pay attention to the man behind the curtain


I’ve felt a twinge of guilt since this post about quitting my job on Feb 11, because I said I’d blog about my journey, and I haven’t.  In fact, I’ve hardly blogged about anything since then.

I just reread that post and the numerous supportive comments that followed.  I thought about those nights of sleepless anticipation, of all those shuffled steps towards my boss’s office that would quickly be followed by a simulated email emergency on my blackberry or some other made-up distraction that kept me from walking in to tell him I was leaving.  Hell, I must have walked by 12 times before finally mustering the courage to walk inside, shut the door, and say I planned to leave April 3.

Yes, I gave notice in mid-February that I was leaving in early April–before bonuses came out, and before plans for the next chapter were finalized.  I wanted to give plenty of notice, so that I didn’t leave my section screwed, even though everyone to whom I told this plan said I was crazy–that I’d be told to leave right away or after 2 weeks–or that, at a minimum, I’d get no bonus.  But you know what?  I still got a good bonus.  And 6 months later, when I settled my first case as a plaintiff’s attorney, the defending attorney who gave my client a fair shake was the one to whom I’d extended that professional courtesy the day after that post on February 11.

Whoever said “karma’s a bitch” was obviously an asshole.

After that, more cases started settling.  I took a couple cases to court and won some good verdicts.  And then, I realized I might actually pull this off–that I might actually avoid what one of the attorneys I’d taken to lunch told me was his fate his first year of practice:  -$6000 in earnings.

I realized I’d actually be in the black.  That I’d beat the odds.

Today, I settled a case for over $100,000.  I got 8 new cases last week and 2 today.  Last week, I settled 3 cases that totaled over $120,000.  I have another big mediation this week.  This means I’ll make around $100k this month.  After going six months with no income at all and having other attorneys tell me I was crazy to quit a job that precluded taking any business with me and that I should’ve taken out a loan or worked for another plaintiffs’ attorney before making the leap (I did neither), this is enormously satisfying.

But I’m still scared nearly every day.  I wonder about January.  And March.  And next summer.  And whether I’m a flash in the pan.

This afternoon during my mediation, I learned my aunt died via an email from my mother on my iphone.  Her late husband was a judge in Alabama, and two of her sons were attorneys.  I had scheduled a deposition at one of her sons’ offices a few days before Christmas, so that I could catch up with her and tell her how life as a “big city lawyer” (as she affectionately referred to me, given that her husband and sons practice(d) in small towns in Alabama) was going.  She helped me decide to quit working for insurance companies and start working for individuals who were getting screwed, and I listened.  She encouraged me to work for myself and listen to the voices that only spoke late at night when all other thoughts were in recession.  She told me in more genteel terms than I’ll use here to quit being a pussy.

I just hate that I put off telling her all about it until it was too late.

I interrupted dinner tonight to answer a call that came to my firm cellphone.  A young man was in a hospital bed at Emory, where he has racked up over $100,000 in medical bills so that his collapsed lung can take in air again–the lung that was punctured when he fell down some stairs at his office–the office where no one told him about his workers’ compensation rights or how to get to an approved doctor or what his options were under FMLA or whether he could use short-term disability.  I was surprised he wasn’t getting any assistance.  And then,

him:  “Oh, and I have AIDS.  That won’t be a problem, will it?”
me:  “No.  If we’re going for workers’ comp, it’s a no fault system, and pre-existing conditions wouldn’t…”
him:  “No, I mean, do you have a problem working with someone with AIDS.  ‘Cause, I know some people would…”
me:  “This isn’t Philadelphia, my friend.”
him (laughing):  “Okay, just making sure.  I’ll sign your contract and send it tomorrow…”
me:  “But just know this–I don’t exactly look like Denzel Washington.”
him:  “Not a problem.”
me:  “Get better.  Don’t worry about fighting.  That’s my job, and I love doing it.”
him:  “Thank you.”

So how are things going?  They’re going pretty fucking well.  Two young associates at large insurance defense attorneys asked me today if I liked being a plaintiffs’ attorney and if I worked as hard as a billing-by-the-hour defense attorney has to work and then waited for me to talk about how many afternoons I play golf or take clients to strip clubs.  I told them I work much harder than I ever have in my life–8.30ish in the morning until 11ish at night with about a 2-hr break for dinner, baths, and pre-bedtime reading with the babies in the evenings.  And every Saturday until the Alabama game.  Plus many Sundays.  But it’s worth it.

It doesn’t feel like work to help people whom no one else will help.

A phone call at 9pm is welcomed when  the caller is thanking you for caring enough about them to help them get on a budget after helping them get an adequate settlement when no other lawyers follow up with them after they’re paid.

And, when I said I’d use wit and social media to try and drive business?  Totally worked.  15 cases from Facebook, 5 more from Twitter, and at least 15 from my law blog.  It’s 9:45pm, and I just got a call from someone who read a blog post about my first mentor’s dying of cancer, and she decided she wanted to work with me because of my willingness to show appreciation for others and display a soul behind the belligerent litigant.  Apparently, people want to work with real people who are passionate about what they do.

So fucking do it.

Find what you like and dedicate yourself to it.

Before your iphone tells you the person who’s pushing you to go for it dies.

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  1. In all honesty? That was entirely inspirational.

