One of the reasons I’ve been able to be such a prodigious blogger is that my clients all vanished with the recession. Since Mr. Bookworm is a good breadwinner — something for which I am always grateful — in the past few years, I haven’t made any real effort to hustle up work again (I’m self-employed). Because being the meat in the middle of the generational sandwich means being responsible for kids, spouse, and mom, I was happy to pretend that I was just a simple homemaker . . . and a blogger on the side.
Something happened at the end of December, though. I don’t know what happened, but my universe shifted. Four of my clients, some of whom I hadn’t heard from in seven or eight years, seemed to pick up the phone simultaneously and tell me they needed me desperately. I went from unemployed to overwhelmed in a heart beat.
True confessions: I preferred unemployed. Even though I’m working almost full-time now, none of the ordinary responsibilities have vanished. I’m still cooking, shopping, cleaning, doing laundry, and caring for kids, husband, and mother. The thing that’s fallen by the wayside is blogging. Even when I have time, I’m often too tired to use it to write.
As regular readers know, for the last several weeks, I’ve been helping a client get ready for trial, as well as pinch-hitting on other cases, both for that client, and for some others too. And when I say pinch-hitting, I mean it. I walk in, am handed a file I’ve never seen before, and am told “go forth and write a motion, or discovery response, or mediation brief, etc. And by the way, it’s due day after tomorrow.”
This trend escalated when the primary client vanished for a trial that, of course, took longer than originally anticipated. Suddenly, I found myself responsible for a whole load of cases about which I know nothing. Two things helped me. First, the client has a superior legal secretary, who is on-the-ball, helpful, and fundamentally nice. Second, I have a fairly unique knack: I can absorb massive amounts of information instantly and regurgitate it quickly in accessible form.
Today at noon, for example, I learned that, by 5 p.m., I had to do a major brief in a case I only learned about yesterday. Yikes! Thanks to the superior legal secretary who had organized the files, though, I was able to plow through about 4 inches of material in half an hour and tag the useful documents. Then, using a similar document in another case that the secretary had helpfully pulled for me, I took everything I’d just read and regurgitated it in narrative form, complete with legal argument. Within three hours of learning about the assignment, I had a document ready to file and serve.
Was it the greatest document ever written? Definitely not, but it was not an embarrassment, which is sometimes just as important. It made sense and answered the necessary questions. Most lawyers I know simply can’t assimilated and regurgitate information that quickly. I’m definitely a pinch hitter.
There’s a downside, of course. All this stuff goes into short-term memory and I can’t retrieve it later. This frustrates clients, who think that, after my big effort, I should know the case. I don’t.
Also, because I work well at the last-minute, I have a terrible tendency to procrastinate. Why dedicate days of your life to doing a superior job when you can dedicate hours and do a pretty damn good one? The downsides of that line of thinking are obvious: I never do my best work, which is ultimately very bad for my professional sense of well-being, and the hours I do work are inordinately stressful. I think I’m getting to the age at which this stress simply isn’t that good for me anymore.
I still have more work tonight, but I’m definitely going to intersperse it with blogging. Lawyers will understand this one: I’m doing discovery responses! If I don’t take periodic breaks to refresh my brain, I’ll be writing gibberish in no time.