Tag Archives: Law school

A General Overview of My Experience with Alcohol

I remember drinking vodka and fruit punch in the basement of my parents’ house in high school alone on a Friday night.  I felt the buzz.  It felt different, as if something uncomfortable was being erased. I liked it.  Throughout High School I would not say I was a heavy drinker.  When I did drink it was at house parties generally.  I remember the first party I went to and got drunk.  I do not think I got sick and I do not think I felt sick the next day.  I felt like I was doing something different that would put distance between the shy, awkward, geeky persona I projected and make me one of the cool kids.

Then there was the time a friend slept over and we drank, played Monopoly and dipped tobacco in the basement.  In the morning I was really hung over.  I think I told my mother I was sick.  My friend went home and I went to sleep in my room. My mother later discovered the half-finished bottles in a cooler in the basement.  She made me feel like I was the worst criminal in the world.  I think she also suggested sending me to a rehab or a counselor, which I refused. I did not think there was anything wrong with me.  I was just doing what kids my age did.  Later on my Dad drove me around in his car and interrogated me about what I had done. I remember him asking me if I had mixed the alcohol or drank it straight.  I remember not knowing why he wanted that information and feeling really embarrassed and frustrated about answering it.

In college I joined a fraternity.  I drank in the fraternity to be one of the guys.  For the most part it was the time of my life. The worst part was getting so drunk that the room spun or waking up hung over.  But there was also something in me that told me the more I drank, the cooler people would think of me.

I did the same thing after college when I worked and went out with friends (although not to the same degree or extent).  When I went to law school I did the same thing, perhaps to the same extent as in college, but I was living in New Orleans so that is probably an exception.

At some point after I got married and was working for a law firm alcohol became a way of coping with anxiety and depression. It switched from something fun and seemingly inconsequential to something I began to be concerned about and had trouble stopping.

The good thing and the bad thing about alcohol is that it obscures feelings.  It is bad in the sense that if my feelings are obscured then I do not deal with them and do not move past them.  It is good in the sense that sometimes feelings are too much to endure.  If there is no escape and no dealing then maybe it is a good thing to have alcohol around to escape.  Of course the danger of that is addiction and damage to health.  It is not easy to control and becomes more difficult if whatever feelings are being obscured by alcohol are never dealt with.  In my case that feeling was shame.

So the answer in the long run is of course to deal with feelings and ultimately that is how to overcome a problem with addiction.  It is a chicken and the egg type of situation (maybe).

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part II

I did not see another therapist until I was in law school in New Orleans.  Until that point I never appreciated the connection between the mind and the body.  I had met my wife and asked her to marry me and she said yes.  She immediately went ahead with the planning which took me aback.  It seemed like there was a lot of pressure and looking back on it I had no way of coping.  My throat started to feel like it was closing up on me.  I started to get really bad heartburn.  I went to see the doctor in the school clinic.  He prescribed Prilosec.  It did not really work so I went to a gastroenterologist.  I remember now that he suspected my symptoms were stress related but at the time I did not understand what he told me.  I think the fact that I was in law school scared him because he continued to run tests on me.  There was a procedure where they shoved a camera down my throat.  One time I had a tube fed up my nose and down my throat.  At the end of the tube outside my body was a computer device.  It recorded something to do with my throat.  I eventually changed doctors because nothing he did helped my symptoms.  The second doctor also suggested that stress was the problem but again I did not accept that answer.  I was prescribed antibiotics but they did not work.  The doctor seemed annoyed with me. I wanted to think that the problem was physical.  He eventually referred me to a cardiologist.  The cardiologist acted like he did not know why I was there.  I gave him my story.  He agreed that the problem was stress and recommended me to see a psychiatrist.  This time I listened.

The psychiatrist was a tall, lanky, older man with a gray beard and mustache.  He looked the part of a psychiatrist.  His office was in a shotgun house.  It was dark inside and the walls were lined with tall wooden bookshelves.  One shelf had a skull on it.  He was dyslexic and wrote awkwardly with his left hand.  He assured me my issue with my throat closing up was indeed stress related.  He prescribed me a drug called Serzone which I think is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor like Prozac.  He had me sit in a recliner and talked me through meditative sessions.  I do not recall what exactly they entailed but I think they brought me to a relaxed state and then he told me when a stressful thought entered my head I should say to it “Stop!  Get out of there!”  After a few sessions the sensation started to subside after months of misery.  This was the first time I appreciated that psychological stress can cause physical problems.  It was also the first time in my life I experienced a physical problem that a regular doctor could not cure.  I believe his method was the Cognitive Behavioral approach.

