as I did. Our next trial is in February. It's a month long (!!!) and it's in federal court, (this last trial was in state court - in my old courthouse where I worked every day for three years). While I like my client, I don't think I could ever love him the way I did my first client. My first trial, my first client - it's the stuff dreams are made of. You know, if you're a nerd like me.