Since I graduated from law school in mid-May, each day has been the same. Eat. Attend bar review class. Eat. Study. Bubble in circles. Eat. Study more. Bubble more. Fall asleep reciting the elements of negotiability. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Having to memorize 35 pounds' worth of bar exam materials in two months is enough to alarm any newly minted graduate. But the tall tales and recycled horror stories have given the exam supernatural powers: "Last year, several people left the exam in tears. They all failed." "Did you hear about the guy who completed over 4,000 multiple choice practice problems? He failed." And my personal favorite: "Every minute you don't spend studying, someone else is. That person will pass. You will fail." And so it was with some trepidation that I confessed to a bar review compatriot that I missed a Saturday class in June. I was quick to legitimize a 72-hour "summer vacation" by reporting that "I did lots of torts on the plane." My friend's witty response proved the all-encompassing nature of bar study: "You 'did lots of torts on the plane'... and they let you out of the airport?" While the bar exam is no laughing matter, humor is a good weapon against the stress and anxiety that accompanies it. But it wasn't until recently that I found that remembering purpose and keeping perspective are much stronger arrows in the bar exam candidate's quiver. My father recently forwarded me an e-mail. It looked to be one of those chain-letter-type forwards - we've all gotten them - about the meaning of life, set to some somber melody or patriotic tune. But this one was different, not just because it didn't threaten seven years of bad luck if I didn't forward it to nine people in 30 seconds. The PowerPoint attachment was titled "Perspective," and it quite literally put into perspective how blessed we are to live in a country where, among other things, the rule of law has meaning. It reminded me of the day my constitutional law professor distributed pocket U.S. Constitutions to the class, instilling in us that we are nothing without our Constitution - and, perhaps more important, that our Constitution is nothing without us. I also recalled the day another professor began the semester by telling us that after we had passed the bar, someone would come to us and ask us for our help. We should approach our legal education with that person in mind so when that day comes, we will be able to give him the best help possible. After reading my father's e-mail, I realized that in slavishly adhering to the regimen of lectures, practice essays and flashcards, I had forgotten all about my pocket Constitution. I had failed to think about that unknown person who, maybe in one of his darkest hours, might be better off because of my counsel. I had lost purpose. I had lost perspective. Maintaining a routine is crucial to winning a race, reaching any goal and, dare I say it, passing a three-day licensing exam. But remembering purpose and keeping perspective should motivate that routine, not fear and self-doubt. Especially during the times when we think we cannot spare a moment to take a break, we must step back to remember why the race, the goal or the exam is important. Only then can we regain control over wishes and desires and not let them take control over us.
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." -- Closing Time, Semisonic
I began my legal career as a SettlePou associate attorney on August 23, 2010. I arrived at the firm so early I waited in the parking garage until it was a professionally acceptable time to go to the 8th floor. Braden Michael Wayne, a friend and fellow newly minted SMU law-school graduate, showed up after I did. He asked how long I'd been sitting in the reception area. "Just 5 minutes," I replied. After giving me a look of disbelief, he asked how long I had waited in my car before coming in the office. I forgave Braden for calling me out on my pseudo-neurotic penchant for punctuality on November 4, 2010, as he kept me company while we waited for our bar exam results. Jacob McBride captured the moment on video when we found out we passed. My mother still wonders why I wasn't wearing shoes as I ran up the hallway with joy. Jumping into the arms of name partner seemed less offensive to her. I become attached -- very, very attached -- to the people, places, and things that come into my life. It is my biggest fault. But also my greatest source of strength. Over the course of my SettlePou career, I have benefited from the mentorship of Michael Steinmark. He continues to inspire me to be a better attorney. Mark Craig sent me all over Texas to attend hearings and argue motions. Byron Kelley and I share an affinity for the Oxford comma, and -- the length of this post excluded -- his editing has made me a more concise writer. Brad McLain must still have my Greenbook. I can't find it anywhere else. I have had the privilege of practicing alongside some of the finest lady lawyers in Dallas -- Katherine Killingsworth, Kerry Southerland, Lauren Beverly, Lauren Hayes, Amy S. Ooi, Laura Grossman Brandt, Evie Lalangas, and Charlotte Nall. And, more importantly, the honor of calling them my friends. Jason Brown once tried to explain CrossFit to me, Brent Turman told me where I could buy a basketball, and Jody Walker taught me that the Under Armour logo is not a water polo insignia. The guys tried. But sports knowledge is -- and never will be -- my forte. I rarely see Thomas Scannell and Justin Puckett, but I'd like to think that they still celebrate every November as honorary bar-passers. To be sure, I have relived the excitement of being a first-year attorney through the eyes of Grace Ann Gannon, David Hammack, and Joseph Kim. Their enthusiasm is contagious. My legal secretary, Natalie Clark, is a treasure, and her predecessor (and now paralegal) Nyjer Ulysses Reese, is like a brother to me. Their colleagues -- Kari Awalt, Stephanie Brand, Bridget Valdez, Shauna O'Brien, Hannah Petrea, Sarah Rayburn, Michelle Rincones, Kellie Conklin Robic, Michelle Woodward, Lorie Bauer, Linda Sartain Bell, Katie Canavan, Katie Dane, Savanna Dee, Amber Horner, Brandi Lynn Sanchez, and Vicky Ursi-- brought laughter during the stressful times and gave me important insight on how to impress the shareholders. Today was my last day at SettlePou. My heart is heavy. I hold a great deal of affection for the people, places, and things that contributed to my formative years as an attorney and counselor of the great state of Texas. On Monday, I begin a new adventure at Nowak & Stauch, LLP. It is an exciting and unique opportunity, and one that my SettlePou career has prepared me to embrace. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. When I packed up my belongings at SettlePou this afternoon, I thought about all the members of the firm who believed in me even when -- especially when -- I didn't believe in myself. The practice of law is a noble one, but certainly not an easy one. I have stood beside some of the best in our profession. My past has made me who I am today. And I can't wait for what the future has in store.