    Thank you. EXACTLY what I needed to read tonight.
    .-= TwoBusy´s last blog ..vigil =-.

  2. Well said. And I will read again tomorrow. And I never read things twice. Really.

    Thank you for that.
    .-= CatrinkaS´s last blog ..Finest =-.

  3. Wow.

    And thank you.

  4. KICKASS! And fist-bump! And ROCK THE FUCK ON!
    .-= sweetney´s last blog ..Definitions =-.

  5. Can you stop making me cry? Fucker.

    We had a great attorney for our son’s case. She works on her own, is passionate about what she does. It made all the difference for us and our case.

    People can tell when you give a shit about them and about what you do.
    .-= califmom´s last blog ..Living With the Actual Tourette’s Boy =-.

  6. *sniff*


    I’m so freaking proud of you. Just like I know your Aunt was.

    Good job. Next time we meet, beer is on me.

  7. Good for you! And good for the people you get to help… they make the extra hours worthwhile.
    .-= Dave2´s last blog ..Bullet Sunday 157 =-.

  8. What a wonderful story from someone in the often maligned profession of being a lawyer.

    If ever I have legal action, I would so love to have you represent me.

  9. “It doesn’t feel like work to help people whom no one else will help.”

    Which is exactly why I chose to work in a hospital that does not turn anyone away, regardless of insurance or not, or if they can pay or not, etc.

    It’s a damned good feeling, isn’t it?

  10. Well done, sir. That is awesome to hear. I’m glad you’re doing so well.
    .-= SciFi Dad´s last blog ..Rocking To Music =-.

  11. avatgardener

    Mighty Muskrat makes (minus) millions, masterfully maneuvers miasma of meanies. my, my, my. Missed making Muse merry. ‘Mazing!!

  12. I’m glad you’re doing what you love and helping people. It’s what makes life livable. Congrats, darlin’!
    .-= Coal Miner’s Granddaughter´s last blog ..The Other Shoe Has Landed =-.

  13. Awesome and inspiring post. I quit my “career” job about 5 years ago and have never regretted it!

  14. You leave us blogless for ages then MORE than make up for it. I’m proud of you.

  15. I’m not really good at touchy feely, so I feel that only Chicago lyrics will do to tell you how much I enjoyed this post:

    You bring feeling to my life. You’re the inspiration.

    I write the rest, because it doesn’t really fit and that would likely creep you out, but I am serious when I say your post was inspiring. Good luck doing what you do.

  16. This? Is awesome.
    .-= Busy Mom´s last blog ..Soles4Souls =-.

  17. That’s outstanding to hear. And at some point it will be consistent enough and steady enough that you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    I’m really happy for you!
    .-= Avitable´s last blog ..If a Hilly drinks and there’s nobody around, is she still drunk? =-.

  18. Jennifer Trev

    You are truly an inspiration to all! Congratulations!

    And, I’m sorry about your Aunt…she DOES know!


  19. “so ya think ya can wrestle?…well ya CAN’T wrestle…you can’t even fight an old man.” – Kuch’s Dad

    So, I know that had nothing to do with the moment, but when I thought of how I should tell you I’m proud of you that’s what came to mind.

  20. amazing! congratulations.

  21. So great to hear you are successfully using your powers for good, not evil. Keep it up, Father M.

  22. i’m so thrilled for you that you dared to leap and caught a brass ring. i first started reading when you said you were leaving your firm & i remember feeling trepidation for you. i’ve gotten to know you better since, through your writing, and have no doubt that you (and your very large member) can accomplish anything.
    .-= mommymae´s last blog’s been a loooooong day =-.

  23. Have I told you lately that I love you? No…well, that’s because I don’t 😉 No, I more than love you. I lurve you because you’re so damned honest, but you also have heart of gold. Really. Keep up the good work.
    .-= unfinishedrambler´s last blog ..Am I bugging you? I don’t mean to bug ya. =-.

  24. Good to hear there are good lawyers. I almost became a lawyer, but I am glad to do what I do (a secret).
    Good luck. But it sounds like you are doing alright (100k in a month damn).
    .-= mepsipax´s last blog ..Fuck Friday and the cellphone signal it rode in on =-.

  25. What a great post! Can’t sleep tonight, so thought I’d catch up on reading blogs. Congratulations on believing in your self and taking the leap. Glad things are going well for you — it’s always a big “ahhhh” when the $$$ follows a big decision and hard work. Like another commenter said, before you know it, you’ll have more time for your family.

    My condolences about your aunt. Most sincerely.
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Deviled Eggs =-.

  26. The part I liked was that you like to help people no one else will help. That is why I do criminal appeals–God knows, convicted murderers and perverts are not sympathetic characters. And that is why I do it–because no one else will.
    .-= paige´s last blog ..Poor Mascots =-.

    • @paige Glad to hear it! Yes, most of my clients have smaller cases that were referred to me by busier lawyers who can’t make enough money on the case to take it. I enjoy helping them, and the small cases add up, of course!

  27. Pingback: 10 months | Father Muskrat

  28. can you help me figure out what i want to be when i grow up?

    congrats on a job well deserved!

  29. Pingback: bringing the children into my professional world (sort of) | The Muskrat

  30. Actually, I’ve never been that inspired by anything in my entire life.

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