One of my friends proposed starting a bookclub and I was thrilled. I need intelligent discussion in my life. I think we might have decoder rings or something, so I’ll keep the names private.
First selection is Tess Vigeland’s Leap.
I thought I’d write this post this afternoon before our first get together, since I’m in the final stages of what is my third and what I hope is also my final leap off the career cliff into the great unknown. Here’s hoping the third time’s the charm.
I moved to Miami in May after law school graduation to start what I thought was going to be my dream job with the firm I’d worked for the previous summer doing securities and corporate due diligence reviews as a summer associate.
The plan was to work for six weeks then take about six weeks off to study for the bar exam, take the bar exam and travel to Europe with a law school friend. We were set and excited about our upcoming adventure and new careers. He had taken a job in Birmingham, I was off to new horizons.
Is that an oxymoron? Portents are ominous by definition, aren’t they?
I’d planned to live in a studio apartment in the same Miami Beach apartment building where I’d lived the previous summer. It was affordable, furnished, on the beach—and would give me space to settle into while I looked for a condominium to buy the next year.
When I arrived, as scheduled in the mid-afternoon, everything on the outside looked the same as before and the same friendly building manager, an older man, gave me the key to my unit. But when I approached the designated unit the stench almost knocked me down. I think the door was partially open.
The toilet was filthy, the kitchen area was filthy. Either the apartment had not been cleaned since the previous tenant had moved out or there was someone squatting in the unit. There was no way I could stay there, even for one night. The door wouldn’t even lock.
I hauled my bags back down to the lobby area of the building, returned the key, asked for my money back. I was afraid to stay in the building in light of the condition of the unit so I said I’d just live elsewhere.
At that point, I had no idea where to go or what to do (cell phones weren’t yet available) so I headed back across the causeway and drove over to Coral Gables.
I’ll skip all the details but I ended up spending the night in a Holiday Inn in Coral Gables and then, the next day, renting an unfurnished apartment in Kendall, way down in South Miami.
At the first meeting of new associates, we learned that most of the corporate lawyers in the firm had recently left, taking clients with them, so we newbies would all be doing general litigation for the next two years. The guy who’d been my mentor the previous summer was one of the lawyers who’d jumped ship, presumably for greener pastures.
I felt sick. The one thing I knew for certain was that I had no desire to be a litigator. I’d done everything in my power during law school to ensure that I never ended up in a litigation role and yet…..
I soldiered on for a few weeks, not knowing what to do.
The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back
The third bombshell—the one that actually led to my leap—came in mid-June, about 2 weeks before I was scheduled to stop working to focus on the bar exam.
I’d been assigned to work on some motions and briefs for one of the junior partners and he invited me to accompany him to court that morning. The motion docket was uneventful and was over before 10.
“Let’s stop for breakfast,” he said.
After breakfast, we took the Metro back downtown. The train was full, so we had to stand and I placed my hand on the pole to keep steady.
At first, I thought it was just the effect of standing on a relatively crowded train that was triggering the “bumping” of this guy’s belt and hip area into my hand. The second time it happened I moved my hand.
The next bump was more full body and that convinced me it wasn’t quite an accident, even though I wasn’t exactly sure about the intent.
The fog of uncertainty lifted when we got back to the office. I was asked to come into his office, ostensibly to go over something related to the work I was doing on his cases.
Pictures of his boat (and wife) were scattered around the office.
The boat was great fun, we could take it out sometime.
As the chit-chat progressed, it was increasingly clear that the purpose of this meeting was to let me know that working with him came with, as they say, fringe benefits.
What to Do?
At that point, I was already spiraling down into massive stress-induced depression.
Nothing had gone as hoped or expected and I certainly had no interest in launching my legal career as both a litigator AND a mistress. I might have stuck out the litigation situation long enough to pass the bar exam and then make a lateral move to another firm. But I couldn’t work with this guy.
After a couple of nights of crying myself to sleep on the mattress on the floor in a minimally furnished apartment, I made an appointment to meet with the managing partner.
He wasn’t happy.
“You will, of course, have to return the signing bonus we paid you.”
I wrote the check, using the law school graduation money my parents had given me to cover my trip to Europe. The signing bonus had been depleted in paying deposits, rent, and other living expenses until my paychecks started coming in.
Of course, I never mentioned what happened with the junior partner. It probably would have been an exercise in futility. I wasn’t so naive as to think that such an allegation wouldn’t open a can of worms that ended up hurting me, rather than helping.
I had no Plan B.
I wrote about this a few years ago in this post: Don’t Settle For Less Than Your Dreams.