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Mardi Gras and The Mind Body Connection

I met my wife, Louanne at a law school TGIF party in an Uptown bar called Brunos.  As I poured her a beer from the keg we introduced ourselves.  She said she was from Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I told her I was originally from Avon, Connecticut.  She said she knew about Avon Old Farms (my high school) because one of her mother’s piano students went there. I knew him.  We discussed how weird he was.  We started dating soon after.

During spring semester Mardi Gras rolled around the school shut down for the week.  My apartment had a balcony overlooking the parade route on St. Charles Avenue so it became a popular hang out spot.  Louanne spent the week.  We made a trip to her basement apartment she rented from the Dean of the law school.  When we got there he stood in his driveway dressed in a Soviet officer’s uniform.  We offered him a beer (everyone had beer in their backpacks that week).  He produced a flask and asked us if we wanted to “spice up” our beers.  We said yes and he poured vodka in our cans.

A month or so later one drunken night I asked her if she wanted to marry me.  She said yes.  The next day she called her parents and told them.  That sort of made things more real than I had anticipated.  We planned on getting married the summer between second and third year.

My second year in law school I lived in the same apartment.  Ed moved out and Louanne moved in.  Later that year I took out a student loan.  The debt made me anxious.  I also began to realize that I was not doing as well academically as I expected despite my efforts.  I was passing all my classes but I was still just barely in the top half of my class.  This made me anxious as well.  The reality that I would be getting married also made me anxious.  Then some woman rear-ended my car on the way to class.  She did not have insurance and I did not have collision.  I opened the trunk and then could not close it.  I shut it with a bungee chord but every time I drove over a bump the trunk flew open and slammed shut.  I felt embarrassed and angry that someone else did this to me and I had to deal with it.

One day I woke up and my throat felt constricted.  I thought it would pass but a week later it was still there.  I went to a Gastroenterologist.  He examined me with an endoscope and did not find anything wrong with me. He told me it was stress.  I did understand what he told me.  In my mind there had to be a physical cause and medical solution to my symptoms.  I went to another Gastroenterologist.  He put a tube up through my nose and down my throat attached to a computer.  I wore that device overnight.  This doctor also told me stress caused my symptoms.

The next Mardi Gras was coming up.  I worried that the symptoms would not go away before then and I would not be able to enjoy myself.  I feared I would be missing out.

My friend Al had a party in at his apartment.  We got drunk on Chevas Regal in a blue felt bag.  My throat still felt constricted but I tried to numb out the feeling with booze.  I ended up throwing up under a rug in his apartment.  I crashed at his place.  The next morning I was so hung-over Louanne and I slipped out and went home.  Al found what I had left him under the rug later in the day.

My last Gastroenterologist sent me to a cardiologist.  I sat in the waiting room.  I finally asked them if they knew I was there.  They said they overlooked me.  I went back into an examination room where a nurse shaved my chest and attached the monitoring equipment.  They found nothing wrong.  The Doctor came in.  He could tell I was exasperated.  He told me my symptoms were stress related and recommended a psychiatrist.  This time I heard the message.

I saw the psychiatrist.  When I told him my symptoms he knew right away what the problem was.  I saw him weekly for about a month and the symptoms started to go away.  This was the first time in my life I began to understand the connection between the mind and physical symptoms.

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10 Reasons to Rethink Going to Law School

1.  The school you attend is not in the top-tier.

I went to a third tier law.  This was a bad move from a career standpoint.  I think I received a fine education from this school.  I think I learned to think critically, write concisely and communicate effectively.  But law firms do not respect third tier law schools.  If I planned to start my own law firm or just needed a law degree so I could work for a law firm that would guarantee me a job (a family firm for example) then it would not matter what law school I went to.  For me this was not the case.

2.  The law school you attend is in Louisiana and you do not plan to practice there.

Not only was the law school I went to third tier, it was in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Don’t get me wrong.  Living in New Orleans for three years was a blast and I toyed with the idea of staying there.  But then I met my wife and married her between second and third year (something else I would not recommend doing from a career perspective).  After her mother died we moved to her home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Her father, a reporter for the Scranton Times and covering the courthouse got me a job clerking for a judge he knew.  All that said, if you don’t plan on practicing in Louisiana it probably is not a great idea to go to a law school there because Louisiana is the only U.S. state following the civil law (based on the Napoleonic code).  Other states think this is weird.  Even though the school I attended also taught common law I still had to deal with this issue in interviews.

3.  Practicing law is boring, tedious and depressing

I loved clerking for the judge.  I researched the law and wrote opinions.  It did not pay the bills.  We moved from Scranton to Philadelphia and I managed to land a job with a prestigious law firm as a Staff Attorney.  This firm only hired Associates from top-tier law schools.  However, they had a special group of attorneys they called Staff Attorneys to perform document review for the tobacco litigation.  It paid great but the job was boring as hell.  For nine hours a day I looked at corporate documents to determine whether the attorney client privilege applied.  If so, the opposing counsel did not get to see them.  I don’t think this privilege legitimately applied to even one out of a thousand documents.  A few months after working there I felt trapped.  I hated the work but felt I could not leave because of the salary.  At the same time I was not learning how to be a lawyer.  I ended up working this job for eight years before being laid off in the recession

4. Too many lawyers makes it hard to find a job

There are lots of law schools in the U.S. creating more lawyers than there are positions to fill.  Again, if you go to a lower tier law school it makes it all the more difficult unless you go out on your own which leads to the next reason to rethink going to law school.

5.  Too many lawyers are not good for society because it encourages frivolous lawsuits.

Lawyers who go to lower tier law firms who then go out on their own generally become personal injury attorneys.  This is not always the case but I would venture to say it describes 90% of them.  And of course the world needs personal injury attorneys to protect the rights of ordinary citizens without the means or expertise to fight back against the man.  But if there are more personal injury attorneys than there are legitimate plaintiffs to represent, in order to make a living they are going to have to invent cases.  I don’t think this is a good thing for society.

6.  Lawyers are assholes. 

Not all lawyers are assholes but most of the ones I ever dealt with are.  On one hand this is easy enough to understand.  Lawyers argue for a living.  To be effective they probably have to enjoy what they do.  On the other hand I have experienced an unnecessary amount of scorn and judgment from the lawyers I worked with.  The firm I worked for was all about status and hierarchy.  The partners looked down on the associates because they made more money.  The associates looked down upon the staff attorneys because they made more money and went to better law schools.  The staff attorneys looked down on the contact attorneys  because they could.  It was all shame based when it did not have to be.  Technically we were all on the same team but you would never know it based on the daily interactions.  Of course there were exceptions but this was definitely the case the majority of the time.

7.  Your father was a lawyer

My father was a lawyer.  I thought being a lawyer would make him respect me.  It did at first, especially when I went to work for a large firm.  But it did not last long especially after it was clear I hated what I was doing.  If there is something else you are good at and enjoy I highly recommend following that path and wish someone had given me that advice when I made the decision to go to law school.  Although I probably would not have listened to them because of the next reason.

8. You are motivated by having a respectable answer when someone asks you what you do for a living.

If this is your reason for going to law school you are living an inauthentic life.  I say this not to shame you.  I say this out of compassion because I know what you are going through.  Your issue is shame.  See a Gestalt therapist before you go to law school.

9.  You will have to take out student loans.

I know lots of people still paying student loans 15 years after graduating.  This is definitely something to consider.  This also relates to reason number 5.  If there are too many lawyers out there who need to pay off student loans they are going to pursue the money-making opportunities.  Not everyone will do this but most certainly will.

10. Lawyers in general have a bad reputation.

I run across many people who have reacted scornfully upon hearing that I am a lawyer.  This, of course, is a shame based proposition.  The person with the scorn is shame based otherwise he would not be so judgmental.  If you are shame based you probably don’t want to be in the position of being judged because it is hard to handle.  If you are not shame based then this reason does not apply to you.  You probably went to a top-tier law school and when you go to work for a prestigious law firm you will have enough sense, integrity and compassion to treat those below you on the hierarchy with the decency and respect everyone deserves.

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